Mark Frierson - 11/1/03 - Continued

 

Q. You said when you were first contacted were getting ready to move, you also mentioned the David Lettermen Show. How did you get involved with David Lettermen?

A. My ex-wife and I were out shopping at a pet store to get supplies. I noticed a sign that had been posted at the store with entry forms or those little things you tear off with phone numbers on them. The sign had information on it that wanted people and animals to sign up for his stupid human and pet tricks. I looked at her and said "you know I do that hotdog trick, do you think that they would take it seriously?", she said "I donít know."  I called up and entered the competition so they knew I was coming out there. So I went out to the Astro Dome and performed. The audience really ate it up, no pun intended. It went pretty smooth because there were a lot of animals out there with pet performance anxiety they didnít want to do anything they were supposed to do. There were really no decent human acts there that day so it was pretty easy.

Q. So did you make the Letterman Show?

A. Yes, when I finished they told me that they would be calling me, I said "Oh Ya! Iíve heard that before." Sure enough about a week later they called me and told me that I needed to get my stuff together because I was going to New York. I was thinking this couldnít have come at a worse time, I was getting ready to go to Florida and working on the Zombie movie, I donít have time for this. I almost backed out of it but the guy convinced me, he said this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Instead of flying me out all by myself he also flew my wife and my son to New York City. They flew all of us in first class. They put us up in this really nice five star hotel in the city. I couldnít of asked for a better deal.  They put us up there for three days. They treated us very nice. It was the most money I have ever earned for doing the least amount of work so far in my life.

Q. What was David Letterman like?

A. Everyone always asks me what he was like, I just tell them "you tell me, you seen the same thing that I did."  

Q. Did you meet any other celebrities while you were there?

A. No, there was no mingling with the other people because we were in a different green room than all the celebrities. We did have a really nice sandwich tray and drinks though!

Q. What was it the stupid human trick you did?

A. Well when I got there even though I had won in Houston, there were five of us and we had to perform in front of the producer of the show. Then they would determine which of the three of us would go on the show. Fortunately I was one of the ones chosen, I actually went on first. It was pretty cool, what I did was swallow three hotdogs in a row with out chewing them. I had never done three in a row, the most I had ever done before was one. I had tried to do more than one at my house but didnít have much luck. I was very concerned but the producers insisted that I do three, they said three was the magic number in TV. I went back and forth with them about this and I got a little upset with them. As far as I'm concerned I didnít feel like the producers cared about my health, I thought they were only concerned with their ratings and what looked good on TV. I made sure they had medical staff on hand in case there was an accident or something. Fortunately there werenít any problems at all. In fact it went better than anticipated. 

Before I went on stage I was absolutely terrified. Once I set out on the stage everything went great, my friend that saw it told me they couldnít believe how incredibly smooth I looked when I did it and I didnít look nervous at all. They should have seen me before I got out there.

I thought it was pretty amazing to be on the stage at the Ed Sullivan Theater. The theater has such a rich history, I was thinking how ironic it was that I was standing on the very same stage that Elvis, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles had performed on and there are millions of people watching me. Here I am swallowing hotdogs I was thinking how pathetic is this, only in America! I thought my mom is going to be so proud of me. 

The funny thing is even though the theater was as big as it was, with all those lights in your face you can't see past the first row at all. It was probably a good thing with all the people that were in there I might have choked up and been a lot more nervous than I was already. Everything went very smooth and the audience went crazy for it and were clapping very loudly. I donít know if I got a standing ovation or not because I couldnít see them. But it sure sounded like it. It was pretty thrilling, my fifteen minutes of fame again.

Q. How did you get into swallowing whole hotdogs?

A. It was a total fluke. When I was in my late teens as I remember I was working at a grocery store. I was working in the deli and had to close up with two other guys. At night it got pretty slow in the store. We had leftovers from where we served lunch out of, there was still a big pan of hotdog sitting there in the water. They had been there most of the day and we were bored so I was telling them about my involvement in the sideshow business, all the people that I know and some of the stuff I had learned to do. One of the guys said "swallow something for us." I said "what are you talking about I donít even swallow swords", "well swallow something," I donít know what to swallow, so I said "I'll swallowed a hotdog."

I'm thinking to myself I have never done this before, its kind of crazy. I said ok fine each of you give me a buck and I will do it. I didnít really think any of them would have a buck so I wasnít thinking I really was going to have to do it. But all of them came up with a buck so I made two bucks! I grabbed a hotdog and tossed it in and it was gone before I knew it. I amazed myself as much as I did them. At the time I found out I had this ability I donít know how to explain it but again it just seemed to happen by accident. You know most of the people I know who swallow swords professionally can't even duplicate what I do. Its pretty amazing, I have only heard of one other person that can swallow hotdogs whole, I heard they were on Guinness doing this. I would like to go for the record.

Q. How many have you swallowed at one time?

A. The most I have swallowed at one time is five now. I tell people that I am working myself up to a pack a day habit. I figured it out. If I swallow a whole package of hotdogs with each of them being six inches long, I guess your looking at a total of forty eight inches of hotdogs back to back. Thatís quite a backup in your system. Its really not a big deal to do it but you can definitely feel that big lump sitting in your stomach.

Q. What was the record set on Guinness?

A. I heard it was ten but I havenít seen it so as far as I am concerned right now it could be a rumor. Until I hear officially it is going to stay that way. I tell people that I sold out two weeks straight with this act in Frisco, they love it.

Q. Getting back to your artwork, what are some of the other films your banners and gaffs have appeared in?

A. My stuff has been seen in a lot of the Fred Olen Ray movies like the Attack of the Sixty Foot Center Fold, Possessed by the Night and his movie Sideshow. Which was actually one of the better movies he has made. I made a lot of the props that are sitting around in the sideshow itself. It was a lot of my very early stuff, not some of my best creations but it is still my stuff in the movie. He has used a lot of my banners in his movies. In the attack of the Sixty Foot Center Fold my banners have a lot of air time. He also did a movie for HBO called Mom Can I Keep Her, it was about a circus gorilla that gets lose. It's a kids movie and my banners are in there along with Gill Garde. I worked on an episode of the Swamp Thing back when it was on the USA network. I was on the Universal back lot in Florida when it opened it was called the Grotesquery.

Q. Have you ever appeared in a movie?

A. A lot people don't know this but I appeared in a movie released from Troma Films call Viewer Discretion Advised. Although it isnít available on DVD it is on video. I'm actually pictured on the box cover Iím the guy in the yellow hard hat on the lower left hand side. I got involved with the making of this movie because my partner back in Florida, the one I did special effects with, his name is John Mocsary. John and another partner of his named Stan were just about through filming the movie a couple of years before, since then it sat in limbo because they didnít have the money to finish the film and they were still trying to find a distributor to pick up the movie. In order to get a distributor they needed to finish the movie so they were able to get some money together and needed to do some filler shots. So I did stand-in for them on some leg and body shots for different people so they didnít have to go to all the trouble of bringing back any of the original actors.

Q. Was that the only part you played in the movie?

A. No, they did a parody on the Lee Press On Nails and called it the Please Press On Penis.

There is this corny announcer that is standing in the bedroom and walks in on this couple. The man is having a performance problem and the announcer says "if this is you. You should try our products." They had this lazy susan going around with all these different products on it for him to choose from. It comes with an adhesive strong enough to support this two hundred pound man fifty feet in the air. The announcer motions and they cut away to my scene it is a very cartoonist image of me supposedly suspended from a rope to my groin. There is this large girder going across my waist with a rope tied to it giving the impression that I was tied to it, so you never see anything. Of coarse Iím in shorts which you canít see. Iím lying on my back on top of this ladder so it is a forced prospective and my body blocks the ladder out, the beam hides my waist.

Iím suspended over an artificial parking lot which is only six or eight feet off the ground and there are these toy cars being pulled by these thin strings. Iím holding on to a hard hat clutching, screaming at the top of my lungs and kicking my legs so it gave the illusion of me being suspended by my organ.

It is a very, very funny shot it looks like something that should have been in Roger Rabbit. Well anyway that is my claim to fame in that movie. I was totally surprised when it came out and I saw that I was on the box cover, that was just a riot. I went to the chiller theater convention about four or five years ago and went up to their booth where they had the movie and told the guy, who I was and he ended up giving me a free copy of the movie. He was thrilled to meet me so it was pretty funny.

Q. I heard Harry Anderson opened a sideshow shop this summer. I understand he contacted you about your work and you have many items on display and for sale in his shop. How did you get involved with Harry and his new shop?

A. About three months ago I received an email from Harry.  He was interested in my Feegee Mermaid. He wanted some information about the cost, if I could make them and he wanted me to contact him as soon as possible. I answered his email and it turned out that his wife had found my new website. They were planning on opening this new shop which they were going to call Sideshow it is in New Orleans. They were looking to represent different artists whose work fit the theme of their new shop. When he found out about me Harry was quite excited because he didnít know anyone still did this sort of thing. I told him neither did I! (laugh). He was very thrilled to find me and my Feegee Mermaid basically sold itself since he had been looking to buy a mermaid.

Q. What other creations of yours was he interested in displaying and selling at his shop?

A. When he found out that I created more than just mermaids he placed quite a large order and several other large orders which kept me busy for quite some time. The orders included two headed and four legged ducklings, Unicorn Skulls, Yeti and Chupacabra foot casts and many other items.

Q. You went to the opening of Sideshow earlier this summer. Did you enjoy the time you spent with Harry and at his shop?

A. I was pretty busy working most of the time I was there finishing the order. I didnít get to spend a lot of time in his shop mingling with the customers. I was over at Harryís house working on finishing my gaffs while he was at the opening of the shop. He told me that they had a very good first day. I am going to go back down there soon, I love the place and really want to visit with Harry and his wife again.

Their shop itself is doing very well, they are receiving a lot of very positive publicity and have had a lot of visitors. They are selling quite a few of my creations so it has turned out to be a very mutually beneficial partnership that we have.

Q. Can you describe your relationship with Harry Anderson?

A. I donít only consider him to be a client, I consider him to be a friend. Harry is a great person regardless of his status as a celebrity. He is the kind of guy I would just like to hang around with anyways. We have so much in common he is just such a giving and special person.

Q. I understand one of the first Feegee Mermaids you ever made is on display in New Orleans. While you were there did you get the chance to see your mermaid?

A. Yes, it was in the Voodoo store. The store was owned by Indian Tubbitís. He used to have a place down there in the French Quarter called Barristers Gallery he dealt in African exotic art, collectibles, oddities and other curiosities. He purchased my original Feegee Mermaid and the Head of Goliath that I had actually done for the Sun Tabloid many years ago. He bought this Voodoo store and put them on display with the actual articles from the Sun Tabloid. I saw may early work all these years later, my wife and I just stood there and laughed. She said "I cant believe you made these, they donít look anything like your work." I said "tell me about it, I donít even want to lay claim to these." They are quaint in there own way but I have come a long long way. I'm really glad because if I hadnít progressed I donít think I would be as well known as I am today.

Q. I would think that your earlier creations may sell for a lot of money, do you know if they are considered collectibles?

A. They may be, but I donít think most of my early stuff is going to survive because of the type of materials they were made from.

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Interview by John Robinson

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Each month we will try and interview a new performer for the site.  Because of the logistics of it face to face interviews are tough to come by.  A good percentage of the interviews we will be doing will be via e-mail or telephone.  If you are interested in being interviewed for the site drop us a line.

 

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