Friday, January 4, 2013

I Am Sid

Source: Epic Productions LLC/Tanque Verde Swap Meet
Yes, that's your humble servant on the new billboards and television commercials for Tucson's Tanque Verde Swap Meet. No, those aren't my own nerd glasses, suspenders, wild shirt or hat.

"You look like Steve Urkel," my Queen Mother observed.

So how did I end up 20 feet wide, 100 feet off the ground, and running on Tucson television? Let's rewind back to 2008.

Two friends and former KOLD colleagues of mine, Alex Johnston and Sam Blonder, now run their own business, Epic Productions. After they learned of my adventure on The Price Is Right and my historical pursuits, they floated the idea of putting me into a commercial campaign. We played around with a concept and even shot some test footage, but it wound up on the shelf when the economy tanked.

A couple of months ago, the Swap Meet was looking for some new ideas. Alex and Sam asked if I was still interested -- and I was -- but I had to clear it with my bosses. The opportunity came with several ethical trapdoors: I'm working in the station's newsroom, honor-bound to avoid payola or plugola situations, and the client is a potential advertiser. Even though I'm not an on-air personality, rumors can get around about extracurricular activities. I volunteered to waive off any pay for the project and reassured the powers that be that I wouldn't be making any connections between the client and the station or my newsroom role. To everybody's relief, we got the greenlight.

So early on a beautiful December Saturday morning, the guys and a make-up artist dressed me up and styled my hair into "Swap Sid" before we headed out to the Swap Meet. We spent about four hours shooting dozens of vignettes, riffing and rapping with the assorted vendors and their wares and goofing around in the food court and the childrens' play area. One sequence featured me running through the kiddie obstacle course. It took four times to get what we needed, but it ultimately landed on the cutting room floor.

Alex directed me, feeding a cheesy line or an idea: "How about rolling one of those tires down the aisle?" If we got an idea for a scene in front of a booth, we'd shoot it and keep on moving. The vendors -- bless them -- played along with us all the way, letting us sample the merch. I put on sunglasses, boots, hats and an electric guitar. I slipped into a Marine uniform and marched myself out of frame. I rode the merry-go-round with cotton candy in one hand and popcorn in the other. My jaw dropped at a gigantic burger.

Two weeks later, Alex sent me an email: "The clients absolutely loved it! You're gonna be a star!"

I'm not sure about that, but I'm sure going to get a lot of looks. I'm not sure if I have a future in promotion, but I'm hoping whatever I do next will grant me the opportunity to wear... wait for it... a tricorn hat.

"Sid" Billboard near Grant and Stone, Tucson / Source: Paul Durrant

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