Andromeda Glitter

Back in the heady days of 2002, I was working at a local PBS affiliate in Silicon Valley as a glorified studio rat. My willingness to work cheap and my unmatched ability not to drool on myself launched me to new heights and I quickly became a camera guy slash “editor way out of his league but suitably underpaid for it”. That’s an actual title at most PBS affiliates. I once misspelled Jim Lehrer’s name on a trailer for his own show, and it aired for a day before I caught shit for it.

And occasionally, because why not, I would moonlight as an Art Director. Basically, the place had no money, so we all had to wear a lot of hats to keep it running. And of course the only way of conceivably making any money was to go on air and beg for it from desperate parents who were willing to keep Caillou on air for another season if it meant they could shower in peace.

"If you watch PBS and don't give you're nothing more than a common criminal" Betty White

“If you watch even one second of PBS and don’t contribute, you’re a thief! A common thief!”-  Betty White

The other way the place made money was to auction off a bunch of donated art, booze, and weird shit that had hitherto been clogging up someone’s warehouse. Each auction had its own theme and because they trusted me implicitly (no one else wanted to do it), they let me design a couple of them. I kept it classy. “Roman times” is classy right?

We even hired MILK to paint the floor to look like flagstones. I put up fake columns that I made out of corrugated tin and draped luxurious fabric all about them. We painted the ever present phone bank with a Roman key pattern (non art or history majors look that up). It was described as beautiful, or breath taking, or “did Kirk and Spock just beam us to planet gay?” Anyway it sold some art and wine.

Then came the big show; the regular auction. Eleven days of the biggest yard sale on TV, all to raise money to keep us on the air showing Brit-com reruns and Sesame Street. After the raging success of “Planet Gay,” I was once again given free reign over the aesthetics. What did I come up with? “Disco Auction”. Let that sink in. No one stopped me, either. I based the entire thing on the album cover for Saturday Night Fever. They would have never gone for “Metal Auction.” It would have melted the audience’s faces.

So with my huge budget of like $500 to fill a sound stage with pizzazz, I headed out in the smelly company minivan to the theatrical supply house. I rented a huge disco ball, a bubble machine, some platforms for the phone bank, and I bought three paint cans of raw glitter.

The guy at the shop looked at me for a long time. “You sure about the glitter?” he asked.

“Why? Whats the problem with the glitter?”

I gave him a moment to catch his breath once he was done belly laughing. “This shit gets everywhere, I can sell you adhesive sheets of it that you cut out with sissors and you’ll thank me later,” he said.

I was doubtful. “How much are the sheets?” I asked. I had grand plans for some big set pieces and a small budget.

He told me the price and I scoffed. No way I was gonna get ripped off by this prop-dealer. I paid the man and got back in the van with my cheap-ass paint cans of glitter and told the truck where to bring the platforms. As I was driving away I noticed a fleck of blue glitter on my knuckle and flicked it off. When I got back I handed my boss the invoice.

“Three cans of glitter?” He looked up from his lunch. “Be careful, that shit gets everywhere, don’t open the cans in the building.”

“It’s cool, I’ll apply it way back in the parking lot. I’ll use a ton of Super 77 it’ll be fine” I said.

The next week was spent building the set pieces, included a giant sign that vaguely copied the Saturday Night Fever logo. Then I took the pieces back to a far corner of the parking lot and opened the glitter. After I got done spraying glue on the props and glittering them, I shook off the pieces and brought them into the sound stage and set them up and lit them. It was magnificent. The sheer sparkle.

But the glitter did not like to be alone in the parking lot. Glitter wants to be your friend and visit you in your home.

At first it was just some sparkle stuck to my clothes and a few on the ground that had fallen off the props. But things quickly took a more sinister turn. The glitter began to spread. It started in the studio; anyone who spent any time in there inevitably had some glitter stick to their clothes. It’s been called “The Herpes of Crafting,” but it’s so much worse.

By the time the auction was over, the entire facility had glitter in it. You couldn’t work there and not have a few sparkles attach themselves to you. The carpets were so full of the crap, it kicked up in clouds when you walked. It was like we had an infestation of tiny, mouse-sized unicorns shitting everywhere. Some of the guys who had a ahem…reputation…were getting crap from girlfriends and wives who suspected they were frequenting a place nearby known as The Brass Pole. And they were, but that was not the source of the contagion.

A month after the auction, it was still spreading. Keyboards were beginning to malfunction. There was a lovely rainbow across the parking lot because rain had swept the glitter into a stream across it and car tires and foot traffic had done the rest. Everyday after work I left with a fine dust of glitter on me, so it wasn’t long before it began to show up in our house. It’s not herpes, it’s like some tropical disease that goes airborne in a horror film.

I left for the East Coast a few months after creating the magic, but the people who still worked there would still bitch about it every time we spoke on the phone. I believe it was a guy named Bob who coined the name “The Andromeda Glitter.” Seems about right.

Want to inflict that fate on someone you know and hate? Here’s a helpful website I discovered.

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