Chicago 2009: Gary Paul Von Jones

2

Chicago Gary Jones

The famous Gary Jones finally managed to come to Chicago! He had been scheduled to come once before, but had to cancel. Now one may think that only five months after Vancouver, Gary would have nothing new to say. I wish someone had tried to bet me. Not only did Gary have new stories, he had us all laughing SO hard . . . you don’t believe me? See for yourself!

“So this is Chicago. This is a pretty cool town, huh? What’s the name of this River? [Fans shout “Chicago River!”] That’s what they told me (laughs). ‘The Chicago River.’ Right Ok ok. Great great. I love Chicago.

“Do you like my jacket? I thought I’d put on something cool for you guys. I told my 8 yr old boy that I was wearing this jacket here and he said ‘(in a British accent) Bye Dad, and have fun at Hogwarts!’ ‘What?’ ‘(British accent) Have fun at Hogwarts dad in your jacket!’”

Gary told us about how he came to be in SGU’s pilot. “They wanted to know if I was available. Yes, yes I’m available. Whenever they shoot. SO I get to spend the day with Richard Dean Anderson and both of us in camouflage. Richard was fantastic. People always ask what it’s like to work with Richard Dean Anderson, and honestly on the other shows we didn’t spend a lot of time together. Sort of like two ships passing to do our scene and then off. I spent the entire day with Richard Dean and what a blast! I had such a good time. I’ve never seen him so relaxed because you know he had the stress of being a producer on the show before. He’d come up and breeze in and start chatting with the extras and was like, ‘Where are you from? What do you do?’ And it was like, ‘Wow!’ It was great so I think it’s going to be a pretty cool show.

“I read the script and it was like this thick (demonstrates an exaggerated three inches). There’s like a cast of thousands on there. But it’s gonna be awesome. Are you guys looking forward to that show? [Fans clap and cheer] So they’re on a spaceship that can’t get home. I was talking to Rob Cooper and said, ‘so you finally hit upon the formula of literally the show that never ends.’ And he was like, ‘yeah, yeah we did.’ “So now it can just keep going FOREVER! All you need is for someone to go, ‘(in a dorky voice) oh no! we can’t get back to earth’ and there you go! It’s in every script.”

What are you up to now? “I do conventions for Creation and otherwise and travel all over the place. One thing that happened to me a while back; I was at a science fiction TV memorabilia kind of show and I was coming home and I had some stuff in my suitcase and I was getting it scanned at the airport coming through security and I was thinking to myself, “I wonder if something’s going to happen here based on what I have in my suitcase. And you know what security is like at the airport. High alert right? Like they’re sitting there watching TV (sit in the chair on stage, slumped back as low as he can go) and I see my suitcase coming through and I see the guy go like this (Gary half sits up in PDVD_002the chair, looking perplexed). Seriously! I was watching him for that! He totally did it! (Demonstrates again) And he stops it and the conveyer belt reverses. Then he calls his boss over and they’re looking and the thing comes through and the high command comes over and says, ‘(All serious) Sir, is this your bag?’ He asks me to open up the bag. I open the bag and sitting there on top of my clothes… ‘Sir, would you mind telling me what that is?’ I go ‘Certainly, that is a Star Trek phaser (laughs, then points and laughs exaggeratedly at the security guard).’ I didn’t do that, but, you know. Inside my head, (makes a really funny face like he is laughing inside his head!) ‘Certainly, that is a Star Trek phaser.’ I could see that the guy was mortified that he didn’t recognize it and he looked over at the guy [the one that called him over] and said to me, ‘I am going to kick his @$$.’ (Laughs) I guess It’s the one thing that they don’t go over. They look for guns and knives and razors. Apparently they don’t do futuristic weapons! (Makes a phaser noise while pretending to fire it) Set to STUNNED.

“I’m writing a book, too. It’s about me and all of the goofy things that happen in my life. Not Savvy to the Process. (Smiles and nods at us) That’ll give you an indication of what it’s like living with me. Got that title from a painter who came to work on our house. He had to quit and called in a friend of his so I was there with his friend painting and doing some staining. I bought some new interior doors and found out that I had to stain them. So I suggested to the other painter and asked how much to stain the doors. He said about $800. I was like, ‘(hand on his head) Oh my God, oh my God!’ So I said I’d just do it myself. He told me I couldn’t. That I didn’t know how to do it. He was so insulted that he talked me into hiring his friend to do it. I hired this other guy and he comes with this three page email that’s talking about stain coats and temperatures. The guy got this idea that I was an obsessive compulsive (coughs)freak(coughs). There was a paragraph on there written about the owners – my wife and I and our kids and dog! It said, ‘(in a funny voice with a condescending look on his face) Just to give you a heads up about this guy and his family . . . the guy is a TV star. He’s on Stargate.’ The other painter had no clue but now this guy tells him. ‘And he’s NOT savvy to the process!’ This is what the other painter says about me because I wanted to stain doors (laughs). ‘What are you talking about? You don’t know how to stain doors. You’re an actor!’ ‘Well, can’t I act like I know how to stain doors? (Laughs)’”

Can you tell us about all the names your character had? Here we go! This started Gary on the never ending name topic, but I don’t think anyone has any regrets about it! Gary kind of gave us a look that said, ‘OK! You asked for it!’ “You guys just hit the mother load. There’s a story to all those names, Walter and Harriman. Way back, I started as ‘technician,’ just ‘technician’. I’d look through the scripts and I couldn’t tell if it was my line because sometimes there was another technician. Then I got a name tag that said just ‘Davis’. Of course there was Don Davis and Colin Cunningham as Major Davis. So I went up to Brad Wright one day and said, “Did you run out of names and just hit the ‘Davis’ button on your keyboard?’ ‘(Impersonating Brad with a deeper gruffer voice) Oh, I can’t think! All these sci-fi scripts! Just (hitting a button each time) Davis, Davis, Davis.’ Then he became Norman Davis. I showed up for work and they just told me I was Norman Davis. ‘Oh ok fine.’  I was Norman Davis for the longest time but still referred to as ‘technician’ on the script. The thing is to make that leap onto the script where your character name is actually above your line so you know, they can’t kill you. ‘Technician’ can replace ‘technician’ can replace ‘technician’. . . .

“Then it was like Staff Sergeant, then it was like Technical Staff Sergeant, and I kept getting raises. Every time a season started they’d tell me I got a promotion. I did? For what? Typing under duress? Filing under fire? I’d get ribbons and it’d be like the Air Force had to approve the promotions. It was hilarious to me, but I thought it was a good sign. My name wasn’t in the script but at least I kept getting promoted. Like I’m starting to think, ‘Hey, I should get a pay raise.’

“In the episode ‘2010’, I was a tour guide. That is the episode that Richard Dean Anderson improvises the name Walter. It was not in the script. I come up to him and I go, ‘Colonel?’ Kind of recognizing him. He looks at me and the way he delivered the line was like he was on horse tranquilizers, he goes, ‘(With a funny, struggling look on his face) Waaaaaaal….ter?’ It took him five minutes just to say my name and I was like ‘Walter? What the hell?… ‘Yeah!’ What? I’m Norman Davis. Who’s Walter? I recognize him, he obviously mistakes me for another technician.’ You don’t stop in the middle of shooting. ‘No, no Walter. Can we do that again? I’m not Walter. I’m Norman…’ You just go with it. So after the take, which they filmed, they go, ‘Rick, Rick…his name’s not Walter.’ And he goes, ‘(Frankly) Well it is now.’ (Laughs)

“Seriously, honest to God, then I become Norman Walter Davis. The fans were like, ‘What is with the name?!’ I didn’t know! I had not a clue. I just showed up for work and said, ‘What’s my name this week?’ (Shrugs, shaking his head) No idea. Then, God bless him, enter Don Davis. (Does impression, not a word of which you can understand, but the voice is bang on!). I had no idea what he was saying half the time. Then one day in the script, and they never wrote this again, because of Don’s accent and pronunciation, the line was “(impersonating Don) Open the iris, airman.” Airman. Are you with me? “(Impersonating Don) Open the iris, airman.” Even the script person is going ‘what did Don just say? It sounded like Harriman.’ Norman Walter Davis Harriman was born.

“That’s when it finally got Brad’s attention. He’s like, ‘(impersonating Brad again) Ok, listen up. He can’t have four names! He’s Walter Harriman.’ That’s how I became Walter Harriman. I went from ‘Norman Davis’ to ‘Walter Harriman’ (doing this odd wiggling worm thing with his hand, talking like he’s struggling) over the course of ten seasons. I even had a tag. In some pictures the old one said Davis the new one said Harriman. But they never killed me! (Pumps his fist, silently going ‘YES!!’)”

“Here’s another story for you, since we’re on the subject of names. Traveling to the States for conventions, I started to get . . . My name is Gary Jones. Just simple. Never had a middle name in my life. I started to get my passport, when they were swiping it at US customs, I would get that look. (Demonstrates the lowered brows hard look he would get.) There was no Star Trek phaser involved. They’d swipe my passport and then they would go ‘you ever been in trouble with the law?’ ‘No.’ ‘You ever been arrested?’ ‘No.’ ‘Are you sure?’ I think that’s the worst question they can ask you. Are you sure? And there’s that moment were you think, ‘S&*%, was I ever arrested?’ And in that moment while you’re pausing they go, ‘(Pointing an accusing finger, yelling exaggeratedly) You’re lying! GET HIM!’ That’s when you start running down the ramp and they tackle you, and whatever. But it was just that moment like, ‘Um, am I sure? I’m pretty sure?’ So then they just let me go. This happened a bunch of times so finally I asked the guy why I was being red flagged. Apparently my name is so common that there are some bad @$$ Gary Joneses in the States and they thought it was me. (Dripping with sarcasm!) ‘Really? In this argyle sweater and these satin colored golfing slacks. Am I your man? I don’t think so!’

“I get home and I tell my wife all about it. ‘Oh my God, I pulled over again . . . Homeland security . . .’ (Puts up a warning hand) They’re just doing their job! It’s just inconvenient for me, that’s all. She starts telling me I should get a middle name to set me apart. I was like, ‘Eh, yeah, it’s a cool idea.’ I forget about it and time goes by. We’re driving to Seattle with two friends and it doesn’t occur to me until I hand my friend my passport and I’m like, ‘(face frozen with the realization) Oh no… Not only am I not alone but now I’m in a getaway car with accomplices’ (laughs). I hand my friend the passport with everyone else’s and as he’s handing him over my wife says we’ll probably get pulled over. My friend was like, ‘(looking over his shoulder, one hand on the steering wheel) What?’ And I’m just sitting there like ‘(looking down like, ‘hide me!’) Oh my God!!!’ I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced this before. It was so freaky. He hands over the passport, the guy swipes them and after about 30 seconds you heat this (makes a very believable high pitched alarm noise) BAA BAA BAA BAA BAA BAA!! My friend’s like, ‘What’s going on!?’ There are these beefy boarder guys in blue outfits (arms pumping in slow motion) running to the car. ‘They’re like Aaah!!!’ They stick their heads  in and scream, ‘(pointing accusingly) What do you do for a living?!?!’ ‘Cowering, in a weak voice) I’m a writer and a director!’ ‘What do you do?!?!’ ‘I’m a writer and an actor!’ ‘Just stat in the car, STAY IN THE CAR!’ All the while my friends are like, ‘What the hell?’ And I just go, ‘Yeah, it’s me. Don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine.’

“My friend’s girlfriend, who doesn’t work, has never experienced anything like this. I don’t know if she’d ever been across the border, but she’s yelling out the window, ‘(Whining) What about us? Why don’t you want to know what we do for a living?’ Rather than panicking, I turn to her and go, ‘(In a deathly quiet voice) Ok, here’s the thing. You don’t say anything. No jokes, no anything. You shut up! SHUT UP!’ I couldn’t yell it but she went ‘(shocked into silence, eyes wide) Ok. Sorry.’ Then they came and hauled us out of the car and put us in this little room. The guy runs my passport and apologizes to me. I tell him it’s ok and he tells me, ‘(serious, with a bit of a drawl in his voice) Well, in normal protocol, we’re supposed to haul you out of the car, throw you to the ground and handcuff

NOT THE SWEATER!!! LOWER ME DOWN!!!!
NOT THE SWEATER!!! LOWER ME DOWN!!!!
your hands behind your back.’  All I can think of was, ‘He would have so destroyed this sweater!’ I was looking pretty good, I was going to Seattle.  I was like, (strolling along, grinning, snapping his fingers, really cool like) Hey!’ I would have been so choked because I couldn’t get that sweater again. (Yelling, acting like the border guards have him) ‘Not the sweater! Lower me down! Just lower me!! My sweater!!! A blanket? Can I get a blanket?!’ It doesn’t work that way. (Pretending to be the guard lowering Gary down) ‘Are you ok sir? We’re lowering you down. Slowly now. Is that soft enough for you? Just turn your head. You’ll be ok sir.’
“After that my wife goes ‘(a bit angrily) You’re getting a middle name! That’s it! I’m getting you a middle name for Christmas!’ I’m like, ‘(placating) Agreed! Agreed!’ I’m terrible at that stuff, going online and that. My wife is like the house documentarian. She knows where all the paperwork is. She’s good at that stuff. She gets all the forms and brings them home, and I’m now going to change everything. I’m going to get a middle name. She says, ‘You’ve got to fill it out. What middle name do you want? I think about it, and I go, ‘As a kid I always wanted to be called Paul. I loved the name Paul. So I want my middle name to be Paul.’
“Oh, here’s a freaky aside. When I was dating my wife, I went to a psychic – (seeing a person on the side of the stage, waiting to ask a question) I’m sorry! I just can’t break up this name-related sequence! – I’ve never told this to anyone before. You guys are getting this first! I go to this psychic and she’s this tiny little Chinese lady named Ming. ‘(In a high little voice with an Asian accent) Hello, I’m Ming!’ Like this tall (indicates chest height on him, and Gary isn’t very tall to begin with!) I go to see her and I thought that I was late for the appointment and I make it. She says, ‘(in an airy, creepy voice with the accent) oh no, I’ve been waiting for you. Don’t worry! Your time is here. I’ve been waiting for you. I know all about you. I’ve been waiting for you.’ And I go, ‘)looking down) Really? You do?’ ‘Oh yes, I know all about you. I’ve been waiting, waiting for you. So come with me Paul.’ I go, ‘My name is Gary.’ And she goes, ‘No, your name is Paul.’ It’s like the greatest hook for a psychic. Can you imagine, going to a psychic and going, ‘That’s not true’ and having them answer ‘Oh yes it is!’ How do you argue with that? ‘I’m telling you my name is Gary.’ ‘Oh…where am I getting all this Paul energy from?’ (Looking at us like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’) ‘Paul energy’. Yeah, just grab that one out of your hat. ‘Where am I getting all this Paul energy?’ ‘I don’t know!’

“So I thought this was the biggest waste of an hour I’ve ever had in my life because she thinks I’m Paul, but whatever. Later she’s telling me about my family and she tells me, ‘Oh, you’re family is good.  Your mother, your father, your brother…your sister.’ I tell her I don’t have a sister. ‘Yeah you do. Ask your mother.’ Can you imagine me talking to my mom? ‘Mom did I ever have a sister?’ ‘No.’ ‘Oh man I can’t believe I just asked that. Stupidest question. (Fist raised to the sky) Damn you Ming!’

“But then my mom tells me – and she’s never told me this in her life before! She comes up last year for a visit and I hadn’t mentioned anything about a name change. Out of the blue she said, ‘You know when I first met your dad, for the first two weeks he told me his middle name was Paul.’ How freaky is that? ‘(Acts out his reaction, a classic double take) Wha?!’ And I still didn’t tell her for a while. So there’s all this other Paul stuff happening.

“So I go, ‘Ok, Paul is my middle name.’ I fill in the form, sign it, give it to my wife, she’s going to take it to work and mail it off for me. A couple weeks go by. I get my documentation back. And guess what my name is? (Grimaces as a few brave souls make incorrect guesses.) Get this. Gary Paul Von Jones. (Points to a fan in front at random, and starts pulling something out of his pocket.) Just come up here for a second. You can’t really make a story like that up. Madam, please read the name on this license.” Gary holds the microphone out to her and she reads, “Gary Paul Von Jones!”

“Yep! Gary Paul Von Jones. You can imagine the freak-out in the kitchen when I see this. ‘What?! What happened?’ My wife goes, ‘Yeah, I didn’t think Paul was interesting enough.’ So my wife added V-O-N like I’m German nobility, to a Welsh name. What the hell!? (Going into a convincing German accent) Gary Paul Von Jones, yea. Yeah, so there you go. It’s the new me! (Poses)”

PDVD_000
What's you gonna do? Oh my God it's Ba'al again.

“We had to rehearse it like a thousand times just to get it right. Because you know the world is going to end and it just looks bad if you have people bumping into each other. ‘Oh my God! The world’s going to end! (Pretending to negotiate his way though lots of people, sidestepping and muttering) Sorry, sorry, sorry sorry . . .(frustrated, shoving people aside) Go, gooooo!’ It doesn’t work, right? It’s got to be all fluid. And I’ve been through this for like 6 years. So I ask Peter what am I doing. I’ve spent like 6 years in the chair and he says ‘oh yeah. Sit down.’

‘You’re kidding me! You got me up here in this like super tense scene and you want me in a chair again?’

‘Yeah.’

‘Alright.’

‘So I do what I always do when there’s a ton of rehearsal. I get a Vanity Fair magazine and I just start reading it while they’re rehearsing because it’s all happening around me. All you hear is “Action! Cut!” and it goes on and on and on for like and hour and I’m reading my magazine very slowly, like this (licks his finger and slowly turns the page). All of a sudden I hear, ‘And cut! Ok! Moving on!’

PDVD_001
They filmed it!!!!
“I have this crisis moment of either I decide to not say anything, and if I don’t say anything this is what’ll happen. Peter will get all the footage, edit the show and put it together and show it to the producers and they’ll all sit around in Brad’s office and one of the producers, Brad [Wright] or Robert [Cooper] will go “what’s Gary doing?” and Peter will go “I don’t know” and he’ll get a new one ripped.

“Well I can’t have that because then he’ll come down on me. He’s a great guy, a good friend, but I don’t need to get him in trouble on the set. So I decide to tell him. ‘(In a hushed tone) Peter, can you just slow the guys down a minute? I’ve got to tell you man, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize they weren’t rehearsing, I didn’t realize they were filming, but I was reading Vanity Fair while you were filming.’ And he goes ‘Yeah, I know.’

‘What? What do you mean ‘you know’? You saw me reading Vanity Fair?’

‘Yeah. Don’t worry about it. Cause from where I shot it just looked like you were reading a technical manual.’

“Part of me was really relieved like ‘Oh God, thank God!’ But then I went ‘wait a second! I’m still sitting there reading while the world is about to end!’ You can go and watch the episode and see me reading Vanity Fair as the earth is about to blow up.”

I’ve got to tell you folks, I consider myself to be a trivia expert, and Gary still has me stumped! There is only one episode in which Ba’al is threatening to do serious damage to Earth, and that’s season 9, ‘Ex Deus Machina’! Cliff Simon only appeared as Ba’al once in season 6, in ‘Abyss’, and then the only other episode he was in while Corin Nemec was on the show is ‘Homecoming’. Neither involve Earth, and all three were directed by Martin Wood, not Peter DeLuise! I think Gary had Ba’al confused with Anubis, and the episode is ‘Redemption’ either part one or part two, in which Anubis is trying to destroy the SGC’s gate, and the planet along with it. But even that episode was directed by Martin, and Peter was the co-producer . . . Sorry, that’s the best I can do!

I believe this question was, What’s the coolest thing you got to do on the show? “I got to fire machine guns and it was an alternate world where the general was the colonel and the colonel was the general and I was still a technician. [‘There But for the Grace of God’] I was like the fulcrum point. Everything changes on the outside but the middle stays the same. Except they put a cardigan and a tie on me and gave me a machine gun. I was like ‘What the hell?!’ I run into this hallway and fire it. Like (makes a sound like he’s fire a machine gun on automatic, holding it) It was amazing. The teamsters took me out into the parking lot and asked if I had ever fired one of those things before.

Gary wildly fires a machiene gun!
Gary wildly fires a machiene gun!
And they reset because they’ve got to do the scene a bunch of times. He take me aside and goes, ‘Ah, Gary? (Rubbing his head) Can I talk to you for a second?’ And I go, ‘What?’ My heart is pounding. He goes, ‘I was wondering if there was any way that um – it was good! It was great what you did! – but I was wondering if there was any way you could exit the scene in a more manly fashion.’ I’m like, ‘Manly? What?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, can you just sort of butch it up as you leave, just kind of man it up?’ I’m going, ‘Wha, but, what did I do?’ Because there’s like cables and lights and sound stuff, he goes, ‘Well let me just show you what you did so you’ll know what not to do.’ So he takes the gun, (pretends to fire, does a really whimpy Walter yelling) ‘Sir! Sir! We’ve gotta get outta here!’ and then (backs out, rear-end first, slowly, looking over his shoulder, pointlessly holding the empty gun!). True story!”

And with that, Gary had to go. He told us all to come to see Starhole that night, and then left the stage.

Are you in stitches? Because I am just writing this! You can tell Gary’s background was in comedy! I can’t wait to get my hands on his book!

Coming up next on our Chicago Convention 2009 coverage, we will have the lovely Amanda Tapping! RadioStar will be taking her first crack at “transcribing”, and you can bet it’s going to be great!

Alyssa

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