"Avner the Eccentric" was (is?) a fairly famous magician/clown, and someone made the questionable decision to pepper his appearances throughout the parade. Avner didn't appear just once or even twice -- he popped up every fifteen minutes or so, in the strangest places. The often camera panned out to show the crowd during or after a song number, and sometimes you'd see Avner sitting amongst the audience for no apparent reason whatsoever. There's other times when the camera doesn't intend to catch Avner, and yet, there he is -- frolicking in the background like a big red-nosed freak.
When it was finally time for Avner's "official" performance, he didn't disappoint. Oh wait, yes he did. With the way they were building Avner up, nothing short of seeing the guy pull his eyeballs out and proceeding to transform them into little talking tigers would've sufficed. Instead, he just did the usual parlor tricks -- pulling long handkerchiefs out of this mouth, making playing cards appear out of nowhere...things like that. Making matters worse was that the crowd seemed to be obstructed from a good view of his act, so even if there were people in the audience who'd be turned on by this crap, all anyone really saw was a black derby and red suspenders hopping up and down for a solid ten minutes. If it's assumed that a Macy's Parade appearance could make or break a performer's career, "Avner the Eccentric" probably hates Macy's with the rage of ten thousand suns.
Still, Avner's official act didn't occur until later in the parade. He made an earlier appearance, and that's the one really worth talking about. His first foray dealt with dream sequences, big balloons, and Joey Lawrence. I swear.
Yes, Joey Lawrence. Then starring on "Gimme A Break!," it could easily be argued that Lawrence's career peak hit at the tender age of two-and-a-half. His future work on "Blossom" kept him in the limelight, but ultimately served only to make the entire world convinced that he was as stupid as the character he played. In a last ditch attempt to reclaim lost glory, Joey made the cardinal mistake so many fledging actors have -- he started creating music. The kind of music ten-year-old girls and nobody else on the planet would allow themselves to hear. It wasn't as inherently funny as watching "David" from "90210" ply his trade at a rap album complete with veiled threats to the listeners' mothers, but it was up there. Still, his fall from grace seems to stem more from the dated roles he played and a couple of bad career moves than because of any complete and total disregard for not being an idiot, so even if he'd make a great True Hollywood story, it's not like he deserves our hate.
Like Avner, Joey made several appearances during the show. They were pretty strange, but let me tell you -- what this boy had to do in 1986 was fifty times more odd. You'll see what I'm talking about in the next parade review, but let's see how he set a precedent for Completely Inappropriate Appearances in '84. Bryant Gumbel, desperately trying to remain cheerful even though he's clearly lost his morning shine by this point, is just barely up to the task of a scripted interview/skit with a little kid who says his lines in the same way one would read aloud the directions on the back of a Rice-A-Roni box. The duo wish each other a happy Thanksgiving, and then Joey begins detailing his lifelong desire to see how the balloons are filled with air. Bryant confirms that this would normally be impossible, because after all, it's way past Joey's bedtime when Garfield gets pumped. Then it gets really strange...
We enter a dream sequence -- complete with those cloudy lines surrounding the picture to denote that it is a dream sequence -- showing Joey Lawrence and Avner the Eccentric standing around playing with magic toys. After getting across his wish of seeing the pre-blown balloons to Avner, the clown does something silly with his hands, Joey smiles, and BAM -- they're teleported back in time to the balloon warehouse.
It gets worse. While whistling clowny music plays in the background, Avner and Joey skip around the deflated balloons in rooms too dim to actually see anything. Oh, did I mention that we don't actually see Joey Lawrence in the skit? The camera is supposed to represent his view of the fun, and to illustrate that, Avner occasionally breaks from his assorted hops to wave to the camera in a "follow me" gesture. We get to see Olive Oyl filled with air for approximately 37 minutes, with sporadic shots of Avner facing the camera and grabbing his crotch. It's awful.
In the final moment of the dream sequence, Avner steals a red cap from one of the balloon workers, and puts it on top of Joey's head. (well, on top of the camera) When the insanity ends, we're back to the present, and back to Bryant Gumbel's worst interview to date. Joey feels a bit of irritation near his ass, and upon inspection, what does he find? THE RED CAP! IT WASN'T A DREAM! IT REALLY HAPPENED!
As Bryant tries not to look completely disenfranchised, Joey is directed to illustrate his surprise by widening his eyes to the size of alien saucers. As they share their little stupid crazy once-in-a-lifetime moment, the camera pans to the right, and look who's sitting amongst the crowd...it's Avner! Avner the Eccentric!
He gives us a little wink-wink to end the skit, but as this is a live program and mistakes happen, the camera stays on him for roughly sixty seconds longer than it should. This leaves Avner in the terrible position of having to hold that wink position for nearly a minute, passionately fighting the increasing urge to drop the charade and ask the cameraman if he can go get some coffee yet.
Now we know why Bryant Gumbel always looks so cynical. You never quite recover from something like this. When esteemed broadcast journalists are thrust into the position of moderating skits between Joey Lawrence and a clown, a chunk of their human empathy is forever lost. If Bryant's ever convicted of murder or animal cruelty, we'll know exactly why. Twenty years of pent up angst over having to cover a Joey Lawrence dream sequence.
The worst part? He probably had to take a piss the whole time.