The February 15th PITCH was our most intense to date, thanks to a ready-to-rock audience, and our savvy performers Dan Glass, Flloyd, Jason Wachtelhausen and Yamaneika Saunders, and of course our guest Editor-in-Chief Nancy Birnes, and Publisher (and TV host) Bill Birnes from UFO Magazine!
Do you want to believe? We wanted to believe in alien abduction when 7:00 PM rolled around and our star editors were nowhere in sight. Thanks to a scheduling snafu on our end (whoops!), Nancy and Bill Birnes were given the wrong start time. But — being true pros in their various fields — an on-stage call to Bill’s cell whisked them into the theater faster than imaginable (teleportation?), they came waltzing in with smiles, handing out free issues of UFO Magazine to the crowd as they made their way right down to PITCH’s on-stage Editor’s Desk …ready to roll! We could hardly introduce the show before they began telling us and the audience alternately fascinating/chilling UFO-related conspiracies and stories… with the audience eating up every word. They’re fabulous!
We were proud to have the world’s one-and-only “UFO power couple” (a.k.a. the real Mulder and Scully) as our guest editors. Nancy, as Editor-in-Chief of UFO Magazine since 2003, and Bill, as Publisher of UFO and host of The History Channel’s UFO Hunters (sooo… recommended!) have not only helped break every major UFO-related story you may (or may not) have heard of, but have often had a hand in it!
And so PITCH was on…
First up was writer and documentarian Dan Glass. Besides being a rugged dead-ringer for Johnny Depp or Ethan Hawk (handsome!), Dan ended up presenting one of the most gripping stories yet on the PITCH stage. It involved a piece he was researching for Wired magazine about a Manhattan resident who claimed to have the ability to make crystals appear on the skin of her hands and arms (as well as have an implant). Dan, a journalist (who’s written for Discover, Wired.com and NPR) relayed his experience with the woman, expressing his internal frustrations as a journalist having to cover such a story, and stick to the truth. Natural assumption would be that the woman a crank? But was she? The woman showed Dan the crystals in a baggie. What does a writer do with this kind of information? …suddenly, Nancy Birnes had questions for Dan! Nancy asked for a specific time-line about how Dan actually saw the crystals appear on her skin. Dan laid it out. Then Nancy had more questions! Dan had answers! Then Bill had questions! And Dan had answers! Soon, the PITCH stage began to resemble Woodward and Bernstein interviewing Howard Hunt’s secretary right there in front of the audience…
Turns out stories like Dan’s (or Dan’s interview subject for Wired) are what Nancy deals with all day long as Editor of UFO. It’s her job to weed out the “cranks” from those reporting genuinely unexplainable phenomenon. She’s a believer, but a seasoned skeptic! But Dan is a seasoned journalist… had they both met their match? Hard-boiled!
Dan then surprised everybody by then bringing out an alien doll that his interview subject gave him (she apparently has hundreds in her Soho apartment, modeled after aliens she has met) and demonstrated how the woman asked Dan if he could see the doll “changing color.” Nancy’s conclusion? Dan’s subject was probably a hoax (or delusional). Dan seemed to agree, expressing his doubt not in a yes or no, but in his overall presentation about his experience covering the story.
Dan Glass is a natural speaker and a great storyteller, not to mention a tough journalist (and filmmaker) who isn’t afraid to “go there” with oddball subject matter… interesting combination! Look out for this guy!
Bill Birnes then chimed in and explained how, as “ufologists” (yes, that’s a real term), he and Nancy spend a lot of time digging through claims, accounts, evidence and facts to uncover not what UFOs and unexplained phenomenon are, but what they aren’t. As host of History’s UFO Hunters, he and his team often took UFO cases old and new and then picked them apart, analyzed each and every reported detail with hard logic and physical experiments, separately, until they’d eliminated the possible from the impossible. Whatever remains, however improbable, must be part of the truth. The ol’ Arthur Conan Doyle approach!
Although sometimes the resulting equation is that Bill and Nancy sometimes get a little too close to the truth. As example, Bill shared the controversy surrounding the cancellation of UFO Hunters and how a key 2009 episode sparked a political campaign debate. Fascinating story! (you can see all those details here… brace yourself).
“A high majority of what we’re presented with turns out to be untrue or explainable.” Nancy told Greg and I over drinks after the show, while we were discussing Dan Glass’ story. She went on to say that the remaining minority is where the real study of UFOs and the paranormal begin. And it’s their job as researchers in this field to keep the line separating the two pushed as far to the side of (our known) reality as possible. Not that they both don’t enjoy the company of colorful freaks with boundless personalities (how could they not?)
Downtown NYC art/performance/music/drag legend Flloyd was up next. Through the years, we’ve seen Flloyd do everything from tear his wig off to release a stream of fake blood down his body during a drag number on the outdoor stage at Wigstock (he’s a featured performer in Wigstock: the Movie) to appearing stark naked in a fright wig and with knives attached to his fingers on stage at Limelight as a contestant in the King and Queen of New York competition (leaving a pre-prison host Michael Alig speechless), not to mention the unspeakable antics with his 00′s band 3Puen. Flloyd has always had the ability to make even downtown jaded art audiences uncomfortable… with ease!
But he kept the ineffable theatrics in the trunk for the night, instead sharing with the audience and editor a story about a camping trip he went on with friends years ago to what sounds like a lost location from Leonard Nimoy’s In Search of… First the lake that Flloyd and friends began camping near seemed to have a sinister mind of it’s own (even stealing some of Flloyd’s jewelry) that made their inner tubs hover around by themselves. When he and his friends fled the possessed lake in terror, Flloyd later found himself asleep in the back of a station wagon with the back hatch open…only to be disturbed repeatedly by Bigfoot (no, really) who kept tugging at the corner of his sleeping bag from outside the car (omnivorous missing links can be so needy). The teen camping trip from hell ended with Flloyd passing out at a friend of a friend’s house nearby, only to wake up unknowingly in the middle of the night in a pitch-dark room with hundreds of red eyes staring at him. When he flicked on the light he saw all the red eyes belonged to figures and photographs of a giant collection of Nazi memorabilia (which the room was filled with). Flloyd is naturally funny and also a born metaphysical-type, who speaks with a dour, rhythmic delivery. Naturally, the audience ate it up, alternately howling and gasping.
And of course, Nancy had questions! Blunt ones! It turns out Flloyd isn’t afraid of psychedelics (oh, really?) and Nancy cheerfully revealed that being “under the influence” does not disqualify one from her attention as editor of UFO Magazine.
“Drugs open up human perception to experience things that might not otherwise be experienced.” she confessed, “things that we as UFO researchers pay attention to.” So UFO Magazine now joins High Times as one of the few mainstream publications that being on drugs doesn’t disqualify you as a writer.
“I loved Flloyd, he’s amazing!” Nancy told me later, asking; “Now tell me again, what are some of those other things he’s done?” I had no idea where to begin.
We felt lucky getting Flloyd for the PITCH stage, and the audience loved him. He’s a guarantee performer. His chronological day-in-the-life is the source material for a thousand psychedelic screwball comedies. Ask him to tell you about the time in the 80′s Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers tricked him into eating macaroni salad.
On with the show…
Jason Wachtelhausen was next. We’ve had the honor of performing with Jason in other shows, and when he told us he had a great UFO story involving family members and missing chunks of time, we knew he’d be perfect. Jason went on to tell Nancy and the audience about his father’s trip to Woodstock back in the 60′s, a time and place where missing chunks of time weren’t all that unusual. But this particular instance, and the way Jason relayed it, was a chiller. Long before Jason was even conceived, his father and some friends were in car on the way to the famed music festival. After some spooky stuff happened, some of them noticed odd physical changes in themselves and their vehicle. And — fast forward through a lot of creepy details that the audience at PITCH gasped at — they arrived lost in a nearby small town only to pick up a paper and couldn’t explain how four whole days had mysteriously been lost. This was before they got to Woodstock! The fact that Jason’s childhood development included his father sitting him on his knee and telling him this story is a testament to Jason, we think.
“Jason’s story is exactly the kind of thing we like to investigate” Bill told everyone. Look for details about Jason’s story in a future issue of UFO!
“One of the things about being Editor of UFO is that I not only have to understand the validity of their story, but I also have to figure out if they’re a good writer or not.” Nancy told the crowd (UFO consists mostly of lengthy essays on UFO cases and phenomenon old and new, as well as long articles exploring various theories). Well, Jason may be a bit hard to figure out at times (he’s complex!), but he definitely falls into that category of being a good writer, having written for AdBusters and Wired (as well as entrepreneuring his own storytelling events in NYC), our eyes and ears can attest to that!
Things were getting intense! So…
“Damn! I been backstage sucking down beers and listenin’ to creepy UFO talk!” Yamaneika Saunders declared as she hit the stage, “You people are scarin’ me!” It was true, the mood at PITCH had become downright moody and therapeutic. But Yamaneika broke the mood and revved things up. As a regular stand-up comedian at places like Caroline’s and Def Comedy Jam, Yamaneika naturally got people laughing right off the bat. But then she abandoned her comedy routine to confess a creepy extraterrestrial childhood memory! See the effect Nancy and Bill Birnes were having? But it was a funny one. It seems when Yamaneika was a toddler she could see a lot of activity out of her bedroom window, particularly the view of a neighbor’s front door. A neighbor who had a lot of girlfriends visiting. Somebody, at some point, told her that the neighbor (name withheld) was a pimp for “extraterrestrial prostitutes” and that the visiting women were all aliens. This had a big impact on her developmental years. Things got creepy again when she began seeing a shape-shifting diaper bag in her nursery that spoke to her telepathically, which potty trained her quickly because she became afraid of wearing diapers! Her straight face and serious delivery of all of this as the audience howled with laughter made it all the funnier. And it doesn’t mean we were mocking her inner-most secrets confessions, it’s a testament to Yamaneika’s unique talent as a performer. Comic genius!
“I loved Yamaneika’s story so much!” Nancy said, “In all seriousness, childhood extraterrestrial stories are of particular interest to ufologists.”
“Yamaneika is a great showman.” Bill told us later. He should know, Bill Birnes father and George Burns started out in vaudeville show business together! They were called “The Burns Brothers,” named after the coal trucks they used to gather stray coal from to do soft-shoe dancing and improv comedy in bars on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Their real names were Abraham Kaplan and George Birnbaum, and George’s real name is part of how Bill got his last name (but that’s a whole other story, ask Bill to tell you about it some time!) Who knew!
Did you know that Bill and Nancy are also in the 2009 sequel/remake Race to Witch Mountain? Basically playing themselves?
Well, with all that out of the way, it was time for PITCH’s audience pitches! There were some doozies, and the audience discussion started to get real “heavy.” But we have to admit, this one was our favorite:
Name: Gustov Lanough
Why do you want to write for UFO Magazine: Free vacation!
What is your story/article idea for UFO Magazine? I want to find the hidden opening to inner hollow Earth in the North Pole (or is it Greenland?) and explore its hidden communities and cities. I’d like to do a Robin Leech’s Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous-style tour guide of the hottest and most exclusive inner Earth alien resorts and exclusive alien inner Earth vacation spots… where the elite inner Earth aliens see and be seen. I want to give outer Earth humans a glimpse of the inner Earth alien jet set. I’m willing to go under cover! (first class!)
Did Nancy think this one would be good for the pages of UFO? Well, no. But she loved it!
Thanks to our audience (you’re all awesome!) and our performers (Dan Glass, Flloyd, Jason Wachtelhausen and Yamaneika Saunders) and UFO Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nancy Birnes and UFO Magazine Publisher and host of UFO Hunters Bill Birnes, for contributing to one of our most entertaining PITCH’s yet! The truth is out there!
The next PITCH is just around the corner…