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Pawn Stars wait ends in airing
jeff opaw
On Feb. 14 Jeff Benziger was with Rick Harrison taping an episode of Pawn Stars that airs Thursday evening, Aug. 14 and is repeated throughout the year. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The wait is over Thursday, Aug. 14.

That's when I get my five or so minutes of global "fame."

Readers of this column may recall that about six months ago I wrote about my experience of taping an episode for the popular cable TV show "Pawn Stars." I was told by Rick Harrison, star of Pawn Stars, that the episode could air anywhere from two weeks to five months.

My episode debuts exactly six months to the day from taping, Thursday evening. If you care to watch it, search the TV schedule for your cable provider but I have found most will be airing it at 9:31 p.m. Pacific time on the History Channel. (DirecTV is airing it at 6:30 p.m.) The episode will be repeated a number of times as re-runs in coming months.

I became a fan of the show during a 2009 visit to my dad's house in Kingman, Ariz. I also grew fond of American Pickers and later the spinoff show from Pawn Stars, Rick's Restorations. Now there are a whole slew of reality shows to watch.

Pawn Stars has appealed to a vast audience in these harder economic times. The show is anything but a true reality show since the featured items are "auditioned." The show's focus is on the rare, nostalgic, unusual or historical. It's not really about a down-on-luck gambler who seeks quick cash for the crap tables in Vegas. People like me can drive hundreds of miles just to show up in Harrison's shop. As the haggling goes on between the seller and Rick Harrison or his father "Old Man" Harrison or Chumlee or Corey Harrison, banter develops about the history of the item and its salability. At times there are bullet graphs shown and multiple-choice quizzes following commercial breaks.

Viewers know that all types of items are on the show, whether it's a handbill from the play in which Lincoln was killed or toy cars from the 1960s or shrunken human heads. I've seen gold coins from wrecked Spanish galleons, World War I gas masks, handcuffs from Houdini, Montie Montana's boots and numerous guns, cannons and cars.

You're not likely to get on the show if you have a common ordinary Life magazine featuring a grinning Ike Eisenhower or your grandma's ice cream scoop from 1975. But it's a different story if you own a White House letter signed by John F. Kennedy dispatching military troops to guard the Capitol and Washington Mall in anticipation of the first-ever Civil Rights march on Washington. Did I mention that Kennedy signed the letter the day before the historic event in which Martin Luther King uttered "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"? Did I also mention that Kennedy's pen hit the paper just 97 days before an assassin would take his life?

The History Channel website teases the episode this way: "Rick rallies for a letter signed by JFK about the 1963 March on Washington. Will his dream of taking it home come true or will it find freedom somewhere else?"

As you'll see if you watch, Rick knows a bit about the history of the famous march but is unsure of the authenticity of JFK's scribble. So, according to tradition, Rick calls in his expert, this time Steve Grad of a big authentication firm. Grad just happened to be flown in earlier and was off camera to the side waiting for his scene.

Grad gives us good news - I was not surprised since I've been in the autograph hobby since 1972 and I know my Kennedy autographs - and the nerve-wracking process starts of negotiating. I tell Rick "this is the part I hate," and he replies, "what part, the part where I give you money?" I answer, "No, negotiations."

I'm contractually bound to not reveal what happens. But the actual Gold and Silver Pawn Shop itself must have liked my February column because they have linked it on their website with the comment, "It's a great read."

This won't be my first time on national TV. When the Gary Condit scandal was going down in 2001 and all the media outlets were hungry for people who knew the local congressman, I appeared on Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Fox News, Good Morning America and was interviewed by Paula Zahn and Bill O'Reilly. This, however, will be a much more positive situation to be on TV.

Knowing that reality shows are a bit contrived, I'm a bit nervous as to how the final editing will make the exchange appear. I will be seen in 150 nations and in 32 languages. Somewhere around 95 million American households subscribe to the History Channel and an estimated 4.7 million people watch Pawn Stars. Harrison told Entertainment Weekly that his shop on the Las Vegas strip gets people from all around the world "because it plays in a lot of countries ...Apparently it's real big in England now, because I get a lot of English people coming down saying they love the show. I get every walk of life. It spans the whole spectrum - you wouldn't believe how many 11 year old kids love my show."

It boggles my mind to think I'll be viewed by kids in Kansas, Muslims in Mumbai, veterans in Virginia, patrolmen in Pennsylvania, military personnel in Macon, teachers in Terre Haute, housewives on Lake Huron, and nurses in New York. The episode will be seen from bar stools in Barstow, convalescent homes in Canada, and salons in San Francisco. My JFK letter will be scrutinized on big screens in Scranton. Viewers may ridicule Rick's offer in Memphis or criticize it in Corpus Christi. My decision to sell or not to sell (again, can't say) may be heralded in Honolulu, harangued in Hyannis Port or cheered in Chattanooga.

I started out this column using "fame" in quotation marks. That's because the names of the pawning party are not given so only those in my sphere of influence will know my identity.

You will, though.

If anything, I'm thrilled to know that my item will offer a brief history lesson in what was feared to become a dreadful event that actually turned out to be a peaceful beacon of hope for millions who were discriminated against in 1963.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at