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Posts Tagged ‘Fox Kids Club’

The Day I Met Hillbilly Jim

January 13, 2011 | by

Part four of a five-part story. Read part 1, part 2, and part 3.

A young Josh meets Hillbilly.

Hillbilly Jim lumbers into the studio wearing sunglasses.

I am on time this time. Early, even. Because I’ve been briefed I say, “Hi Mr. Morris. I’m Josh.”

His hand engulfs mine, pumps up and down. He is massive. Six-foot-seven, broad shouldered, and suspiciously orange.

“Howdy,” he says. “Good to meetcha.”

I am meeting Hillbilly Jim. This is real. I have note cards to tell me which questions I’m supposed to ask. They are stacked up in my hand, which is sweating profusely.

Hillbilly Jim has lost his shirt and is now clothed simply in denim overalls. He sits in a folding chair in front of me. There are lights all around, heat slapping us from a hundred directions, illuminating our faces, Hillbilly’s unnaturally tan, mine ghost white beneath all the makeup.

Action!

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Pot, High School, and Chuck Norris

January 12, 2011 | by

Part three of a five-part story. Click here to read part 1 and part 2.

Hillbilly Jim went through a few incarnations on his path to becoming Hillbilly. Long before he met the Earthquake, he was simply Jim Morris, a large kid from a small town in Kentucky. Then he started wrestling in Tennessee, Canada, working small-time gigs as “Harley Davidson,” an enormous, leather-clad biker. Things got big for Hillbilly when he met with WWF representatives who figured it had been a long enough stretch since a country-boy character had gone national (Haystack Calhoun and the Scufflin’ Hillbillies had retired years before).

They gave him a shot: put him in overalls, wrote him a theme song, threw him into a story line that included getting trained by the most popular wrestler of all time, Hulk Hogan. And now the fans love him. Fourteen-year-old me loves him, too. He is action figured. He wrestles in front of 94,000 people, one of the largest indoor crowds ever assembled, and everyone screams his name.

I’m getting a little experience with crowds myself. I’ve been broadcasting between Fox’s morning and afternoon cartoons for a while now, building up a following of kids who send in their jokes and artwork, hoping I might highlight them on TV. It is Josh’s Jokes, Josh’s Gallery, Josh popping up right after Animaniacs, sixty seconds at a time, talking about composting while Nashville’s children gobble up their after-school cereal. But not just kids. I’ve become a household name for everyone between the ages of five and twenty-five, and all the parents know me, too, because they are the ones who have to drive their kids to our events, to the wave pool or the zoo or the Nashville Knights hockey games.

The hockey games are the scariest. Ten thousand drunk fans who just want to see blood. The TV people put me in ice skates. I’m asked to waddle out into the rink before the game starts, right before the national anthem is sung by a local country western star, and I’m supposed to invite everyone to come to our Fox Kids Club booth after the first period for an autograph. I don’t slip, but as I thank everyone for their attention and wave good-bye, the “fuck you!”’s and "suck on it!"'s drown out my loud-speakered voice.

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When Cable Got Me

January 11, 2011 | by

Part two of a five-part story. Click here to read part 1.

Some of the author’s earlier head shots, marking the beginning of his television career.

So now I’m a thirteen-year-old boy with a year of cable stuffed into all my brain pockets. I’m not sure it’s helping. I’m too sensitive. After surviving the first fifteen minutes of The Exorcist on a channel I’m not supposed to watch, I couldn’t sleep for days. I saw an episode of Gunsmoke that made me lock myself in my room and cry.

I like the simple and hopeful story lines the best. Like Hillbilly’s. He was just a good ol' boy sitting in the front row at a few WWF events until, spotted in the crowd, he was given the chance to get in the ring. Rowdy Roddy Piper (a bad guy) tried to lure him into his own training camp, but it was ultimately Hulk Hogan (a good guy) who befriended the bearded giant from Mud Lick and trained him to wrestle real human beings (as opposed to pigs and dogs). The Hulk gave Hillbilly his first pair of real wrestling boots. They are friends. I believe.

I’m in a tractor beam of television. The MTV videos quickly get more racy, the WWF plotlines more outrageous. I soak it all up, let it sink down deep.

So when friends of my parents suggest that we kids get involved in modeling and acting, maybe even television commercials, I feel, despite my shyness, a funny little tug. My brother, sister, and I have “that look,” the friends say, that “all-American look” sought by catalogues and commercials, and we could make one hundred dollars for an hour-long photo shoot.

One hundred dollars for an hour of standing in front of a camera is absurd. Having painted houses with our dad, we know exactly what an hour of work feels like and what it pays. We’ve spent enough of them with rollers and brushes and blocks of sandpaper to do the math, and realize that this new equation is remarkable.

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