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
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
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
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,
that I should add what happened after the taping. Here it is, as well as I can remember
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
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
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 from the program. A year or more later I was getting
gas in Worcester. The man 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.
Dan's memories of growing up in Hopedale
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