Norfolk Community Television is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is governed by a 7 member board of directors, the Norfolk Cable Corporation. I had the opportunity to sit down with our board’s president, Pamela Ruby Russell, for an interview. Pamela is a woman of many talents and passions including photography, singing, and songwriting. She utilizes her creative talents to channel and harness her emotions in a way that is uniquely hers and shares her gifts with a wide variety of people and personalities. You’ll notice Pamela’s bright outfits and even brighter personality immediately as she shines the light of positivity even on the darkest of days. During our interview, I learned that her endless optimism is deeply rooted in her challenging and often heart-breaking past. With a foundation of deep personal understanding and an impressive ability to read people, Pamela perseveres in the face of hardship and continues to carve a positive path for herself and her family in the ever-changing maze we call life.
KLW: Tell us a little bit about your background and how you found yourself interested in community TV.
PRR: Lucky for me, my family tree is blessed with highly creative, resourceful women. Many were in show biz. A native New Yorker, my college years in Boston and New York back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s, were spent studying first nursing and then acting, writing, silversmithing and philosophy. At 16 my mom gifted me a beautiful guitar and I'd spend hours writing poetry and learning folk music, the “freedom” songs of that era. I caught the performance bug early on but it would be over a decade before I found courage and learned to write and perform my own songs.
Born legally blind in one eye, after surgery at age 3, I recuperated with a big black patch on my eye, watching a tiny TV screen incased in a huge, wooden cabinet. Everything was black, white and mostly fuzzy. That old TV was magical! There weren’t many shows back then but everything was incredible! It still is! Yes, I am a true vidiot!
When I was 22, my mom committed suicide. Heartbreaking for me, my only option was to figure out by myself how to live this life. I had to get creative with both head and heart. I became a photographer in my early 20's and songwriter in my early 30's, finding a safe place within, where I regrouped and created from, exorcising my old demons. Not everyone survives life's pitfalls. Again, I was one of the lucky ones.
After managing my own restaurant in P'town for a while, I ran off with my dog to St. Barths in the French West Indies where I designed jewelry and bartended at the infamous Eden Roc Hotel. St. Barths was an unknown destination then, with only 3 cars on the entire island. My closest neighbors were a few goats, chickens and a 98 year old woman who wove baskets and sold eggs by our dirt road. She never rode in a car or had need of a doctor!
After my life in Paradise I returned to study piano and vocal technique, turning my poetry into award winning songs. In the 1980's Boston was an artistically exciting place to live. I performed and recorded with my original rock bands in the best New England clubs and studios. Always with a camera, documenting the world through my maturing "wild woman" eyes, life about faced for me. I traveled to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to visit my elderly Godmother, a former Ziegfeld Follies dancer who had survived Boston's Coconut Grove fire and her guitar playing Mexican husband. An extended stay provided me with eye-opening, humbling experiences. I rode an elephant in a Mexican circus and learned Spanish by reading Tarot cards for women at a bakery. I lived close to the jungle. To get into town every morning I had to cross the Rio Cuale on a rope suspension bridge. I learned quickly how much I had taken for granted in my life.
When I came home to Massachusetts, I was a different person. Continuing my musical career, I also became a serious photographer and am an active member of the Stony Brook Camera Club. I've won awards for both artistic endeavors. My independently produced CD, "Highway of Dreams" is available online and I periodically exhibit and sell my photographs in New England galleries. I enjoy shooting portraits and quite a few book jackets, as well as CD and DVD covers, have my photographs on them.
My husband Eric Linter, an astrologer who also teaches, and I moved to Norfolk from Jamaica Plain 10 years ago. With our two dogsons, we tend our garden, keep our woodpile stocked and enjoy the beauty this town has to offer. We are both committed to preserving open spaces and keeping our environment safe from pollutants and over-development. Smart planning is something we hope to see more of from our town leaders. Interestingly enough, I recently discovered that some of my maternal ancestors helped settle both Norfolk and Mendon in the1600's and were laid to rest in this area. It's a strange and wonderful world. I was born in NY and the roots I have searched most of my life for, they are right here. I believe it's important to leave a place better than how you found it. That's my plan.
So, about Cable Access: I feel that my life became more meaningful and constructive when I allowed myself to be more creative. I want to help others have the same opportunities, to dream, to create like I did. Learning about other people’s lives, how they’ve lived them, it nurtures us. It connects us with our humanity. Cable Access gives us the tools to connect, educate and reach others, sharing our beliefs, thoughts and experiences. I think having a public forum for distributing and disseminating information, news and art, is very important, especially now, because almost everything you look at or listen to these days on network TV, is selling something or someone.
KLW: How have you been able to incorporate your passions for photography and music into your work at NCTV?
PRR: A few years ago, I had a show on NCTV called "Ruby's RoundUp." I interviewed artists and other interesting, inspired folks. I also shared some of my photos and short video clips on the station. I hope to revive "Ruby's RoundUp" in the near future since I’ve been thinking lately that there are a lot of folks "out there" who might enjoy a little encouragement and inspiration. Life's pretty chaotic and busy these days and carving out time to be artistic can be challenging for us all. And we need to remember, the possibilities are endless!
KLW: As the President of NCC’s board of directors, what do you see as NCTV’s most important role in the community?
PRR: For me, the answer to that question is an evolving one as I am very new at my position. I’d like to see NCTV functioning as a hub, a go-to place for townspeople of all ages and backgrounds. I think NCTV, well Cable Access in general, is crucial, as I said before, for disseminating unbiased, factual information as well, educating and informing people as to what’s going on around town and in town government. NCTV must be a safe place for people to voice their opinions and communicate to their neighbors. In my opinion, NCTV is where people can explore their creativity, say their piece, and not be judged.
KLW: What is coming up next for you?
PRR: Well, our little dog, Mr. Dudley, has cancer, T-Cell Lymphoma. He just started on a new chemo drug. He's thriving, in spite of the 3 week prognosis we were given for him 2 years ago! We are celebrating that incredible miracle and enjoying each day with him! I’m learning to be fiscally creative, raising money for his care. And getting back into my music and songwriting I hope. Learning new computer programs has been a focus of late. I belong to the Stony Brook Camera Club and we’re exploring something really new called Pecha Kucha. It comes from Japan. Pecha Kucha means to chat, chatting. You present a story to an audience in 6 minutes using 20 images. So last week I told the story of "Mr. Dudley’s Grand Adventure" at the camera club, with photographs, some of mine, some of my husband’s. I may come in to the station and record/film my story and broadcast it on NCTV. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I guess that’s what’s up for me right now. And I am also figuring out, well trying to anyway, where I want to be when I "get old.” I still have a lot of life to live! Thank goodness!!
KLW: What would you like to see in NCTV’s future?
PRR: I’d like to see it as much more of a go-to place for Norfolk residents. In other words, I wish that more people in the town supported it and showed up. Step by step... "build it and they will come!" As President of the Board, I want to work to help facilitate the station's growth. I'm sure it will thrive, especially with the awesome staff we have now. And what we see, unfortunately on network TV, the constant bickering, the name calling and blame game stuff, I hope that NCTV and again, in general, Cable Access TV, continues to rise above all of that. There’s Republicans and Democrats, Episcopalians and Baptists, Jews, Buddhists and Muslims, etc., all kinds of people, all different races and beliefs, but we really are all the same. We have similar needs. It would be really nice - I guess I'm a rather mature hippy now, but I was at Woodstock you know - I’d like to see, here in our own town, NCTV becoming a successful example of how everyone can get along, that the studio is a place that "Norfolkians" call ‘mine.’ That would be wonderful!
If you would like to learn more about Pamela Ruby Russell, please visit her website.