For those of you who read my previous blog about Milton Berle autographing my Marx Milton Berle Crazy Car you know that I've been a comedy entertainer for thirty years and a toy collector for twenty. Back in the 1990's my career was at its height and I was appearing on a number of national television shows on The Nashville Network (TNN), a country music television station out Nashville, Tennessee. I was getting known for juggling that oddball food - a canned meat called Spam. For some reason country music fans really liked when I did that. Excuse the pun but they ate it up. (For more about my career and my toy collection, please visit www.jackswersie.com.)
I had already appeared on two other TNN shows - "The Statler Brothers Show" and "Music City Tonight with Crook & Chase." My first appearance on "Prime Time Country" was in December, 1996. After my successful spot, I presented an idea to them for me to appear on the show again with a funny presentation of some of my more interesting antique toys from my growing collection. Everyone associated with the show liked the idea. On April 9th, 1997 I was back on the show with my toys.
Host Gary Chapman is very professional and easy to work with. At the time, he was married to Country singer Amy Grant. (They've since divorced.) Gary is a talented singer in his own right and did a great job hosting his show. He's got lots of personality, a great sense of humor, terrific comedy timing, and comes across on camera as very endearing. This particular episode of the show was star studded and I was excited that I had the opportunity to meet some of these people.
First and foremost was my chance to meet living legend and Executive Producer of the show, Dick Clark. His production company (Dick Clark Productions) produced "Prime Time Country" and he happened to be at the filming of the show the day I was on. His son was the on-the-site Producer of the program. I spoke with Dick for about five minutes after the hour long show ended and he was very friendly and easy to talk to. We naturally talked about antiques, since I had presented my toys during my five minute segment. I told him about a 1950's vinyl Dick Clark Record Box I bid on at an auction but didn't win. It sold for over $60! (I hope he wasn't offended that I didn't want to pay more than $60 for a piece of his Rock 'n Roll memorabilia. If truth be known, I actually didn't bid higher than $20. Let's keep that between us.) Dick was nice enough to pose for a couple of pictures with me.
Ricky Van Shelton was on the show and I spoke with him for a short time. I had worked with him three years earlier at the Strand Theatre in York, Pennsylvania. He was on the show to sing a song or two as well as to promote a children's book that he had just published.
Legendary country singer Charlie Daniels made an appearance on the show also and he couldn't have been nicer. He was a very warm and personable man.
A five year old kid named Hunter Hays played the accordion on the show and got a standing ovation. And I had to follow him! There's nothing quite like following a kid act. In the show business world it is often said that "you should never follow a child act or an animal act," but that night I had no choice. Onstage Hunter was a dynamic performer but backstage he was just a kid. He had his two cowboy guns and holsters and he posed for a picture with me, each of us pointing a gun at each other. He was cute. I told him that I wanted to be his opening act someday and he said that was okay. He also told me that I was "a good actor".
And then there was Florence Henderson who was the "TV Mom" for the week, as it was family and children's week on TNN. She was real sweet and very friendly. We talked about the "Brady Bunch" television show that she starred in back in the 1960's. I didn't have a whole lot to say about the show that made her famous as I was never a big fan. But I knew enough about it to sound somewhat intelligent.
When I was ready for my segment of the show she told me that I "cleaned up well". Nothing like being told you look good by the ultimate legendary television mommy. During my segment something very unexpected and funny happened that was given a lot of publicity by a show called "Talk Soup" on the E-Entertainment Network. "Talk Soup" liked to get laughs with all of the silly things that are said and done on the many talk shows that aired on television. They covered my first appearance on "Prime Time Country" in 1996 because I juggled three chunks of Spam out of their cans and they thought that was silly enough to make fun of. I contacted them regarding my second appearance on the show and they watched. They also picked up on something that no one else did and had fun with it the whole next week.
When I presented my toys, Gary Chapman and Florence were at my side to join in the fun along with the young Hunter Hays. Apparently Florence was chewing on a stick of gum and during my five minute spot she decided to remove the gum from her mouth and stick it on the bottom of the table we were standing at. She did it subtlety enough that no one in the studio audience noticed. But, leave it to the producers of "Talk Soup" to notice! They did and they played that clip over and over again the following week, probably embarrassing Florence and giving me additional national television exposure that boosted my ego but not my career.
Overall my presentation went well. The audience enjoyed it and laughed at most of things I said and did that were meant to be funny. When I look at the tape now (13 years later) I don't particularly like it. To me it sounds too scripted and not spontaneous enough. There were also a couple of spots where Gary talked over me, killing the punch line. But overall it was fun and everyone who watched it enjoyed it.