I hope the reader reads this with as much humor as I have reflecting on it.
About 3 years ago I announced that I would appear on TV again. I had taken about 5 years off. I had gotten tired of the same talking head moments, the same questions, the same answers. It was over exposure at commenting rather than exploring. Boring. I was surprised at how many offers I got. I was also surprised to discover the truth of what an old documentary producer had warned me—things had changed. In other words, it went from cheap to really cheap and unprofessional now.
When I first became the object of TV documentary interest in 1999, production companies were given huge budgets—sometimes up to half a million. They paid your way out, had a car and driver to pick you up at the airport, take you to your hotel, and then you went with them wherever need be.
When they would visit me, they’d take up a day or so. If you work, it is money lost. I never knew there was a standard $500.00 honorarium. I calculated had I received such a stipend, I would be $18,500.00 richer today just from their visits. If they need you in Los Angeles, it is a 5 hour drive there and back for me. Adding several hours filming, it takes up two days. More time off from work.
Investigating mysteries is a hobby with me. I do not receive payment.
A few times I had been offered the honorarium (that’s how I learned such a thing existed). I also realized these were the most professional producers out there. So a few times I actually got a stipend.
I never did “Reality TV.” None of the producers doubled at it either. They only did documentaries. Reality TV was fake to them. Reality TV doesn’t even rate fake news. It’s fake people and no news.
Years and years ago I was approached by a Reality TV show to guest. I shuddered. I was to give them a good story to investigate in the Bermuda Triangle. They would investigate it at night. Then they wanted me to appear on skype. how cheap can one get? I didn’t have skype. The production assistant, whose name I still recall because his surname was Golem (my Jewish agent in New York started some incantation to protect herself), ask me to go to Kinkos and use one of their computers for the interview. How really cheap! I told them to tell their host to talk into a cell phone and act like he was taking instructions from me. Thank God. I dodged a bullet.
That was my one experience. I felt it justified my snobbery.
Starting 3 years ago, I started receiving offers from Reality TV again. Shudders. But it was for my own show, so I listened. You never know! I didn’t know how much power I would have, so if I could keep it honest and substantive, why not?
After a lengthy build up, after I essentially gave the production company the whole cast for the show, I discovered a few others got snuck in, one of whom I wouldn’t be in the same room with except to witness his execution. I was also told they would decide what I investigate. I basically go through the motions. With all my baggage behind me, I am to put myself at the whim of a Reality TV producer who doesn’t know anything about the subject matter? I said I couldn’t make the sizzler.
They went ahead with some of my cast and pushed a sizzler to Science Channel.
Soon after I was approached by an Irish based production company. They were interested in pitching me to star in a “muscular curiosity” TV series of my adventures. These were British and honest. They would not presume to tell me what to investigate. I was reminded that this is not Reality TV, and they don’t make that. Most honest American documentaries are made by British production companies now because Brits are honest and substantive. Most American Reality TV is made by American companies because they are S&M people and not journalists.
Months and months passed. I finally asked what happened. International channels hadn’t picked it up yet. I was told to be patient. But I knew after this long and with this poor communication I could not work with this.
More months passed. Another British film company approached me to do a series for Science. The production assistant would be back in touch with me in a week and we could chat. Weeks passed. Again an email—next week we’ll connect after he talks to more of his principles. Several more weeks. An apology. I told him that Science is still considering a series that I was supposed to star in. Did you know that? No response– ever.
In this time, I had been approached by Ancient Aliens and In Search of. . . and because I couldn’t fly to LA to be interviewed they dropped me.
Most wanted me to talk about the Bermuda Triangle, for which I am regarded as the world’s expert. But they would find another “head” short notice to fill in if I refused.
The Cousteaus were getting their own show. My participation in one or more episodes was dragged out while I did a lot of gratis research to find a relative of a missing pilot. In fact, the producers asked me to give them cases to build shows around. Then crickets after lots of research done.
I’m beginning to forget how many producers have contacted me. Fortunately.
But then there was one Canadian production company that dragged out talks for months. The main producer finally contacted me. He reminded me that they are Canadians, so not a lot of money but nice people. They would not be able to come to me. They group their interviews in Los Angeles because they are so budget restrained. They even wanted me to talk about true crime and perhaps take them to the Black Dahlia body dump location. This would mean a day driving there, a day driving them around, and a day riving back. I asked about the honorarium. (Earlier, the head producer had offered to tell me there was one.) It was $150 bucks! That’s not even gas money! I said $500 was the US standard. The producer agreed, but said he had to square it with the network. I knew that was BS. He said he’d be in touch. I never heard from him again.
I was approached by another production company, again for Science Channel. Science wasn’t going to pick up the other production company’s attempt. I electrified the researcher, and like the others they got a free copy of my latest book. He was so excited that on Thanksgiving week 2018 he was going to try and get a conference call with the lead producers. Months went by. He cautioned me to be patient. They have a good relationship with the network. More months. Finally I am contacted by the new producer. The show has been greenlit by Science! They have already picked their “network approved” cast and told them what they are going to investigate. I was now an after-thought.
. . .But due to my dominance of the subject, they wanted to include me in some way. Well, I knew from the first attempt with Science that the leads were paid 5K per episode. What capacity did they now want me after-the-fact and how much did it pay? He asked if I could make a suggestion. Since my position was so nebulously defined, I said forget it.
Frankly, I wasn’t interested in being some boring talking head again. He responded and said since my position was such on the topic, they were planning on having their cast approach me and use me as the sounding board for what they should investigate. Hmm.
In real life I run my expeditions like a mixture of Mission Impossible, Indiana Jones, and Jason and the Argonauts. So I said if I could be the role like Alex Baldwin in MI it would essentially be true to life. He thanked me for keeping the conversation going. He would discuss with his other producers and be in touch. Never heard anything, and as of this writing the season has already been filmed. (Since I know everybody out there I knew where the dives were and when, etc. )
Meanwhile another wave of requests came in. Geraldo Rivera is coming out of the closet about his experience in the Triangle for Famous and Frightened on the Travel Channel. I was to be interviewed and put it all in perspective. I did lots of fact checking to uncover similar encounters (I was told what his encounter had been about). I said I would fly to Los Angeles. This sounded exciting! All I asked: can you book an early flight so my sister can take me to the airport before work, and a return flight in the evening so she can pick me up after work? That was OK. I asked will there be someone to pick me up down there and take me to the studio? That seemed too inconvenient for them. The producer said he’d try and come to me. I was a little skeptical. Like the others, they were based on the east coast and arrange only for a day of filming talking heads in LA. Friday had been the scheduled day. Now, he told me he’d come to me on Sunday. I said cool. But not so surprisingly I was built up for nothing. Days later, he apologized and said he had to suddenly return to New York on Saturday. Please be patient. I knew from how productions schedule that he always had to return on Saturday. It was their unprofessional way of ditching me.
With all the talk that a Science TV series is coming out, another production company approached me about appearing in their documentary—documentary, at last! Not Reality TV! But it would mean flying out to Fort Lauderdale for a day. I said no. Then the producer asked, could I have an associate sit in for me in Florida and speak for me? Documentary? Oh-oh! No!
At the same time a popular adventure show wanted me for a two part episode with their well known host. It would take place off Florida—might even go to Buoy No 7 in Miami harbor! This was exciting! From past experience, I knew these were good people! Is this an all expense paid trip? I asked first. “Yes.” But it then took weeks to confirm the details. What hotel, and how do you get me from the airport to the hotel? Then I was told maybe the filming would be at Daytona Beach or Orlando. What does that have to do with any Triangle case? They needed a coast. I wasn’t too happy. Florida has a coast. California has a coast. Why not just film me off the coast in LA? It looks the same. But no they were special scenes for me which needed the Florida coast. Now I was to fly into Miami again. It would be a blur tour—one day in, the next day out. Uh? I asked again: Airport to hotel? Finally, I got a straight answer. They would reimburse me if I had receipts. No thanks. Months of build up for a straight answer 10 days before the shooting day. Why are things so cheap now? I asked. Youtube, I was told.
They didn’t tell the host. Days before the schedule fly out and filming I was to guest on Art Bell’s old radio show. I was told that the host of the TV show was “stoked” I was going to appear on the TV episodes. I said I had withdrawn a week ago. Well, this started some problems. The next day one of the TV producers called me and wanted to know if they should book me or not for the flight. Good heavens—though nice people it is not surprising I had communication problems with them. I said “No.”
At this same time I was going through months of drag out with another New York producer who wanted to build up a show with me. She missed the designated times to call and finally when I asked she apologized and said next Monday she would make a note to herself to call me—so essentially she would make a private note to herself to call me in the future at an undisclosed time. Dodged another bullet.
I now turn down all offers. I even turned down one being made by a British producer I know. This will also be for Discovery Science. Although he is honest, it simply isn’t worth my time and efforts anymore.
To cap it off, the Science series has gone to a self-published author. He was the one used to stand in for me in the sizzler that wasn’t picked up. He’s now their talking head expert. His self-published book came out recently. A member of the press, Andrew Griffith, also a book reviewer, contacted me and told me that this author therein questioned whether Gian J. Quasar was really my true name. He put it in quotes. “Gian J. Quasar.” Griffith declared this to be “Weird” and “petty.” I had to show my ID to prove this is really my name. This self-published author followed me on Twitter and could easily have DM’d me and asked me if this is my real name. But obviously you get an idea of his research level. I blocked him.
In a real published book, the New York Times bestseller Night Moves (Putnam, 2013), the hero Doc Ford carries one of my books (They Flew into Oblivion) as a guide in his adventure into searching for Flight 19. The author, Randy Wayne White, did his work and knew this was my real name. This same book (They Flew into Oblivion) inspired a Resolution in Congress. Several of my books have inspired lengthy investigative documentaries. I had to sign releases, etc. No one ever questioned whether this was my legal name.
So if what I have written above is the standard of Reality TV, I am fortunate nothing went through. I have dodged many bullets and no longer intend to stand on the firing range.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.