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Thursday, July 29, 2010

THIS MAN REALLY, REALLY LIKES E.T.

From: http://www.viceland.com/

Nick Gjoka got his first E.T. toy soon after he saw the film, when he was four. When he hit his teens he stepped up his game and started hunting for more obscure bits of E.T. merchandise in flea markets and yard sales. Then came eBay. “When I turned 21 or 22, that’s when I started to really collect,” he says. He’s now 32, and estimates there are thousands of items in his collection. He didn’t want to discuss such matters over the phone so we enjoyed this sprightly email exchange.

Vice: What’s your living situation?
Nick: In March, I moved in with my Grandmother who has Alzheimer’s, to take care of her in Pennsylvania. My collection is mostly boxed up in a storage spot. I don’t collect as much as I used to, but when I do find something I usually bring it here first or have the item shipped here and my family doesn’t mind. They think that it’s funny and they always ask questions about it.

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What do you do for a living?
My “life” is on hold right now. All I do is take care of my grandmother. It truly is a 24/7 job. Everyday I also ride my bike (bicycles and no, not one with an E.T. on front), meditate, read, workout, and cook. My Gram and I like to take naps watching Lifetime TV network movies too. When I’m not doing this, I can be found (or not found) traveling, touring, cooking, skating, cycling, snowboarding and going to shows.

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What do you think it is that compels you to collect?
I’m pretty sure it’s in the family. My parents collect and sell antiques. I was raised around it. An average summer holiday get away would be for a weekend of drag racing, flea markets, 50’s doo-wop, rock ‘n roll, and hot rods. I used to hate it back then but I look back at it now and I am glad that I was raised around that stuff. Besides that, I really like E.T. because it reminds me about my Grandfather that I had growing up. I can clearly remember opening one of my first E.T. toys at his house on Christmas morning. He was my only Grandfather growing up, and I thought maybe my collecting was a connection with him. When I was younger and had started collecting, E.T. items became an easy gift to get me, so all of a sudden I had a huge collection and started looking for more rare E.T. things.

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Do you think there’s some OCD going on here?
After that comment I made up above (he was my only Grandfather, growing up and I thought maybe my collecting was a connection with him), I sound like some of the people on those reality TV shows about hoarding. I probably do have OCD with other things in my life but not with my collecting. Now it’s just an on-and-off hobby for me. It’s not like crack where I NEED to have this E.T. doll to where I would go beg someone for money. I’m a 31-year-old straightedge vegan guy so I don’t waste money on a Big Mac before washing it down with a beer after, so I have some extra money lying around. I’ll buy an E.T. item if the mood strikes and if it’s something that I don’t already have.

When people you meet find out about your E.T. collection, what do they think about it?
I typically don’t tell people. I have a couple of E.T. tattoos so sometimes someone may ask about them and it will lead into some other E.T. discussions. If I do meet someone who knows about my collection it is usually because a mutual friend might have mentioned it to them. More often then not, people are usually totally down with it and want to see it. A lot of people talk about an E.T. toy they had as a kid and they say something like, “If I can find it, I’ll give it to you.” I like when people try to find something I don’t already have. It’s nice.

Have you met any other big E.T. fans?
Well not to boast, but I AM THE BIGGEST E.T. FAN! :) Seriously though, I have met a few other collectors through eBay over the years. We’ll swap stories, collectibles etc. One other fan started collecting because his mum had an E.T. collection so he just continued it. Another collector from the UK is a little girl. E.T. is her favorite movie and her family buys her tons of E.T. stuff. Other collectors are fans of Spielberg’s movies and this being one of the most popular ones, they collect E.T. items.

What’s the most expensive E.T. thing you’ve bought?
The most expensive item that I paid for would be an E.T. clothes hamper. It is basically a life-size E.T. doll that opens in the back to put stuff in. Items that should have been more but I found for cheap were some candid production photos and crew items. The item that’s worth the most to me would be the E.T. toys that my grandfather gave me when I was a little kid.

What’s the worst piece of E.T. merchandise you’ve seen?
There are too many bootleg items to mention! The official red light-up finger that was sold in 1982 is pretty phallic and disturbing looking.

I hear you own a piece of E.T.’s foot.
I guess when I say “foot”, it’s kind of a stretch. It is really a piece of foam from the puppet’s foot. It was sent to Collegeville Costumes as a color swatch so they could get the color correct in the making of the E.T. Halloween costumes that they made in 1982. It was a plastic mask with a smock/bib plastic like top. The costume company couldn’t get the color correct so they sent a piece of the original E.T. from the film. I received it along with some correspondence letter between the producer of the film and someone at Collegeville Costumes.

What bootleg stuff have you got? Would you buy anything that was E.T. branded, even unofficial rubbish?
I have some ceramic E.T. dolls, some school supplies and a cookie jar. I like to buy more official stuff but once in a while I see some outrageous bootleg item that I have to have! A couple of my friends (not E.T. collectors) like to collect weird bootleg stuff too so we look out for each other. Along with that, another one of the E.T. collectors focuses on bootleg stuff so I try not to bid on it.

What about the Turkish E.T. rip-off?
You mean Badi? I have yet to see it.

What about E.T. porn?
Oh geez. I’ve heard about at least two different ones involving E.T. but I don’t bother with any of that.

Do you think you’ll stop collecting at some point?
I go in spurts. I will go for a week, checking eBay and then I’ll go for a month or two and not check it. If I got a fair offer for the collection, I would sell the whole thing!

Tell us about the Halloween parade, when you and your friends dress up and ride through New York.
NYC has an annual Halloween parade that goes up 6th Ave for over 20 blocks. It is a huge deal and people come out from all over! The first time my friends and I just wanted to ride around through Brooklyn and NYC on Halloween dressed up like Elliot, with E.T. in a basket on the front of our bikes. One of my friends that rode the first couple of times was also an E.T. fan and bit of a collector. Over the years it has evolved and the group became bigger and bigger. The last time we did it, we had it down to a science. We knew the best ways to attach the crates to the bikes, we had the E.T. bust already made, we had extra red hoodies, white blankets, and BMX bikes in case anyone wanted to join us. We had at least eight riders as opposed to the three we had the first time. After a friend would do it once they would always want to do it the next year too. It was soooooooo much fun!

You also run a Morrissey blog. How does Morrissey compare to E.T.?
I don’t think they are similar at all. I would love for someone to try and find some similarities. Some people are maniacs. They will over analyze stuff and somehow make a connection. Oh wait, how about this one? E.T. came out in 1982 and The Smiths started in 1982!!! Bam! there you go, there’s your connection. People are strange.

If E.T. came down and visited you and asked you to go off in his spaceship forever, would you go?
Those kind of ideas are on some next level. That’s some Star Trek nerd’s fantasy, not mine. It’s just a hobby for me and a way for someone to finally notice me in this cold miserable world.

ALEX GODFREY

You can see more of Nick’s collection at www.iloveet.com

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