When QVC found out I was a science fiction geek, I became the permanent host for the many sci-fi collectable and comic book shows we did in the 1990’s. It was my pleasure to work with Steve Sansweet (he’s the other guy in the photo) on many of the Star Wars shows. Steve was a very dedicated Star Wars collector as well as the West Coast Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He had written the ultimate collector’s guide book which we regularly sold out on-air. Steve eventually became the full time curator of the Star Wars’ exhibit at Skywalker Ranch. He was a lot of fun and a genuinely nice person.
One of the things that really surprised me about Star Wars shows was how many policemen watched the shows with their sons. I met many through the years. Here are two of my most memorable encounters. It starts with one of the many charitable events the company hosted.
In the late 90’s, QVC was doing a project with Toys for Tots in Florida. I went down and played music for about 60,000 bikers who had donated toys for the event. I did a couple of performances with former members of Badfinger, Steppenwolf and Rare Earth. I was there as the guest of Mike Pinera (Ride Captain, Ride) who was also involved with QVC, doing a CD for about the Rainforest that we were going to debut.
The day after the concert, I was in South Beach with Mike. We were at the same recording studio where Aerosmith was recording their new CD. Mike introduced me to Steven Tyler, whom he had apparently known for a long time and we went to lunch together. Unfortunately, Mike had a two-seater Mercedes. He and Steven took the seats and I rode on the rear deck as we took off down Ocean Drive in South Beach.
A policeman stopped us. He ignored Mike and Steven, looked directly at me and said, “What am I going to tell my son when you fall off and smear your brains all over the road? I’m sorry son, the guy we used to like to watch on the Star Wars shows turned out to be an idiot and killed himself when he fell off the back of a convertible.”
He continued to give me Hell for a few minutes, made me squeeze in next to Steven in the passenger’s seat and told us to be more careful. He asked if I would sing an autograph for his son, which I did on the back of one of my QVC business cards. He seemed delighted with it.
He never acknowledged Steven or Mike. After he drove off, Steven looked at me and asked, “Who the f*** are you anyway?” He seemed a bit perturbed that the cop knew me and not him. I got a lot more respect at lunch.
The force was with me again right after I bought my “midlife crisis” car. It was a very fast, imported convertible. I was driving from Pennsylvania to Woodstock, NY to see my friend, Rory Block, perform. I was in the Catskill Mountains on a Saturday afternoon and the road was virtually deserted. I floored it, hitting speeds of over 90 mph while winding through the two lane mountain highway.
A New York State Trooper came up behind me and pulled me over. He proceeded to give me hell, rightfully so, about speeding on what he called “his mountain.” He was pissed.
I full well expected to get a huge ticket, as the posted limit was 35 and I was doing more than 50 mph over that. He went back to his cruiser to make sure that I wasn’t one of America’s Most Wanted. When he approached the car again, I expected the worst.
“What kind of example are you setting for my son?” He barked. “Every time we watch the Star Wars shows on QVC, he’s always talking about how much you know. He looks up to you. This would crush him.”
WTF? Another officer of the law who watched my Star Wars shows with his son on QVC? I sputtered as I replied. “I’m sorry, sergeant. It’s a new car and…”
He cut me off. “And you’re living out some childhood fantasy? It’s not bad enough I’d have to explain this to my son, but what about the innocent people you’re putting in danger? Do you ever think about that?”
Obviously, the questions in his tirade to that point were rhetorical as he didn’t give me time to respond. “The ticket for speeding and reckless driving will be over $1000. And you’ll have to appear in court. They might impound your car!”
I felt stupid, which I had been. “I’m really sorry, sergeant. I’m an asshole sometimes, everybody is. But most of them aren’t this big an asshole. I was wrong and, if you’ll accept it, you have my sincere apology and promise to never do this again. And I apologize to your son. If you tell him about this, ask him to remember that Han Solo made some big mistakes along the way. He saw the error of his ways, too.”
Although I would have tased anyone who was peddling this much BS, the sergeant seemed to appreciate my eloquent plea for mercy. I was really being sincere, in a nerdy sort of way. What came next was almost as big a surprise as Darth Vader revealing that he was Luke’s father.
The sergeant smiled for the first time as he spoke. “Taking responsibility for your actions doesn’t make them right, but it shows you’re a guy my son can look up to. I’m letting you go. But I’m radioing ahead and if you drive like a jerk off again, I see to it that you’ll pay a hefty fine and we will impound your car.”
I smiled back, extended my hand and he shook it. Then, like the officer in South Beach, he asked for an autograph for his son. This time, I had some publicity photos in the trunk of my car. I signed and 8×10, writing something hokey like, “May the Force be with you!” Again, I would have run my ass in for that line. But the sergeant liked it and that’s all that mattered.
I gave him a business card and told him if he and his family were ever in the West Chester area, I would gladly give them a custom tour of QVC. Months later, he took me up on the offer. I took them to places in the building that outsiders rarely see. His family was great and his son was quite a fan.
I’ve never understood the connection between myself, policemen, their sons, Star Wars and QVC, but I think it’s great. I am always amazed at the impact my 15 years on QVC has had on the viewers and myself. Truly, the Force was with me for those years. More accurately, I’m luckiest SOB in the free world.
© 2015 Steve Bryant
Your many kindnesses and the respect your well researched presentations earned were repaid rather than luck. It has been a blessing for us to have met you through QVC (they lost more than a host when you left).
Steve is there any chance we will ever see you again on TV or radio? Happy Nee Year to you and a healthy 2016.