Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Little Green Men

In 1996 I worked on a show promoting Will Smith's new movie, "Independence Day." My role on the special was very small. I was to create short alien-themed "bumpers" to take us in and out of commercial break.

I was young. I was hungry. I was ambitious. I went overboard.

It just so happened that the annual UFO convention was going to be in LA that weekend. Perfect timing.

It looked like you would expect a normal convention to look: booths, guest speakers, merchandise for sale except for one thing. THEY WERE ALL FUCKING FREAKS!!! These were not Star Wars sci-fi fans - not science fiction fans, these were people that believe that aliens live among us. Not chicklet/orange selling aliens, like ALIEN aliens.

I told them I was producing a show about UFO's and alien abductees. What I didn't tell them was that it was called "MTV's Independence Day Video Countdown to Destruction BBQ." If they thought I was an aspiring Carl Sagan, so be it.

They flooded me with gifts: videos on space travel, documentaries on Area 51, and tons of t-shirts. "I believe," "They are out there," and "Hybrid" (hybrid in the half alien/half human sense - not a fucking Prius.) The t-shirts were key because I hadn't done laundry all summer. I'll wear "My parents went to Alpha-Centuri and all I got was an alien brother and this lousy t-shirt" if it puts off laundry one more day. A single man with no clean clothes has no shame.

Word started to spread around the convention floor that a trustworthy documentarian was on site. Slowly people started to point out the unwilling "celebrities" in attendence. They would discreetly point to a 40 year old nebishy guy with a "Viet Nam thousand yard stare" glaze on his face and whisper, "That's Phil. He was taken back in '84," or "See the woman over there - no don't look! See her over there, the one with the burns. You don't want to know how she got those burns man, you DO NOT want to know..."

That would be my alien themed bumpers. Interviews with abductees. By the end of the day I had 4 interviews set up for the following week.

My four subjects all knew each other. I guess people who have been taken aboard the mothership travel in the same circles....crop circles (hey oh!). While the crew set up I did my best to eavesdrop on their hushed conversation...

"Did you hear about Whitley?" They were referring to Whitley Strieber, alien abductee and author of "Communion," which was made into a movie starring Christopher Walken. He is the Grand PoohBah of all abductees. They pray to him like a God.

"No, what about him?" the others asked.
"Well, last night he was talking on the phone about - you know what- and this morning when he went out to his car..."
"Yeah, what?"
"There was a cassette sitting on his dashboard. It was his entire phone conversation from the night before."
"Shit man, the government man, the goverment."
"You know it."

These guys were right in the middle of their own true life X-Files.

One by one they took a seat. I sat off camera, directly to the right of the lense so their eye line would be right and started asking questions.

Have you ever been on a really bad date? You are at dinner and your horrible date is locked on your eyes talking about something painfully annoying and all you can think about is suicide. Such as...

"So then say to myself, 'self,' - just kidding, I do that, I'm a kidder. I thought to myself, 'I haven't eaten spinach in days so how on Earth did THAT get in there?' Well it sure as heck wasn't the spinach that dislodged that crown because I bite down, hear this God awful crunch and suddenly I am staring at my tooth. In my hand. My tooth. And say to myself, 'self,' - I didn't really say that, I am just kidding, I say to myself, 'Hey Mr. Tooth, you are supposed to be in my mouth little fella!' So now I have to find a dentist that is open in the middle of the night, which is hard as hellfire to find and even if I did find one how in the world was I going to explain this clown costume?"

It was kinda like. Except the person that was locking eyes with me was not boring, THEY WERE FUCKING CRAZY. I am staring eye ball to eye ball with a person thinking, "Do they have any idea how fucking crazy they are?"

Here is an excerpt from an interview...

ME: Tell me about the first time you were abducted.
HIM: I was 8. My brother was 4. We were playing in a park behind our house. I heard a noise and saw a spaceship on the hill that overlooked the park. It looked just like a house.
ME: A house?
HIM: Yes, a house. It looked like a house, but I KNEW it was a spaceship. There was an alien standing at the top of the hill. He looked just like a man, but I KNEW it was an alien. He was wearing a long coat.
ME: A long coat. Like, would you say...a raincoat?
HIM: Yes, you could say it was raincoat like.

(At this point I am screaming so loud inside I swear he can read "Holy Shit" printed across my eyeballs.)

HIM: The alien came down the hill and spoke to me and brother. He was very nice. He asked us if we wanted to come back to his spaceship. We said sure. We were kids, we didn't know aliens were bad.
ME: Of course.
HIM: The inside of the spaceship looked just like a house. He took my brother to a room that was filled with toys. He took me to another room.
ME: What happened then?
HIM: He took out his magic wand.

(sound of me choking)

ME: His (cough) magic wand?
HIM: Yes. He laid me down on the examining table and took off my clothes. Then he took out his magic wand and...and...and...
ME: And?
HIM: He...probed me.

Now, you don't have to be fucking Freud to figure out what the fuck happened. Holy crap.

I needed :15 from each abductee. I interviewed each for 2 hours. It was like crack. I couldn't stop. It was too good.

All the abductees complained about a mini spot light directly above the camera. They said it was in their eyes and made it difficult to see. When we broke for lunch I asked the cameraman if he could move it. He said no. I asked why. He said, "That light is there so they can't see us fucking dying of laughter back here. Our tongues are bleeding we are biting down so hard man." The light stayed.

The only thing scarier than one of these obsessive special interest groups is one one of these special interest groups out to KILL YOU. You see, they put two and two together and deduced that I was not Carl Sagan Jr. when the "MTV Independence Day Video Countdown to Destruction BBQ" aired. That might have been when they realized that my interviews were not being treated with the proper respect. Or it might have been when Geraldo Rivera introduced each clip by saying, "We'll be right back. In the meantime check out these kooks!"

Our production office was flooded with calls. All my interviews were calling for my head, board members from some Intergalactic UFO committee were threatening to sue me, weird militant conspiracy crackpots were telling me to be careful when I started my car. The office receptionist got so tired of fielding these calls she...GAVE THEM MY FUCKING HOTEL PHONE NUMBER.

Now I had Mulder and Scully leaving me voice mails at my hotel saying my kind will "be dealt with," and, "you have angered the hybrids. They will come for you. Oh, they will come."

It's been ten years but I still look over my shoulder. You never when some ET is going to snatch me and show me his magic wand.

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