This Photo Is A Bit Old But…

…it will have to do for today while I regroup and work on kind of a broad sweeping blog post. Thanks to Ethan Hawke and whomever had the brilliant idea of giving him a camera to mess around with while he was shooting ‘The Newton Boys’

Given how I have felt more than a little like this (overwhelmed and eager to hide) lately:

What is it with everyone on the web wanting everything and wanting it right this minute just like that awful little bratty Veruca Salt character in “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory”?!?!

You might say I’m crazy to feel this way, but this morning while I was taking a break from organizing a big blog post and uploading a couple of new photo sets to Flickr, I happened to watch AMC’s ‘Sunday Morning Shootout’ and the industry guest of the two Peters (Bart and Guber) was none other than Variety’s Anne Thompson who is now writing a blog at Variety’s website called ‘Thompson On Hollywood’.

Thompson was making the point that for professional journalists they find themselves having to rush even faster to get stories out first. In her case, sometimes that means she blogs something before a fellow journalist who is also set to do in-depth coverage on the same event finishes their story and files it.

To Thompson, it also means “live blogging” which strikes me as the same sort of thing that happens on the TV news with a “breaking story”. On TV this means you get to watch a bunch of people from the news division basically interrupt everything scheduled to say things like “we think there’s something going on, we’ll tell you what little we know whether or not it’s true and no we haven’t wasted precious time checking it out, and then we’ll just keep on babbling like idiots so that you don’t change the channel and so that later some other channel can claim that they were ‘first’ to report the story, so pretty please don’t touch that remote, okay?”

I want someone to please tell me how this is going to work in what is mostly a type-written medium?!?!

Are we going to see pages on web sites and blog posts full of typos, bad writing, etc or are these people just going to put something like little YouTube videos that say the same useless things the TV news talking heads and pundits say all over the Internet?

When did legitimate journalists stop caring about being the ‘best’ (ie telling a complete, factually accurate and useful story) and start caring about being ‘first’? And why are people who get their information online letting this sort of crap journalism take over here? If I want to watch a shitty excuse for a news story I can always go turn on my TV, thanks.

Do we really need to sacrifice usefulness for speed?

Oh well rant over. The photos I added at Flickr today are primarily photos of books that have been adapted into various movies with VDO in them. I am happy to say that I have taken the time out to actually read almost all of them (I need to read Malcolm X’s autobiography)

Music from the pre Web overload era (to remind me and everyone to slow down and enjoy the speed of life a little):

‘Switchboard Susan’ by Nick Lowe

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I’m Just Not Sure What To Believe Or Think Other Than Maybe I Should Watch Even *Less* TV

This post is kind of a thought piece and is only very tangentially related to VDO so you might want to move on if you’re were hoping for something more on point.

Last night ABC TV’s (in the USA) Primetime aired a piece on the actor Daniel Baldwin and his latest attempt to rehabilitate himself from his apparently very long-term addiction to cocaine. For whatever reasons, Daniel let the ABC cameras be turned on him while he spent several months in a $50,000 a month rehabilitation facility in Malibu California and also while he went through various criminal court proceedings on drug-related charges as well as him going on a movie location shoot. The ABC report also delved into his relationships with his family a little bit, especially mentioning Daniel’s also famous actor brothers.

For those who don’t know who Daniel is, he was one of the stars of the highly-regarded US TV series ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’. Daniel played Detective Beau Felton and left the show well before VDO did his Emmy-nominated guest appearance in the H:LOTS episode ‘The Subway’.

Felton was not a very popular character on Homicide. He was not meant to be pretty or brilliant or particularly likeable. But Daniel played Felton well, figuring out how to balance Felton’s repellant qualities and the character’s downward spiral with a sprinkling of humanity that would cause you to soften your initial negative judgment of his worth. That certainly takes some skill on the part of an actor and Daniel Baldwin proved he had the talent to find just the way to play that character.

I for one learned to like the Felton character enough to write a short piece of fan fiction a few years ago that would allow me to combine the Felton character and that of Ned Beatty’s perfectly archetypical cop Detective Stanley Bolander with Detectives Goren and Eames of Criminal Intent fame and play around with some ideas I had into what has turned out to be a not utterly embarassing piece of writing that lingers on the ‘net in the archive of the excellent peer-reviewed fan fiction site Apocrypha (for those who care to read it see “What It Feels Like For A Girl”).

Frankly of the four established characters I was writing for, Felton was the most difficult to make believable and consistent with what most Homicide fans would know about him and yet not appear as a simple strawman or too stereotypically the ‘bad boyish cop’. I don’t think I succeeded totally capturing the complexities of Felton but at some point you have to put an end to a story for it to be published. So you could say I carried the idea of Felton and my conceptions about around in my head for quite some time.

So it was with more than a little interest that I tuned into watch the Daniel Baldwin piece.

In that story I wrote of Felton:

“The younger man is somewhat burly and boyishly attractive, but Goren notes that excess is taking its toll on those inherent good looks and prematurely aging the man”.

You can imagine that my description pretty much fits Daniel Baldwin the man as much as and maybe more so than it fits Felton, especially as he appeared before ABC’s cameras.

At this point in the Primetime show I was utterly hooked into watching in the same way that I was initially hooked into watching VDO’s film ‘Guy’, the story of a relatively ordinary and average man who lets a strange woman filmmaker turn the camera on him to make her next movie. ‘Guy’ to me is a watershed moment in filmmaking not only because it predicts the rise of ‘reality’ television in our culture but because it plays around with the idea that the act of turning a camera on someone causes them to alter their personality and become someone other than they normally would be. Maybe this isn’t acting in the professional sense of the word but it could be called posing or persona building.

The thing that makes a movie like ‘Guy’ different from a ‘reality’ program like Primetime is that it is 100% clear to me that ‘Guy’ is a character being made by Vincent D’Onofrio and being masterfully fashioned into an utterly average guy trying to figure out on the fly who to be before a camera and in the process not only distorting his own identity but how he relates to the films few other characters. I can’t say enough good things about how brilliant D’Onofrio’s performance in ‘Guy’ is, how I am haunted by it when I think of it and how I find much more to thoughtfully consider in it every time I actually watch the film.

Anyhow the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ in front of the Primetime camera struck me as less of a real person and more of a character like ‘Guy’ as the camera rolled on. The TV program does give some glimpses of a person in real pain but there are also moments when we see Daniel trying out being an actor, trying out being a contrite defendant, trying out being a part of a family, trying out being religious. You are left at the end of the hour wondering how much of what you saw was due to drugs, how much was due to his fear of being incarcerated, how much was an actor trying to suss out what his audience wanted at any given moment and how much was the actual human being underneath all of the layered-on roles.

I looked at the comments on Primetime’s website after the broadcast and found that the comments about ‘Daniel Baldwin’ were very mixed but one comment lead me to what is purported to be Daniel’s MySpace page. I found the possibility of ‘Daniel Baldwin’ having a MySpace page both intriguing and repellant.

I should mention that a few years ago after an experience I had online at a Yahoo! group purporting to have had the actual Vincent D’Onofrio as one of its members that my opinion of celebrities who venture online into public fora and with no intermediation from others is inclined to be negative and mistrusting. You can read about my experiences elsewhere on my blog if you choose to (just search on ‘DASH’).

But given my viceral reaction to the similarities of Felton as I envisioned the character and the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ of Primetime, I felt compelled to go to the MySpace page. I went there not taking for granted the fact that the page’s author might not be the actor I have seen on fictional or ‘reality’ TV.

I have read every entry at ‘Daniel’s’ blog at MySpace and I can say that I am now more thoroughly concerned confused and repelled by what I saw. Again ‘DB’ or ‘Deebs’ as the author calls himself is by turns misogynistic, angry, despairing, flippant, profane, insecure, self-absorbed, meek, playful, despondent, conflicted and contradicts much of what was said in the Primetime program. If anything “Deebs” is far more villainous, self-destructive and frightening to me than I would have imagined the character Felton to be (and if you read my story you will see that I only have the Felton character drinking heavily, hitting on women while he is still married, and utilitizing the services of a prostitute). That confuses and bothers me in a way I cannot adequately express but I also accept that it is not up to me to do anything about it other than to not encourage “Deebs” to make a spectacle of himself.

If I were his lawyer I would demand that the MySpace page be taken down: If it is *the* Daniel Baldwin writing the page there are admissions that could be used against him in court (not to mention calls into question what was said before Primetime’s cameras) and if it isn’t some of what is said potentially defames a whole panoply of people. But the one thing that seeps through the entire MySpace blog is that there is a troubled person behind the writings even though the medium of a MySpace page further distorts the true identity of the author and may pile on some more roles, poses and personas that have to be stripped away from who ‘Daniel Baldwin’ and/or ‘Deebs’ truly is/are.

I only know that whoever all these people may be, they are beyond my very limited capacity to help them. I also have confirmed why as a rule I choose not to watch ‘reality’ television. Unlike my experience of the film ‘Guy’ where I know I am dealing with an invented premise and characters, with ‘reality’ programming, I don’t believe the picture represents reality anymore than Salvador Dali painted with absolute fidelity the world around us. If I want to ponder alternate realities I can choose a good piece of fiction like a Phillip K. Dick story or I can daydream.

But I fear for a world where this sort of ‘reality’ television and unfettered access to the well-known via the Internet is considered to be a healthy diversion or a legitimate form of entertainment.

Anyway if ‘Deebs’ or his people should stumble upon this blog post this song is for you and all the complexity within and around you. I hope for your sake and for those who know and love you that you have an ending at least as upbeat as the one Primetime wanted to attach to its report on you. I also hope that with what you’ve done on TV and online that if you can’t redeem yourself, you help one other person who is similarly situated.

Music: ‘The Beast In Me’ by Nick Lowe

Entertainment Professionals Sites: Meet Vincent D’Onofrio’s European Doppelganger

I have been working on adding links to the official websites of a lot of people who have worked on various projects with VDO to the blogroll at the right of this page and in doing some research I stumbled onto the website of László I. Kish.

I know you American fans are asking yourselves “who in the heck is László I. Kish” so check this out:

The resemblance is startling isn’t it? Other than the hair color of course…

László I. Kish is a Swiss actor who speaks many different languages, English, German and Italian being but three of them. László (who is only 2 years older than VDO) also writes and directs movies and you should watch his reel and his video clips at his website (the text is in German but I’ll walk you through this):

http://www.thekish.com/

Go click on the number “4 Galerie” at the bottom of his webpage to see László in his multilingual “Demotape” (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under it, it’s on the right hand side of the screen)

Does his acting style strike you as more than a little familiar (even when he’s not speaking English)?

How about his resemblance to a 1980s era Paul Masson commercial-appearing Orson Welles in the “Run Rabbit Run” videoclip (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under “Run Rabbit Run”?)

Or how about the many photos of László on both the Galerie (Gallery) and “5 Logbuch” (Log Book) pages, especially his ‘Dune” photos at the latter link (the photos are on the left edge of the page)?

So what is Kish’s connection to VDO?

László snuck under all our radar screens playing “Angus” the fisherman in “Salt On Our Skin”/”Desire”.

And here I though I was paying really good attention when I watch VDO’s movies. LOL!

Now I’ve simply got to figure out how to see the entirety of that short film “Run Rabbit Run”…what a great performance!

Music: ‘Gemini Dream’ by The Moody Blues

A Moment Of Zen: Go Look At Matthew Modine’s Demo Reel

One of the more tedious tasks in keeping up an online site is checking for broken links. I have been checking the links in my blogroll to make sure they work correctly and was stopped dead in my clicking by what the actor Matthew Modine has done with his web site.

You simply *must* go to Matthew’s site and have a look at his demo reel.

Matthew Modine

After the nifty flash series of color photos of Matthew and the letters spelling out his name finish uploading, click on the link marked REEL to watch his demo reel.

For those who do not know what a demo reel is, it is a tape (or more likely these days a DVD) showing examples of an actor’s (or a director’s or a special effects house’s or some other creative person or organization’s) professional work. It is the film/video version of a head shot and is meant to give a prospective employer an idea of the range of a creative person’s talents and previous accomplishments. For the most part you don’t see too many reels online but in the future I expect that to change as the entertainment business becomes more computer-savvy.

For those of you who make your fan videos and put them online, I think you will find some inspiration in watching what a professional editor can do in making a reel. I thought the Rolling Stones’s ‘Paint It Black’ was an interesting choice of soundtrack for Matthew’s body of work.

I am sure that VDO has a reel out there somewhere but since he doesn’t have an official website, you certainly won’t find it online. But I would love to see what his various reel(s) look like…like head shots, reels are updated over the course of a career.

Oh and guess who makes an appearance in Matthew’s reel?

Enjoy!

The Negotiations Saga: The Sequel: They’re Back…All *Three* Of Them…

Music with a coded message: ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ by The Police

Bonus message/track: ‘Your Latest Trick’ by Dire Straits

…you can color me a little surprised but these days I guess any paycheck is better than no paycheck, and (maybe?) mediocre scripts are better than no scripts even (especially?) in an industry as arbitrary as the entertainment industry

Here’s hoping they clean house on the show runner/writing/ creative side of things at LO:CI to *improve* the downward spiral that was Season 6

I seriously doubt that will happen (because chances are to do that *properly* also costs money) but one can always hope and dream, can’t one?

Hollywood Reporter Article Link:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i74b211e4087bceb965f9b4ed0eddf42c

“‘CI’ stars returning without raises
By Nellie Andreeva

June 9, 2007

Good intentions have prevailed in the salary dispute between the stars and producers on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

Sources said Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe all agreed Friday to return to the series next season without a raise. Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio had set a Friday 5 p.m. deadline for them to accept the offer. (HR 6/8)

The actors are said to be disappointed because leads on returning series get at least 5% salary increase every year. In the end, it came down to wanting to come back to the show and understanding the financial strain posed by the series’ move from NBC to USA Network next season, sources said. (Repeats of the show will air on NBC.)

It’s belt-tightening time on the “Law & Order” franchise. Sources indicated that below-the-line crews members are taking 5% to 10% pay cuts next season.

Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment Friday.”

The Negotiations Saga: The Sequel: I Don’t Want To Say ‘I Told You So’ But…

Music ‘Synchronicity’ by The Police

…The Hollywood Reporter just confirms what I’ve been saying for weeks:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3if6219759863b5ce9634699d61592700c

The Vine: No raise offer irks ‘CI’ stars
By Nellie Andreeva

June 8, 2007

“Law & Order: Criminal Intent” producers’ intent to bring back the cast of the series with no raises next season is not sitting well with the show’s stars, sources said. It is understood that Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio have set a deadline of 5 p.m. today for stars Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe to accept the offer. Series cast members normally receive a 5% salary bump every year, which could be higher for stars on established shows. Studios have been pushing to make that standard raise tied to the show’s license fee increase, which generally is lower. In the case of “CI,” producers face new economic realities of producing a high-production-value drama with marquee stars on a cable budget because the series has been moved from NBC — where it aired for six seasons — to USA Network, with a second window on NBC. (The repeats on NBC should alleviate some of the financial strain.) Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment on any actor negotiations.”

Stuff To Collect: It’s Richard Belzer’s Fault or How I Got Into An Expensive Collecting Habit

Mood music ‘Someone To Talk To’ by The Police

Well in between gathering articles to do some blog posts on the renewal of CI and it’s move to USA (and whether or not VDO will be back next season…given his Herculean effort to deal with the fangurl aria of a script that was the basis of the CI ‘Endgame’ (and briefly stated I think the CI writers should stop catering to fangurl tastes and getting their script ideas from fangurl forums, actually *watch* a LOT more old episodes of CI and then follow their own instincts in writing next season’s scripts), I’ve been doing some fun stuff like talking via email to other cool people with equally cool blogs, such as Carey Henderson’s Speakeasy(x)

This post from Carey entitled Does Any of This Even Make Sense? really struck me as clever and hillarious, especially this part:

“Every Sunday night, Bravo runs Law & Order: Criminal Intent all evening. If you’ve been around me long enough to know that I pretty much only wear black shirts, then you’ve been around me long enough to know that I am a Vincent D’Onofrio fan. Very much so.

He’s sort of a strange cat—private, prone to his principles and not given to jumping into any particular role unless it somehow gives him an opportunity to stretch his acting legs. When you’re pretty and Johnny Depp, Hollywood loves you for that. When you’re average-looking and not Johnny Depp, Hollywood looks at you sideways. So, unless you’re damned good at what you do (as D’Onofrio is), the roles are usually less than forthcoming.

Back to that in a moment.

Watching Bravo is like seeing the goings on of another species on another planet unfold. There are more bratty, strange, spoiled, eccentric, gay, grandstanding, flamboyant people on that network than at a Truman Capote reading by way of Elton John concert. I’d like to think that those particular personality traits don’t lump together and spell out any particular subset of society, yet Bravo seems intent on making folks like me who work for a living and generally have rather placid decorating and fashion sense believe that this is the case. A few times watching the network and the average straight man might begin to think that three or four times a week gay men gather on the couch, nab the razor shears and French architecture magazines and bitch for three hours about straight people and their lack of any sort of sense beyond the innate ability to make everything dull and misunderstand women.

I doubt this is true. But from watching Bravo, as the old Mighty Mighty Bosstones song stated, that’s the impression that I get.

At any rate, Dick Wolf has to be getting close to Aaron Spelling status, as far as the amount of television shows he currently has running that are sometimes indistinguishable from one another. To the unfamiliar eye, the Law & Order franchise must seem a lot like fast food burgers. There’s the original, SVU, CI and Trial by Jury. Most of the roles are filled by attractive people doing attractive things; some saying excellent lines (not all to the credit of the staff writers. Orbach ad-libbed some of the best lines on television during his best days on the original series). The subtleties of the shows are there, and after a few veiwings of each become clear. Yet, on the outset, it seems the format is too close to call.

There’s the familiar Law & Order gavel sound (CLANK-CLANK!), then the black screen,

[black screen with caption ‘Apartment of George Killeddead
South Bronx’]

and, apparently, every fourth apartment in any complex throughout the entirety of New York contains a dead body. The dumpsters contains sexual crimes victims once every other Thursday. If you do watch the shows with any regularity, then you also know a few things: Det. Eliot Stabler is always pissed, Capt. Cragen is going to get in Stabler’s face any second now, Jerry Orbach could deliver a sarcastic quip about the deceased’s religious misgivings at a Catholic funeral that would make the Pope chuckle and Det. Goren is going to solve the case; probably by applying a generous mixture of reverse psychology and library card prowess.

Despite all of the predictability of these shows (and you can nearly set your watch by it), there are subtleties that make almost every franchise worth watching. Trial by Jury isn’t much, but watching Fred Dalton Thompson drawl and stand his ground with unequivocally stereotyped Southern sayings (“Well, she wanted me to jump down, turn around, pick a bail of cotton”) is almost worth watching the show in and of itself. Almost.

To be honest, I watch Criminal Intent for similar reasons, that is to say: D’Onofrio. The writing for his partner, Eames, is rather dull, with the occasional one-liner to redeem her. I often wonder if she’s not written this way purposely to showcase Det. Goren. (Late in the series, sometime last year, Goren and Eames left the show, another set of detectives coming on. They resurrected Detective Mike Logan, played by Chris Noth. Not a particularly exciting move. The series took on the dull luster of flat latex sprayed atop Kilz.)

Goren is always thinking, always plotting the next move. For him, the entire hunt for the criminal is a mind game, his impressive memory and library card his weapons. I love the character, with his quirks and moods, though I always am brought back to the realization that no one is that informed in that many areas.”

Well Carey and I have been emailing each other back and forth, and in between the emails, I have been reading his blog and laughing out loud at the humor in his posts, nodding along when I read his dead on the money observations about life. He’s blessed with a far better sense of humor than mine and brevity. And his writing’s good, damned good if you ask me. Plus the dude has a lizard named after Peter Frampton (which appeals to me as my own 2 cats are named for a couple of musicians as well) and he writes and plays his own music on the guitar (there’s some great tunage at his site you should give a listen to). Oh and did I mention his photography…he can take a mean picture when the spirit moves him or his witty and insightful horror film reviews?

Anyhoo our email exchange has been fast, friendly and furious and he was more than kind enough to link to the blog here so I figured I’d give him a plug in this post as well. He’s a VDO fan I can easily talk to, maybe because he’s got so many interests besides VDO.

So today’s lazy Sunday afternoon post is dedicated to Carey and also lets me get into a topic on how I went from the small time to the big time of collecting…all apologies to him if this post isn’t as fun and interesting and well-written as I hope Carey (and others) will find it.

Carey writes in a post entitled Law and Order and Whatnot

“In the end, I’m fairly afraid that Goren might be gone from television. Oh, perhaps they’ll keep him in the back of their minds, maybe resurrect the character three years from now on the next installment of whatever Dick Wolf manages to come up with in order to bring the franchise back to life. Or maybe Homicide: Life On the Street will come back and Goren will bug the hell out of Munch as his partner. One can only hope not.

And I don’t know if D’Onofrio would even show up for that.”

Oh goody…now that Carey’s brought up Homicide: Life On The Street and Detective John Munch that leads me right into the discussion of this object with which I am obsessed, known simply as ‘The Chair’:

Sometime back in April of 2001, well before Law & Order Criminal Intent began airing I found the bedraggled looking item above listed on FeeBay. The picture of it was far grainer than mine and frankly by that time most people didn’t give a flaming one about H:LOTS anymore. But I was intrigued by this description:

“Here is Richard Belzer’s chair from the entire time he was on Homicide Life on the Street. He sat in his chair more than any other actor…drinking room temp water….reading the Post….. NOW YOU CAN !!! You’ll never be as funny but now you can sit in the same Telescope, highboy (36″ to seat) solid dark wood, director’s chair and read 6 newspapers every morning just like MUNCH did… Munch, John: (Richard Belzer) [Regular: 1-7] Witty, sardonic detective. Divorced three times (and a fourth time after Homicide’s last episode.) Grew up in Pikesville, where he was in love with his neighbor Helen Rosenthal. Graduated around 1961, making him about 54 at the start of season six. Why did [I] drag this chair on the streets of Baltimore eveyday for 6 years? I was the Prop Master on Homicide for six years (91 episodes) and will send a ***NEW IMPROVED***CERTIFICATE OF AUTHENTICITY. Want other rare, one of a kind film, movie, and TV props go to IMDB and look at my resume… We have a web [site] coming soon! GOOD LUCK!!”

Okay so there’s a good reason this chair was in rough shape…it was used (and abused) in the making of seven great years of TV. It had a low opening bid (you couldn’t have bought a new highboy style director’s chair for what it was initially listed for) and it was being sold by the show’s prop master (who clearly wasn’t a master photographer) on his own initiative . But it sure was intriguing…

So I put in a bid in that was in line with the cost of a new highboy-styled directors chair plus maybe a hundred dollar premium for the chair’s ‘history’. And little did I know that I would win the beast (my first time spending three figures in front of the decimal place for an item of entertainment memorabilia), nor was its ‘premium’ as a bit of entertainment memorabilia all that large. Despite some very fuzzy pictures, my instincts told me I had gotten a great bargain and a unique item.

In the process of figuring out how to get The Chair shipped to me, the prop master and I struck up quite a pleasant conversation of how (at that time) things were humming along very nicely on ebaY and how the great Homicide sale of 2000 in Baltimore (when H:LOTS wrapped production, most of the items used in the making of the show were sold in an open to the public sale held in Baltimore on the show’s Fells Point sets) had proceeded and what had been sold there. He graciously offered to send along many extra materials including a prop business card for Detective Munch to me to further verify The Chair’s authenticity.

When The Chair arrived in it’s cleverly homemade box (skillfully fashioned out of several of the post office’s free smaller Priority Mail cartons and their free Priority Mail tape) I was beside myself with elation. Sure The Chair’s frame has a broken hinge, a missing castor, scratches, dings and dents in its wood frame, a fabric seat bottom whose stitches are loosening, a slightly schmutzy seat back…but for heaven’s sake it is 100% the real deal. Over seven years, Da Belz *actually* sat in it, learned lines in it, joked with the cast and crew from it. It was a holy relic of TV production if you happened to be into good if culty and obscure TV shows. And it was mine. M-I-N-E mine.

In talking to other H:LOTS fans online, I was able to locate more material to authenticate The Chair including these 2 pictures:

Two of my favorite people and one of my favorite objects: Richard Belzer seated in ‘The Chair’ next to Homicide:Life On The Street writer extraordinaire Jim ‘Yosh’ Yoshimura (who apparently is sitting in someone else’s chair) somewhere on location in Baltimore.

Richard Belzer seated in ‘The Chair’ next to Callie Thorne somewhere on location in Baltimore.

Then not even 2 weeks after the conclusion of the auction for ‘The Chair’ something happened on ebaY which made me forever believe the online auction site had ‘jumped the shark’ and was on the road to becoming FeeBay, a place hostile to small sellers with authentic items and the collectors looking for the ‘real deal’.

Behold ‘The Anti-Chair’ (and feel free to boo and hiss)

Here is a brand new lowboy director’s chair that has the Law & Order Special Victims Unit name on its seat back and the signatures of Richard Belzer, Dann Florek, Mariska Hargitay, Michelle Hurd, Ice-T, Stephanie March and Christopher Meloni. This chair was auctioned off on behalf of the Today Show and some charity trying to cure colorectal cancer but as a bit of entertainment memorabilia it is an attractively fabricated and photographed fraud.

You see while you might get seven actor’s autographs on a nice new chair, what you don’t get is the sense that this chair ever had any more contact with any of them including Richard Belzer than the amount of time it took for each of them to sign a piece of fabric with a silver Sharpie/fabric pen and then go on about their main business of acting. And other than the signing period, I doubt the entire Anti Chair ever saw the inside of an SVU set or any outdoor SVU shooting location…for one thing that low frame makes it impractical for use on a set.

Seeing this chair with no history sell for more than twice what I paid for The Chair made me extremely glad I got my chair but sad that the buyer of The Anti Chair basically bought themselves a fake. Oh sure some worthy charity got more than $500 (I’m assuming that 100% of the sale price of the chair actually went to the charity, but these days you never know), but frankly that winner would have been better off just writing out the check to the charity and going to the NBC store to buy some cheaper SVU themed thing. Sure The Anti Chair was all over TV on the Today program for a week or two, but did its winner get to know someone on the crew who was willing to swap stories about his experiences in making great TV for what little I knew then about how people buy and sell on ebaY, much less make a friend who sent along some nice extras? That’s doubtful.

Yes the biggest problem I have with FeeBay today is its willingness to jump through the hoops that Corporate America places before it in order to gain the mega-powerful’s business and it’s soulless, utterly devoid of character merchandise and all at the expense of the smaller ‘just folks’ sellers with interesting things to sell and smaller but more fascinating stories.

Sure I occasionally browse FeeBay (it’s perpetually screwed up search engine makes that an extremely frustrating experience). And on a rare occasion I find a truly unique item worthy of being fought for, won and added to a collection. But mostly today it’s a poorly run crapfest that dupes those who don’t know any better into overpaying for fakes. And that’s depressing given how personal and fun it used to be before the shareholders became more important that the users. I am sad to report that the big thrills to be had at ebaY are mostly gone.

But for entertainment I can always go sit in The Chair and read a book or just cogitate on what it was like to make ‘the best damned show on TV’. I’m so glad that VDO got to be a part of that legacy (even if it was only one guest appearance).

Oh and you can blame Belzer for my expensive collecting tastes…there *really* is nothing like owning a production used item.

Richard Belzer Head Shot