The duo have produced programming for HBO, Showtime, Logo, VH1, IFC, Discovery, OWN, TLC, E!, HGTV, PBS, and Channel 4. Their company blog, The WOW Report, was named Best Counter Culture Blog by LA Weekly. In 2014, Bailey and Barbato were honored with the IDA Pioneer Award, "celebrating exceptional achievement, leadership, and vision in the nonfiction and documentary community".
Filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato at the Miami International Film Festival presentation of Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures (2016). Photo: David Heischrek
Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato founded World of Wonder Productions in 1991, a successor to their "World of Wonder records" label, based in Los Angeles, California.
Barbato and Bailey met in the graduate film program at NYU, in the mid-'80s. Intent on becoming famous, they formed a disco-pop-rock duo called the
Fabulous Pop Tarts and began performing regularly at Danceteria and other clubs in downtown New York City. They produced two albums, Age of the Thing which included their hit single, “New York City Beat”, and Gagging on the Lovely Extravaganza, which included guest appearances by Lady Miss Kier, RuPaul,
Martyn Phillips, and
Filthy the Dog. World of Wonder was organized initially in order to manage the Fabulous Pop Tarts, and to enable projects in television production and licensing, documentary film-making, and in helping to build the careers of their friends and fellow artists, particularly RuPaul.
World of Wonder operates primarily out of its art-deco building on Hollywood Boulevard. Designed by architects S. Tilden Norton and Fredrick H. Wallis and erected in 1930, the building served as the original home of the Directors Guild of America. The World of Wonder Storefront Gallery now occupies the ground floor retail space, with production and management offices occupying the upper three stories. The basement, once home to the punk rock club The Masque, now houses the company's video archive and a soundstage.
World of Wonder notably shares its name with one of its early television documentaries, Died on the 4th of July: Nelson Sullivan's World of Wonder. Nelson Sullivan was a central figure in the downtown New York City art and club scene of the 1980s, obsessively videotaping everyone and everything he saw before dying of a heart attack on July 4, 1989. He left behind over 1800 hours of video footage that he'd shot over the last ten years of his life. From this archive World of Wonder created the one-hour documentary portrait of Nelson which aired on UK's Channel 4, and is also included on the DVD release of Party Monster: The Shockumentary.