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The talk of the town

Public access TV is the epitome of free speech in action. Ask Nolan B. Canova, whose theme is ''Everyone's entitled to my opinion.''

By RICK GERSHMAN
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 26, 2002


Welcome to public access television in Tampa.

[Times photos: Fraser Hale]
Nolan B. Canova is host of The World of Nolan public access TV show.
Welcome to The World of Nolan.

Nolan B. Canova's live television show will be on the air in 10 minutes.

Slouched low in a padded leather chair, with his long gray hair and long gray goatee, he could easily be mistaken for a bail bondsman or pawn shop owner.

But he's Nolan B. Canova. The world is his.

He's the host. He's the producer. He's the booking agent. He's the star.

He is not, however, the floor director.

This, apparently, is up for grabs.

Two teenage girls cry in unison: "I want to do it."

Tiffany Sallee, 15, makes her case, motioning toward the big man, Nolan B. Canova: "He listens to me. He doesn't listen to her."

Amber Andrews, 16, shrugs. Nolan listened just fine a few minutes ago when she told him to sit up straight.

Since then, gravity has again gotten the better of Nolan.

Fifteen minutes into the broadcast, Tiffany runs off in a coughing fit, abandoning Camera One. Camera One is focused on Nolan.

Unshaken, Amber reaches over to operate Camera One with her left hand. She continues running Camera Two with her right.

Welcome to public access television.

Welcome to The World of Nolan.

* * *

Nolan is more than just the host of The World of Nolan.

How much more? It depends on the yardstick.

photo
Show host Nolan Canova, front, talks with director Dave Andrews and Brody Andrews, who handles audio for the show.
He doesn't own a car.

He works as a security guard at an apartment complex. The graveyard shift.

At 46, he still lives in the south-of-Gandy home of his youth.

Try picturing Nolan on the next cover of Forbes.

Oh, come on. Try harder.

"I know what you're thinking," Nolan says, holding his thumb and index finger to his forehead to shape an L: "Loser!"

He says this in his own humble way, in the quiet, earnest tones of an everyman who never dreamed he'd be on television.

But this is 21st Century America, land of public access television and unfettered Internet access, a land where Joe and Jane Q. Public can enjoy their share of the limelight.

It takes effort, the kind of effort Nolan puts into Nolan's Pop Culture Review, his remarkably comprehensive Web site at www.crazedfanboy.com. The site's motto: "Because everyone's entitled to my opinion."

A lifelong fan of comic books, loyal to science fiction and horror, he fills his TV show with the disciples of those genres.

Last week's guests included local filmmaker Terence Nuzum, who created the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired short Splattered Raw.

Better yet, Nuzum was Nolan's ride home after the show.

They were joined by Ybor City native Patty J. Henderson, an author who specializes in lesbian horror and suspense fiction, including the Tampa-based The Burning of Her Sin.

A late addition was Gary Esposito, who plays a homeless man beaten up off Bayshore Boulevard -- by Nuzum, no less -- in Nuzum's vampire movie, Sins of the Blood.

Nolan is Leno on a budget, minus the fancy set and the big stars. Or at least he could be if all other prospects were kidnapped by vampires and forced to work on the set of a lesbian horror film. Okay, he's nothing like Leno. And there aren't any good commercials.

But he is a gracious host. And a nice guy.

And he does his best to encourage his guests.

Canova has just shown a clip from Jen-Gal 2: The Beast Returns, a videotape feature. Conrad Brooks, playing a detective, wandered through a Tampa park and called it "the Everglades, here in Tampa."

The clip ends.

"I have seen the future of filmmaking," Nolan says. "I'm not sure that was it. No, I'm just kidding, that was great."

Tiffany is waving.

Nolan: "Tiff, what are you trying to communicate to me?"

Tiffany: "We have the brain scene cued up."

Nolan turns to Gus Perez, who co-stars in Jen-Gal 2. He's a local actor whose resume boasts a brief scene as a thug on Hulk Hogan's old series, Thunder in Paradise.

Nolan B. Canova checks a camera angle in the Tampa Bay Community Network studio.
Nolan: "Gus, tell us about the brain scene."

Perez: "Well, the brain is giving the mad doctor vibrations and telling him telepathically how to operate on the Jen-Gal beast."

Nolan (chuckling): "This has got Oscar written all over it."

Budding filmmakers are his bread and butter.

One, Mark A. Nash, speaks about his movie, The Raging Bells, and its curious evolution:

"I had a character that I had created about four years ago," Nash says. "Originally it was supposed to be a comedic character. Me and my partner, Steve, kind of played around with it, took this character to another level, and made him a serial killer."

Every week, Nolan opens the phone line (note the singular "line") to callers.

He takes a call: "You're on The World of Nolan."

Caller: "Buenos dias!"

Nolan: "Hello."

Caller: "Buenos dias!"

Nolan: "Uh, okay."

Caller: (Speaks several sentences in Spanish.)

Nolan: "I'm going to say that was a wrong number. Yeah. No comprende."

A bowl of grits accompanies Nolan's omelet at the Egg Platter, the 24-hour Gandy Boulevard breakfast spot.

Nolan has about an hour before his brother will swing by to pick him up.

"I want -- more than anything -- to expose local talent in Tampa," he says, looking over his broccoli omelet. "I think you can stand on any rooftop, throw a rock and hit a talented filmmaker, artist or writer."

He equates himself to the starving artist who chooses a life of poverty in order to dedicate himself to his art.

"I don't consider my identity to be tied to what I do for a living," he says. "I consider myself an artist, a writer, a talk show host. I'd love to make some money at this if I could. But if I don't, I'm fine with that."

Nolan has been a security guard for five years. Neighbors know him from his 1979-91 tenure as a newsstand clerk in Britton Plaza. Back then, he played guitar in a heavy metal band called Blade.

He comes from a family of artists and performers, some of whom became famous.

Nolan Canova, second from right, talks over details with director Dave Andrews before a recent show featuring guests Patty J. Henderson, left, an author, and Terence Nuzum, center, a local filmmaker.
His father was a musician.

His second cousin, Judy Canova, gained fame across the nation in the 1930s and '40s as "Hollywood's hottest hillbilly," a singer, comedian and actor who had her own radio show and appeared in several Western comedies.

Judy's daughter Diana Canova followed in the late '70s by playing Corinne on the popular comedy Soap.

As for Nolan, his show can only be seen in Hillsborough County on Time Warner Cable.

But people all over the world can read his Internet commentaries. One contributor writes him regularly from New Zealand.

His Pop Culture Review has received more than 9,000 hits in two years.

The popularity of the TV show is harder to gauge, because no ratings are kept. He gets several live call-ins during every show, some even in English.

"As far as I know, he's always done a great job," says Greg Koss, executive director of non-profit Speak Up Tampa Bay, which runs the station. "He's worked on other people's shows, like the UFO show, and that was very interesting."

The network Koss runs has seen plenty of ink lately because of concerns by Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms.

Storms was upset by a March episode of The Happy Show, in which host and producer Charles Perkins (stage name "White Chocolate") interspersed his narration of a children's book with footage of nude women.

The World of Nolan generates no such controversy.

Nolan eschews nudity in favor of simple gore.

Few would consider footage from Splattered Raw or Sins of the Blood appropriate for young children. But Nolan does not consider his show inappropriate for the dinner hour.

"If you don't want the public access channels, Time Warner will give you a lockout box for free," he says. "Or you can just not watch them."

That rationale hasn't helped The Happy Show. At Storms' urging, Hillsborough County Attorney Emeline Acton found Koss's network to be in breach of its contract with the county on technical grounds, including failing to air proper adult content warnings.

Nolan expects no such trouble.

"My aim," he says, "is to make a family-oriented show."

His latest topic: legalizing marijuana.

"If anyone has a problem with drug legalization, come on," he says. "It's a valid topic."

Nolan will be back in the host chair -- slouching, no doubt -- for the May 9 show, which is all about the Pop Culture Review.

He promoted it in on his Web site:

"An in-studio appearance by everyone connected to my online fanzine who can make it in," he wrote.

"Out-of-state participation encouraged, but simultaneous calls are unfortunately not possible due to our single phone line."

-- The hour-long World of Nolan airs live Thursdays at 6 p.m. on Time Warner Cable's Channel 20 and is repeated Saturdays at 5 p.m. on Channel 19. (Because of Public Access Awareness Week, there is no show Thursday. The next episode is May 9.)

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