Wednesday, March 26, 2014

When "American Pickers" Met Prince Mongo

Posted By on Wed, Mar 26, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe of American Pickers talk to Prince Mongo (center)
  • Greg Akers
  • Frank Fritz and Mike Wolfe of "American Pickers" talk to Prince Mongo (center)
Yesterday afternoon, the leads of History Channel's phenomenally successful show American Pickers were in downtown Memphis. The tall, thin, sarcastic Mike Wolfe and the shorter, rounder, more subtly funny Frank Fritz are a kind of Abbott and Costello of antiques. Never mind that the show, appearing on the channel it does, necessarily equivocates history with material possessions (forgivable, because there is some social history value to considering what past generations considered valuable) or that it led to an immense rise in copycat shows piggybacking on American Pickers' success (unforgivable, because Pawn Stars).

Though Mike is based out of Iowa (his company, Antique Archaeology has also opened a store in Nashville) and Frank out of Illinois, fans of the show know the duo traipse all across the country looking for finds.

So it's not surprising that the American Pickers found their way to Memphis, unofficial capital of the Mid-South, an old part of the country with lots of old stuff in it. Nevertheless, driving down Front Street yesterday afternoon, having just punched the clock from work, spying Mike and Frank on a sidewalk surrounded by cameras was still a surreal vision. (True confession: I saw Mike first, and, in the context of being surrounded by cameras in downtown Memphis, my initial thought was that it was Flyer contributor and local filmmaker Chris McCoy — they do share a resemblance.)

The surrealism achieved Dalian proportions when out strode Prince Mongo, Memphis' court jester/civic joke/frequent mayoral candidate/Code Enforcement fiend/visitor from the planet Zambodia. The American Pickers AND Prince Mongo? I hastily illegally parked and took some photos. I realized they were in front of Prince Mongo's building near Union and Front. See the slideshow for more.

What did the trio talk about? What was Mongo selling and/or buying? Did they agree on a price for the auditorium chairs, or that weird net thing, or Mongo's bewigged neck-skeleton companion? Is it possible Mongo died 5 years ago and is now himself being picked? And what would Mongo be valued at?

All will be told, one hopes, in an episode of American Pickers in the near future.

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