Wednesday, September 16, 2009

fishy, campy

The big news in East Tennessee has been the announcement of a highly anticipated movie premiere, with some of the actors in attendance. Yes, "Fish Bait" will be shown on October 24th. In other movie news, two of the stars of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon" will be in Knoxville on November 17th.

Jeff Joslin has been working out the details for the "Fish Bait" screening at Flat Hollow Marina & Resort in Campbell County. I was one of several members of Einstein Simplified involved in the filming at Flat Hollow last October. We filmed some additional scenes in May.

The date of the premiere means I will have to decline an invitation I received from Sharky at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. The costumed mascot had asked me to come to Gatlinburg and do the "Thriller" dance on the 24th. They plan to close the street and participate in "Thrill the World," a worldwide simultaneous group dance which is an attempt at a Guinness World Record. Not wanting to miss out, I decided to organize a "Thriller" dance at Flat Hollow that night. Now all I have to do is learn the dance.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

and three in Crossville

A 16-second video on Facebook got me laughing last night. It combines local news and dancing in a different way than the recent "Star 102.1's Dancing with the Knoxville Stars."

Eric Foxx may be everyone's favorite person at WBIR. He's the floor manager for "Live at Five at Four." I see him there every time Einstein Simplified appears on the show. He's there every time I go to the Children's Hospital Telethon. He's also there every year at Boomsday when I stop by the pre-fireworks broadcast.

Brittany Bailey
introduced herself to me on St. Patrick's Day. She and Alison Morrow had stopped by Patrick Sullivan's just as our improv show was ending. She promised to come back to catch a performance from the beginning some day.

The video I'm enjoying so much is on WBIR's Facebook page. It shows Brittany and Foxxy getting their "Let's Groove" on during a commercial break. It reminded me of some mostly deleted YouTube videos from a TV station in Philadelphia. They used to have a segment called "Mascot Monday," in which local costumed characters danced with Jennaphr Frederick. Let's try to convince WBIR to add such a feature to "Live at Five at Four."

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

mixed marriage

The George Mason at James Madison basketball game seemed like a good thing to put on the TV while my wife and I were relaxing at home yesterday, that is until the Dukes narrowly won in an upset. At least my wife, the JMU alumna, was happy about our schools' rivalry for the first time in five years.

The game was on DirecTV channel 642, which is Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic. The technicians had some trouble deciding whether or not the broadcast was supposed to be in HD. They switched several times from widescreen to pillars and back. I was hoping to hear the "Mason Nation" jingle during the game. I have read about it but not heard it yet.

The GMU Patriots will be televised again on Thursday night when their away game against the Delaware Blue Hens is on ESPNU. Fans at the game will be entertained by multiple mascots, which might be lucky enough to get some nominal TV coverage. No word if Two Face will be there or not.

Apparently the University of Delaware is a mascot factory. Who knew? In addition to the current YoUDee, the court will be filled with former UD mascot team members who are now working as mascots for professional sports teams. The list includes Screech from the Washington Nationals, Slapshot from the Washington Capitals, Poe from the Baltimore Ravens, Wool E. Bull from the Durham Bulls and Swoop from the Philadelphia Eagles. They should ask Jennaphr Frederick to show up and dance with the mascots like she did a few years ago.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008


The reviews of the new George Mason University mascot are predictably less than enthusiastic. They gave it a human head like New England's Pat Patriot but made it much worse by painting its face green and gold. The new mascot will eventually get an official nickname via a contest. The University briefly referred to it as "The Patriot" in a photo caption, which prompted some rival school bulletin board posters to call it "TP" as in toilet paper. Others have drawn comparisons to William Wallace, the Jolly Green Giant, Jay Leno, the Incredible Hulk, the Demon Deacon and a gangrene victim.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Gunston checks out

Gunston, the oft-maligned mascot of George Mason University, is being put out to pasture. He looks like a giant Muppet that's missing a couple of chromosomes. Rather than disappear, he will still represent the University at some events for children.

Although Gunston was far from perfect, I'm worried that I might like his replacement less. The DC Sports Blog and the DCist report that GMU's new mascot will be more human looking. I hope the GMU Patriots don't try to copy the New England Patriots mascot. To me, the creepiest mascots are the ones that have giant human faces. I would prefer an animal mascot, like the ones competing in the Capitol One Mascot Challenge (including UT's Smokey).

When I was a student at Mason, there was no foam-covered mascot. Instead we had a face character. He was an older man who wore colonial garb, which would have been better for a candle-making demonstration in Williamsburg than for rallying a crowd of basketball fans. In subsequent years, the scary-looking Mason Maniak replaced the stately statesman.

Two of my friends have worn the mascot costumes for GMU. I emailed both George and Mike to get their take on the news of the impending change. George started in 1991 as the puffy Patriot. He also wore a gorilla suit and the Green Mask outfit before debuting the Gunston costume. George still works for the University. He went to fix something at President and Mrs. Merten's residence the day after they had attended their first GMU basketball game:
She introduced herself to me and I told her we had met last night. She looked puzzled when I told her we even danced on the court during a time out. When I told her who I was, she ran to the stairs and called out, "Alan, Alan, come here!" She was so excited to find out who I was.
Mike was the last to wear the original Gunston costume and the first to wear the new one. He overlapped with George in 1998 and continued through the school's 2001 NCAA appearance. Mike says:
Gunston was always misunderstood. I was once told that the aim of the athletic department was to appeal to families and kids, but I always thought that as the University's mascot, it should appeal to the students and alumni. It would never fail that at a game I would be asked "what are you?"

Who knows why Mason is making the change. There was talk about this back in 1998 and there will be talk of changing from whatever they chose in the future. Mason is funny like that. It longs for tradition and I think forgets that tradition takes time and stability.

Once I was asked out for Valentine's Day by a couple of sorority girls and went on a date to dinner and a movie with them. The great thing about Gunston was that people forgot that there was a person in there. That's how I knew that I did a good job. I would surf on top of police cars in parades, rollerblade behind vans around Patriot Park and the cops would smirk and shake their heads. Orientation was always fun too. I was the first college guy that hit on many an incoming freshman. I know... kind of impure, but they needed it, Frank... they needed it.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

cookin' with gas

The new Christmas lights are on in Gatlinburg. By switching to LED bulbs, the four-month display will use the same amount of electricity as only three nights of the old incandescent bulbs. The Smoky Mountain city held its 19th annual Winter Magic Kickoff and Chili Cook-off this evening.

The headline entertainment was an incarnation of The Coasters. I doubt that there were any original members among the four guys we saw but they put on a good show nevertheless.

I was there to shoot some video for a feature called The Frank Files on the radio station's website. Inspired by the "Mascot Mondays" that I wrote about here over two years ago, I even tried dancing with a few of the costumed characters at the festival. With any luck, it will look funny on camera.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

let's go to the Mets

The Mets are having another good season (despite today's nationally televised loss). I'm no fair weather fan. I've stuck with the Mets during the bad seasons too. They were my hometown team when I was growing up in New York. After moving to Virginia, I went on a few baseball road trips to see the Mets in Philadelphia, Chicago and at Shea Stadium. I remember going to a baseball game at Candlestick Park with my friend Bean but I'm embarrassed to admit that I can't recall if the Giants were playing the Mets that day. I'm also embarrassed to admit that since moving to Knoxville I haven't gone to see the Mets play in nearby Atlanta. At least I went to see the Mets last year while I was in DC and of course I went to several Mets vs. Dodgers games when I lived in Burbank.

I didn't bring a camera on my trip to Milwaukee the other day. Mine is broken and I had already returned the camera I borrowed from my daughter for our family road trip the week before. Fortunately the other Mets fan on the trip, brought his camera and was willing to share the photos from his MySpace page. Here's T the R.O.P and me in front of the Hank Aaron statue:

The picture of Bernie's Dugout gave me an idea. It would be interesting if the Brewers had two identical Bernie Brewer mascots at each game. One would only be visible in Bernie's Dugout when the Brewers are at bat. The other would only be visible in the stands or near the field when the visitors are at bat. If they timed it right, it would look like Bernie could travel really fast from the field back to his perch, similar to the way Mickey Mouse gets around in "Fantasmic." Any of the other teams' mascots can feel free to use my idea too.

On the drive from Knoxville to the Nashville airport, T and I listened to a sports radio host talking about how the Florida Marlins and their stadium are so pathetic. T had heard about a great solution. The Marlins should be moved to Portland (home of the Triple-A Beavers) and transferred to the American League West. It would create a natural rivalry with the Seattle Mariners and even out the number of teams at 15 per league. Moving the Pittsburgh Pirates from the NL Central to the NL East would then leave all the divisions neatly arranged with 5 teams each. For the idea to work, there would always be one team per league with the day off except during interleague play.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

national pastimes

Baseball and gambling don't mix. Just ask Pete Rose. Because of him, I used to think that baseball avoided even the most remote hint of gambling similar to the way a college with a religious affiliation might refuse to accept lottery scholarship money. As we entered Miller Park today for the Mets vs. Brewers game, we were handed a "Baseball Bingo" card from the Potawatomi Casino. The 25 squares on the bingo card had the scorecard designations for various offensive and defensive plays. Fans can win prizes if their card matches enough of the plays that occur in the game. I also noticed a small Wisconsin Lottery logo painted on top of both dugouts. This reminded me of something I saw during my recent road trip. At one supermarket I saw a Missouri Lottery machine selling St. Louis Cardinals themed lottery tickets.

Baseball has gambling controversies in its past and steroid controversies in its present. Somebody might want to mention that to the Brewers. Their costumed mascot looks ordinary enough in person but not in the animated version that appears on the scoreboard. At the start of each game, a computerized Bernie Brewer slugs long balls and shows off his unnaturally buff physique. I know he's just a cartoon but he still looks like he's been getting binary injections in his digitally generated rear end. Based on the number of t-shirts I saw, Bernie is nowhere near as popular as the famous Klement's Racing Sausages.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

caught up in the Internet

This morning at 3:00 a.m Central Time, several people from Wisconsin ended up at my site after searching for information about a Frank Murphy who beat somebody up in the third grade. Of course I never delivered a smackdown in the third or any other grade. My son tells me that there is a scene in the movie "I, Robot" that may have prompted the flurry of web activity. I should watch it one of these days.

A list of predictions from 1900 has been making the rounds on the Internet this past week. Some of the items seem too accurate to be true. I expected to find a debunking of the list at but did not.

Another site making the news is It tracks leatherback sea turtles as they swim to the Galapagos Islands to lay their eggs.

As I read more about the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I stumbled across a cartoon that moved me. It shows the mascots of other Virginia universities consoling the Virginia Tech Hokie. A larger version of the drawing can be found at When seen side by side with the other mascots, it is apparent that my alma mater needs to update theirs.

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

more Mason madness

There is no doubt that the national media has embraced George Mason University's Cinderella story in the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow morning both "Good Morning America" and "Today" are scheduled to have live cameras on campus. One will be inside the Johnson Center, the other outside at the statue of George Mason. And of course, Kevin & Bean interviewed me this morning on KROQ.

Two of my friends are traveling to Indianapolis for the game(s). Coincidentally they both served time as the George Mason basketball mascot. My friend George was the Mason Maniak and was succeeded by my friend Mike, who was Gunston. I first met George while I was working at WAVA. At the time he was Prince Willie, the mascot for the (then) Prince William Yankees, a minor league baseball franchise now known as the Potomac Nationals. Since hanging up the giant mascot heads, George has been doing a weekly sports show on WGMU, the campus radio station. Oddly enough, I didn't meet Mike until he moved to Knoxville a couple of years ago. It would be fun to see the two of them compete in the Celebrity Mascot Games, which are held in Orlando but it would be more convenient for me if the games were held in nearby Mascot, Tennessee (get it?).

After last Friday's successful viewing party, the Mason alumni in the Knoxville area will once again gather at Bailey's Sports Grille to cheer for GMU. I'll be there right after the Einstein Simplified performance at The Comedy Zone. Who would have ever thought that the Patriots would still be playing basketball in April back when I committed to performing in the improv show? My wife has a Knoxville Choral Society performance that night too.

I've been exchanging emails with several college friends to share the Final Four excitement. We're all happy that our team has made it this far and rooting for them to win it all. Some of us are even praying for a GMU victory. Today's last words come from my favorite GMU professor, who was also my faculty advisor. He writes:

I did look through your site - you are a prolific bastard, I'll say that. I loved the sweatshirt story.

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