Tinsel and Rot Hits the Road

Sorry yet again for the dearth of posts. But Tinsel and Rot has been girding its loins for the Garden State Smackdown tour, where we will be hitting the road for a week with two of New Jersey's finest musical ambassadors the Hudson Falcons and Maybe Pete. So, look out Pittsburgh, Akron, Columbus, Huntington, and Detroit. And look out all the other 30 states that the Falcons will be hitting after both Maybe Pete and me head home for New Jersey.

Tour reports will be up next week, pending survival.

Hail, hail, rock and roll.


Sign here

In pursuit of a photo for the highly anticipated Sigman Holiday Greeting 2006, I dove back into the shallow pool that is in-person autograph collecting in Manhattan last week. Herewith is a rundown of that evening:

6:10 p.m.--I arrive at NBC Studios in Rockefeller Center, where it all began for Young Me lo those many years ago. This is mainly a time-killing stop on the way to securing the Sigman Holiday Greeting 2006, but I am hopeful that I can get Artie Lange to sign a softball.

Things have changed since I started pursuing this ridiculous hobby in 1993, so I don't really know a lot of the collectors these days. I am eternally grateful for that, but I am a little nervous when I only see a few people loitering in the lobby, and only one has the desperate eyes of a collector. I'm thinking that maybe they've changed the time of the tapings for "Late Night with Conan O’Brien" and I've missed out on my target. Then some collectors I know from back in the day show up and all is well. Soon, more people I recognize pop up, and it's party time.

6:15 p.m.--Security instructs us to leave the lobby and go outside, a policy that ensures that random people walking through the lobby aren't frightened by the strange-looking folks clutching Sharpies and paint pens. This means that we have to watch the lobby from outside like expectant children, waiting for someone more famous than we are to appear. Doesn't this sound like fun? I don't know why more people in their waning twenties don't do this.

6:20 p.m.--Tracy Morgan comes through the revolving doors. Two people care. He poses for some pictures. He's not a scheduled guest on "Conan," so something else is obviously going on at NBC today.

6:25 p.m--For some reason, Steve Martin and Martin Short are in the lobby. Their car isn't outside, so they just wait in the lobby with the security folks. The collectors can't figure out if they want to break the rules and go inside. I decide that I like Steve Martin too much to bother him. I know that's bizarre logic, but, well, I'm bizarre. Plus, I get the impression from seeing him a few other times that posing for pictures with strangers makes him really uncomfortable. Imagine that.

After a few minutes, one brave collector goes in, closely followed by a few others. Martin Short leaves pretty quickly, leaving Steve Martin to pose for a few photos. When I see the flashes going off, I start rethinking my decision. It's Vincent "Tod Wilkinson" Antonelli, for Pete's sake. But I hold strong. I think he finally just gets sick of waiting and goes into a car that will take him anywhere that's not here.

6:31 p.m.--Alec Baldwin comes out of the revolving doors. His shirt is fighting a brave battle to contain his neck. And losing. Someone asks to take a picture, to which he responds, "I can't do more than one." And then walks away. Awesome. That takes its place next to Hank Azaria's response to a guy asking him to sign a rolled-up newspaper many years ago: "If I sign for you, I have to sign for everybody." The guy was everybody. And he was Hank Azaria. Good times.

One of my disinterested collector friends yells out, "How about that one, Alec?" as he heads to his towncar. I don't know if the heckling got to him, but he does pose for the one.

6:44 p.m.--Pandemonium erupts as John Mayer makes his way to his van. His music makes me want to jab my ears with a screwdriver, but he seems like a decent enough guy. He signs for a bunch of people, including some very appreciative young women. Then, once he's in his van, my reason for being there, Artie Lange, comes out. He signs for anyone who wants an autograph and takes pictures, too. I get him to sign the softball. Mission #1 accomplished.

As Artie signs, I think Mayor Bloomberg comes into the building. Or at least that's what I hear people saying. I'm caught in a crowd of people and can't see much. Then I move to the side of the building, and Zach Braff rushes by. He heads straight into his car while everyone else is distracted. A few collectors try to get him and are rebuffed. Then I lose sight of the collectors, which probably means that they went to go follow him. Sorry I had to miss out on that, but I had a Christmas card photo to get.

6:46 p.m.--As I leave, Jon Lovitz is standing outside in a white jogging suit, flanked by two security guys. People are taking pictures of him and imploring him to smile.

7:06 p.m.--I arrive at the "Colbert Report" studios, located on a dark block where I can't help but look suspicious. This is why I don't do this much. It makes me feel creepy. Well, that, and it loses its charm as you approach 30. There’s a fine line between collecting and social retardation.

7:21 p.m.--Some collectors arrive. I immediately wish it was just me here. They're loud, annoying, and armed with pick guards for the night's guest. The pick guards, once signed, are then attached to a guitar and sold for a lot. It's a hassle to bring six guitars out, but it's a breeze to carry six pick guards. But, inexplicably, one of them also has a guitar. And he's idly strumming it and composing songs about one of his fellow collectors, most of which consist of affronts on his sexuality and graphic descriptions of his alleged sexual proclivities. This goes on for about 15 minutes. I am apparently the only one who doesn't find it amusing. Well, unless you count the people walking back to their apartments who can't decide if the gay bashing was directed toward them. They didn't look too pleased. But luckily, the people who live on West 54th St. are not violent. Lucky for the collector, I mean.

7:47 p.m.--The guest emerges, and his security guy informs us that we can only get one thing signed each. But that just means that after one of the collectors gets one thing signed, they slide over and thrust another item out. If I cared about actually getting an autograph this time, I guess I would have been annoyed. But I just really wanted the picture for the Sigman Holiday Greeting. And, after a camera malfunction, I got it.

So, who will be on the Sigman Holiday Greeting?

December's only a few months away. Be patient. It might be my favorite one yet.

Of course, the journalists/amateur sleuths among you will be able to figure it out. I’ve given you enough clues, people.

7:50 p.m.--Another exciting night on the town ends. Let's hope that I don't feel compelled to do this again anytime soon.


Everything dies, baby, that's a fact

There is perhaps no worse feeling than being thatclose to something, only to see it slowly slip away. Luckily, 29 years of living have prepared me well for that feeling, so my recent return to Atlantic City and, more important, "The Price Is Right Live," wasn't as crippling as it could've been. But it wasn't exactly a cakewalk either.

After finally taking a bus ride to Atlantic City that didn't involve some heinous traffic delay, I arrived at Bally's Park Place a good three hours before the 3 p.m. "Price Is Right Live!" show. So, I headed up to register and get the all-important price-tag nametag that marked me as a potential contestant, ready, willing, and able to come on down at a moment's notice. As I looked around, it was clear that I was the only rube who had actually dropped money on Ticketmaster. Everyone else (most several decades ahead of me) was clutching coupons and vouchers that offered some sort of discounted seat to the show. An older man whose mouth valiantly hung on to a few lower teeth asked me if I knew of anyone on the line who didn't have a coupon. When I told him that I was one such soul, but that I had prepurchased my ticket on Ticketmaster, he expressed his sorrow that I would not be able to take advantage of the deal spelled out on his coupon. As far as I could tell, it would have involved a significant discount for both of us. Oh well.

The gentleman, a repeat attendee himself, continued to express shock that someone had actually ordered a ticket in advance. The mere thought that someone might've paid full price for this thing seemed to offend him. A lot. He asked if I could cancel my order, which I, of course, could not. He then kept repeating what a shame that was, but I stopped listening at some point and just kept moving forward.

Soon it came time to get my ticket, register, and bid on the two prizes that would determine who made it up to Contestants' Row. Those who came closest to the actual retail price in the year in question would find themselves with a chance to take home some lovely prizes. Unfortunately, the first item was a bedroom set from 1998. Whenever bedroom sets pop up on "The Price Is Right," I zone out. I've never bought one, never really want to buy one, and just generally don't care. So I just bid close to what I heard some people coming out of the registration room say they had bid.

As it turns out, those people were very dumb. Or else they were really shrewd and intentionally threw their fellow contestants off by talking about fake bids. In any case, a few hours later, I discovered that I was roughly $8,000 off. Oops.

I felt a little better about the second item, a ratty-looking sailboat from 1974. It couldn't have been that much, so I went with the old birthdate and typed in $1115. That sounded about right to me.

With the bidding done, I headed back out into Bally's and grabbed a bagel and a doughnut at the little coffee shop next to the brightest casino area I've ever seen. As I grabbed a seat, I noticed that my dear friend from the registration line was lurking around. He went up to the cashier, asked for something, and was quickly denied. As he wandered around, I tried not to make eye contact, as I wasn't in the mood to talk to him anymore. I did a good job. But it didn't matter. And soon I was eating my bagel next to some strange, bleary-eyed guy as he peppered me with questions about my bidding.

"What did you bid on the sailboat?"

"Um, I don't know [long silence, during which he just kept staring at me], like, $1100 something?"

""Yeah, I bid $1102. What about the bedroom set?"

And then I told him my bid and he kinda started yelling at me. I assured him I didn't care that much. I thought maybe our conversation was wrapping up.


"So you actually bought your ticket in advance? Man..."

"Yeah, well..."

"That's too bad, I coulda gotten you a deal. And I coulda really used that five bucks. The slots have been killing me."

"Sorry to hear that."

"Are you staying overnight?"

"Um, no. No."

"Yeah, they said they'll give me a room, but I gotta give them my credit card to hold it. And I aint doing that."

"Why not?"

"Oh, I don't bring credit cards to the casino."

"Well, that's a smart idea."

Finally, my disinterest in having breakfast with a guy who doesn't have 5 dollars to play slot machines started to show, and he wished me luck and went on his way.

Just to let you know that this story has a happy ending, the guy wound up winning a microwave, a portable DVD player, and an air hockey table after conquering the "Clock Game." On stage, he said that his son would love the air hockey table, but my guess is that it was quickly turned into quarters and nickels.


Apparently, they do the same pricing games at every "Price Is Right Live" show, because I once again saw "Race Game" (during which a woman just gave up with 10 seconds left), "Hole-in-One (Or Two)," "Cliff Hangers," and the rest of the games I saw on my last visit. That was only slightly upsetting, because the games are dandies in the show's oeuvre. Still, would it kill them to play "Plinko"? Or "Safe Crackers"? "Shell Game"?

Another slight disappointment was that my man David Ruprecht isn't the host anymore. He has been replaced by J.D. Roberto, who has hosted a bunch of subpar game and reality shows, the most popular being "Shop 'Til You Drop," which never really held my interest in the post-"Supermarket Sweep" timeslot and still doesn't do it for me. He also apparently cohosted "E! News Live" for awhile. When they showed a clip of him next to Giuliana DePandi, a palpable feeling of awe enveloped the room. But he's no Ruprecht. I didn't even want a picture with him after the show.

But it would've been nice to have a pleasant contestant-to-host chat with him on stage. When he announced how the contestants were chosen toward the end of the show and revealed the actual retail price of the bedroom set, I had a really strong feeling I wasn't getting to Contestants' Row. But there was still a chance with the sailboat, which would make me part of the Showcase Showdown. It's pretty hard to win the Showcase Showdown, as, unlike the actual show, you have to come within $100 to win the showcase. And there's only one showcase for the two contestants to bid on. However, the person who comes closest without going over does win something. And it's nice to win something, which, in this case, would have been a pool table.

So, after the final pricing game, J.D. cued the announcer to call the names of the two people for the Showcase Showdown. Knowing this was my last chance at getting up on stage, I was desperately hoping that my name would be called. Sure, it wasn't the real "Price Is Right," and Bob Barker was on the other side of the country, but it was sort of like the real thing. And what red-blooded, TV-watching child doesn't one day dream of being in the Showcase Showdown? Please don't actually answer that.

Anyway, I thought my bid was pretty reasonable and might just get me up on stage. The other four people at my table were a little on edge, too, though one of them had won 1,000 Total Reward Points during one of the between-game giveaways, the actual value of which neither she nor her husband could quite figure out. But it was something, albeit not time on the big stage. That was the true Total Reward, and we all wanted it.

"Our first contestant is...James..."

Yeah, yeah...




What? Is that a mistake? Did the announcer read it wrong? No one's getting up. He must've read it wrong. He meant to say "Sigman," but he screwed up and now...

Oh. James Simmons is the old guy in the fourth row. There was no mistake.


I wasn't the second contestant either.

The dream had died.

But the worst, it turns out, was yet to come. As James Simmons and the other guy were escorted backstage to be debriefed on the rules, J.D. explained how they were chosen? Already knowing the process, I just wanted him to get to the point, to reveal just how ridiculously far off I was on the price of the sailboat.

"And the price of that sailboat in 1974 was... $1137."

Sonofabitch. You're telling me that I was only off by $22 and somehow I didn't get up on stage? I smell a rat.

After telling my tablemates that I was only $22 off, and accepting their condolences (or apathy, I can't remember which), I briefly considered cornering James Simmons after the show and demanding that he tell me what he bid. But he seemed old and frail and I didn't want to induce any heart attacks and/or seizures, so I let it go.

To make matters worse, the bid that I concocted in my reeling head during the Showcase Showdown would've made me the owner of a brand-new pool table, since both of the elderly morons overbid. That pool table sure would look nice crammed into my living room, either in place of my futon or with my TV and stereo on top of it.


Luckily, I was able to rally my spirits later in the day. My actual reason for being in Atlantic City was to see former "Nashville Star" contestant Miranda Lambert at the House of Blues in the Showboat casino. It was actually the second show in three days in which I saw a contestant from the first season of "Nashville Star," a season that has not been and likely never will be topped in the show's history. Two days earlier, I had seen first-season runner-up John Arthur Martinez at the Ace of Clubs in NYC, where he put on a pretty damn entertaining set.

So, as you could imagine, it was an exciting three days. What? You can't imagine? You've never watched "Nashville Star"? You suck.

And I wasn't just going to the Showboat to see Miranda in concert. No, there was also the Miranda Lambert Fan Club meet-and-greet beforehand. Yessir, I am in the Miranda Lambert Fan Club, making me an official "Ran Fan." Wanna make something of it? Look, I think she's got some good songs (particularly "Kerosene") and she covers John Prine, The Band, and Steve Earle in concert. And she likes Old Crow Medicine Show. Pretty cool. And, oh yeah, it's been brought to my attention that she don't look so bad (pardon my red eyes...why are you looking at me anyway?).

Take that, James Simmons.


What I Liked About August

*"The Best Show on WFMU" meet-and-greet at Exchange Place
*Ollabelle at Banjo Jim's, NYC
*The return of sauerbraten at Day Two of the German Alps Festival
*The Campbell Brothers and the Lee Boys at BB King's

*The Rob Trucks Birthday Celebration at Lakeside Lounge
*Billy Joe Shaver at Joe's Pub
*Meeting Miranda Lambert
*The William Shatner Roast on Comedy Central

*Photo time with Ray "Dr. Hook" Sawyer
*John Arthur Martinez at Ace of Clubs
*Willie Nelson, John Fogerty, and Bruce Springsteen at the PNC Bank Arts Center
*The willingness of people with cars to drive me places