Dan’s Excellent Adventure

    Sometime during July 2005, I heard that ABC TV was going to be running a new program called My
    Kind of Town. It was to be a game/comedy/variety show based on a different small town each week,
    and Hopedale was in the running to be one of the featured towns. I really had no interest in getting
    involved in it, but some of the other "Hopedale history people" thought we should do something with it,
    so when there were "tryouts" at the fire station on July 20, I went before the camera posing as Rev. Adin
    Ballou. I left at least half of the questions on the long application form blank and on a couple of items, I
    described myself as a very dull person. That should do it, I thought. The most they’d want me for would
    be a member of the audience. Fine with me.

    On Tuesday, August 16, just a few days before two hundred people would be going to New York for the
    taping of the show, Elaine answered a phone call. It was Becky from My Kind of Town. She told Elaine
    that she wanted to speak to me. They wanted to do something about my brother and they needed some
    help and information from me.

    When I got on the phone, Becky told me that they really wanted to do something about me, but that
    Elaine couldn’t know anything about it, so I continued the conversation from the yard. She told me that
    they had read the things I had put on my application about my being such a dull person. They wanted to
    put together something to surprise Elaine with during the taping at the studio. The side of me she knew
    nothing about. The James Bond persona. Maybe pick me up in a limo, have a couple of "Bond girls"
    there, go to a casino; something like that. Hmm, well, yeah, okay, I could do that. She said I’d need to
    have the next three days available and I said I could. I told her that I’d leave the cell phone turned off and
    that she could leave me a message when she wanted to talk to me again and I’d get back to her. All the
    conversations I had with Becky, and others after that, were on the cell phone from the yard, and that
    helped to keep Elaine from learning what I was really doing. I just continued with the story that it was
    about my brother.

    I checked voicemail a number of times Wednesday morning, and by noon I was thinking that maybe
    they had dropped the idea. However, early in the afternoon I had a message from Becky, and I called
    her back. She asked about my clothing sizes and also asked if I’d heard from Dave. I hadn’t. She said
    he’d be calling sometime during the afternoon.

    Late in the afternoon Dave called. I don’t remember all that we talked about, but it included how he
    wanted me to be dressed when I met him the next morning. He wanted me to be wearing a cardigan
    sweater in the most blah color I had. I asked if he’d like me to wear a hat and he said yes. The plan
    was to get Elaine to come to the front door and he asked about a location to hide with the camera. He
    wanted to meet the next morning about 8:30 on Tammie Road. He’d call.

    On Thursday morning I stayed close to the cell phone, and right after I got a call from Dave, I was out
    the door. Elaine usually drives the 1990 Escort but that day she was going to Charlton and really
    needed the Taurus for that. We don’t trust the Escort too far from home. I had really been figuring that
    the Escort was made for this role, anyway, but thanks to her trip, I didn’t have to think of any excuse to
    drive the car I don’t take too often. When I got down the street, I saw two cars and five guys on Tammie,
    just a few feet up from Inman. I was introduced to them; Dave, Michael, Mike, Rob and Minta, I as I recall
    were the ones who were there. We went over what I’d do and where they’d hide, and then they went up
    the street to get started. I had spoken to the McGees across the street the night before, giving them a
    minimum of information, but explaining that a camera crew from My Kind of Town would like to hide
    behind their fence for a few minutes. They were okay with that.

    It must have been about a half hour from the time I had arrived on Tammie until we got a walkie-talkie
    call from Dave saying they were set. I drove back to the house, walked up the stairs and called to Elaine
    to come to the door. My excuse was that I had taken the cell phone and she should really have it, since
    she was going to Charlton. Hiding a mike on me had been considered, but it was decided that it
    wouldn’t work with what I was wearing and they’d add sound later. They'd dub in, "Bye, Ma. I’m going to
    get some milk."

    Back on Tammie, the next thing was to get some shots of me driving. Mike set up the camera on the
    sidewalk across from the end of Gayle Road. I went up Gayle until I was out of sight. When I got the call,
    I went down very slowly, directional on very early, looked carefully both ways twice, (it was supposed to
    look very geezerish) and made a right turn. They said they could probably get me better with a left turn,
    so I went back and went through it again.

    The next stop was Draper Field. I wasn’t there too long when a cop arrived. He had been hired for the
    occasion and was with us for the rest of the day. About fifteen minutes later, the rest of the crew arrived.
    Seven or eight cars drove in and about ten guys and one girl got out. Before too long Dave had me get
    back into the Escort and drive about fifty feet, turn into the brushy, overgrown "island" near the entrance
    to the Draper Field parking lot, get out of the car and walk into the brush. As with all scenes, we did this
    one about five times. After Dave figured he had enough versions of me walking into the bushes, they
    gave me my "Bond outfit" and I went to a dugout and changed. When I got back, we spent about a half
    hour going over and filming me coming out from behind a tree and walking toward the camera. While
    this was going on, the Porche was getting a tough workout. The rented Porche, I should probably add.
    The stunt guys were raising large clouds of dust and leaving lots of rubber on the parking lot. I asked
    someone if they were practicing for a scene or just having fun. They were just having fun. It reminded
    me of the parking lot attendants in Ferris Bueller.

    The first crisis of the morning occurred a while earlier and now they needed to make a decision. Helen,
    who came from Boston and had done some commercials (Bud, Bud Lite, etc.), told them that she
    couldn’t drive a standard shift. The script, such as it was, called for her to drive the Porche. There was
    some thought about giving her a five minute driving lesson, but they ended up having Mickey O’Rourke,
    the stunt man, do the driving. The camera shot wouldn’t be that close, but to be on the safe side, Helen
    had to get out of her dress and they’d draped it over Mickey. Helen said it wasn’t an easy dress to get
    out of, but it had to be done, so she stepped between a minivan and the bushes and managed to slip
    out of it.

    At that point, I spent some time standing in the middle of the lot and we went over various approaches
    and dialogue we could use in the scene where Helen would hand me a folder. They got Mickey driving
    up to me two or three times and then it was on to the part with Helen and me. They did this quite a few
    times because they wanted to try out a few different lines. Evidently, they wanted to give the people in
    New York, who would be doing the editing, some choices. After they were satisfied with that, they had
    me get into the car and they took a few shots from different angles of me looking into the rear-view
    mirror and adjusting it. I think that’s when they also did some of me getting out of the car. Around that
    time, I heard Dave make a couple of calls to NY asking if they had permission from AARP. They
    planned to use a fake AARP card and he needed to find out if it was okay.

    Now what was accomplished up to this point may not seem like much, but I think it was after two when
    we were done with what they wanted to do in the parking lot, and we left and went to Mellen Field. When
    we got there, there was a helicopter on the ground. I thought they’d get something local, but I found out
    a bit later that it had come from Long Island. Roy, the stunt director, told me that Al from Long Island
    was the best guy for this job.

    There was a long discussion by the helicopter about how to do the part that was coming up next. Like a
    few other times that day, I tried to find a little shade while I waited. There was no time, either Thursday
    or Friday, when everyone sat down and had lunch. There was always something going on, but not
    everyone was busy all the time, so generally people grabbed what they could, when they could. In the
    morning there were a couple of boxes of Munchkins around and early in the afternoon someone had
    gone somewhere for sandwiches. I had part of a turkey club sometime after three. I think I lost a couple
    of pounds or so during the two days. Dave and Michael always seemed busy and I don’t know if they
    ever found time to eat.

    It was probably getting around four when all was set and Mickey did one of the things he had come
    here from New Jersey to do. The helicopter hovered about fifteen feet from the ground with a ladder
    hanging down. Mickey, just about my size and dressed like me, ran out and grabbed onto the ladder.
    Out of sight of the camera, he clipped a safety harness to it. Then the copter went up, at least a hundred
    feet. When he got down, the crew talked things over, decided that they needed something a little
    different, so Mickey went up again.

    A little after Mickey’s ride, I got to go up. My trip, however, was inside. Michael was behind me to get
    some shots of me "flying" the helicopter. He also got some of me flossing my teeth, the idea being that
    I was so cool, I could floss and fly at the same time.

    Before we left Mellen, they needed me for two more things. I ran toward the fence, stopped, looked
    around, looked up, and gave an expression suggesting that I saw how I’d get away; the helicopter and
    ladder. We did a few different versions of that, of course. Then we went over to the picnic tables. They
    moved them end to end, about a foot apart. Two of the guys stood on them, holding the ladder. I ran to it
    and simulated climbing. Again, five or six times, at least. As it was during the entire time, someone was
    there to write down a brief description of the scene along with the number from the camera so they
    could find things on the tape – or whatever it was they were recording onto.

    Before we left Mellen, Karen joined up with us. She had filmed a bit of the band concert the night before
    and had worked on other parts of the show, including the calendar. I noticed her filling out forms and I
    commented that there seemed to be plenty of paperwork involved. She said that she was doing Fed Ex
    forms. When they were finished for the day, they’d overnight what they had recorded to New York. Then
    people there could begin editing the next day. I had been wondering how they were going to get it all
    together in time for the taping of the show on Saturday. Late on Friday there was a discussion of how
    they were going to get that day’s work to New York. They were considering having someone drive it. I
    suppose it could have been there by ten or eleven and they must have had people working through the
    night on it.

    But back to Thursday. Having done what they needed to at Mellen, we moved on to Hopedale Airport. I
    spent a lot of time sitting around while they blocked off part of Plain Street and did the car chase scene.
    It seemed that there was hardly any traffic out of the airport until they needed to block the road. I was
    pretty well into the airport, out of sight of the chase. Minta was there and he held up traffic from that end.
    One of the little companies there must close at seven, because just about then a bunch of cars came
    from somewhere near the flea market. Traffic was held up and let go a couple of times before the
    scene was done. Then they had me get into the Porche and got some pictures of me putting a CD into
    the player and eating Jello. (I had heard some mention of Jello in the morning so I asked Helen when
    we’d be doing the Jello-wrestling scene. She said she hadn’t heard about it.She may have been a bit
    alarmed.) They had those little plastic cups and they were always very careful about covering brand
    names, so someone got a couple of markers and they spent at least five minutes scribbling out the
    labels. It was starting to get a bit dark by then and time to quit for the day. Someone drove me back to
    the Escort at Draper Field and I got home at 8:15, done for the day.

    Dave had mentioned meeting them at Draper Field around 8:30 the next day, but he called a little before
    eight and asked if I could be there earlier. I had been about to call him, to find out if I could wear
    anything and use the Taurus or if they needed me to wear my geezer outfit and drive the Escort. They
    needed Geezer Dan for one more scene so I made a quick change and got there before they did…and
    realized that I had left my hat at home. As I headed back over Freedom Street, a car coming toward me
    blinked its lights a couple of times but kept on going. By the time the fourth or fifth car came around the
    corner from Hopedale Street I was able to stop and tell the driver, Minta, I think, that I’d be right back.
    When I got back, everyone was putting on lots of sunscreen. Everyone had gotten sunburns on
    Thursday; a couple had fairly bad ones. Dave said we’d be out on the water a good part of the day, so I
    put lots of sunscreen on, too.

    Once everyone was set with the sunblock, we headed off to Wallum Lake. Shortly before we arrived, the
    scariest part of the two days occurred. Dave picked up his walkie-talkie, called one of the other guys
    and said, "Do you have Dan’s thong bathing suit with you?" Fortunately, he was kidding.

    Not long after arriving at the lake, I had to get into a wetsuit and put the "Bond suit" on over it. I was
    dressed like that for about four hours. After about one o'clock  I was in just the wetsuit until we headed
    for home around four.

    A bit after I had changed, we went about a hundred yards along a path to a little clearing. We spent
    more than an hour there doing the Ninja scene and a few other pieces they needed to fit in somewhere.
    I did a little fall and roll, and Mickey jumped off of the railing of an old, boarded-up building. By about
    noon, we heard that the jetskis and the two other boats they had arranged to have there had arrived. I
    had a bit of sitting in the shade time while the others planned and arranged things for the scenes we’d
    soon be doing out on the lake.

    We were in the boat launch area and there were a few people who spent most of the day nearby. I got
    talking to one woman who was there with her family and found out that she had grown up in Hopedale.
    When I saw her late in the morning, after the Ninja thing, she told me that there were some people
    there who were thinking I must be a celebrity and were wondering who I was. She thought maybe she’d
    try telling them I was Kevin Costner. Maybe she was talking about people on the beach, a few hundred
    yards away. Anyway, I told her to tell them I was Peewee Herman, trying to make a comeback.

    Dave had asked me if I had ever used a jetski. I hadn’t. He said I could try or they could have Mickey do
    all of that. I said I’d give it a try, so a few minutes later I was zipping around Wallum. Eventually, they got
    the other boats out and did about a half an hour of filming. I went out on another jetski and spent quite a
    bit of time chasing around with the big boat. Later I asked Roy what it had for an engine. He said it was
    a 350 horse Chevy. They filmed me going along beside the boat. They wanted some shots with me
    right beside them, others with me a little ahead, and some a little behind. I was also supposed to look
    back every few seconds as if I were looking at someone who was following.

    Once that was done, we went back to the boat ramp where they spent quite a while planning the filming
    of the big stunt. In that one, it was going to appear that the 350 was zooming along with no one in it.
    Mickey would come up alongside it on a jetski and jump in. He had never done that before and wasn’t
    sure he could manage it. Once everyone knew what his job was, we went out. Roy drove the big boat
    and I was with him. One of the swivel seats had been removed and after we were out on the water for a
    while, Roy decided to take the other one out also. Four of the guys were in the other boat. They had the
    camera.

    I had to spend most of the ride ducked down out of sight. Roy did too, so they used to walkie-talkies to
    warn him if he was headed for anything other than open water. As an additional precaution for this
    scene they had someone (I think it was the guy they had rented the boats from) go along on a jetski
    wearing scuba gear. After a bit of practice and a few stops for discussions, we started up the lake with
    Mickey chasing along, probably no more than a foot from the side of our boat. This went on for some
    time, and we may have stopped for another discussion, but after a while he made the jump and it was
    a success. The jump was a success, but there was a mix-up in signals and they never got him on
    camera. He had to do it again. He had bumped his head a bit, but seemed more or less okay, so we
    went over to where the jetski was and he got on. This time it didn’t take as long. Mickey jumped in, I
    stood up, took the wheel for a moment, then turned toward the camera and saluted.

    While we were still on the water, Dave wanted some shots of the boat going forward, stopping and
    backing up. Roy did that quite a few times. I was trying to keep out of the sun whenever possible, so I
    just lay on the bottom of the boat with my head up under the front deck area. Of course, other than my
    head, I was covered with the wetsuit. After twenty minutes or so of this, we got back to shore. That was it
    for the boats so I got out of the wetsuit and into my geezer clothes. It must have been getting close to
    three by that time.

    There was some food around so I got a sandwich. I think I fed most of it to Chelsie, the Wonder Dog.
    Chelsie belonged to one of the guys. I don’t remember his name. She was great at catching a tennis
    ball, and had done quite a bit of it at Mellen Field. It didn’t take her long to figure that I was the one to be
    near when there was food around.

    Mickey and Roy were done so we said goodbye (and I thanked Mickey for being me) and they headed
    back to New Jersey. They needed some more pictures of me in the car so I drove back to Hopedale
    with Dave and Michael. First they had me eat Jello while driving. I was driving a Mustang convertible. I
    don’t know if it was an economy move or what, but they didn’t have the Porche on Friday. Evidently they
    figured that for the kind of inside the car shots they needed, the Mustang would do as well. I think the
    plan was to use it in the car chase scene, the idea being that I was so cool I could eat Jello while being
    chased. I don’t recall seeing that used, though. Another thing they had me do while driving was put a
    CD in the player and sing along with it; Goodnight, Ladies. I guess when that got back to New York and
    listend to it, they dumped the idea pretty quickly.

    When we got back to Hopedale, we stopped at Cumberland Farms for a half-gallon of milk. Then we
    went to Draper Field. Dave and Michael had been discussing a problem with the picture in the folder
    since Thursday morning. They had sent a couple of the guys to CVS to take care of it. Dave called them
    and they said they were on their way back. A few minutes later they arrived. They got more pictures of
    me opening and closing the folder. They also needed me to speak a couple of lines that they’d dub in
    later. When I had changed out of the wetsuit, I had put on my regular clothes, but they needed me in the
    Bond suit for one more thing. I forget what it was, but after that was done, I got back to my Henry Fonda
    in Golden Pond look. It was about time to head home, but one of the guys didn’t want to leave the
    parking lot without raising a little dust with the Mustang. I got to ride along for a couple of 360s. Then it
    was back to Tammie for the conclusion.

    At Tammie, plans were discussed for a while and then Dave and Michael left and set up behind the
    McGee’s fence. The rest of us waited and listened to John Dee playing his keyboard on his porch on
    Elm Street. It took so long that I began to wonder if Elaine might think I was going to be as late as I had
    been the night before, and leave for the My Kind of Town pizza party without me, but at about 5:20 we got
    the call. I drove around the block and into the driveway. I walked up the stairs, carrying the purchase
    from Cumberland, and later, in New York, they dubbed in, "Hi, Ma. I got the milk." Dan Malloy, Aug. 2005.

    Almost nine years after I posted the My Kind of Town memories above, it occurred to me that I should
    add what happened after the taping. Here it is, as well as I can remember now.

    The second day of taping was on Friday, and that night they had a big pizza party at the high school
    cafeteria for everyone who was going to the studio in NYC the next day. 200 of us. We gathered by the
    high school the next morning. One of the busses broke down before it got there, so a bunch went by
    car. The bus I was on lost its air conditioning (or maybe never had it - don't remember) and we stayed a
    while at a rest stop on the Mass Pike until another came for us.

    When we got to the studio, they made sure Elaine and I were seated along the aisle. Somewhere in
    the middle of the program the host came up and started talking to Elaine. What kind of a guy was I, etc.
    Then they showed a couple of pages of the form I had filled out - blank lines, a couple of places saying
    what a dull guy I am, etc. Then he told her that she didn't know the real me, or something like that. The
    whole idea of keeping what I was doing away from her was to get her reaction. They started showing
    things such as what appears to be me dangling below a helicopter, etc. I think they got the reaction they
    were looking for. Our prize was a see-through kayak. We used it a few times but I preferred the one we
    already had, so eventually I gave it away. One family won a septic system worth about $25,000 and
    another won an RV worth over $10,000 as I recall. In the septic one, the wife was at the studio not
    knowing anything about it and the husband was at home. They projected what was going on at home
    for her to see from the studio. They made a big deal of the first flush. The judge from town arrived to
    preside over it. They had Rich Little there, although I don't recall that they ended up with him on screen.
    They also had Joan....whatshername's daughter. Rivers. Melissa Rivers, I think the name is. We had
    also been taped earlier in the week, before my secret agent thing, to be part of the simulated nude
    calendar skit. We were carrying a kayak down by the pond. Not the transparent one. Anyway, after I got
    into the other thing, they told us they probably wouldn't use that because they were trying to spread it
    around to as many people as possible.

    It was on the air about a month later. I remember it as being at the time of Katrina. We were waiting for it
    to come on and they were showing the satellite view of Katrina over the Gulf. I remember saying, wow,
    that's a pretty big storm.

    My Kind of Town had been in Europe for some time and we heard that it was popular in England. ABC
    had contracted with a production company to produce seven episodes. They cancelled after ours. I
    don't think ours was the worst. I think it was just that by then, or probably before then, they saw that this
    wasn't going to make it. Maybe it was just that this country is too big for something like that. In smaller
    countries, a large segment of the population would be somewhat near the towns featured and might
    take more of an interest. The first show here was from a town in Wisconsin, I think, and the second was
    Alabama.

    A week after it was on, we were in Maine and went into a grocery store. A guy working at the fish counter
    recognized Elaine. A year or more later I was getting gas in Worcester. The guy at the station noticed
    that it said Hopedale on my jacket and he asked if I was that guy on that program. Our fifteen minutes of
    fame came in bits and pieces spread out over a few years.

                                                           
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