Thursday, March 8, 2012

1991: A Spider Oddity

“Good morning, Toronto!”

I received an unexpected email from my buddy Eric Conroy this week which serves as further proof that as the internet has expanded mankind’s horizons around the world, so too has it proven how small the planet actually is. Eric, as My Faithful Bloglodytes may recall, was the evil marketing genius—said with equal parts adoration and jealousy—that concocted the successful custom Spider-Man comic campaign that infiltrated Canada in the 90s.

I loyally served as his Web-Swinger du jour on many appearances—recounted in past postings and many to come—across the Great White North during that time and came to appreciate how downright balmy my hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, was in comparison. I was the Igor to his Baron von Frankenstein, the Minion to his Megamind.

“Okay, Minion, you were right, and I was... less right!”

Recently, his eldest, Ed Conroy, founded after amassing a collection of used videotapes from the 80s and 90s. The site’s mission, “to celebrate the neglected corners of Ontario’s rich televisual history; to put back into circulation material which rightly or wrongly had fallen into a black hole and was for all intents and purposes, lost,” does so by converting these lost gems of esoteric Canuck visual ephemera to the web and making them available for all to enjoy.

Retrontario.coms founder with his find

Local ads, show teasers, network promos—the sort of material most would have taped over or edited out—have been mined from obscurity, including those fade-in and fade-outs ubiquitous to morning TV. You recognize the type: area wake-up talk-fest host ends segment, then hints to what’s to come with a shot of the particular guest awaiting their fifteen minutes of fame on the studio couch. “When we come back, a girl who juggles kittens…” Cue shot of girl, waving to viewers with an armful of tabbies, as the show fades to commercial.

I appeared on Toronto’s City-TV morning show as part of the kick-off for the Canadian Spider-Man comics. I’d long forgotten the instance, now deeply buried among the detritus of my mind, which at this point resembles one of the homes on Hoarders. This brief segment, though, roused the memory of the gig like the Kraken of Greek myth.

As with any spot on a live telecast, guests are instructed to arrive at the studio hours ahead of time. The producers have a general idea when each segment will run—top of the second hour; bottom of the first, etc.—but bits get shuffled as other stories play out, breaking news comes in or celebrity guests run late, early or cancel at the last second. There’s also the issue of makeup, which the studio hustles people into as soon as they arrive, so they’ll be ready whenever, if ever, their spot happens. I needn’t have been there as early as I was if for no other reason than the fact that I didn’t need makeup!

City-TV’s Toronto studio was located in a hip commercial area just outside the major metropolitan district of the city. It was fronted by a large window, which allowed passers-by to watch the telecasts live. Of course, I entered in my civvies, the red-and-blue in a small over-the-shoulder gym bag.

You really ought to get those bicuspids checked!

“You don’t look like Spider-Man,” the producer remarked when I was presented to him by the show runner. And he wasn’t trying to be funny. Certainly not the first time I’d received that reaction, and it wouldn’t be the last.

“Well, I don’t have the suit on, yet,” I’d reply, good-naturedly. At least I attempted to be good-natured, but given the hour I had to wake up in order to arrive at the studio at the requested time, my level of social graces was dangerously low. Fortunately, the sarcastic tone of my voice went unnoticed, and I was quickly escorted to my dressing room, i.e. the bathroom, and told to change tout de suite.

When I bounded from the loo—not to be confused with skipping to my loo—I was greeted with smiles and laughter. How’s my appearance now Mr. Producer?! Obviously, he, too, liked what he saw. He directed me to the set and explained how the show needed to first present the local news, after which came a station-identification and sponsor break. Upon return I would be introduced to speak with the hosts about the Canadian custom-comic campaign. They wanted Spidey, however, in the background during the fade to commercial.

“We’ll have you sitting on the couch,” the producer explained, pointing in the general direction of the furnishings by the makeshift kitchenette.

I then hopped onto the set and leapt upon the counter. “I feel more comfortable up here. Gives me a chance to be at my most spidery,” I suggested, knowing full well how cool I looked and how much better a shot it would be for the viewers.

Im ready for my close-up!

Lo and behold, he agreed, and I remained crouched in position while he changed the staging, moving the hosts from the couch to bar stools sidled up by moi. And it was there I stayed for another half hour, while one thing after another pushed my segment further back in the rotation. I believe my smart idea backfired on me, as the producer was milking his Spider-Man set-dressing as long as possible, Finally, the news was reported and the show faded to commercial, the scene discovered by Ed/ and presented here.

Whether the actual interview still awaits unearthing or is lost forever remains to be seen, but after the teaser was posted, the sudden appearance of Spider-Man partaking in a coffee Klatch with the Matt Lauer and Katie Couric of Canada as the cameras went to sponsors, prompted the question “Why was Spider-Man on CITY-TV in 1991?” on Evan Anett’s Canuck superhero blog, And One Shall Surely Die!

And One Shall Surely Die!

Ed, responding to the strand of spaghetti that stuck to the wall, i.e. one of the multitude of rare taped tidbits he’s uploaded that sparked feedback, notified his dad, who in turn told me. I, as I’m sure most of the people who view Ed’s stash of uncommon video goodness, was tickled red-and-blue to discover this televised pearl of one of my performances and straightaway resolved the mystery for Evan and his Followers in the comments section of the posting.



Vik said...

I have to say that I can definitely make out the curvature of your head under that mask... not a negative comment or anything, just something I observed. I watched the video and was thinking "yeah, totally him." :)

John III said...

Wow, that is you! All "Spidery" and everything. What the heck were they talking about at the end anyway? Blah blah blah? Kind of surreal how they mention someone died from the AIDS virus. You don't hear it quite so bluntly anymore.