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Wednesday, July 23, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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TV host lives it up with queen of talk

Seattle Times staff reporter

'Music Inner City TV'


The Oprah Winfrey interview will be broadcast at 10 p.m. today on digital Channel 77 in Comcast's local territory.

For more information on host Gordon Curvey's public-access show, see www.musicinnercity.com

You remember the stories last May — about the uber-fan who shelled out $1,625 on eBay just to be near Oprah Winfrey, about the droves who paid $185 for general tickets to her local "Live Your Best Life Tour" seminar.

But Gordon Curvey, host of the local public-access show "Music Inner City TV," took an absurdly uncomplicated, cost-free route to his moment with Winfrey.

He e-mailed her.

And the small-time host, who runs a hip-hop/R&B show from his South Seattle living room, heard back.

"I thought I was dreaming," Curvey said. "Keep in mind, they got tons of requests from other media."

Armed with three questions and a cameraman, he got chatty with Winfrey at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center on May 31. They joked about being the only two black people there, and then she spoke eloquently about why she gives millions to schools every year and even gave a shout-out to Curvey's mom, Lorraine, who also lives in Seattle.

That segment of "Music Inner City TV" will air at 10 p.m. today on Channel 77 in Comcast's local territory.

"I was nervous," admitted Curvey, whose show's roster of legendary guests include Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones. "But once I saw she was so nice, I was all right."

Elizabeth Dye, spokeswoman for O, The Oprah Magazine, credited "Music Inner City TV's" positive appeal to kids as why Curvey's e-mail stood out from the thousands in Winfrey's inbox.

"Oprah is obviously very aware of outlets that reach inner-city youth. And because Gordon's show was so grass-roots in your area, she felt it was important to be a part of it," Dye said.

Curvey (pronounced Curvé) started "Music Inner City TV" 13 years ago with the goal of drawing in young viewers through hip music, and then showering them with positive messages about staying in school, away from drugs and far from gangs.

His local and national guest artists — including Queen Latifah, Dionne Warwick, James Brown, George Clinton and such sports heroes as Michael Jordan — are asked to share advice every week.

Curvey also airs hip-hop and R&B music videos on the show.

"I play a lot of national, underground videos," he said. "Stuff you don't see on other big shows."

Curvey, who doesn't have a studio, films his guests at local schools, community centers and red-carpet affairs, including the Grammy Awards and the BET Awards. Cameraman Raymond "Base" Fernandez travels with the host.

But Curvey didn't always have a crew in tow. During the show's early years, he would stand in front of a timed tripod to tape his solo portion of "Music Inner City's" intro.

He still edits his footage at home, in a corner stacked with VCRs, digital video makers and other bulky equipment blinking with green lights.

On a nearby wall are pictures, some of them yellowing Polaroids, of Curvey smiling with his famous guests.

In 1999, "Music Inner City TV" was named Urban Music Video Show of the Year by Urban Network magazine.

Curvey's goal now is to add a sidekick, preferably a "nice-looking female co-host," and to get syndicated and seen in more cities. The show used to air on what now is KTWB (the WB). Curvey has plans to return soon to broadcast television a couple of times a month.

He also publishes the monthly tabloid newspaper Inner City News, which covers entertainment, sports and general news for minority communities.

Curvey plans to change the paper — which can be found at restaurants, community centers and stores mostly in the Rainier Valley area — into a magazine.

"My goal is to be known in a positive way by every black youth in Seattle, so when they say 'Gordon Curvey,' they say, 'That's a positive black man, and I want to be like him,' " said Curvey, 48, who used to work with at-risk kids in the Seattle School District before starting the show.

In tonight's broadcast, he and Winfrey mostly speak about schools and kids.

Citing herself as a "living example of what can happen in this country," she acknowledges living "in the place of possibility" and insists that kids focus on what is possible in their lives instead of on their circumstances.

Winfrey credits her grandmother, who taught her how to read, for showing her a life beyond a Mississippi front porch. She says it would be the "greatest sin on earth" to not take advantage of the right to education.

"I believe that education is freedom," she says.

Of seeing Winfrey at the other end of his lens last May, Fernandez said the experience was nothing short of life-changing.

"I was stunned," he said. "And the advice that she gave — I was really paying attention."

Young Chang: 206-748-5815 or ychang@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company

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