Tag Archives: Billy Mays

And so Antiques Roadshow begat Pawn Stars, which begat American Pickers, which begat my disgust.

12 Sep

September 12, 2010

Antiques Roadshow is loved by everyone. Well, OK, not everyone. To be clear, Antiques Roadshow airs on PBS, meaning that most people do not watch Antiques Roadshow, therefore Antiques Roadshow is not actually loved by everyone. In fact most people have never seen it at all, and most probably a good portion of the audience only likes it. So really, Antiques Roadshow is a show on PBS that you have probably not seen but, if you did, you have a good chance of loving it. In general, Antiques Roadshow is loved by everyone who watches Antiques Roadshow.

I hope that makes sense. I hate proofreading.

Antiques Roadshow (or simply AR for awhile, ’cause I hate typing too.) is a pop culture phenom. It started the whole trend of thinking that your garbage is worth a pile of cash. Sure, once in a blue moon, that picture somebody bought at a garage sale for five dollars turns out to be worth five hundred dollars, but that will never happen to you. The picture you buy at a garage sale for five dollars will be worth- wait for it- five dollars, but that painting has been stored in an unfinished basement for twenty years, so the cost of exterminating all the spiders that crawled out of the frame will far outweigh any enjoyment you get. So save your five dollars.

And that brings me that what I’ll jokingly call the point of this mess.

Like anything popular, (World War One, for example) AR has spawned some imitators, some good and some bad. Ron Popeil spawned Billy Mays (good, now dead) and Vince the Slap Chop guy (bad, still living. Life is unfair.) Antiques Roadshow has spawned Pawn Stars (Billy Mays good) and American Pickers (Vince bad, so very bad.)

Pawn Stars is not to be confused with Porn Stars, a show that the History Channel is not allowed to air. This is about a family that runs the swankiest pawn shop in Las Vegas. Sure, they’ll give you two bucks for your loose gold filling, but they’ll also buy a Faberge brooch for $15,000, and that I assure you I am not making up.

The “owner” of the shop is Rick, a paunchy bald guy. Sure, that description could also fit Michael Chiklis or Jason Alexander, but Rick is taller than those guys. I bet you can just picture him now! Anyway, despite lying in every single show that he owns the place, Rick is only a 49% owner.

The other 51% is owned by his father, just called The Old Man. Fans of Bela Lugosi may recall that he was credited as “The Old Man” in Ed Wood’s epic Plan Nine From Outer Space. (Plans one through seven didn’t work out so well, and plan eight- “We will knock the hats off the human’s heads, and when they bend over to pick them up, we shall take over the Earth!”- was also a non-starter.) Anyway, Bela Lugosi and the guy from Pawn Stars? Not the same guy. In fact, this guy looks like he’s done some pistol whipping and jail breaking in his past. He looks, acts, dresses, and sounds just like a Prohibition era gangster, only now he also has gout and a goiter.

Rick’s son is called Big Hoss (I am not making that up, in fact I have not yet made up a single word of this blog, and this may be a record) and he is all that the description Big Hoss implies.

Big Hoss’ friend, Chumlee also works there, so speak. What he actually does is unknown.


If you understand the premise of a pawn shop, things should go smoothly. Unfortunately, most people walking into the shop don’t. In short. Rick buys things in order to resell them. Therefore, he needs to make a profit. so if you have a lamp worth $100, don’t expect Rick to buy it for $100. In order to make a profit on a $100 lamp, he has to buy it as low as possible. Usually, Rick would go up to about $60. Therefore, on a $100 lamp, the seller has gotten $60 and Rick will get $40. If the lamp seller wants the full hundred, he needs to skip the middle man (and a pawn shop is the classic example of a middle man) and go directly to some guy who will give him $100. However, that can take time and can be difficult, so often it is easier to go to a pawn shop, where a guy like Rick does all the work of selling.

Problem is, no one who walks into the shop has any idea of how pawning works, and even less idea about what his stuff is worth. Rick gets a ridiculous amount of civil war memorabilia (say that in your best Sol Rosenberg voice, and do the boot with a foot in it bit while you’re at it, if you know your Jerky Boys references) and he usually calls in an expert. The expert tells Rick and the seller that the stuff is worth, at an auction, about $10,000.

Rick asks the seller how much he wants. The seller wants $10,000. He has gone to the wrong place. Eventually, the seller will probably walk out with a little over or under $5000. Of course, he may just be an idiot. No way I am selling a $10,000 item for half price. I’ll do some research and find a buyer myself. On the other hand, sometimes Rick gets an oddball item, like (this is true true true) a Soviet nuclear missile key and things get hard to price.

At any rate, Pawn Stars, or The Pawnsters as I once thought it was called, and I still think is a better name, is generally fair and if you believe in buyer (or seller) beware, go for it.

Then there is Antiques Roadshow’s reprehensible stepchild, American Pickers.

Imagine you open your door one day and a couple of giggling middle aged men suddenly swoop into your home and offer you $10 for your bridge chairs. That’s the gist of American Pickers, sort of a Pawnsters in reverse, where the buyers come to you, uninvited.

On this show, two guys drive around in a van (no, not the Scrappers) somewhere in the Deep South, off the beaten roads. They are looking for homes or houses that seem to have a lot of, what appears to be, junk. (It is amazing how many rednecks have old tin signs laying around their front yards.) They start poking around garages, sheds, and backyards until either A- the owner shoos them off with a shotgun or B- the owner invites them to look around.

The two guys, whose names I neither know nor care about, climb around, through, and under anything they can, rooting out old oil cans, tin signs, bicycles, whatever. Eventually one of them will find a Sunoco pump or a rusty sickle, and the two will huddle in a corner, giggling like little school girls over their find. Then they’ll compose themselves, walk over to the owner, and offer him about $3 for it. More often than not, the guy will take the offer and ask them if they want anything else.

Eventually the pickers fill the van and pay the owner something like $100 for the haul, and the owner is happy to get it. Why not? Who expects some tools to drive up and buy some of their junk?

The worst is yet to come. The pickers usually get right up to the camera, and, hooting like Frank Gorshin from the old Batman show, tell the audience that the rusty cans they bought for $3 are really worth over $150 and they already have a buyer lined up. A helpful graphic pops up on the screen and, as much as a graphic can be smug, smugly compares the selling price of the stuff they bought vs. the actual value. Usually, the pickers make out like bandits.

I hate this show.

On Pawn Stars, the seller has control. They know they want to sell an item. It is up to them to do the research, and they have the option of walking out of the shop and finding another place to sell it.

On American Pickers, usually these people are not going to sell their stuff, or at least not at the particular moment. Can you blame them for not having done research, for not knowing the value of their stuff, for not having a buyer ready?

What would you do if out of the blue someone showed up and waved money under your nose, all in exchange for some of the junk in your garage? These people are not prepared for the situation and the pickers take advantage of them. Rick from Pawn Stars will at least tell you the value of your items. True tale- last week, a woman showed up with a Faberge brooch and asked Rick for $2,000. Rick should have leaped over the counter and made her sign a blood oath then and there, but instead he replied “I’d love to pay you $2,000 for this, but I have a conscience, so I’ll give you $15,000 for it.” The pickers would have badgered her down to $50.

It is awful. Sure, on one hand, the show is about the “lost treasures in America’s backyard” (I’m quoting because I’m sure I heard that somewhere, and if I didn’t, I should have) but on the other hand it is about gleefully ripping people off and gloating about it. It sickens me, which is also what William Shatner said on the set of Star Trek when a director tried to correct his pronunciation. “Please don’t correct me. It sickens me.”

"Here's $18 for the Renoir, and another $6 for the Monet. You drive a hard bargain sir."

Is it fair of me to blame PBS for some cable network ripping off one of their shows and making an insult to my intelligence? Of course not. But I’ll still use this an excuse to not make a donation during their next pledge drive.

Not affiliated with American Pickers, oh my goodness no.

Early Saturday Morning, Drunk in the Laundromat

20 Nov

from October 15, 2009

This blog is going to be yet another Laundromat story. I tell you that upfront so that all of you who don’t like my Laundromat stories (i.e.: all of you) can log out now and go back to churning your butter or hitching your wagons or whatever else you were doing. Why do I write these things? Just to give my friends something else to not talk to me about if they ever see me again, which is seeming more and more unlikely lately.

I don’t blog much anymore, and that’s a blessing because how much crap can one person write about? On the other hand, as much as I can turn a trip to wash my old t-shirts into a three-page blog, I can also spend an entire day alone with someone and never seem to have a conversation of substance. But I digress.

My lack of blogging coincides almost exactly with my lack of sleep. Used to be just the opposite. I’d be up all night and sure enough, the next morning some ranty, vaguely coherent thing would be up and posted, and I’d have no memory of what drunken sailor actually wrote it. Instead, these past couple of weeks I’ve been unable to even stay in bed. I hit the pillow and ten minutes later I’m awake and watching TV. It is at moments like that, when my sales resistance is low, that I miss Billy Mays. There was nothing better than watching TV at 3am and being yelled at to buy Orange-Glo. (“BILLY MAYS HERE! Get out your CREDIT CARD and DIAL THIS NUMBER!” At this pint Billy would wave his hands in some mystical manner at the screen and chant “you WILL buy Orange-Glo… you WILL buy Orange-Glo… you Will buy Orange-Glo” and across the country thousands of hypnotized insomniacs would chant “yes Master,” get out their credit cards, and buy Orange-Glo. The man was a genius! BTW- “Mystic Manner” would be a good name for an album.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, sleep, my lack thereof. Instead of blogging I’ve been getting out of the house and walking around the neighborhood in the late night/early morning. Who else is out at 3am? Not a whole lot of people. What is there to see? Not a whole lot. It is really boring and if I didn’t bring my iPod I’d have gone insane(er). And speaking of my iPod, I put it on shuffle and for a random selection of songs, Alice in Chains seems to get played a heck of a lot considering that I have approximately one song by them on my iPod. (Man in the Box.) Well, my sleep has improved from horrendous to simply bad so that last Saturday morning I slept all the way through from 2am to the almost unprecedented hour of 5:30 in the morning. Refreshed and raring to go I was not, but hey, it was a start.

So I decided to not just take a walk but to be “productive.” That’s my word for when I get very antsy that the whole day has gone by and I’ve done nothing but lay on the sofa and watch infomercials (“You WILL buy Orange-Glo… you WILL buy Orange-Glo”) so I jump up, determined to clean out a closet and instead maybe toss out some old college papers I haven’t looked at since…wait for it…college. “Productive” for me that day was taking the wash to the Laundromat, so I picked up the laundry bag, put in the detergent and softener, softener sheets, and Oxy Clean (a Billy Mays “you WILL buy Oxy Clean” product) and walked the three blocks to the Laundromat. (And why does my spell-check insist on capitalizing “Laundromat”? It doesn’t capitalize “supermarket.”)

I then ran back home because, as you may have noticed, I failed to get dressed in the previous paragraph. So I put on my sweats and my FDNY hat (which I almost never wear anymore as it is a bit ratty) and started out again to do the laundry.

Going to do the wash at 5:30 in the morning has many benefits. They include:
A- Probably won’t run into Jolanta Rohloff
B- That’s good enough for me.

The laundry was empty except for the sleepy guy behind the counter and two middle-age mother types. And me. It was dark and cold and I was tired. But not tired enough to sleep. If I were at home I’d be not sleeping, so I was better off here not sleeping where I could watch the sun come up over the dryers. A very touching sight. If you have never seen the first golden rays of dawn breaking over a Tide-stained dryer you are really missing something. On the other hand, I missed it too as the day was overcast and I never did see the sun. But it did get a bit less grey.

With my headphones on (Man in the Box again!) I put my dirty clothes in the washer, added soap, softener, and Oxy Clean (“you WILL buy-“ oh enough of that) and then… what? So here I am, 5:30 or so in the morning, grey and crappy, with my dirty socks and t-shirts in the wash, CNN on the TV (I hate CNN. Did you catch Wolf Blitzer on Celebrity Jeopardy a few weeks back? He got a negative score. They dumb down the questions so much for the celebs that even Adam Sandler can answer a few. And I am going to trust Wolf Blitzer to tell me about the Middle East? No thanks.) and me with nothing to do for the next half-hour.

Maybe doing the laundry before dawn on a Saturday wasn’t such a good idea.

My iPod shuffled on, from Shirley Bassey to The Yardbirds to Zeppelin to Chuck Berry to Rob Zombie to Rhianna and on and on and on because I kept hitting the skip button to find a song I hadn’t heard a thousand times.

The store has a lot of seats but only a pair of tables and, being bored out of my mind, I sat at a table and just leaned forward and shut my eyes because, NOW I was ready to sleep. Great timing my sleep cycle has. Anyway, I didn’t really sleep because every time I might have come close, CNN blasted a BREAKING NEWS ALERT! loud enough to wake the dead, so loud that I shook back to consciousness after nearly, but not quite, catching a catnap. (What was the BREAKING NEWS ALERT! about? I dunno. I just turned up my iPod louder. I hope it wasn’t about a broken gas main in my apartment building. That would have sucked.)

I was awake for good now and I realized that while I was zoning out, one of the women had sat down next to me. Not near me, three seats away, or across from me, or at the other table, but right next to me. Literally. We were so close our thighs were touching.

I looked at her.
She looked at me.
I shifted in my seat.
She sipped her coffee.
I walked away.

That was the end of the most promising love affair I have had in awhile.

Mercifully, the washer was finished and I put my clothes in the dryer. Progress, sure, but now instead of having a half-hour to kill, I now had forty more minutes to kill. Great.

Sitting down at the table was out of the question. Besides, I was now over-tired. Me being tired and me being over-tired are light-years apart. Me being tired is yawning and wanting to sleep. Me being over-tired is like me being drunk. No, not me getting all maudlin and moaning about how crappy my life is, but me bopping along to the songs to my iPod and waggling my head like Paul in the Cavern Club while muttering along under my breath and generally looking like a drunk in the Laundromat.

Let me just point out, however, that there was an actual drunk in the Laundromat for a few minutes. He staggered in the front door and went right out the side door where he stood against the wall and drank coffee. It was disgusting because he kept the cup on the sidewalk but was incapable of puting it down without spilling, so every time he picked it up half of it was sloshed away. The disgusting part? He licked the sides of the cup, the cup he just picked up off the weedy sidewalk.

There I was, badly but quietly singing along to old blues with Howlin’ Wolf and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins while my clothes spun ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and ‘round and so on and so forth for forty minutes. It was just as much fun as it sounds, actually less.

Well, by 7:00 I was done. My clothes were done too. I folded them, stuck everything back in the laundry bag, and walked home.

What did I do when I got home? Went right to sleep. Of course.

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