Saturday, February 05, 2005

Affiliation with Ripley's Believe It or Not

When Ripley’s Believe It or Not televison left a message on my answering machine in 2001 even I could not believe it. On April 16-17, 2002 I filmed for the popular TV show. My episode has been rebroadcast a half dozen times to date. It chronicled a Mastocytosis man who survived some freak bee attacks only to wear the protective apparel of a beekeeper’s suit outdoors to increase personal safety. In 2003, I thankfully discarded the beekeeper’s suit to lead a more normal but redefined life thanks to the completion of a venom immunotherapy program at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. One of my daughters suggested donating the retired suit to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. I followed suit, no pun intended. The Ripley’s Museum in Atlantic City not only accepted the donation they decided to erect a statue of me in their Survivor’s Gallery. The grand opening for the exhibit is slated for Memorial Day weekend 2005.
The television show peeked my childrens interest. They began to order Ripleys Believe It Or Not hardback almanacs. From 2001-2004, the children would flip through the glossy pages looking for their father. They unmercifully questioned me why Ripley’s doesn’t include me in the book. In 2004, I wrote a tongue and cheek letter to Ripley’s Entertainment asking them to consider me for their book series. I figured to get back a rejection letter to show the children and quell their expectations. Ripley’s Cartoons got hold of my letter. They contacted me by email inviting me to be the subject of their famous comic strip panels, which are published in 37 countries around the world. I agreed. After the comic strip researcher heard about my near death experiences with bees, my rare skin disease, the case of mistaken identity in public wearing the beekeeper’s suit, he thought my story deserved more print than the comic strip could afford. He refered my story to the department known as Ripley’s BION, who profile unusual people with unsual stories in their hardback book series. By the next day, I was signing releases and shipping photos to be included in their 2005 Ripley’s Believe It or Not book published by Scholastic Books. That is the story of how a man who knew nothing about Mastocytosis got stung by a bee and wound up in a museum, a comic strip, in a best selling book, and on TV. Believe It or Not.


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