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Eye on the Sky : An Interview with Andy Gravityboy
Nick Wisser. 2000/2/1.

Through the chaos of the talk-show stage Nick, the host, wound his way to his swiveling captain's chair. In a similar chair beside him sat his guest for today's shooting. Two grips were busy raising the chair so the head of his shorter guest would be level with his on camera.


"Just relax Andy, everything will be fine," Nick said, as the director's assistant barked out the time to the staff. Nick put his clipboard in his lap and adjusted his position.


Andy was calm. "I guess you've done this a lot."


"Actually it's my first time too. Last week I was just a writer for the Jerry Springer show. I used to choreograph the hair-pulling scenes."


"Ten seconds! Nine!" The DA called out the final seconds before taping began. He pointed to Nick and ducked.


"Hello, I'm Nick Wisser, and welcome to Eye on the Sky, television's first talk show for paraglider pilots. I'm pleased to introduce today's very special guest, the Bay Area's own Andy Gravityboy." The applause sign lit up and so did the audience. Nick waited a few seconds for the noise to subside, then continued.


"So tell me, Mr. Gravityboy, how long have you been flying?"


"Call me Andy. Just a few years now."


"Yes, and that's one of the amazing things about you, Andy. Your rapid rise is certainly compelling evidence of a great talent for flying."


Andy turned away from Nick, smiled faintly and blushed. "Thanks."


"To what do you owe your success?"


"Well Nick, I think the biggest factors are practice, and patience."


"Patience? How do you mean?"


"Well, I developed patience during my former life as a rock climber. In that sport we’re used to spending hours just to get a few hundred feet of altitude. Also, being up and close to the rocks for so long has meant that I don't get as rattled scratching close to the faces. I know that if I take a big whack I can just reach out and grab hold. I practice the move occasionally."


"So having a background in climbing really helps?"


"Sure. Check any of the successful competition pilots in the US, and you'll find that nearly all of them are climbers."


"Yes, except for that ex-military pilot from LA. With all of that training he'd have to do well. Anyway, has your success helped your, um, social life? You know."


Andy fixed his gaze on Nick for a moment, then smiled. "Well, yes, it has, as a matter of fact. Of course, this kind of fame is fleeting. At Jackson Hole, for instance, I was on top of everything. At the Moose bar the groupies were lined up and taking numbers. But at Aspen, heck, I couldn't get arrested in that town. All the excitement was over the Europeans. Overall though, I'm not complaining."


Nick smiled and checked his clipboard, then looked up again. "So Andy, the bay area pilots have just been blown away with your success., especially those two forty-mile flights from Potato Hill. How did you do it?"


Andy looked at him quizzically. "Well, uh, patience, like I said."


"But Andy, no one had even gotten close to that kind of flight before. Even the hang gliders were impressed." Nick's expression grew sterner as his questions came out. "Come on, what's your secret?"


Kneeling below the camera, the makeup man spotted a drop of sweat just below Andy's receded hairline. He signaled the DA to speed up the cut to commercial, so he could take care of it.


Andy responded haltingly. "I...I...don't know what you mean Nick. Like I--"


Nick tossed his clipboard aside, shot out of his chair and grabbed Andy by the throat and wrist. In an instant Andy was on the floor, his cheek mashed to the carpet, his arm cocked and Nick's knee in his back. "COME ON, GRAVITY-BOYEEE'," Nick sneered, "SPIT IT OUT! NOW!" He twisted Andy's arm a few more inches. The startled off-camera staff jumped up and formed a circle around the pair. The camera moved in to follow the action.


"OW! I don't know what --OW! You’re breaking my -- OW! Jesus! What are you--"


"Spill it now or I swear, I'll rip your damn arm right off!" Nick spat the words out, his face red with rage and his neck swollen and stretched with protruding veins. His whole body became rigid with anger. "Spill it!"


"Uh -- I -- OK, OK!! Stop it already!"


Nick loosened his grip a bit. He turned his head and screamed at the circling crowd. "Get back, I say, or your precious home-town boy will be flying with one brake toggle!" The staff stepped back, but only a single step. All eyes were on Nick. He returned his attention to Andy. "Well?"


"It... father, he's a physics professor at Oberlin College. He was experimenting -- OW! -- on the effect of gamma rays on a synthetic polymer, under pressure, and --"


"I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!" Nick threw Andy's arm aside and stood up, still glaring at him on the floor as his guest curled up and cradled his injured appendage. "FLUBBER!"


Nick stamped back to his chair, took the clipboard from the grip and dropped into his seat. Andy was visibly shaken but crawled to his seat, still holding and rubbing his arm. The camera and the relieved crew retreated to their stations again.


Nick stared at him for several seconds. Andy, shaking quietly, looked everywhere other than back at Nick. Nick spoke, "So, those forty-mile flights. Bogus."


Andy turned to Nick, defiant. "Hey, those flights were real!" I didn't have the stuff that trip."


"But what about Jackson Hole? Damn, I had a friggin' midlife crisis over that!"


Andy smiled, realizing he finally had the upper hand. "Yeah, I kind of noticed, you lost the beard. Anyway, it was important, nobody was getting up. I had to go for it."


"So, who else knows about this?"


"Nobody. Well, almost nobody. There's my stock trader."


Nick's expression was blank, then his eyes widened. "You mean...?"


"You don't think he made it from the Spud to Elk Mountain and back on his own, do you?"


"Damn! What did you get out of the deal?"


"Bottom floor on an Internet IPO. I won't be buying my own gliders for quite a while now." He retrieved and donned a pair of Black Flys sunglasses, grinning. He could be smug now.


Nick looked around, then back at Andy. "Um, where, uh, might I get some of this?"


"Go bite a quicklink."


"Really, Andy, I didn't mean any of --"


"Go bite a quicklink." Andy glanced at the side door, then rose from his chair.


"Wait! Look, I know the producer, I can get you your own sh--"


"It's been giggles, Nick, but I've got an appointment with a sponsor."


The DA stood and signaled for a commercial. The staff were up and preparing for the next shot. Andy disappeared stage left with Nick close behind. "Andy! Wait! I can pay! Really!"