You Don't Know Jack!

9:45 AM, May 28, 2011   |    comments
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That's why, this week, we're featuring You Don't Know Jack, a series on interesting Colorado Jacks.

Day 1

We thought we'd best start by telling you about the Jack who's doing this series. I'm 9NEWS Executive Producer Jack Maher. I go back a long way here at the station. Some joke I was around to see the first Colorado gold rush!

While it hasn't been that long, I've been a part of 9NEWS since 1980. That means I can remember when we were KBTV, complete with those cheesy Sky 9 promos that featuring Neil Diamond's Skybird!

They hired me to put together Denver's first, full-fledged morning newscast. Long-time 9NEWS viewers might remember our debut with Larry Camp, Bertha Lynn and Sunny Roseman. Neil Brown was our Sky 9 traffic reporter. It was a half hour that started at 6:30 a.m.

All these years later, Gary, Kyle, Gregg, Becky, Susie, Amelia and a small behind-the-scenes army keep us spinning for a very fast (and fun) four and a half hours.

Me? I'm sort of the glue that helps hold it all together. My EP stuff includes logistics, scheduling, content review, and talking to you guys about what you like (and don't like) about our morning show. I also do lots of taped interviews with guests and newsmakers that are chopped up for later use. You never see or hear me, but I get to talk to some amazing folks and am very thankful for the opportunity.

Every now and then, I get pulled into our recurring Men Of 9NEWS bit as Boris Kreskov, the "shadowy Russian coach" who helps guide our morning team of Olympic male wanna-bees to new "heights."

I'm also a photography buff and do a lot of the hiking videos you see on the My20 side of our morning show. (Some people, not naming names, think a few of them are kind of slow. Susie, are you reading this? :})

I'm blessed with an amazing family, and I honestly think I'm the luckiest guy in the world to be doing a job that I truly love. I also can't wait to show you all the interesting Colorado Jacks I found for this series, starting with our very own NASA Jack. His story, when our series continues tomorrow.

Day 2

Anybody who knows me will tell you, I'm just nuts about all things space. So I was really jazzed to learn we have a Jack living right here in Colorado who makes his living as a NASA voice.

Jack Elias works out of the Lakewood studios of Voice By Jack. Elias is a one-time radio guy turned voiceover artist. He has a picture of himself from way back in his "Panama Jack" days at KIXX radio in Colorado Springs. The station's program director came up with the name.

"'Panama Jack, that's your name! Start using it," Elias remembers. "And I was like, 'What? Did you see a billboard? Did you buy a pair of sunglasses? What happened?'" 

A  few radio jobs and station turnovers later, Elias struck out on his own and he's never looked back. From his little home studio, he does all kind of NASA work using a broadcast quality phone line.

"And I can literally from here, jack into a remote studio, whether it's in California, or DC, or whatever," Elias explained. "And it's as if I'm there."

He's done Defense Department stuff too, including narrating vidoes that highlight new tech used by special ops forces. But it is the NASA work that makes him most proud. He's won awards for it, including one for narrating a video about the Pluto, after poor Pluto was demoted as a planet.

Everything is done with digital recording equipment, e-mails and uploads. And while the work is not making Elias rich, it's not bad. "It's pretty good. You'd be surprised by how much they pay for me to read a two or three minute script," he explained. 

"If you can make a living out of something you love to do, then you're not working."

Day 3

Anybody passing by a certain home on South Moline Way in Aurora might be lucky enough to hear the melodious tones of The Two Jacks getting in some rehearsal time between gigs.

The Two Jacks are two talented musicians who are also real characters. Jack LaForte is the one with the distinctive mustache.
Jack Fredericksen is the one without. And truth be told, these Jacks are living something of a little white lie.

"The thing that you have to remember is that neither of our names are Jack," Fredericksen explained. "My name's Harold and I've been called Jack ever since the very beginning. I don't know why. I'd like to change it, cause that's all I'm known as. And his first name is..."

"Julius," LaForte picks up, without missing a beat. "But my middle name is Jack." We won't hold it against them. Their music is just too darn good.

Their friendship and their music careers date back half a century with credits including the Denver Broncos Jazz Band and the Hot Tomatoes Dance Orchestra. They formed their new band, The Two Jacks during a break in Puerto Vallarta.

"We played in the shopping center there, and the yacht club, and a couple of restaurants, and people went wild over it," Fredericksen said. "It just really came out well. So we thought, well, if we can do it in Mexico, we should be able to do it in the States."

There's a rhythm to their friendship. An easy back-and-forth that calls to mind another performing pair. "It's like Abbott and Costello, and he's the Costello and I'm the Bud Abbott," Fredericksen explained.

"I feed the lines and he makes them happen, you know, 'cause I play the lead part, I just play the melody, which almost anybody could do. Well I do that stuff, too, which is important. But he actually improvises a harmony or a counter line to all of these songs, just improvises it."

A computer helps fill out The Two Jacks sound. Lots of creative riffs too. And while they have no idea if this band is going to go anywhere, that's really not the point. They're just having fun being friends and playing what they love.

Day 4

Try to keep it down. There's a genius at work here. Twelve year old Jack McCombs of Highlands Ranch. McCombs is a Lego stop motion filmmaker. His latest one is about us. More about that later.

This young Jack made a name for himself on YouTube with a series of stop motion movies with Star Wars themes.
Darth Vader is a favorite topic. In one epic, Darth wins it all in the lottery, and then loses it all by being dumb. A thousand views and counting so far.

His parents watch him at work, and are amazed at his diligence and creativity. "He has to film it with a script in mind, and then he's got to go in later and add the voices and the music and the other stuff," his dad Scott explains. "We crack up," says mom Trisha. "We can't help it. Darth Vader winning the lottery?"

Bags of Lego parts are all over the house. He uses them to painstakingly build his sets, props and characters. "While I'm building them, I get ideas, and I just make the movies and they turn out to be a good success," Jack says.

Jack's biggest success to date is a shot for shot Lego version of Taylor Swift's song You Belong to Me. It took a month to finish. Remember: shot-for-shot. Jack's logged close to 1,400 YouTube views for this one.

"This whole thing started when I took a class in stop motion," Jack explains. "I thought it was fun and I started making movies." His current project? Us! He's filmed the whole 9NEWS morning show in Legos. (Not sure why Gary's in a gorilla suit though.)

Watch Jack's 9NEWS Morning Show Lego Movie 

But apparently the power of Star Wars is pretty tough for Jack to resist. He's got another Darth Vader film in the early stages of production. In this one, Darth gets a gig as a hair stylist. Why? "Because he keeps losing all his money so he tries to get more money to get the Death Star back," Jack says.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Day 5

It's always hopping at Jack's Corner Cafe tucked away in Longmont. Co-owner Helena Engles greets her customers with a thousand watt smile and an easy laugh. She and her husband Chris started it ten years ago as a true labor of love.

This restaurant is a place that is all about Jacks. Every wall, nook and cranny are filled with Jack memorobilia. There are references to Cracker Jacks, famous Jacks, jack-themed songs, games and more. There's even a picture of a jack-knifed-truck.

"Our son's name is Jackson," Engles explains. "We were looking for something different, something unique. So we sat down and we went through a whole series if Jacks."

Customers like to play what seems like a never-ending game of figuring out what each Jack is all about. ""People come in and they wander around, and they take their time, they look through the pictures and they try to name all of the Jacks that are on the wall," she says. "We have Jackson Polluck over here, and Jack in the Pulpit, which is a really unique wildflower that many people don't know. Probably one in ten do. And so, we have a lot of fun with that."

Engles says Jack's isn't so much a cafe, as it is a community place. "People can come together, and gather and enjoy each other's company, and listen to us talk about Jack, which is always a big topic of conversation!"

One question she always gets. Do customers named Jack ever get to eat free? "I can't say yes to that. Otherwise, every Jack in the world would be in here eating. Generally what we do, is if you bring in a Jack, and it makes it to the wall, we'll buy you a burger."

Editor's note:

Did you like our series? Would you like to see more Jack stories? Let us know. Just leave a comment in the comments section or email us at mornings@9news and make sure you put You Don't Know Jack in the subject heading. You can also tip us off to other interesting Jacks you might know about.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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