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Z-Axis

Z-Axis is a quirky public access tv show that supports Charlotte local culture, especially alternative culture. It was founded around the time of Desert Storm, the other war in Iraq. It was started by Phil Rutledge, a mild-mannered sociology lecturer at UNCC, and Don Swan (a.k.a. Bongo). Z-Axis folks would hang out at Lupies, a laid-back local restaurant, where Phil and Bongo would capture events on a camcorder for airing on Z-axis. After several years, Bongo, Phil and a friend named Joel began shooting a new Z-axis segment called Southern Styles, featuring Bongo and Joel as Southern rednecks. The parody was very popular. Soon Joel left for Washington, D.C., so Bongo and an old friend of his named Danny Baker decided to continue the spirit of the Southern Styles skits with their own new public access show, called Unknown Hinson. Unknown Hinson quickly developed a cult following in its short lifespan. It featured Danny as a bizarre Southern redneck who could play the hell out of a guitar as he complained about the "wer-men folk" in his life.

Phil kept Z-Axis going, pulled new people in, and kept it as irreverent as ever. Bongo, who continued contributing to both shows, died of a heart attack at Lupies several years later.

Wendell Oliver (a.k.a. Gizmo) joined a couple years later as filmmaker, director, co-editor and main content wrangler. His classics include Godzilla Vs. The Spice Girls and a parking lot remake of Titanic. This was the sketch comedy era. Was it the show's heyday, or its lowest point? You decide. Lepton Neutrino opened the doors of 23 Studio, Pat's Tavern and the Wrightnow Gallery to the rag-tag troupe; many of the characters who hung around NoDa in those days were on the show, and a first batch of trading cards was created and put on the Z-Axis website. Once, the Charlotte Observer even took pity on them and gave them some press. Thanx, Olivia!

A second batch of Z-Axis trading cards was created around the end of the sketch comedy era, when the troupe was meeting briefly at a bar called Shelberrys on Monroe Road, then in a loft in NoDa before getting kicked out sometime towards the end of 2003. The owner of the loft made up some weird excuse about needing to turn the place into office space, but no one believes that's happened yet. They just didn't want a bunch of weirdos up there is what it was.

Nowdays the show consists of whatever segments individual creators turn in to Phil each week. The show airs on Charlotte's public access channel 21 every Saturday night from 11 to 11:30.

If you can create video segments (five minutes is the preferred duration) and would like to contribute to the show, write to zaxistv@hotmail.com