2. I've been on television in six countries (United States, South Korea, Germany, Angola, Latvia, & Slovenia)
I’m not claiming any type of fame off of this. It’s more timing or circumstances than anything else. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really mean anything, and I haven’t gone out of my way to be on television. In some cases, I’ve gone out of my way to avoid it. I don’t care for the media, and think they are mostly hacks that sensationalize everything for ratings, and don’t really care about the real story. It was a couple of interviews, a couple of game shows, my own little ‘Band Stand’ moment, and just being where they needed someone at the time. Some long shots and just shots where I happened to be in the picture. Which also includes my great acting job. I’ll break them down by country.
The first time I was on television was back in 1975, when my mother won a slot on ‘Bowling for Dollars’. My two brothers, myself and a friend of my older brother went with her for the taping. It wasn’t that big of a deal. You stand up and they introduce the family members. It was taped, so I got to watch it at home when it aired.
When I got out of college, I moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, and got a job at the Hilton, in the banquet department. We would do some of the main events in town, and the news crews would come down at times to do interviews, or get shots, or whatever it is they do. I got to know them, mostly because there were only two channels in town at the time. They would do some extras at the end of the interview, like filming the buffet, or things like that. Every once in awhile, they would ask me to add a comment or make a remark about something. It was all silly, and pointless, but it happened several times.
This would lead to my big break later. More on that at the end.
I was on television a couple of other times in the states that actually kind of meant something. The first of those was at the end of Desert Storm. I got lucky and was on the first plane out and back to the states. We landed at Fort Stewart, Georgia. There was going to be a big ceremony, obviously, but not for me and the guys I was with. We were stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and had to catch a connecting flight. While they were getting everything set up, they decided to take us out the back door of the plane and get us out of the way so the ceremony could go on at the front door for the soldiers stationed there.
We didn’t really care; we were just ready to go home. I was sitting by the back door, and when they opened it, I was the first one out because I was the closest. CNN thought that was the start of the ceremony, so they started filming. So I was the first soldier filmed landing back in the states after the fighting was over. I didn’t even know it. My aunt told me about it. She thought it was me, and a friend called and asked her about it, but she said it couldn’t be me, because I was still in Iraq. We hadn’t had a chance to call anyone and tell them we were on the way home. It was only a few weeks later that we figured out what happened.
The other time I was on television was when I was at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during Somalia and Kosovo, and other operations. I volunteered to go to all of them, but they wouldn’t let me go. They said I was too valuable where I was. Yeah, right. Anyhow, I was running the MARS station, which was a radio station/message center for the troops. We were able to do radio/phone patches so the troops could call home from overseas.
I’ll leave it at saying we did a lot of good work. If anyone is interested, give me your e-mail address and I’ll send you what happened. Anyhow, we started to get some publicity for what we were doing. We started on the back page of the weekly post paper, and then started moving up page by page every week. Finally, I got a call one day from the Sergeant Major telling me to get to his office. He threw the paper and told me to explain myself. I was a little nervous until I looked at it and realized he was giving me crap. We were the top story on front page, above the fold. Pretty cool, if you ask me.
The next day, the Colonel ran into me picking up the distribution, called me into his office and showed me the front page of the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, where we were once again top story above the fold. In full color. We were all pretty happy and proud of ourselves. Then the next day, the Sergeant Major called down to the station and asked if we all had proper haircuts. I replied that we did, and asked why. He explained that one of the stations from Nashville had seen the story and was on the way up to interview us. Lead story, 6:00 news, and third on the 10:00 news. Let’s just say that everyone from the Post Commander on down was very happy with us. I still have a tape of the interview somewhere, and will need to get it transferred to CD. Neeve might want to see it someday.
Also, while stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, I did some part-time security work for the Tacoma Dome, the Seattle Mariners, and a few other places. We would also be seen in the long shots, but enough that people would mention that they had seen me. Oddly, the most time I ever spent on television was 12 consecutive hours, at the Seattle International Speedway, working the start line for drag racing. I was on ESPN all day, and no one knew it was me. Mostly because I was wearing sunglasses and a ball cap, and they couldn't recognize me. Oh, well.
Germany should have been next, chronologically, but I wrote it like this originally, so it will stay. I was actually on television several times in South Korea, to include the Armed Forces Network and Korean television. The Koreans are very supportive of their military, and have game and talk shows geared exclusively to them. It’s kind of nice to see. They don’t just use the military to bump the ratings when something bad has happened, then turn around and shed a tear when public opinion is high. Anyhow, I was walking down the street in Seoul, and a television crew stopped me and asked if I would help them out. They were doing a segment where someone would say things in English, and the contestant would try and guess what the subject was. It wasn’t a big deal to me, and I like to support this kind of thing, so I said okay, not thinking much of it. It aired the next Sunday, and all of a sudden I was a huge star. Every Korean I met for 2 weeks told me they had seen me on television and how much they appreciated me supporting their military by doing that. Yeah, sure.
The other time I was on television in South Korea was on the Armed Forces Network. My roommate was ‘dating’ one of the girls who worked there, and she would come out with crews to do interviews and on the spot report type of things. Whenever she would see me, she would always get me in the shot, or get me to say something for the spot they were doing. Nothing big, but other people didn’t get to do it. People would actually come up to me and ask me if I worked for the Network, and if I could get them on camera. Yeah, don't think so.
There wasn’t much to it in Germany. I was just in the shot, and didn’t do anything. But it counts as being on television. I worked in a Special Weapons unit, and the tree-huggers would protest, and the stations would come out and film. Because of the job I did, I moved around a lot, while others stood guard. Somehow I ended up in some shots, and some German people I knew told me they saw me on television. Yay!
Side note --- do you know the best way to save a tree? Kill a tree hugger and use the body for fertilizer!
I was on television twice in Angola. The first was for a visit by the Deputy Chief of Staff for the European Command. He flew into visit the Angolan military, and his wife came with him. It was acceptable, as he has to pay all of her costs out of pocket. There is also an expectation that she will do a Humanitarian Assistance project while she is there. She brought a bunch of toys and medicine and medical equipment for a pediatrics hospital we had helped to refurbish. I was her official escort for the visit, as my boss was escorting the General (there were only two of us), and we needed to come up with something to do with her. We had some money left over, so I suggested we have her donate that to the hospital while she was there. Everyone seemed to like that idea, and it all went ahead.
Unknown to me, the Public Affairs office had arranged for the local news station to show up and cover it, and do an interview with her. I was just in background shots and tried to stay out of the way as much as possible, and told them ‘not’ to mention my name. Anyhow, the General (the official visitor) got page 6 on the newspaper, and his wife got the lead story on the 10:00 news. The General’s wife was happy, the General was happy, my boss was happy, and I was happy when the aide came up and said, ‘The General’s wife is happy. What do you need? Give me a list?’ Happy days. Because when the General's wife is happy, we're all happy.
The second time was at a fundraiser the President’s wife gave for a children’s charity. $100 a pop for tickets. I went, and took a date. We had a good time, the wine was flowing, the band was playing, ‘other things’ were going to happen, and we started dancing. We were doing some pretty good swing dancing, and there was hardly anyone else dancing, and we stayed out there quite a while. So for some reason we ended up getting more airtime for the story than the President’s wife. My own little ‘Band Stand’ moment.
There wasn’t really a lot of television time in Latvia. We did have the biggest NATO exercise in the history of the Baltics going on, and I was in on the planning for that. I ran a lot of it. We had visiting dignitaries at times, and a NATO Chiefs of Staff summit while I was there. Actually, the Latvians really ran those, but I was heavily involved and ran the American portion of things. Mostly I was on while they were there filming the big shots, and was the guy telling the aide to tell the big shot that it was time to stop talking to the press and get on with the next meeting. No big deal, as far as the television stuff. A big deal as far as the summit.
A great country. Not as great as Latvia, but still great. I was there for a NATO-integration meeting, and we had a day to kill while we waited on our flights. A bunch of went into the city square and did some sightseeing and shopping. There was a television crew doing man on the street interviews. They asked me, but I don’t speak Slovenian or Russian, or any of the other common languages, and my German isn’t good enough for that kind of thing, so I declined. A couple of the others did it, and there were shots of me in the background. We watched it on the news that night at the hotel. That was it, really.
So the big break I was talking about?
While working at the hotel in Rapid City, we would get most of the entertainment acts that came into town. They would play the Convention Center, and until they built a hotel next door to it, we were the closest place to stay. A week before the Ice Capades came into town, the advance lady came in and stayed at the hotel. She was going to address the City Council that night and needed someone to go with her and wear the costume representing the show. My boss suggested me, as I was big enough to wear the suit, and would be available. I was asked, and agreed and went down to the council. We went into the meeting, handed out flyers; I shook hands with all the council members and the Mayor, and the crowd, and got a big cheer. The news channels were there and filmed it all for the 10:00 news.
What part did I play, you might ask?
Yup, the original Blue Man himself.