Ironically, I had to invent the VJ job to finance my day job.

Someone from the Muppet Show referred me to run a puppet workshop for handicapped kids in hospitals and special schools.

After I was hired and encouraged to hire lots of helpers, the funders, government employees, had a squabble within their office and decided to go on holiday without paying me as a way to punish each other. That's how they explained it to me. Meanwhile, I had all these adorable kids wanting their puppet shows. I did not have the heart to quit, and I made up this night job to pay for it.

I would roll out of bed in my disco clothes and purple hair and show up at the hospital or drug rehad center, pretty tired from working til 4 am, in some cases I was worse off than the folks I was cheering up. It was an interesting contrast.

since I was leading a double life...




Merrill Aldighieri : automoonography  

Moon in Tuxedo

D O S S I E R    D E   

Merrill Aldighier-jumping for art

Many moons ago…




Love Among the Mutants



Merrill ALDIGHIERI: director Hurrah Video, Marc JACOBS, partner-Hurrah, Barbara LACKEY, co-owner of the memorial for
Robert BOYKIN, co-owner of Hurrah. 


After 4 years of college, majoring in film and multi-media production, I landed my first job in show biz... pop-corn technician at a drive-in theater. I used the occassion to make some experimental animations by climbing on top of the screen and dangling my super 8 camera like a marionette with various other things and filmed it. Too bad I lost that film.

When the season ended I hitched-hiked west to Santa Cruz, California. While holding down various menial jobs I won a grant to make a film with children with learning disabilities, "Reading Adventures In Comic Strip Land", and joined the team of the first cable access tv show, SATV News.

Inspired by the unintentional surrealistic comedy of the Early American Limner painters, I sensed that the TV news was an adaptable canvas for
caricature, folk art, and that this orientation would underline the subjectivity of TV as a medium.
This experience became the foundation for a lifelong interest making
interpretive portraiture in the documentary genre.
I got to meet celebrities like Jerry Brown and Keith Jarret.
I had all I could dream of, except a paycheck.

The first real paying job came a year or 2 later from
the Muppet Show in NYC. Some days I just shopped for
Miss Piggy’s eyelashes and helped Big Bird keep his feet clean.
Other days I made screen tests of new puppets and documented the Muppet Method. Masters like Dick Smith were invited to teach latex and special effects.
My most exciting role at the Muppets was to make a fund-raising film to finance The Dark Crystal. This opened a new window on the potential to use video to concieve and propose ideas.
I took leave of the puppet factory with an associate to form a production company dedicated to helping independent producers sell their projects. That was the plan, but clients were not lining up at the door. My partner and I continued taking odd jobs. My jobs were the odder ones.

Merrill Aldighieri shooting "Love Among the Mutants"

I continued making my own experimental films and was invited to show them in a nightclub called HURRAH.

I noticed that when they turned on the installation of monitors hanging around the club, the bright TV tubes killed the cozy ambiance like a cold slap in the face. I asked if I could experiment to create a new niche for the video to flow with the pulse of the club instead of cutting it. This was the beginning of my career as a "VJ". In fact, the term "video jockey" was coined by my collegue Charles Libin during a conversation about what
to write on my first paycheck. I suggested"V-DJ" which sounded like a venereal disease, in fact I was making a joke, and Charlie shortened it to VJ, also pointing out that video was not on a disk. So, this was the birth of the term VJ. It was coined to describe something that did not exist before, so there was no term.

Certainly there were instances of music documentaries and movies being played in clubs, but nothing like this idea of a visuel artery running through the club like blood. In fact, the total open flux between what the sound might be and what the image might be makes it more like jazz than like traditional TV or what I think of as visuel MUSAK....canned entertainment. I was making live performances, interpretations that could change from one second to the next. I was not filling up time, I was interacting with it.

This was before music video clips were a regular part of the music business. I was making them by combining live cameras, film projection, and a growing collection of visuals on video cassette which I would jam into several decks and switch back and forth. It was a multi-media sandbox with a live audience who could also participate.




       Still frame from one of my original
        scratch animations I projected as VJ,
       used during a performance of Tuxedomoon.



My personal aesthetic was already influenced by some of the visiting guests at the art college I went to, Stan Brackage, William Wegman, Mickael Snow, Frank Morris. Each of these filmmakers has an interesting rapour with the process. Video jockeying is aided by having an exciting and engaging process.

After a few months, the future founders of MTV began frequenting the club carrying notepads and studying me. Eyeing my cabinet full of live video collection I was making of the live acts, they asked if I would like to donate this as the base of their programming since they had nothing to show.They would not offer any money, just "great exposure". My dream was to have my work on TV, but part of the dream was also getting paid. I said no.

The single worst thing MTV did was corrupt and banalise the term VJ to mean just a TV announcer who introduces a pre-chosen play list. Soon you could not get a job in a club unless you arrived with a stack of TOP 40 commercial clips and play them like a human jukebox.

Without any warning, HURRAH closed. The hardest thing I had to learn was how to wake up before sunset.













With this new dawn, the production company I had formed became much more active. Maybe I should hit the pause button and explain that the "production company" was the bedroom of an apartment my boyfriend and I shared with 2 other people. We would fold up our bed in the morning and be ready for business. I don't want you imagining secretarial pools and long hallways leading to conference rooms and things like that. This wasn't MTV.

With the club closed, I concentrated on making a compilation of music videos with some of the groups I met who were frustrated at the slow process of winning a record deal. I contacted the newly formed SONY HOME VIDEO and asked if they would like to "break music on video." They liked the idea, and a series was born, "DANSPAK". Rolling Stone published a book in which I was ranked as one of the top ten music video directors. I know this honour was for my support of the underdog and not for my brilliant vision. I am never going as far as I would like in the realisation of my vision. I consider my films as a kind of "short-hand" for what I imagine.

At the same time, I started a trilogy of programs which played conceptual games with the form & content of the documentary. I wanted to create a narrative flow which was inspired by the NOUVELLE VAGUE, within a framework of questions.

The first of this series was "THE KISSING BOOTH" with Quentin Crisp and Joe Morton. The second was "BORDERS" with Robert Anton Wilson and Steve Buscemi. The third was "METAPHORIA" with Dr. John Lilly and Marvin Minsky.

In each documentary, I searched for a way to offer personal opinions and unrehearsed impressions to balance the dydactic, lecturing style of the classic documentary. There's also an ongoing exploration how to present non-objectivity as a reality of any documentary.

Animation played a bigger and bigger role in my work, offering a playful way to illustrate ideas, thanks to the advent of personal computers.
The co-producer & I
won an EMMY award for "Metaphoria"
for outstanding achievment for a Documentary of Cultural Significance. I also won an EMMY for my animation work for Sesame Street.

The productions I worked on varied alot. One week I would be working on a sequence on investing money for MONEY WORLD MAGAZINE and the next week I would be making animated backgrounds for Beevis & Butthead. I made the special effects sequences for an Academy Award – nominated documentary, "The War Room" by D.A. Pennebaker. Another fruitful collaboration was the series of trailers I made for the Pedro Almodovar collection for CineVista Video, the distributors of many independent
film classics. I made a 20 minute presentation of "Like Water For Chocolate" to find finance for it's post-production, and it became the highest grossing
independent feature film of the following year. I made a series of controversial public service announcements for the Women's Action Coalition (WAC).





Tuxedomoon biographer, Isabelle CORBISIER, has also made some of the best photos of the group on stage.






Bruce Geduldig
, multi-media


Some paintings by an influential artist, Kathy Karwat...


Moon in Tuxedo…
I met Tuxedomoon in 1981 while filming them at the NYC nightclub
HURRAH. Tuxedomoon was one of the adventurous
groups from San Francisco, known for it’s stimulating blend
of intellect, drama, humour, and invention. The night they performed, Blaine and Steven explained to me that normally they would have visual componants to their performance provided by Winston Tong and Bruce Geduldig, but since they could not be here, I had carte blanche to project things durring the performance. I pasted a checkerboard of white paper on the black wall to recieve scratch animated 16 mm loops I had etched with an engraving tool and a jeweler’s loop. I videotaped that concert,
an excerpt is included as a bonus in this new DVD, Seismic Riffs.

Some years later, Peter Principle contacted me about making a promo clip for the re-release of a Tuxedomoon hit, NO TEARS. Peter told me that the group could not be reunited for this, but he gave me a mountain of archival videos to do as I wished. By now I was quite involved with computer animation and came up with a concept of two people playing a video game called "NO TEARS" in which the archive images would pop up in various virtual-reality settings.

Now, a few moons later, I had the good fortune to meet Isabelle Corbisier, who has written a book about Tuxedomoon. Her research was quite impressive, and I shared with her my few experiences. In a serious effort to have more time with the group, Isabelle initiated a tour of Belgium and France, and invited me to video the concerts. This was the beginning of the documentary "Seismic Riffs". Sensing how delicate the collaborative process is, I attempted to be a fly on the wall as the group evolved their new album, "CABIN IN THE SKY".

Looking for a novel twist to the classic rockumentary, I invented a parallel voice for this film by weaving in a lecture about continental movement by a world renowned seismologist, Paul Tapponnier. At first it was just a pun, a rock specialist narrating a rock and roll story, but I was surprised to find metaphorical connections that poetically enlarge the scope of the story. I also played with making musical mixes that could recuperate live sound from many public and private performances and create a unique audio time-capsule. So, the representation of the music is sometimes not strictly linear, although it respects the musical composition.


During the live performances, I chose different angles to study the relationship and communication between musicians, as well as to hear the sound from different perspectives.

Steven Brown & Luc Van Lieshout 

In the editing process, I added layers of imagery from my personal archive to interpret the mood of the music, and to play with some of the visual threads provided by Bruce Geduldig, the resident Tuxedomoon multi-media performance artist. I also found a few places to incorporate animation. One of the great things about Tuxedomoon is that, as accomplished as each one is, they allow room for total experimentation, and keep alive a certain unpredictable wildness.

Steven Brown, Blaine Reininger, Peter Principle

desiredvd Steven Brown