Sunday, September 18, 2016


By Tinsel & Tine Editor, Le Anne Lindsay

I think most of us agree the first Reality TV show was MTV's The Real World and the first competition reality show - Mark Burnett's Survivor.  But did you know there was an event that both preceded and combined these two institutions?

Back in 1982 the radio station WSAN came up with a publicity stunt that went viral, way before we ever knew the term, and in all places, Allentown PA.  Producer Frank J. Petka, of Tag Visual Media and his partner Writer/Director Pat Taggart from Roxborough and Southwest Philly respectively, are set to release a documentary called The BillBoard Boys which recounts the story of three young men who entered a contest to live up on a Billboard for an undetermined amount of time, to win a modular home worth 18K.  The contestants each got tents and phones. Now your mind automatically thinks, of course you'd have your phone, who would agree to participate without their phone? But remember, this is way before we attached ourselves to our mobile smart devices. Instead, picture an old fashioned desk phone inside a tent, on a billboard, it looks kinda crazy. It also meant other than calling someone, you had no way to entertain yourself, no games, apps, photos, videos, blogging!  I'd never make it.  Each contestant also had to have someone willing to come everyday and send food on a pulley, because if you left the Billboard, even for a moment, you'd be disqualified.

Who would enter such a contest? Well, now and days plenty of people, everyone is looking for their 15 minutes of fame and we're so used to seeing and taking part in reality type stunts for Youtube, and social media. In fact, I'm surprised this contest has not been recreated for cable television. But back then, it wasn't about becoming famous, it was really about winning that modular home!  Allentown was going through a major recession, what we always hear referred to as "The Rust Belt",  the demise of Steel producing cities. Unemployment was at an all time high - therefore, a tremendous amount of entries came into the station and a tremendous number of entries from each would be contestant.

The Chosen Competitors: 

Dalton Young 22, fresh out of the Army, was entered into the contest by his mom, who I guess did not want her son moving back home.

Mike McKay 31, newly married and out of work for sometime. He figured the only way he'd ever be able to afford a home for his bride was to get one for free. Mackay was the Richard Hatch / Snookie / Big Ang of the three - he thrived on the publicity.

Ron Kistler 24, was the quiet contestant, a man of few words, but big determination.

When the spectators left and the three men settled down for their first night in the chill and nagging rain, the noise of the traffic from the exit ramp off I-22 where they were perched began to invade their consciousness. Overhead military and civilian aircraft ferried down the flight path heading for Allentown Bethlehem Easton airfield, at 800 feet and descending, a Boeing 737 makes enough noise to cause blurred vision. The Billboard lights came on at sunset and stayed on all night, so the yellow domed tents glowed within, no matter what the hour. And the winds blowing off blue mountain into the Lehigh Valley, battered against the billboard, keeping the platform in constant motion. It would be, in more than one way, a very long fall. - Jeff Shear Rolling Stone Magazine

Petka and Taggart do a great job of keeping us glued to the outcome as if it were happening all over again, using interviews with Mike Krajasa, the then VP of Station Owner "McMillionaire" Harold G. Fulmer III and other past WSAN DJ's, Station Managers and employees. Philly's own John DeBella of WMMR is interviewed as his morning show used to call Dalton Young every morning for a weather report, since the contestant was photographed wearing a WMMR T shirt while living on the billboard for WSAN. Marketing/PR people of today would never let such a thing happen. Others interviewed are journalists who covered the story, and of course the remaining contestants themselves and their families. The reminiscence also features the madness of the global media circus, the question of exploitation, the crazy length of time it continued on. In between aptly punctuated with clips of Ronald Reagan sympathizing with the loss of the American Dream.

Billy Joel never met Mike MacKay, Ron Kistler or Dalton Young but his blue collar anthem "Allentown" (1982) coincided perfectly with the Living Billboard competition.

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I asked Producer Frank Petka, what drew them to this story 30 years later? 
My production partner and writer/director Pat Taggart just happened to read the 30 year anniversary article of the contest in the local paper in that area, "The Morning Call". From there, he reached out to me and the hunt was on to uncover every person and material related to this story that was in existence. Nearly three years later, the film is complete.

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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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