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POP EYE

March 15, 1987|PATRICK GOLDSTEIN

POKER TILL YOU PUKE: There's never been a rock TV talk show quite like "Li'l Art's Poker Party." Then again, how many rock TV talk shows have there ever been? Hosted by local rock raconteur Art Fein, the Poker Party is an oddball, low-budget gem featuring a regular cast of pop scenesters who tout favorite groups, debunk the latest trends, interrogate special guests (everyone from Screaming Jay Hawkins to Ed Begley Jr.), walk in front of the cameras--in fact, do just about everything but play poker. As Fein puts it: "It's like 'Omnibus' hosted by Soupy Sales. Instead of reviewing albums, we review the reviews."

Due to celebrate its third anniversary this week, the "Poker Party" appears regularly (at irregular hours) on Communicom's Channel 37 and Century Cable's (formerly Group W) Channel 3. But after 90 shows, Fein has grown weary of scrambling for funds to produce the program. Eager to attract an "angel" who could finance a move into late-night syndication, Fein recently took out a full-page ad in the showbiz newspaper Daily Variety, asking for "advice . . . money . . . and an investor with vision and imagination."

"It was an incredibly nervy thing to do, wasn't it," joked Fein, who's made a name for himself as a manager, producer, club booker and free-lance journalist. "But the results were very encouraging. I don't have any firm offers yet, but I got responses from major TV companies, production houses and entrepreneurs, who all seemed at least interested."

He laughed. "Mostly people liked the idea itself. I got a couple of fan letters saying, 'We don't have any money, but we loved the ad.' Someone else had a good plan, that we should get a beer company sponsorship--which makes sense, since if we're playing poker, why not have some beer around?"

Until the offers start rolling in, the "Poker Party" will remain in its comfortable, low-rent living room set. The special round of third-anniversary shows air Tuesday (at 10:30 p.m. on both Communicom and Century Cable), featuring conversation highlights plus live performances by Dwight Yoakam, the Paladins and Phil Alvin.

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