The Freeware Hall Of Fame

The Story Behind The Picture


Caller Brandon Olk downloaded this picture from the FHOF BBS and asked eight questions. They caught the spirit of the thing, and presented an ideal opportunity to tell the story.

Is this for real?

Is that really me? Yes.

Is that really you?

See above.

The one on the left?

With the Hawaiian shirt and wedgie shorts. Tropic chic.

What's the deal?

My appearance with Johnny Carson that is now a show biz legend insiders call "Carson's Greatest Interview."

Why were you on?

The director looked 8" over my head and chose someone else who turned green on the spot. Seeing an opening my daughter said, "Take my father." The director looked down, saw me, and did.

What is Johnny *really* like?

There's a reason the desk is so large: he's a centaur.

Did you have a good time?

A good time? You could say that. Here's the story, for the very first time in print, of how fate chanced to give Rey Barry the time of his life.

This happened at MGM-Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. In the summer of 1992 I spent a day there with my younger daughter, Apple, and my friend and former Charlottesville sysop, Scott Johnson, who had recently moved to Orlando.

At MGM we walked into a gig called "Superstar Television" where a member of the audience is chosen to appear on stage while a film clip from a TV show is run which includes him in the action and dialogue. At least it includes him on the huge TV monitors the audience sees above the stage. You and your voice are seamlessly blended into the film clip, a kind of cinematic Music Minus One.

Each show has about 6 skits needing a human participant, clips from I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners, and the unquestioned plum of plums, a Johnny Carson interview. They assigned me to that and issued a regulation Hawaiian shirt and a 2-page script, with 5 minutes to dress and memorize. Which I did. You see no script in that photo.

While the Left Brain memorized the script, the Right Brain - the schemer - decided Johnny will not interview Rey Barry, Realtor and computer nerd. He will interview Malachi Stack, an Irishman with a different background. Malachi Stack is a 50-year-old apprentice in the "hay, feed, provision and hardware business."

Note that he's still an apprentice at age 50. Malachi is a bum, an alcoholic ne'er-do-well. And he's real enough. He's a minor character in Thornton Wilder's "The Matchmaker," a lively farce in which widow Dolly Levi sets her cap for a wealthy merchant of Yonkers.

At college I scored my greatest (and only) triumph playing Malachi with the Virginia Players. I had a convincing brogue, great make-up, and the script gives the actor an opportunity to astound the audience: Malachi the bum finds a wallet loaded with money - and returns it.

As the drunk starts offstage to bring the wallet to its owner, he turns to the audience and says, "You're surprised?" And of course they always are.

One night - it was a Wednesday, a glorious Wednesday - one glorious Wednesday night I tasted the ultimate high of a stopped show: me standing there, holding, while the audience was caught so flat-footed surprised, so flabbergasted, so ground under the heel of my perfect timing they APPLAUDED ME WILDLY FOR ONE SOLID MINUTE. Someone got bored during my triumph and timed it.

Malachi then struts back and forth doing a monologue explaining that he's a drunk, not a thief, that drunkards have philosophies of life, and his philosophy is "one vice at a time." He gets his laugh and thereafter pretty much melts into the scenery.

As any reasonable, mature man would do after that night I committed the rest of my life to perfecting the role of Malachi Stack. You never know when opportunity will knock again. They might make a movie.

They did. I rented it from Blockbuster. Wallace Ford plays Malachi. Wallace Ford? My Malachi is SO much better I could cry. But no matter. They might make a musical.

They did. And they filmed it. "Hello Dolly!" The role of Malachi is played by .... no one. He was cut.

Then, August 8, 1992, at MGM, opportunity did knock again and my Right Brain heard it. Despite the Hawaiian shirt, the camera, and the wedgie shorts, Carson's guest was going to be the greatest 50-year-old apprentice in the hay, feed, provision and hardware business with an exaggerated brogue the world has ever seen.

I am nothing in this world if not a great line reader, and I do not joke now. It's a gift, honed on stage and perfected through years in broadcasting. I sight read with more proper emphasis than most actors get after a week of rehearsal. 5 minutes to learn? 5 minutes gave me a Richard Burton mastery of that dumb script.

Malachi brought the house down. They roared. If Carson hadn't been on film he'd have held for the laughs. The scene ended to thunderous applause and I'm sure I grinned like an idiot. It was Wednesday night all over again only better. This time the applause didn't stop. 30 seconds. 60 seconds. 90 seconds!

Then, applause still not abating, the revolving stage rumbled into action to swing me off in triumph.

Backstage I'm giddy. It was THAT good? Before I can ask anyone, the director's aide rushed up shouting, "They want to see more of you!" and dragged me back on stage. It WAS that good! I'm being discovered!

The director, 6' 3" in her stockings, and me, 5' 7" in Rockports, held a vertical but otherwise forgettable interview for half a minute, after which I was applauded all the way back to wardrobe where I handed in that hideous aloha shirt.

The round of skits ended 10 minutes later and the mere mortals and I rejoined our loved ones and sysops. My daughter asked, "Do you want to know what happened?" And she told me.

As the Carson skit came to its hilarious close, and they agree it was hilarious, an electrical storm knocked out some circuits and the APPLAUSE signs refused to turn off. The director, a quick thinker, pantomimed me to "wave applause in" and I didn't have to be mimed twice. Well, I did but never mind. I waved it in, and in it came. And came. And came.

The revolving stage was repaired first so off I went, but the director couldn't move on to the next skit because the audience wouldn't stop obeying the APPLAUSE sign. Don't ever sell tall broads short. Her Right Brain kicked in and she sent the aide to drag me back.

Interview! They'd have to shut up to hear it.

The photo? That grainy JPEG? Daughter, from her seat in the audience, took a shot of the monitor. The image occupies 1/8th" in the middle of a 35mm frame. Darkroom genius John Stubblefield, selflessly putting his vast photo expertise and laboratory facilities at the disposal of my checkbook, got a heck of a good print, considering.

Later, Alan Powell did a great job enhancing a large and small digital version.

I mailed a copy to Carson asking him to autograph it but he refused, so I signed one as "Malachi Stack" and sent it to him.

What's with the shorts?

A kilt would have been all wrong. Malachi's an Irishman, not a Scot.



On September 16, 2005, thirteen years after my superstardom and eight years
after putting that page on the web, I received this email:


I was the technical director the day you were there. The MC's name is Erin Somers.

The shows re-created on the show were (in show order)

The Today Show with Dave Garroway
Howdy Doodie
I Love Lucy
General Hospital
Gilligan's Island
CBS News - Live From the Moon
The Three Stooges
Golden Girls
Latenight with David Letterman
and of course The Tonight Show

Contrary to your website the "Honeymooners" was never a show segment. Howdie
Doodie was later removed to make room for Home Improvement.

Scott Justis

Scott wrote that he's still doing tech direction, though now for custom corporate
shows in Houston, TX. Superstar Television remained a popular attraction but the
sponsor (Sony) canceled it in the spring of 1999.

Searching Google for Erin Somers I found a gal of that name who was a female
sex talk show host. Scott says that's her. "She used to work as a waitress at one
of the many Orlando strip clubs and was very into that scene."

[Aside to Erin: anytime you want to talk sex with an Irish apprentice in the hay,
feed, provision, and hardware business, you know where to find me.]

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Page last updated Sept 19, 2005