ACD team, 1972 (from left): Soter, Sinclair, and Doherty.BEC team, 1972 (from left): Soter, Sinclair, and Doherty.OF PUKE AND PIGS: "BEC IS PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER"

By Tom Sinclair

Until recently, there existed a widespread perception--at least, among members of the somewhat addled committee in my mind--that the tape recorder network BEC was all about the trash aesthetic. Hell, TR GUIDE, the Tom Soter-published corollary to TV GUIDE, even used to describe the network's flagship show, HUCK FINN, as "Trash," the same way TV GUIDE would label shows "Drama" or "Comedy." Indeed, a cursory listen to virtually any episode of HUCK FINN, which starred Marty Phillips (a.k.a. Yours Truly) as Huck and Tom Soter as Tom Sawyer, eloquently attested to the fact that this was lowbrow tomfoolery of the crassest sort. In one typically scatological scene, Huck vomits copiously, then suggests to Tom: "Let's drink it up!" Let's face it, there wasn't a redeeming feature anywhere in earshot.

But, as I've recently rediscovered, HUCK FINN was an anomaly. In fact, there was a G-rated, family-friendly vibe to much of BEC's programming. Take a listen to such shows as MR. JONES, a LEAVE IT TO BEAVER-ish comedy about an elderly gent raising his teenage nephew alone, or BIG PIG, about the adventures of a good-hearted pig named Cleveland Sinclair and his human sidekick, Stinky Green. STREET KID stars Sam and Jack Rosen may have played supporting roles in MR. JONES, and Ron Neilson (star of ROBBY: THE ADVENTURES OF A DRUNK, another great trash treasure) might have made a guest appearance on BIG PIG, but these were still squeaky-clean efforts guaranteed to confound the average HUCK FINN fan (if such a creature ever existed).

In truth, BEC's real identity was damnably hard to pin down. In addition to the above-mentioned efforts, the network featured such varied fare as the easy-listening MUSIC TO THINK BY; WITCH WORLD, an adaptation of the sci-fi novel by Andre Norton; straightforward readings of stories from the Marvel horror comic WHERE MONSTERS DWELL (complete with a ridiculously jaunty-sounding theme); MISS PLATT, which concerned the amorous escapades of a high school art teacher; and an actual variety/talk show, THE HAMILTON GREENE SHOW (with Christian Doherty as Hamilton's obnoxious sidekick).

"BEC is putting it all together," was the station's oft-repeated tag line, and on-air ads that ran in 1970 proudly touted such future programs as THAT PIG (the follow-up to BIG PIG, natch), THE WIZARD OF ZO (don't remember it at all), and THE GREG MANNING SHOW (Greg Manning being the name of a school chum of mine who, to the best of my recollection, never took part in any BEC tapings). Of course, exactly what the network was putting together was never made particularly clear.

Mostly, BEC (the call letters were the alphabetical equivalent of "253," my secret agent number in our super-secret spy org V.A.T., which you can read all about in an upcoming essay) was a venue for whatever Tom Soter and I cooked up in our after-school tape recorder jam sessions. It was a mish-mosh of the stuff we were filling our young minds with, primarily Edgar Rice Burroughs' and Arthur Conan Doyle's books, Stan Lee's comics, and myriad mid-to-late-sixties TV shows, from T.H.E. CAT to GREEN ACRES.

As for HUCK FINN, I still have no clue just how Soter and I stumbled on the idea of reimagining Mark Twain's boy-hero as a mush-mouthed, regurgitating bumpkin without a lick of sense. I do know that, upon listening to one especially ludicrous episode earlier today, I laughed and laughed and laughed, straight from the gut. And it felt good as hell.

Like we used to say: "B.E.C.-ing you."