Adventures in Language and Television
Kuching Malaysian Borneo – “Sayang, Sayang!* Porn Stars are on! Come quick, you will miss porn stars,” my bride exclaimed.
Living in a conservative Moslem country, I found it hard to believe that the local imams would allow such sexually explicit programming to air. We do have “Astro,” a satellite service that telecasts heavily censored western movies and sitcoms; I doubted that they had been granted permission to broadcast programming that would not have been allowed in the United States.
I curiously walked in the room to see what she was watching and exclaimed “Oh, Pawn Stars!” “That’s what I said, porn stars. Look we have been there,” she exclaimed excitedly.
Here in Malaysia we get an assortment of American television programs and Pawn Stars is one of them. Another one is a ludicrous show about a shop selling cupcakes in Washington, D.C. The new Fox channel airs ancient episodes of Law and Order, Bones, NCIS, White Collar, Glee and others, usually from seasons one or two.
Having watched a few episodes of Pawn Stars, I was a bit skeptical of this reality show. In one episode, a customer came in with something to sell. Rick looked it over, had the usual conversation with the seller and asked how much he wanted for the item. The customer named a price and Rick said he would give him much more than that. Had the cameras not been rolling during this obviously set up deal, Rick would have probably paid him his requested price and made a very healthy profit from the nice, but ignorant, customer.
While we were traveling in the states a couple months ago, we were returning from a Hoover Dam tour when the driver directed everyone to look out the window. He then pointed out the shop where the program was filmed. I noticed a long line out front and I asked him if it had become THAT famous. “Oh, those are people who want to get on the program” he replied “They must be filming.
Apparently, the customers in this “reality” show looking at the merchandise are selected from a line of people anxious to have their 15 minutes of fame; or, in this case, about five seconds. I estimated about 100 to a 120 of people waiting to be chosen as the three or four that are featured.
As you enter, I was struck how small the store actually is. I expected a large, well-lit CVS size establishment, but it was just a bit bigger than a lengthwise 7-11. In the center aisle, sales trees held hats, key chains, mugs, t-shirts and other kitsch with pictures of the “the Old Man, Rick and the others.” They obviously had developed super-egos, although most of the t-shirts were marked down which must have put a dent, albeit a very small one, in their self confidence.
In the show cases along the side of the aisle, I examined some of the pawned merchandise and was stunned at the prices. Items were marked well beyond their worth and could be purchased at half the price elsewhere.
I asked the cute girl if people purchased these overpriced bric-a-brac and she said yes because many wanted something from this shop. One of the rules of business is that there is always “a greater fool” (you sell something at a ridiculous price knowing a fool will come along, eventually, and buy it) and this shop is a perfect example of the axiom.
Naughtily, I have not corrected my wife’s’ mispronunciation of the word “pawn” because I so enjoy watching people’s reaction to her telling of our visit to the porn shop in Vegas and how we watch porn stars all the time. I simply stare deadpanned and shake my head in agreement.
…Life is good…
*Sayang is a Malay term of endearment comparable to honey or lover.
For a copy of my book “Borneo Tom” please send a check for $15 to my daughter, Mary McLaughlin Box 514, Malta, Montana 59538. Funds benefit orangutan research here in Borneo.