Photos courtesy of Karel.
Charles Karel Bouley—known in the media world for years simply as Karel—wants to change what he calls the “should care” topics in America to “do care” topics. We should care about the 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, but instead, we do care about Bill Cosby’s rape allegations, he said.
Karel, 52, made history in 1998 by coming out as the first openly-gay talk show host on KFI radio. He says he wants to bring America’s focus to Long Beach, a city which he feels is enriched with social issues that are relatable all across the country. That’s why he created a new television show, “Life in Segments,” which is slated to premiere on FreeSpeechTV this Friday.
“I want to be Long Beach’s Oprah,” said Karel, who’s spent most of his life in Long Beach. “I’m filming here because I like Long Beach and want to show Long Beach. It’s the most diverse city in America. We have people of all ethnicities. We have people of all lifestyles.”
And Karel believes his own life experiences are relatable to all these different people. As he rubs elbows with celebrity friends like David Arquette and Arianna Huffington, Karel said his struggle is still real; he’s considering filing for bankruptcy, which, if it happens, will be a segment on the show. This isn’t the first time he’s experienced money issues, either. He found himself homeless on the streets of Long Beach and Orange County in 1983 and 1984.
One of the issues Karel tackles in the first episode of “Life in Segments” is homelessness, not just in Long Beach, but throughout the country. Instead of speaking to so-called experts on the issue, Karel is seen in the episode eating out of a trash can—something he did frequently at a McDonald’s when he was homeless—and talking to homeless people in Long Beach.
That’s what makes “Life in Segments” different from other talk shows, Karel said; he brings the issues to real-life scenarios. Instead of discussing with experts about fossil fuels and their relationship to cars, he’s visiting the Progressive International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach to discuss alternate second vehicle transportation. Instead of talking with therapists about how to deal with certain types of family members at holiday functions, he’s hosting a gathering with Long Beach drag queen Jewels and other friends to discuss how they overcome differences with others during the holidays.
“Having been in talk radio for almost two decades, as well as all other forms of entertainment, I’ve seen the changes first-hand,” Karel said. “Today, there’s a lot of talking going on, but no one is really saying much. Issues seem overwhelming, out of reach, or like they don’t affect us. But they do. Don’t tell me the diabetes rate is rising, show me how to help myself not die. Don’t talk about how to survive family gatherings, have one and tape it and see what happens. Media, and hosts, have become disconnected from life, real life. And we all know reality TV is so far from real. It’s more scripted than actual scripted TV. It’s fake, and we know it. Between that and daytime TV, we get a lot of millionaires sitting around telling us how to live our lives and how things should affect us. Well, I’m a broke queen from the hood. I’ve been so poor I’ve been homeless. I’ve nearly lost it all when KGO fired me in 2008. I have been modified, restructured, like so many. I have lost, publicly, so many. And I wear my heart out on my sleeve. I feel things and I’m not afraid to show it. We need more of ourselves in the media. Plus, we need to be entertained. To laugh, to think. And I share things no other host would.”
Karel, who is no stranger to controversy, said there are no barriers with his show. He was fired from KGO AM in 2008 when an off-air comment—”I want motherfucking Joe the Plumber to be dead”—accidentally aired on his show. He was also the center of controversy when he played “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” on air when Ronald Reagan, a man who Karel said did not bring the AIDS problem in America to light when necessary, died.
Karel decided he was onto something when he came up with the idea for “Life in Segments,” and was determined to make it happen. He made a promise to himself on December 31, 2013 that if he didn’t have “something real happening on web or TV,” he would shelve those efforts for six months or a year to work on a new book. He said he didn’t want that to happen, so when the opportunity for “Life in Segments” came up—which it did, fast; he had just a few weeks to produce an episode after pitching the idea to FreeSpeechTV—he went full speed ahead. Luckily for Karel, FreeSpeechTV believed in his idea, and he already had a team of friends, like VICE Media filmmaker Brandon Riley Miller, willing to help him produce the show on a budget. And Long Beach already offered a plethora of resources, such as the homeless population, outspoken figures and landmarks like the Queen Mary, for him to work with. Because of that, the first episode cost him under $200 to make, he said.
“FreeSpeech said yes, there was no budget, nothing, just yes, you get it to us, we’ll air it. In my biz, that’s called a shot. One I wanted to take,” Karel said. “So, we assembled some of the segments, called every favor and friend, and now, we have three episodes in the can about to air. Enter another segment of my life! So while other people sat around talking about shows for me, discussing how great I’d be in a show, or trying to figure out how to fund one for me, I just got busy and did one. Well, three actually.”
Now, Karel said, those three episodes could potentially turn into 12 more episodes in 2015 if FreeSpeechTV sees enough potential.
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