VENUS FLYTRAP is a character on the television situation comedy WKRP in Cincinnati (1978–82), played by Tim Reid . He is the evening and early night-time disc jockey at WKRP, and during the course of the series he also becomes the assistant program director.
* 1 Development
* 2 Fictional biography
* 2.1 Background * 2.2 WKRP disc jockey
* 3 Depiction
* 3.1 Personal life * 3.2 Racial issues
* 4 The New WKRP * 5 Reception * 6 References
Concerning the shortage of roles for black actors on television in his era, Tim Reid said, "My character is one of very few in television today. It's not just regression, it's a push backward....My character has had some growing pains. My character went against the network's set pattern for a black character." He elaborates that Venus Flytrap "started out as a subordinate character, but he's grown with each episode....I'm a follower of Taoism and I've been able to work some of that into my character. He's relaxed, and sometimes you'll see the yin-yang (opposites that create all) symbol in the background. The character is being seen, but most people still seem to have a problem venturing into what a black person is really like. It would be interesting to go into that character's home."
"Venus Flytrap" is the pseudonym used by disc jockey Gordon Sims, the evening DJ at the radio station WKRP. His real name is not revealed until late in the show's first season. The background of his character is complicated, but can be pieced together from various episodes.
Gordon Sims is from
At the age of 22, Sims was drafted into the
U. S. Army
Eventually, Venus turned himself in to military officials at the urging of Mr. Carlson (season 1 "Who Is Gordon Sims?"); as he only had a month left when he deserted, Venus was given a general discharge and served out his remaining month, in the words of Andy Travis, "peeling potatoes."
WKRP DISC JOCKEY
Sims accepts an offer from
"Venus is a girl's name!" laments Gordon to Andy. "You know, that real white lady with no arms ?" When it came time to pick his last name, Gordon simply said "Flytrap". Andy dismisses it as a plant that eats bugs . They come to agreement on "Venus Rising," but Andy slips up when he introduces his new nighttime DJ to the station owner.
Andy lies when he introduces Gordon as "Venus Flytrap" to Mama
Carlson , as "the number-one night-time DJ in this country." Venus
goes along and tells her that his audience in
When station manager Arthur Carlson learns Venus's secret of running from the military, he convinces him to stop running and turn himself in. On the basis of what he went through in the war, as well as the fact that he was near the end of his tour of duty and therefore wouldn't have seen any more combat, the investigating officer decides not to initiate a court-martial but instead recommends a general discharge .
In a continuity error, when Venus first talks about Gordon Sims, Venus describes him to Andy as a friend. However, Andy sees right through it and knows that Venus is talking about himself. In a future episode "The Creation of Venus", Venus and Andy reminisce with Mama Carlson about when Venus first came to WKRP and when we see them meet, Andy knows that Gordon Sims is Venus' real name.
Like Andy, Venus realizes that he cannot leave WKRP ("Venus Rising") for a high paying job offer from WREQ, as he likes the people too much and has made friends. He does negotiate a small raise and a promotion to assistant program director, but also negotiates a small raise to help Herb save face and keep his job.
Like his colleague and friend
Dr. Johnny Fever
Venus also takes advantage of his working hours—he's on the air after almost everyone else at the station has gone home—to entertain women in the broadcast booth. This gets him into trouble eventually, as one of these women (played by Tim Reid's real-life wife Daphne Maxwell Reid ) later is arrested as a conspirator in a jewelry robbery. To save her own skin, she fingers Venus, who bears a strong resemblance to the real robber. Venus is in jail for about a week until the real robber (briefly played by Reid via a split screen effect) is finally arrested.
Despite the way he dresses and his occasional use of 1970s vernacular slang like "what's happening," Venus is actually one of the more straitlaced members of the WKRP staff. He is somewhat conservative on social issues; he is against "hard drugs," sometimes expresses disapproval over the sexual content in modern song lyrics and television shows ("I saw, at eight o'clock, two adults arguing about abortion -- now, is that right?"), and his theory of parenting is that "there's nothing wrong with as long as it's tempered with love." And unlike the perpetually cash-strapped Johnny, Venus is good at managing money; he is very knowledgeable about playing the stock market . In the episode "Three Days of the Condo", Venus convinces Johnny to purchase real estate after winning a sizable settlement.
Also unlike Johnny, who is more or less content being a DJ, Venus is determined to go on to bigger things: "I can't spin records all my life." When he turns 30 in the second season, he looks at his wardrobe and asks himself "does a grown man dress like this?" Wanting to make more of his career, he considers accepting the job of program director at WKRP's urban contemporary -formatted competitor, WREQ, an all-automated station where all the programming decisions are made from corporate headquarters. He turns down the job when he finds out that the station only wants him so it can have a token black employee.
Venus is close to both
Working at a station where all the other employees are white, Venus
sometimes worries that he is losing touch with black culture. There
are a number of jokes that play on the fact that Venus is rather
"white" in his cultural tastes:
Dr. Johnny Fever
In the episode "Changes," when Venus learns that he is going to be
interviewed by a reporter from a militant black magazine, he fears
that the article will expose the fact that "All I know is what I see
Another episode dealing with racial issues is "A Family Affair," whose script is credited to Tim Reid. The episode touches on the relationship between Venus and Andy: they are friends who like to assume that they have "put all that black-white junk behind us," but when Venus goes out with Andy's sister Carol, Andy gets angry without fully being able to explain why. In the end, Andy has to grudgingly admit over drinks that there was a racial motivation to the way he reacted, and goes overboard trying to prove that he does not, in fact, object to Venus dating his sister, forcing the two of them to dance together at the bar just so he can show that he doesn't have a problem with it. Andy and Venus finally patch up their differences by teaming up to punch out an unapologetic racist objecting to Carol and Venus dancing.
A very popular episode focusing on Venus is "Venus and the Man"
(originally called "
Arnold comes to the station to see Venus, and turns out to be the huge, muscular leader of a street gang. Venus has to figure out how to make him believe that education is worthwhile when Arnold is already making more money than he could at any "respectable" job. He explains to Arnold that everything in life is a matter of either "survival" or "conquest," and that Arnold, who is mostly interested in conquest, hates school because it has "conquered" him. Arnold admits that he hates the feeling of being weak and powerless that he gets when he can't understand something in school, but Venus offers to prove to him that it doesn't have to be that way: he bets that he can teach Arnold the basics of the atom in two minutes, and Arnold agrees to go back to school and finish out the year if he can.
In a memorable sequence, Venus explains the structure of the atom by pretending that the protons, neutrons and electrons are rival gangs competing for control of a neighborhood that consists of "block after block of nothing." Before Arnold realizes it, he is able to recite all the features of an atom. He then admits that it feels good to know something most other people don't, and Venus explains that the learning is itself a form of conquest. Arnold keeps his part of the bargain and goes back to school, but Venus warns Cora that the odds are against Arnold continuing in school after the year is out. The episode is also a moment of triumph for Venus, who proves himself as a teacher (a profession he failed at earlier) and earns the respect of a boy who had accused him of "sounding white" on the air.