Originally posted on 8/30/06:
I've been tagged, so I have to come up with six-little known facts about myself. As the king of the overshare, this is going to be difficult. But I'll do my best:
1. I grew up in Los Angeles, and we used to have great local TV channels; KTLA, KCOP, KHJ, KTTV, CH 52 from Corona, and KWHY were the best. They carried insane programming, like Ultraman and Simb..er...Kimba the White Lion and showed amazingly bitchen movies. I can honestly say my love of film began with the Channel 5 Movie Theater, which showed the same flick every night for a week. And very often, they showed a Japanese monster flick, and I had to watch it every single night. My favorites were Voyage Into Space and War of the Gargantuas. VIS was a two hour movie fashioned from the 4 best episodes of the Japanese TV show "Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot". In this, a giant robot is created by the evil aliens the Gargoyles to 'try and take over the world' but a young boy named Johnny gains control of the robot by being the first to speak into a special wristwatch that controls him. Johnny becomes an agent of the Unicorn organization, who protect the Earth from the Gargoyles. In the final half-hour, Giant Robot saves the Earth by taking the Gargoyle leader, Emperor Guillotine, into space and letting a meteor destroy them. Giant Robot was my hero, and every single time this show ended, I burst into tears, begging Giant Robot to come back. My older siblings abused me incessantly over this and would taunt me by daring me not to cry at the end; I always did. War of the Gargantuas featured a battle between the evil green (as opposed to jolly green) giant monster and his older brother, the benevolent Brown Gargantua. This is one wacky movie, especially when it shows the Green Gargantua eating people and spitting out their clothes. The Brown one was kind of a blonde hippie, who looked like my dad, and when he saved the world by sacrificing his life, you can guess what my reaction was - every single time. I hate my siblings. However, Giant Robot and Brown Gargantua were secretly my guardian angels, and when I was afraid or in need of supernatural aid, I prayed to them and not God. I never said I wasn't a weird little kid.
2. Considering the last fact, it should come as no surprise that I was addicted to television during my childhood. In fact, I learned to read at 3 years old, because I wanted to know what was on television every minute of every day. My mom got sick of telling me what was on, so she told me to read the TV guide and figure it out. So, using that and the TV show Electric Company, I learned to read in a very short period of time; I also learned to tell the time and understood the difference between UHF and VHF before I could tie my shoes. I couldn't wait for the TV guide to arrive every week on Tuesday, so I used to wait for the postman to arrive around the block and would force him to dig out my magazine.
3. I became obsessed with the Tate-LaBianca murders after seeing the movie Helter-Skelter when it aired on CBS in 1975. My sister borrowed the book from our family friend and let me read it when she finished. I was 6 years old. Did I mention my family is crazy? I read it over and over again, so much that I can still recite the exact number of stab wounds and the types of injuries inflicted on each victim. I used to pick everybody's brain about the case, and I really wanted to see the murder scenes. One day when I was 7, my Grandfather was babysitting me down in LA and asked what I wanted to do for the day. I assumed he thought I wanted to go to the Zoo or the park or some shit like that, but not me - I asked him to take me to the LaBianca house so I could check it out. And he did! Did I mention my family was crazy? He took pictures of me on the wall of their driveway, and I still have one of them. I'm grinning from ear to ear like a kid walking into Disneyland for the first time. On the back, written in my little boy scrawl, is a detailed description of the Helter-Skelter case.
4. When I was on Jeopardy!, I did two interview segments. The story from Day 1 comes from the Ripley's Believe It or Not file. When my Army unit would go on field exercises, I was often forced to pull guard duty, based on my being a loser and my prowess with the M60 machine gun (don't fuck with me, buddy!). During one "field trip", the guard detail was sharing a tent, and our fearless leader decided to install a pot-bellied stove that was literally a relic from WWII. Even though we didn't want it, he forced us to run this piece of shit, which would smoke over and leaked gasoline (it ran on diesel fuel). In the middle of the night, I awoke to an extremely hot and smoky tent and quickly realized our tent was on fire (actually, engulfed in flame is a better description). We had about 20 seconds to pull our belongings out of the fire, and unfortunately, we lost the majority of our stuff as the tent burned completely to the ground. One of my bags didn't make it, and as we picked through the rubble the next day, I pulled the library book I was reading out - "Firestarter" by Stephen King. When I tried to return the book to the library at Ramstein Air Base (I was stationed on an AFB due to being in an Army Air Defense unit), they refused to believe my story, although I had pictures as evidence. They forced me to pay for the book and confiscated it. Months later, I was on duty at Rhein Main Air Base in Frankfurt, and I went by the library. They had an installation called "How Not To Treat Your Library Books" and the centerpiece of the display was my book. It eventually traveled throughout the entire Air Force library system. On day 2 of my Jeopardy! run, I told a story about how I used to make a lot of crank phone calls when I was a kid and one elderly Austrian lady named Hildegard got really angry at my phone abuse (I called her at 3AM and had woken her up). I felt bad and apologized, and we ended up talking until 8AM. We became really good phone friends, although I continued crank calling her for years after that, doing different voices to fuck with her. I even called her from Austria when I was there, and I ultimately considered one of my best friends, even though we never met or exchange full names. When I told this story on the show, Alex asked if she had my phone number, and I quipped, "God, I hope not!" and got a huge laugh from the audience. During the break between Double and Final Jeopardy!, the producer and a legal game came out and told me I would have to redo my interview segment, because Standards & Practices had advised that it would look as if the show was glorifying crank calls. Instead of my love of phone abuse, I had to talk about my love of baseball, and the interview made me look like a complete dork. Interestingly, I also appeared on 'Win Ben Stein's Money' when Jimmy Kimmel was the sidekick, and he later produced 'Crank Yankers' a show that glorified crank phone calls. I guess I was ahead of my time.
5. When I was visiting Alcatraz, my friend and I snuck onto the northern side of the island, which was not open to the public. We checked out all kinds of ruins, including the old industrial laundry. Many of these buildings were riddled with bullet holes, and we even found old shell casings. Nobody from the park's service even bothered to patrol these areas looking for trespassers, and I'm sure I could have moved onto the island for a long time without being discovered. I also climbed into the ruins of the old prison guard housing, which was partially demolished after the Native Americans were evicted following their ill-fated occupation of the island in the late 60s. I found an intact old apartment, with the appliances still in there, and I took an old can of Olympia beer as a souvenir. My favorite aspect of this story is that I broke the law on Alcatraz and nobody even cared (including most likely, you).
6. All of my toes are double-jointed, and I can fold them completely under my feet and walk on them. When I sit without shoes on, I unconsciously fold my toes more often than not, and for some reason, this totally grosses out unsuspecting acquaintances. I consider this my "geek trick", and I tend to show it to people whether they request it or not.
ESPN Has an Identity Crisis: What Do They Want to Be? - Another self-inflicted wound. Sign up Like this article? Sign up for the The Big Lead email newsletter (...)
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