Traditionally, when an employer asks you to do a personal appearance they guarantee you a minimal fee. They pay all your travel, hotel, and per diem expenses. If they do not give you a minimum, then you sell your photos for anywhere from $25 to up to $100 or more per picture . I usually sell mine for $30 to $40 each. You can literally autograph a lot of photos per hour if the “demand” is there and they have promoted the show correctly. The show in New Jersey is by far the best……and it is called CHILLER. You can make a lot of money in 2 days at CHILLER but once you have done one you have to wait about 5 years or so to come back.
Prior to doing the Portland Oregon show I was asked to do some interviews to help promote the show. As it turned out, I was told they all cancelled and so I think I only did one interview. When I arrived in Portland Erik said he did tons of interviews from his home to promote the show. This is what happens when you have a duo team-they pick one or the other.
As I was about to depart for the Portland Oregon show I was told that Erik was doing an 830 am TV interview and I would meet him to do that one. However, they wanted me to do a 730 am interview also. Later they switched my 730 am show and said they really needed me to do the 530 am interview. I said no and they said they already set it up and they would deeply appreciate me getting up and doing the interview to help them promote the show. I found this interesting as this is the same show where they would not give me a guarantee. So, like a good little Boy Scout, I said I would and I completed that interview. I have come to realize that Jon Baker is boring for these TV Stations to interview as they prefer to talk to Ponch. They like the Latin lover and his Fonz-like attraction and quick wit. (Erik is quite entertaining and I often find myself being entertained by him also). Jon Baker is kind of like Ron Howard I suppose. My stories are about producing my own TV Series and movies in the past and talking about my technologies today and my family and children. For a Morning Show guy this is like watching grass grow.
Anyway I finish my early morning interview and I then trek over to the next interview to find a bright eyed and comedic Ponch. He has slept in and is full of energy. Now I see why they wanted me to do the 530 am interview. Ponch is hilarious in this interview. As I stand there and answer questions honestly it crosses my mind should I “entertain” and top his comments or should I remain the straight man and not crowd the corridor. I remain the straight man. And respectfully, it is best because he is over the top and absolutely hilarious. Knowing your role and fulfilling it is a mature choice.
Erik then tells me that he and or his agent have met with the owners of the Wizard World ComicCon shows and the owners want him to do 14 of their shows. He then tells me that perhaps I should get my agent, Calvin on them to see which ones I can do. I thank him and he hands me his list of shows and tells me to get Calvin on the promoters. I do the infamous time honored nod of my head in polite acknowledgement understanding the meaning of this statement from multiple points of views.
The Friday night show begins and we begin greeting fans, as our booths are right next to each other. You cannot miss Erik as he has tons of energy and loves the engagement as he needs to divert that energy somewhere. His fans get it in full force and they love the Ponch they always adored and they love the Latin Lover in him as he sprinkles them with custom desserts by Ponch. Oh,the ladies are so thrilled as their husbands stare dumbfounded. By the time they get to my booth, they are glassy eyed, moist, and wondering how they can send their husbands on an errand so they can return one more time to their Ponch. Of course Ponch tells them that each one of them are his favorite with that devlish sexy smirk……..saying…..come to Daddy baby! Finally, the evening is over and Erik is exhausted and is going to go enjoy one of his other favorite pastimes……smoking a Cuban cigar. I go out to dinner with my friend and former Senator of Oregon, Jason Atkinson and we have a great conversation about a whole slew of things that we might do as joint ventures.
The next day I get up and take a walk alone and enjoy the crisp air of Portland and the light mist. I walk to a restaurant that a broadcaster recommended and order their famous classic Eggs Benedict. I eat them out of respect but found them to be very mediocre. As I walk back to the hotel I see lots of homeless people and lots of tents on the sidewalks which are legal in Portland. I also see a huge culture of youth, all homeless and all looking disheveled, wet, and just hangin on any corner panhandling for a buck or two. They say Portland is the city where homeless or runaway kids comes to retire.
I finally get back to the hotel and meet the former Senator and hopefully the next Governor of Oregon, Jason Atkinson and we go to Sandy, Oregon and scout locations with his friend from the TV Series Gold Rush and the announcer for the Organ Trailblazers and local actor/ voiceover expert. We have lunch in a local facility which is a log cabin bar restaurant where I imagine the evenings jam with country honky tonk, and the bar is full of Big Ben type loggers drinking lots of local beer, throwing darts and arm wrestling which is usually the preface of a full on fist fight. Oh, did my Wyoming memories begin to play tricks on me as I glanced over my shoulder to see if someone was mad dogging you with that eye which is hoping to step outside after a large lager beer. Oregon is proud of it’s beer, its wine and its nature.
Jason Atkinson returns me to the hotel and I rush in and get dressed for the show. While standing by the elevators I can hear my partner’s booming voice, Ponch, and so I look in and he is entertaining the crowd in the coffee shop which includes the new CEO of Wizard World who is a friend of Erik’s along with Montel Williams and others. I wave and excuse myself knowing there is no place on that stage, and rush to my room to change clothes. I type some quick notes on the senator meeting and send them off to the senator and then rush over to the convention center to meet and greet fans and sign autographs.
When we get to the convention center we are asked to do a radio interview and so Erik and I walk over to the guy’s booth and begin the FAN interview. Ponch blossoms and entertains all and steals the show from the disc jockeys and then we walk or swagger back to the autograph booths.
During these shows you have to also do one question and answer period in a separate room for your specific Fans. Erik tells me he does not feel like doing this one and probably will not have much to say. I do my infamous nod. We are announced and we enter, and go up the stairs and smile and greet the waiting fans (probably 30-50 locals in their Oregon Rain Clothes). Someone asks a question and Ponch comes alive and I watch Ponch and his witty comedy entertain the damp Oregon crowd of beards and scraggly wet hair and galoshes. There is a hired lady who asks questions while we sit there and entertain the audience/fans. She subtly announces that she is also part Latin (Mexican) (hint, hint, flirt) and she begins peppering her Latin buddy, Ponch, with questions. At that time I am wondering if “Ron Howard” should excuse himself and go and sit in the audience. Finally, she realizes with a tiny bit of female cavalier guilt that she lost control with her moist prejudice and throws me a question and then winks at Ponch. I politely answer and tell them about my digital distribution platform, or my inline hydro turbine or my land speed records or my rodeo….and you can hear a penny drop. BORING. Then she asks Ponch about his love life and room grows moist and anxious…….and slowly I push my chair back so I do not block her view of Ponch as she hangs on his every word.
The last day we again sign autographs and Erik is going crazy with nervous anxiety as the crowd has thinned out and he cannot sit still. Erik clams he is A.D.D. and has a hard time relaxing. However, even though it is a slow day, we meet lots of different personalities and souls. I meet grown bearded men (do all men in Oregon have beards?) who become frolicking, giggling, baby boys as they cannot believe they are talking to Jon Baker. Their wives are looking at their husbands wallowing in all their male glee and excitement.
The wives look confused and seem to be wondering what in the heck is this boyhood excitement all about in their 6’4” bearded macho man. Then the staccato tempo picks up ….. with all the “Gosh, golly, geez….I mean…..Jon Baker…..Seven Mary Three…..I mean do you realize my brother and I had the CHIPS three wheelers….oh my God……it was so cool…..as he pulls back his John Deere Cap and pushes back his thinning hair…..and then pulls on his beard…..and…. he slips into his boyhood revelry, his eyes bright with a new reality and he puts his hand up to his mouth like he is talking on his walkie-talkie….and continues with……”we would call each other on the microphones and say This is Seven Mary Three…..and of course my brother was Seven Mary Four”….. and then the bearded husband would catch a puzzled look on his wife’s face……and then wave her off so she could not stop this wonderful throwback crescendo of reliving his boyhood….. and say….”never mind you do not understand” ……”Oh my, were those fun times…….I mean we even had the little sirens. It was so coooooooL! “
I quietly say thank you and yes we also had a great time back then when there were only three major TV stations. He then goes on to say when the music would come on he and his brother would begin riding the tricycles from room to room circling in front of the TV screen just like Jon and Ponch and the music would be real loud as he literally sings a few bars……and we would sing the tunes and every note right with the TV. He would stop to get his breath……..and quickly look around …….and say…”It was awesome”….and then…..another glittering moment of shocked realization……… he would realize that I had CHIPS photos for sale from the show. As he would catch a glimpse of a photo with Jon Baker on a motor , the giddiness would begin a new higher pitched whimper as if he just peed his pants. He would say…”.oh man….I gotta have one of these”…..and he would tell his wife to get her purse out and give him some money to buy a Jon Baker Photo and it had to be one of the photos with the Motorcycles in it. His wife is now frowning as she pulls out a 20 and he takes 2 twenty dollar bills from her hand in shock. He finally realized that his son of 7 years old was also standing with his excited Dad…..and so he now kind of sheepishly asked the son which picture he wants…..as if he is really going to give him a choice. Little Tommy now confused and shaken by all of this hysteria, shakes his head……..and moves his shoulders up and his eyebrows up and says…..Hmmmm, I don’t know. (Little Tommy has no idea why his Dad is having this seizure right now nor why he wants this old guy’s photo). The Dad says….”Tommy will want this one with you two on the Motors……oh yes…great choice Tommy…we will take that one”
Just then a squealing sound lights up the booth next to us and we turn to see Ponch giving out his custom desserts to some female Fan. She is red, moist and in ecstasy or thinks she is on ecstasy. I sign the photo for the older bearded man, and after signing my real name, I sign the character name and then I always sign Seven mary Three. The older guy goes bonkers…..”Ahhhhh, so cool, you even signed Seven Mary Three.” He knows I know and I know he knows……yes that is Jon Baker’s call sign and only we loyal fans know that……kind of the same stare I get from my fellow Marines who were in Vietnam. Now with deep heartfelt camaraderie, the bearded fan, dad, husband says…. “Thanks so much Jon” I smile and say sure and shake his son’s hand who kind of backs up like maybe this old guy is a pervert….…..and then I politely shake his wife’s hand who shrugs her shoulders and smiles. Then the Dad, husband, Fan….. He puts out his fist and in male ritual of like camaraderie……..and I match his fist with mine and as they touch I almost hear sirens in his brain and that damn CHIPS music blaring in my ears.
I then recommend they now go and visit Ponch and point to Erik. He then says….is that Ponch…..Oh my God…..and he yanks on his son’s arm dragging him over to the Ponch booth and his wife follows and the shrieks over there are getting intense. I begin to quietly chuckle as I anticipate the love ride his wife is about to get from Ponch and perhaps a few amorous surprises now to balance out the show of platonic Jon. LOL
The next old guy walks up and says……with a squashed up quizzical face…..are you that guy…..Jon Baker? I smile politely and say yes….a long time ago we had fun on that old CHIPS show. He says wow……what happened to your hair?……man….
The show ends and I have to catch a flight because the promoters will not pay for an additional night for good ole Jon Baker. I am counting my money and Erik comes over and asks me how much I made and I tell him. He tells me he made a little more than me, but it turned out ok. I ask him if he is flying out tonight and he says no…he is flying out tomorrow because he is staying over. I shake my head knowing, and give him the infamous nod…….and hug him good bye and thank him for everything. He says….see ya at the next one partner…..and I nod my head…..you got it Ponch.
As I fly home pondering the west coast, the Pacific Ocean, I think of the veritable core soul of each individual I see in the movies and in person and in this universe and the vagaries of logic projected onto the headboard with subsequent head injuries. Actor or spectator?
And yes, I could go on and on about fan experiences, crying, laughing, biz deals, flirts, demons, hangers ons, stalkers, children, adults, celebs etc but this would then be an indulgent 20-page article so I will leave you with this shorter version. Thank you all…just know, at times I am also the fan and spectator and it is a blast for me. I mean who gets this lucky to star in an old TV Series that 40 years later is still playing on Me TV. ……..yep…….just squeezing a lil more blood from the turnip and nodding here and there when appropriate.