URBAN ANIMALS

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If you enjoyed last decade’s ‘Under the Pink Carpet,’ and if you like animals . . . you will love today’s URBAN ANIMALS

In the early 2000s, before there was “Will and Grace,” before there was “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” and long before RuPaul ever started “Drag Racing,” there was “Under the Pink Carpet.”

“Under the Pink Carpet,” a news/magazine television series that portrayed an un-sanitized version the LGBT subculture from the perspective of its largely underground arts and entertainment scene, was first broadcast on public television (think PBS-TV) in December of 1999.  By 2004 the series was being beamed into millions of households in cities across the United States via public television distributer NETA (the National Educational Television Association) and in Canada and the Benelux territories of Europe via the Pride Cable Television Network.
Under the Pink Carpet” was the first television show in history to feature a drag queen reporter (New York socialite and performer Clover Honey), the first to send a “fag hag” reporter (Stephanie Butler) to cover the highly controversial Hookie Awards at NYC’s Roseland Ballroom and the first to question disco legend Donna Summer, on camera, about her controversial comments on the gay community. Summer was one of a long list of celebrities who would appeared on the series during its decade-long tenure.  The series ultimately featured a virtual who’s who of mainstream stars: Kelly Ripa, Rosie O’Donnell, Cyndi Lauper, Boy George, soap siren Susan Lucci, “Will and Grace” star Eric McCormack, “Queer Eye” cast members Carson Kressley and Jai Rodriguez, homemaking magnate Martha Stewart, Golden Girl Rue McClanahan, “Dynasty” icon Joan Collins and a multiplicity of other luminaries of the decade. These established stars were melded with edgy and controversial celebrities of New York City’s underground alternative scene, and all were a component of topical coverage that traditional media dared not touch.  “Under the Pink Carpet” smashed boundaries, destroyed pre-constructed stereotypes and is now recognized as helping to pave the way for mainstream acceptance of the gay lifestyle as portrayed in mass media.

“We certainly broke barriers. It’s no longer shocking to see a drag queen on national television. Now, we
have a transsexual former Olympian regularly featured on primetime TV,” says “Under the Pink Carpet” producer, creator and correspondent Tony Sawicki. “There are two openly gay, supremely intelligent and highly respected anchors on major news networks.  In the time since ‘Under the Pink Carpet’s’ first broadcast, LGBT people have become mainstream in the media.”

“It was very fulfilling, not to mention a lot of fun, to produce a show like that. We didn’t intentionally set out to, but we were shocking, and we were sensationalistic.  Sometimes that’s what you have to be to enact progress,” Sawicki reflects now.  “And maybe that’s what you do when you are a bit younger. But your intellect matures, hopefully, and at some point you really just want to use your talents to educate and to inform, not so much to shock.”

Fast forward to the present:

In 2013, Tony Sawicki and Clover Welsh, aka Clover Honey, created and launched a totally new and completely different magazine format series. The two envisioned a show focusing on pets and animals, a subject that both shared a passion for.

“We wanted to do an animal show, but we also wanted to maintain a certain vibe. We wanted the show to be hip, metropolitan, exciting, informative, inclusive and urban based,” Welsh explained. “And we wanted to benefit animals.” They named the show “Urban Animals” and gave it the tagline: “A human interest series about non-humans … and the people who love them.”

“The primary mission of Urban Animals is to educate people about animals and to encourage conservation, rescue, adoption and responsible pet ownership,” Sawicki says.

The first two seasons of “Urban Animals” were broadcast to 18 million households in the New York metropolitan region on WNYE-TV.  Also known as NYC Life, this television station operates under the auspices of the New York City Mayor’s Alliance of Media and Entertainment. Now, after two successful seasons in New York, the show is revving up for national distribution.

Sawicki and Welsh added executive producer Robbyne Kaamil to their production team.  Kaamil, another long-time veteran of the New York arts scene and a successful independent producer, writer, performer and animal rights activist in her own right, has been instrumental in prepping the series for its national launch. Rounding out the production team are associate producers Dana Bryan and Hugo Lopez.  Long-time crew member Roberto Zuluaga oversees green screening, lighting and sound, and Phil Scaringi is “Urban Animals’” primary location cameraman.

The team recently celebrated the show’s national launch with a party on Saturday, June 4, at the D Pet Hotel in Chelsea, NYC. Fans and supporters of the show joined the celebration, and invitees were also welcomed to bring small dogs and were encouraged to dress them up, as is often seen in the show’s canine fashion reports.

Special guests included the Birdman and Bird Lady of Canarsie and their famous rescue parrots of Brooklyn, and Philadelphia pet fashion designer Kevin Ugarte, who arrived with a hamster, a pig, a bearded dragon lizard and a turtle … all dressed in haute couture!

In addition to mingling with other animal lovers, meeting some interesting furred and feathered creatures, and enjoying music, drinks and wine, partygoers were also videotaped for a television segment on the show, giving attendees and their pets a chance for national TV exposure.

The event was sponsored by Leon Engineer Bike Tow Leash. Support for the “Urban Animals” television series is provided by Vital Essentials frozen and freeze dried raw meats, foods and treats for dogs and cats; Dermagic all-natural skin care products for dogs and cats designed by an organic chemist; Dr. Kruger dietary supplements for complete lifecycle support for dogs and cats; and Virbac, the makers of Sentinel heartworm and flea protection for dogs.

“Urban Animals” will be made available to all 350 PBS affiliate member television stations across the United States this fall.

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