Natalie was a local 80s pulp TV superhero. Photo courtesy of Natalie Pollock
If you’re not from Winnipeg there's a good chance you haven't heard of Natalie Pollock, but she’s been something of a Manitoban legend for decades. In the 80s, she became the public-access television star du jour when she started the Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show with her brother, Ronnie. The weekly series was a curious amalgam that was part interview show, part dance show, and part creative repository for some of Winnipeg’s strangest extroverts. Guests included a funny and slightly frightening Liberace impersonator, scatter-brained high school girls, professional football players and boxers, among other oddities. A big portion of the show revolved around Natalie’s heaving bosom, which drew attention during weekly freeform, expressionist dance sequences. The weird mélange of the show’s guests—outcasts, kids, pseudo-celebrities—also represented the diversity of the audience—the show was a cult hit among pulp-seeking teens and adults alike. It was as though Natalie’s giant boobs united the city, because if you had access to a television, chances are you were tuning in to see her bust ‘em out.
The show was cancelled in 1989—an abrupt finish that Natalie claims was handed down by the station manager who insisted that her boobs were causing too much unwanted attention. No longer able to shake her breasts on TV, Natalie ran for mayor several times. In 1992, she finished fifth in a 17-candidate field with 1,311 votes.
Two decades after the glory days, Natalie spends her time raising hell on Winnipeg’s drab streets with a camera in hand. She posts her footage on The Pollock & Pollock News Channel, a YouTube channel she runs with Ronnie that tackles issues like marijuana legalization and gay marriage with a homemade, internet video aesthetic. Just before Christmas, Natalie propelled Brian Pallister, a prominent conservative politician, into national headlines when she showed him wishing “infidel atheists” the best for the holiday season.
I called Natalie to talk about how the show’s progressive, minority and LGBT friendly format led to threats from angry Manitobans, how a straight Liberace impersonator became one of the show’s most popular guests, and how her father felt about her dominating the airwaves with massive cleavage.
Natalie and Ronnie. Photo courtesy of Natalie PollockVICE: Explain the format of the Pollock and Pollock Gossip Show.
Natalie Pollock: Well, we started it out as a political interview show. I always wanted the show to be intelligent, and people never took me seriously. So that was what it all was about. We had a few political shows that were very controversial and our station manager simply didn’t want us to continue, he said, “You’re being too controversial, we want the show to be entertainment based. Can you do a dance show?” I was very upset because I wanted it our show to be serious, but we hit on a lot of topics that were ahead of our time.
Who was the most memorable guest on the show?
Oh my God, I had so many. There was this world-class boxer named Donny Lalonde. He appeared on our show just before he set to fight Sugar Ray Leonard for the Super Middleweight title. It was a huge thing. Another highlight was the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, too. There was three Blue Bombers. And the Blue Bomber office didn’t want them to come on our show but they snuck on our show anyway. They snuck on the show and did the show [laughs] and were quite wild, actually. It was a wild show.
What kind of stuff went on?
Donny Lalonde was singing. There was a song called “At the Hop,” that he sang. Later on, his manager tried to get that show pulled. The guests came on and they started talking freely, you know, fooling around about sex and talking openly. These were people that had managers. The Blue Bombers usually have to talk about football but they talked openly about their lives and I think people got bent out of shape. And I think a lot of people were upset about my dancing.
What are some of your favourite memories of the show?
Some of my favorite moments were the guy that played Liberace. He was probably the best member of our troupe, because he was such a good sport about playing Liberace, considering he wasn’t gay. And we always loved Liberace. I think he was the most emblematic part of our show—people used come to the show and want to meet him [the impersonator]. He was a regular guy that worked at Wal-Mart. And I knew where my audience lay. I had the same audience as Bette Midler, basically. There was an undercurrent happening of people who were in the closet that were dying to get out and so they all watched the show. I think that was probably my favorite part of the show. I felt that-—even though my station manager and people were criticizing us—I felt that I had to do that because it was an expression of the time.
How did people in Winnipeg react to you while you on The Pollock & Pollock Gossip Show?
We had hate mail. We had threats. At that time people were in the closet and people were extremely anti-gay. We had phone threats. A lot of phone threats and stuff. Like, "Get that..."—I’m not going to say the word, but—“Get that gay guy off the show.” That’s what people used to say. In one episode I was dancing with a young black man and I got hate for it. People were all bent out of shape because I was dancing with somebody who was black.
What about when people saw you in person, what was the reaction then?
Oh, people loved the show. They still love the show, to this day. But this is 2014, people are more progressive now. I have a huge amount of fans every single day. Yesterday I was in Starbucks and a woman came up to me and started saying how much she loved the show and “I was a huge fan,” and that kind of thing… but in those days we were shocking people. And I think mostly because of that Liberace character.
What other shows were playing on Videon, the cable television service where The Pollock & Pollock Gossip Show aired?
They had a bunch of Christian shows. There were tons of them.
Who told you that you were losing The Pollock & Pollock Gossip Show because your body offended people?
The station manager.
Do you understand why your chest offended people?
No, I don’t. I can’t understand why mammary glands would bother people. We were born in our skin. I’m a woman. If a flat-chested woman danced it would have been okay. But when I danced my manager got all upset about it.
Did you ever consider reducing the amount of cleavage you showed so the show could continue?
I wasn’t going to cover up for members of my family who were very distressed by it, because of my father. I asked my father’s permission to wear cleavage. I tried to cover up for weeks and weeks when the station manager first said we were losing the show. I covered up and he said, “They still bother me and they still bother people, so you’re losing the show.” I said, “But, I covered up!” He said, “It doesn’t matter; they’re still there.” I said, “Well what am I supposed to do, cut them off? They’re my breasts I can’t cut them off!”
When you were on the show you were working in your father’s office, right?
How did the employees and your dad feel when the CBC came by to do a story on you?
Well, I was the only employee in my father’s office. And he loved the show.
If you could go back in time and re-do The Pollock & Pollock Gossip Show, what would you do differently?
I would to do dance more and do more free expression. It was a show centered on free expression, just get up and do whatever you do, dance the way you want to dance. Drop your arms and dress the way you want to and be glittery and wear feathers.
What do you think is the legacy of The Pollock & Pollock Gossip Show?
I think that we brought out something to Winnipeg television that had never been there before. And I think we had a positive human rights space that was virtually unheard of for North America at that time. There will never be another show like it.