previous article | | next article
Overcoming Adversity: A Lesson From Grandpa Fred
Matt - 12/01/00

Sometimes, life lessons are learned in the strangest places. Part of the maturing process is watching someone you know go through a traumatic or negative experience and overcoming it, actually bettering him or herself from it. Its an admirable trait, and something we all should learn from. So today, we're gonna do just that. This article represents a dear friend's ability to laugh in the face of adversity and turn a horrible situation into pure gold. As we go through, I want you all to learn from his experiences, hopefully take a little bit of what you're seeing here into your own daily routine. Hey, like Compaq told me when I bitched to them about their shoddy hardware....there's always room for improvement. And if you're curious as to who this dear friend might be, look no further. It's Grandpa Fred!

I'm sure some of you are aware of the misunderstood genius that lies within the many ridiculous subplots of Gremlins 2. Any movie that casts Christopher Lee as a guy who's contracted to make more durable tomatoes and give rats electric powers is certainly a Babylon in my book. But tying the movie together like some gothic thornbush is a man who's down, but not out. Today we're going to explore Fred's coming of age and find out how he made lemonade from the fruit of Gremlins and stereotypical Japanese cameramen. Its a lesson for the ages!

Fred's Dilemma: Believe it or not, there was a time where Fred wasn't walking around in a Dracula suit. Its not a style thing, its a necessity. See, Fred got into the world of tv land thinking he'd be focusing on news and public affairs, not a lite night kids show where he gets to introduce such thrillers as Attack of the Octopus People. Don't get me wrong, Fred's a consummate professional and does his job as best he can, even with a lazy cast who realizes what Fred refuses to admit: nobody's watching the damn show. Disenchanted, Fred offers up his feelings by way of sheer poetry: "I don't even have a gimmick. No special effects. All I a cross-eyes puppet named Igor." Poor Fred. Billy does his best to cheer him up by offering him a shaking bat-on-a-stick, but the last thing Fred needs right now is some silly prop. He needs to find an opportunity.

Luckily, and this is something we learn time and time again when we check to see what kind of meat we're getting from our Chinese restaurants, opportunity sometimes comes in the form of jumbo-sized, hideous rats.

Evil mogwais! Gizmo might be cute, but his offspring are a big bunch of bastards. Of course, in the sequel, they're also bastards with more distinctive personalities than the Harlem Globetrotters. And as much fun as they're having scaring the customers at a yogurt stand in the middle of the Clamp Central Office Building, they know there's only one way they're gonna cause some real trouble. Eating after midnight!

Fred continues spilling his guts to Billy. Neither of them have any idea what's coming, but in keeping with the movie's tone, it wouldn't stop them from talking about completely unrelated stuff anyway. Fred's upset that Mr. Clamp, the ringleader of this seedy operation, has sought not only to colorize classic horror movies, but to stick his show on so late that success isn't even an option. Billy can't quite gage how to make a 55-year-old in a Dracula suit believe he'll someday find success, so he just robotically nods, all the while thinking about Phoebe Cates' collection of lingerie.

An hour goes by without any sign of this movie's title making any sense whatsoever. Then...

GREMLINS. They're back - and this time, they can do everything from talking to flying. Some of them are made entirely of vegetables, others are sex-crazed females. There's even a Gremlin who drinks a bottle clearing marked with a lightning bolt, turning himself into living electricity. In other words, these Gremlins were pretty fucking cool. The Clamp building's patrons aren't too pleased however, as the little monsters are wreaking havoc from one side of the place to another, at one point even causing the star of the Archery Channel to storm off the set.

But, they've got personality. And they're killing people. And they're monsters. What's this equate to? The news story of the century. Unfortunately for aspiring broadcast journalists and vicious reporters, dem coppers are on the scene, and given the fact that the building's full of little creatures who will stab you if given the chance, they're not letting anyone else in.

Fred, who for some reason is wandering around the place as if its just another day at the office, and who for some reason appears to be in a restricted area, flicks on some of the television stations. What's he see? A bunch of reporters desperately trying to conjure up some info on what's going on in the Clamp Building. They're having trouble since nobody will let them in, but promise their loyal viewers that as soon as the opportunity presents itself, they will be broadcasting live, from inside the building.

Ever have an epiphany? A moment in your life where clarity struck you like a brick to the face? Watching these various monitors, Grandpa Fred had an epiphany. Remember his life's ambitions. He wants to be a news reporter. Watching all these successful reporters clamor for a chance to get anywhere near the building, it hits Grandpa: their goal? Broadcasting live...from inside.

Immediately, Grandpa seeks out the first stereotypical Japanese cameraman he can find. Within five minutes, they're live on the air. Two minutes later, the ratings skyrocket. Was there ever any doubt? Can you name a single thing on television that could possibly be better than watching a guy in a Dracula costume doing a live report on Gremlins? Still, Grandpa was never one to opt for cheap heat. He wants to be respected for his ability, not his death pendant. So, what does he do? He lands the interview of the century.

Grandpa Fred interviews the surrogate leader of these creatures, affectionately known according to the trading cards as the 'Brain' gremlin. Suspiciously sounding a lot like Tony Randall, Brain fills us on on the Gremlins' true purpose: they want to be civilized. (As a side note, I have to mention that this movie is the greatest thing ever put on film. Period.) Grandpa isn't one of those lightweight reporters, and let's face it, he has something to prove. He gets the Brain Gremlin to explain his definition of 'civilized'. "The Geneva Convention! Chamber Music! Susan Sontag!" Fred, thank YOU.

Before we move on - back to the lesson at hand. Overcoming adversity. Fred has taken a potentially disastrous situation and molded it for his personal gain, joining the ranks of such stars as Courtney Love, Monica Lewinsky, and Robert Berry. Its something we can all appreciate, and something we should all learn from. If you see a stranger getting eaten alive by tigers, don't help them. Take pictures and sell it to the Post. Trust Grandpa Fred on this, you'll be much better off. The only thing left really for Grandpa Fred to prove is just how far he'll go to get the scoop. And as you're about to see, he'll go pretty damn far.

Fred in the garbage....FRED IN THE GARBAGE! Grandpa Fred gives us the live report on the Gremlins' ultimate coming out party - a gigantic musical number complete with martinis and maracas. To top the wonder, the Brain Gremlins sings New York, New York, in what ultimately becomes the greatest minute and thirty seconds of history. Click here to hear the Brain's special musical talents, and be sure to keep your ears open for Grandpa, reporting live!


Mr. Clamp, who at first was a little miffed that Grandpa used his equipment to perform an illegal broadcast that painted his legacy as being tarnished my apocalyptic monsters, eventually realizes what we already knew: Fred knows what's news, and he knows how to get it. He gives Fred a job as an anchor, and a credit card to buy a whole new wardrobe! SUCCESS!

What have we learned from this? Several things. Number one, never count yourself out. Fred's like 500 fucking years old. You're never too old to leave your mark or achieve your dreams. Number two, an opportunity lies in every situation. Fred turned a monster invasion into a job promotion. Surely you can find some way to turn that piece of gum you sat on into something. And number three, dressing up like a melancholy old vampire will score you high on the cute factor, but adding the 'Grandpa' tag onto your name makes you completely irresistible. Long live Grandpa Fred. So tomorrow, remember what you've learned. If Fred can do can too.

I'd also like to announce today as the Official Annual Grandpa Fred Day, 2000. To celebrate, you have to replace any word that'll rhyme with 'Fred'. So for the next 24 hours, you don't have a bedtime. You have a Fredtime. You don't get headaches. You get Fredaches. You don't meddle in others' affairs. You Freddle. Try it out. Even if you don't like Fred, I guarantee you'll have way more fun talking to people.

- Matt
AIM: xecharchar Its a Penny Arcade. Only its free. And its not an arcade.