Brush with Celebrity
The Man Who Knew Too Much

Antiques Roadshow is arguably the first British game show imported to the US. Average folks bring their treasures to the roadshow for professional appraisors to examine. In each city they visit the appraisors find a few gems. They film these appraisals to create the show.

The experts look at literally thousands of items to cull out two hours worth of television-worthy stuff. The items they choose to broadcast are usually special in some way, or they represent a type of item that's currently popular, or they are not what they seem to be.

The Roadshow came to New York one Saturday in July. I had ordered the free tickets from Ticketmaster two months in advance, as soon as they were available. The show was a sell out.

Andrew opted to bring a tip top table about which he had "questions." I was looking forward to seeing him have his table examined by one of the Roadshow furniture "stars" and hoping it would be one of the Keno brothers.

The Kenos -- Leigh and Leslie -- are twins who share a passion for antique furniture. One owns a prestigeous New York shop, the other works for one of the big auction houses. Since Andrew's interest rivals theirs, I hoped to see a meeting of the minds.

For myself I planned to bring a set of miniature books inerited from my Grandfather. A week before the show I decided to be an informed "contestant." I seaeched the web for my books. In 30 minutes I found out more than I wanted to know, including several eBay auctions that gave me a good idea of their value.

No point in taking them.

I considered takinq my one truly valuable antioue -- my wall clock. But it's delicate and I'd want a written appraisal if I take it somewhere. So I turned to my jewelry box. Two pocket watches, three gold lockets, and -- coolest -- several pins made of gold nuggets.

We were scheduled for the 9:30 am slot, so we arrived at the much reviled Javitz Convention Center at 9:00. Volunteers directed us into a hall of lines where we waited to enter the "set."

Leslie Keno

At the entrance our items were examined and we received tickets for the appropriate appraisor tables. Luckily, furniture, jewelry, and watches were all adjacent. A volunteer escorted us through the crowd. My first, and lasting impression of the "set" was it's size. Watching the show one gets the impression of great space. But in reality the familiar Roadshow banners enclosed a relatiely small area within a much larger exhibit hall.

We pressed past a familiar looking carpeted appraisal stand with small objects on it -- clearly awaiting their moment under the lens. Quite suddenly we were the slightly lost looking people milling around in the background while appraisers chatted with "winning" guests on camera.

"There's a Keno," I said as we reached our area (the brothers look enough alike that I could not tell which it was). Andrew peeled off to check in at the furniture table and I went on to jewelry. My first appraisal was quick. The gold rush pins have some value, but were not broadcast worthy. The two larger lockets were not even gold (my mother would be terribly disappointed).

Leigh Keno
As I moved on to watches I glanced over at furniture. Andrew had the attention of both Kenos, all three heads bent over the inverted base of his table.

My watches proved to be ordinary but not valuless -- pretty much as I expected. I put my items and notes away and went over to furniture.

"What's up?" I asked Andrew, who was now chatting with Wendell Garrett, who held Andrew's table top nestled against his wheelchair. Mr. Garrett focuses on historical pieces. It turned out, he and Andrew had acquaintences in common, so they'd been having a lovely chat.

"They're thinking of doing an over-the-shoulder. I need to speak to this producer," he noded at a woman in headset with a clipboard. I was amused by his rapid adoption of TV production lingo. I chatted with Mr. Garrett, who held Andrew's table top almost lovingly, while Andrew had a short meeting with the producer.Then he stepped over to the Kenos again, and finally they all came over to Mr. Garrett and me.

Wendell Garrett
One of the Kenos held the base of the table so that we could all see it.

"You see," he said, "sometimes it's what we don't find that's important. If this were an old table, there would be wear marks here. . ."

Then he inverted the base, "And I've never seen a table like this without a support here. . ."

Mr. Keno went on to point out a couple more improper features of the poor table. Mr. Garrett seemed as interested in the lesson as Andrew and I. The four of us hovered over it for a few minutes, Andrew and I honored to have the attention of the entire furniture staff for so long.

The conclusion? Andrew's table was about 100 years old, not the 250 years old that its style suggested. Was it an intentional forgery? Unlikely. It was just a good reproduction. Andrew thanked the Kenos and Mr. Garrett and packed up the table, then paused to give his card to one of the Kenos, saying "you know, since this one's not real, I'll be looking for a replacement . . ."

Once outside of the "set" I asked what had happened with the producer, as it was apparent that they'd decided not to film Andrew and his fake table. It couldn't be that it wasn't genuine -- they frequently show disappointments.

"I think it was a lack of shock value," he explained. "I was asking questions that suggested that I knew what I had."

"So you needed to act dumb, but instead you were a sophisticated New Yorker?"

This may seem like a disappointment, but in fact we were amused just to have come so close. And it was really fun to have had such distinguished experts confirm Andrew's suspicions.

Copyright 2001 Mia's Mar Vista News. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction by permission only.