Punk'd

A TV-news cameraman finds a forum for his secret passion: rock and roll.

Upon being hired by Channel 2 in 1990, TV-news videographer Jim Hucks was told to carry his camera with him wherever he went so that he could be ready at a moment's notice to capture breaking news — and he took the directive seriously. When he attended modern-rock shows, which he did frequently, his camera was at his side, and if he managed to get permission from the performers, he taped the mayhem — like, for instance, a 1997 Ogden Theatre gig by Guttermouth, whose loyalists expressed their love for the band by heartily expectorating on lead singer Mark Adkins.

"I'd never seen so many loogies in my life," Hucks says. "People spit on him the entire show. He had to take a break at one point just to wipe the spit off. Then somebody spit on one of the guitarists — because they weren't close enough to Mark, I guess — and during the break, the guitarist said, 'If you're going to spit, spit on the guy with the camera.'"

Suddenly, Hucks found himself staring down hundreds of "teenage skateboarder types" quickly gathering phlegm in the back of their throats, armed only with a Betacam that wasn't designed to be waterproof (approximate replacement cost: $40,000). "I was like, 'No, you don't! Don't you dare!'" he recalls — and he must have been convincing, because the crowd went back to hawking on Adkins, saving Hucks the trouble of explaining how all that gunk got onto, and into, his camcorder.

Over the years, Hucks, who's now on staff with Channel 7 and also runs his own company, Diamond-Star Media Productions, assembled a killer collection of live shows along these lines, and unlike stuff shot by sneaky ticket-buyers using second-rate or worse equipment, his efforts featured professional camerawork and impeccable audio; he always made arrangements with the folks running the sound board. But except for the VHS copies he sent to bandmembers, some of which may never have reached their intended destination (when he couldn't obtain home addresses, he was forced to ship tapes to labels, which probably didn't forward them), the footage has been largely unseen — until now.

Hucks recently created his own YouTube channel, accessible at www.YouTube.com/denco83. The platform overflows with exciting clips of acts such as Sonic Youth, the Jesus Lizard, the Gaza Strippers, Helmet, Nashville Pussy and Rocket From the Crypt, whose leader, John Reis, raved to Hucks about the quality of the imagery when he visited Denver in May with his new group, the Night Marchers.

In addition, Hucks is a major contributor to a new video storehouse spotlighting the Fluid, www.YouTube.com/user/TheFluidVideoArchive. The notable Denver band (profiled on page 61) was the first Hucks videotaped in concert, way back in 1988, and he plans to do so again at reunion dates in Denver and Seattle over the next several weeks. If all goes well, material from these shows, as well as scenes of the Fluid in action that Hucks captured at additional gigs preceding the group's 1993 breakup, will be important elements of a documentary by Michael Lustig, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker who fell for the band while booking the Garage, a defunct Denver club. The prospect of such a flick thrills Hucks, who sees a direct link between his sideline and his day job.

"My natural instinct is to shoot everything that appeals to me and preserve it," he says. "That's what we're doing whether we're shooting a band or the cleanup of a tornado or a hurricane. We're preserving history."

Hucks's love of music played a big part in his choice of professions. As a student at Cherry Creek High School during the early '80s, he took advantage of classes offered by United Cable as part of its community-access program. He soon developed the expertise to assemble a half-hour program about a Cherry Creek battle-of-the-bands contest that screened on the system. "That was a big deal for a junior in high school," he notes.

From there, Hucks enrolled at the University of Missouri in hopes of earning a journalism degree — a goal he accomplished after transferring to Colorado State University. Following graduation, he settled in Boulder just long enough to videotape that initial Fluid show, at a venue called the Grove, before landing his first full-time TV gig, with an ABC affiliate in Pocatello, Idaho. He spent six months or so at that station and a year at an NBC signal in El Paso, Texas, prior to his return to Colorado courtesy of Channel 2. He stayed at the station for fourteen years, operating in the sports department for much of that stretch; he helped cover two Super Bowls, two Stanley Cups, a couple of Major League Baseball all-star games and more. But he also shot news footage, including stories that cropped up in the aftermath of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School — an event that became the career crucible for an entire generation of journalists. And since moving to Channel 7, he's run the gamut of newsworthy events, traveling to Biloxi, Mississippi, with investigative reporter Tony Kovaleski following Hurricane Katrina and recording the destructive force of storms that raced through Windsor earlier this spring.

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