Longtime Tucson resident Ernie Freuler is a veteran of public-access TV. In 1985, he worked with Jim Farias on Arizona Gay, and now he's back with OutWest. Freuler hosts the show, while his friend Ray RedSpider works behind the scenes and does an editorial segment called "Grin and Bear It." The show is aired twice weekly, and you can watch all of the shows at www.accesstucson.org. For more info on OutWest, go to Facebook and search for OutWest TV, or visit www.outwesttv.org.
So how do you and Ray work together?
I'm officially the producer, but I can't do it without him. Ray runs the camera when I need him to, and does the website and deals with the online stuff, and he has his own segment called "Grin and Bear It."
How did you get involved with public access?
I started doing public access back in 1985 with Jim Farias, who had an idea for a gay talk show. It was one of the first gay public-access shows of its kind, and I helped him produce that. He's passed on since. I got away from it and had a whole different life, but because of my recent underemployment, I had a lot of free time. I was desperately thinking of ways I could get out there while I was trying for jobs. I thought, "Well, let's go back to public access and see what is available," and it was easy to step back into it.
When was your first show?
We did our first show in early June. We started out wanting to do (new) shows every two weeks, but with Ray's school schedule and my work schedule, and the inability to get to where we need to be all the time without a car, we've ended up doing a new show every three weeks. What's nice is that public access only requires you to do a new show every month. I like making sure that shows have enough content to last three weeks.
What's the show's format?
I like the interview format, where I get to sit down with somebody one on one and talk to them about what they are passionate about, and help Tucsonans find resources that are available, especially in the LGBT community. I started this wanting them to know who made the community great. That's why I went to the president of Tucson Pride, Karon Bohlender, for my first interview. I also wanted the public to know there are people to talk to, especially with the university crowd. We have new students coming every year. I wanted them to know who to turn to.
So the show celebrates the LGBT community and provides information.
I also want to inform the non-LGBT community—people who wonder who we are and maybe have some preconceived notions about us. There are times I want to talk to them and show them we are not the bad people that conservatives believe. ... I also try to ... shine a light on lesser-known events and places, and under-represented groups.
What's your favorite interview so far?
One of my favorites is the interview I did with Jen Hoefle (program director of LGBTQ Affairs at the UA), because I love her energy and that she is so passionate about getting these new students involved and making them feel welcome. When you are in college, you've got a lot of new things to deal with, and if you are dealing with your sexuality, you need some place you can be to feel safe, and she gives them that safe feeling at the UA.
Is there anything you want to do differently for the show?
We're always looking for new people out there who can help. Perhaps they want to attend an event and get video for us, or do their own video segments that I can put into the show. That would be a big help. I also want to get to a point where I can do more traveling to places like Bisbee, Prescott and Flagstaff, and even up to Phoenix. ... I have a friend out in Yuma begging me to come out there. They have a tiny little community, but they are proud. ... People need to know they are connected to a bigger group and that they are not alone, and that they have something worth saying.
What kind of feedback have you received?
This one thing that happened made me tear up. I was walking by a car dealership, and this salesman was with some customers. He ... came over and he said, "I just wanted to say I love what you are doing. You're making a difference." That felt great.