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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

My First Interview for Unidentified



One year ago today I participated in an interview that would alter the course of my life.  I hope it will have a similar effect on history.  I was interviewed for History Channel's Unidentified, a show about military personnel who had encounters with UFOs while on duty.

I began writing this article Sunday March First, 2020, the day after my second interview with Lue Elizondo.  A week later my state, Connecticut, went into Lock Down.  It felt like the first ten minutes of any post-apocalyptic movie six and a half months ago.  A year ago, it was much different.  It was chill - Brooklyn Chill.

I never documented this first interview other than a conversation I had with Lue about the Metamaterials afterwards.  But now, having experienced so much joy from writing about the second interview (I really do love writing) I thought it would be a good idea to write about that first day.  I hope my readers will enjoy it as much as I have putting it together.

David Marceau at A&E
Me and my Brooklyn bagel in the Green Room at A&E, wearing the "busy" shirt

September 15th, 2019 was not my first time speaking with producers of Unidentified or with Lue Elizondo.  It was Lue who introduced me to the makers of the show after we spoke on the phone in the summer of 2018.  I think it is OK to mention that first producer's name (previously redacted) at this point.  It was Jessica Philipps.  Since then all new people have been in touch with me from the show.  

I started over with this new crew, filling them in on details of my experience and my history with the show, like for example that there was a second witness.  By that point, I had made contact with this other witness, Mike, a year earlier at the request of an associate producer named David.  Mike and I still have not really kept in touch much.  We have traded a few texts.  We played phone tag on voicemail.  We met up for coffee last fall and the fall before.  That is about it.  I owe him a call.

I had to miss watching my sons play football to do this first filmed interview.  I love to watch my kids in their sports.  They are all such better athletes than I ever was as a kid.  Although I can still out-ski any one of them, ha!  I am still a faster runner too - probably.  I may have raced my last race with the kids.  I think I pulled something a few days before my second interview, doing my Usain Bolt impression in a 40-yarder against my youngest kid.  I hereby announce my retirement from sprinting, undefeated!  I may also be retiring from Fortnite as I am undefeated in the first three games in my kids' Clan.  But my kids may have other ideas about that.

Old Brooklyn


The day of the first interview was a beautiful, sunny day, I remember.  It reminded me of September 11, 2001 in many ways.  I was living in Brooklyn back then, on the corner of Dean Street and Sixth Avenue.  A&E's studio where they filmed Unidentified is also on Dean Street.  I was headed back to my old 'hood.

Freddy's Bar Prospect Heights
Me at Dean & 6th, October 1997

Wow!  How things change!  When I lived in that neighborhood, Prospect Heights, there was a cool little joint on the corner called Freddy's Bar.  I did not go in often but it was nice to have it there if I needed to get out of the apartment or if some friends came by.  It was a real laid-back old school dive bar with a beatnik vibe.  The poets and musicians who frequented the place gave it the best bathroom graffiti in New York.  There was a huge back room (really the basement of the building next door) where no-name bands would come and get their start.  Sometimes they would rock the house.  The Jug Addicts were a staple, typical of how it felt to be there.  

Other times, poets read their work at Open Mic Night.  When it was not busy I would bring my dog and she would lay by my feet or sniff around with the other dogs.  This was before the smoking ban so of course everyone smoked.  It was common for people to start a conversation by bumming a cigarette.  The next thing out of their mouths was typically, "I don't really smoke."  Depending on my mood and how snarky I was feeling I might come back with, "You mean, you don't really buy.  You're smoking.  You're a smoker."  That brash, forward familiarity with strangers was commonplace.  It would set the tone for the rest of the conversation or it would send the person away.  It was a win for me either way.  That was Prospect Heights in the 1990's.  I loved that neighborhood.

The Jug Addicts

A block past Freddy's was an open train yard where the Long Island Railroad parked its commuter trains overnight.  You would never park your car on that block because if you did you were liable to come out in the morning and find a junkie sleeping in your back seat and a broken window to deal with.  During the day it was kind of nice because no on lived there so it was quiet, despite being near the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Atlantic Avenue, two of Brooklyn's busiest streets. But at night, you did not go there.

Otherwise, it was nice, a neighborhood rich in culture - the kind of place where kids were always running around chasing a ball or each other.  Black or Puerto Rican moms stood on the stoops of their brownstones watching over.  There was a large lesbian enclave.  Few cars lined the broken curbs fostering weeds.  The guys at the corner bodega all knew my name.  Joe, the one old Italian guy who never left when the neighborhood changed over in the 1960's and 70's, was always out in the morning.  We would chat for a few minutes every day on my way to catch the #2 Train around the corner.

Today, the rail yard and the junkies are gone.  It is now the home of the Brooklyn Nets.  There is a high-rise apartment building where Freddy's used to be.  Joe, I am sure, is long dead.  I did not see any kids running around or any moms on the stoops.  A little ways up, I did see white couples pushing expensive-looking baby carriages in front of streets lined with shops, which had formerly been vacant or filled with low-rent nail salons and hair extension stores.  The broken curbs had been repaired.  New sidewalks corralled trees instead of weeds.  It was nice to see everything had been rejuvenated, but at the same time, I missed the way it was.  I thought about the families that must have been displaced by higher rents, in the name of "Progress".  Where did they go?

Note, this is not a political commentary - just me reminiscing and ruminating.

I did not have much time to drive around and take everything in.  I did make time to pick up a New York bagel.  I could not find parking by my old favorite shop - even the traffic patterns were all different.  You cannot get from Point A to Point B anymore without zig-zagging around several blocks.  But I was able to find another shop with parking nearby.  There was a line.  I had to wait about fifteen minutes to get my bagel.  I wondered the whole time if I would get a parking ticket.  You never know in New York.  


The Interview


Bagel in hand, I proceeded to A&E.  The block the studio is on is still a bit dilapidated which makes finding a parking spot easier.  I was able to find a spot within a hundred feet of the entrance.  I texted Stephanie or Jaye, the producers I was coordinating with, and let them know I was walking up to the building.  They came out and greeted me and took me to the Green Room.  Wow!  This was really happening.

I was wearing a nice suit that day, with a checkered shirt.  I carried a second, solid-colored shirt, in case they did not like the one I was wearing.  Stephanie thought the checkered pattern might be too busy for the cameras and suggested I put on the solid shirt - good thing I brought it.  I changed in the Green Room.

I was the only one in there except for a make-up girl.  I sat down with my bagel and chatted with her a bit.  I took a selfie for posterity (above).  The make-up lady convinced me to do a bit of light make-up so I would not look washed out on camera.  I did not see that coming.  

It was a long wait for my shoot.  Other guys were being interviewed.  I said hi to one of them when he came into the Green Room to get his stuff but did not introduce myself.  I should have.  It would have been good to get to know some of the other members of the Unidentified "brotherhood".  I could not for the life of me say who that guy was now.  It was a year ago and I only saw him for a brief moment.

Lue Elizondo poked his head in at one point and formally introduced himself to me.  I think that was the point where it all became real for me.  Imagine having had a close encounter while on guard duty in the military and having no one to report it to for (by that point) twenty-seven years!  Being face-to-face with Lue was the culmination of decades of bewilderment as to why no one cared about what I witnessed.  A shot of adrenaline surged through my chest.

Lue came on strong at first.  He is not that tall.  My height can intimidate guys like that.  But I was the one who was back on his heels.  Lue took over the small room and made his presence felt.  He left and I waited some more.

There were a lot of papers to sign.  I was given a little envelope with forty-something dollars to cover gas and tolls.  That was my full pay for appearing on the show, in case anyone was wondering.  I drive a Chevy Suburban which gets 16 miles per gallon, down-hill in a tail wind.  It has a 30 gallon tank.  After the tolls and a fill-up on the way in I think I lost money on the deal.  But whatever - I had never expected to be compensated anything, not even expenses.  I gladly put the cash in my pocket.  

Still, with a lot of time to sit and think in the Green Room I toyed with the idea of what if.  What if I had accepted the offer to stay in a hotel in Manhattan instead of driving down from Connecticut for the day.  My inner Walter Mitty took over and I imagined the other "cast members" dining on steak and red wine in a luxury hotel with crystal chandeliers and thought about what I had missed out on.  But there were things to do at home, my daughter had a softball game, it was not worth the time to spend a couple nights in a hotel when I only lived less than two hours away.  People commute from my town into New York every day.  I know I made the right choice.

When the time for my shoot finally came I was filmed coming into the dark studio.  Everything in the space was black.  I had to watch my step, walking over cables lying across the floor.  I came around a scrim carrying a folder with some service documents and a print-out of the illustration of The Marceau Ship, as I call it * word * and sat down in a chair facing a camera.  Another camera was manned just to my right on a track.  I got mic'd up.

Lue and producer Anthony LappĂ© both sat just behind the main camera.  This was it.  Showtime!  Lue started the interview.  He asked me a few warm-up questions and continued for maybe ten to fifteen minutes.  Then Anthony took over.  He conducted the rest of the interview.  I did not track the time down to the minute but I want to say the whole interview took a couple hours.  Anthony was pretty thorough.  I must have had a little stage fright at first because about halfway through, Anthony made a remark about how I had loosened up and he wanted to ask me some questions over again.  That surprised me because after my sighting experience nothing really scares me anymore.  I must have been overwhelmed by this being such a pinnacle of my life.

In the end none of that interview was used.  The entire thing was scrapped.  The question of why had been gnawing at me ever since my episode debuted so I reached out to Anthony this morning to ask him why.  Was it because the interview at my house was better or was the interview at the house done because the one in Brooklyn did not turn out well?  Anthony wrote back, "no, not at all! we just wanted a more personal scene w/ you and Lue."  Ha, Occam's Razor.  I pressed Anthony for more details on the day of the shoot but he was not able to comment much more without going through History Channel's PR people.  He simply added that everyone involved with the show, "were all extremely impressed with all the witnesses seriousness and bravery for coming forward. We knew it was a big moment for a lot of you, and wanted to respect that."

Thanks Anthony.  That means a lot.

Lue came to my house nearly six months later to shoot the second interview.  I am glad he did because I think I was much better on camera than in that first one.  He spent more time getting into details that were missed in that first shorter meeting.  I was eager to answer every question.

After the first interview concluded I went back to the Green Room.  Stephanie came by and asked me how I thought it went.  I told her how during my narrative, "I was right back there on that little bench in the woods."  She said, "Yeah, we all were."  Wow!  Really?  I would like to get a copy of that video.  

I grabbed a chicken wrap and a soda from the kitchen and ate in the Green Room.  After sitting there for over half an hour I gathered up my stuff and went out to my car.  I texted Liz, one of the associate producers, or maybe it was Jaye (I cannot find the text), and told them I was leaving.  She wrote back and said to come back to wrap up with Lue.

Cool, I thought.  I was hoping to chat with The Guy from the New York Times Article a bit.  Lue and I met up in the kitchen.  He hoofed down some food while I munched on some chips.  He had a lot to say about the Metamaterials.  I mentioned this in an article last fall, not going into detail other than what was already public knowledge, but confirming that this was a real thing.  I did not mention Lue's name in the article or even where we met.  I simply stated that I had run into someone from TTSA.  Lue's credibility is without question as far as I am concerned.  He has told me everything he would do and did everything he has said.  If he tells me TTSA has these Metamaterials and they are noteworthy I am going to back him up on that.

As I said in that first article Lue, "spoke of the metamaterials not as something he hoped he could get people to believe in - what other people think about it was not even on the radar.  He simply spoke about what it was and what it might be able to do and how important it was to find out more about it."  It was a fun article to write.  Click the Metamaterials link if you have not already read it.

Cypress Hills
My drive home on the Jackie Robinson Parkway

After Lue finished chowing down he had to bolt.  I got out of there too.  The leaves in my yard were not going to rake themselves.  And I had forty bucks burning a hole in my pocket.  I took the long way down the Jackie Robinson Parkway for old time's sake and went out over the Whitestone Bridge.  Then I used my forty bucks to take the kids out for ice cream.



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