Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Catch Me If You Can #pezoutlaw #gofundmepezoutlaw

As the Wall came down (the end of the old Soviet Union), the opportunity of this unique moment in time revealed itself. Opportunity for Pez Corporation and for me Pez Outlaw.

I think a lot now about that unique moment in time. Pez Corporation used it to expand into a vast new market. I used it to exploit the vulnerabilities of that rush to expand.

After the Wall came down, there was a lot of confusion. Confusion is your friend if you want to do crazy things in plain sight and have it seem normal. An Outlaw can look like just another businessman coming into a new market wishing to embrace newfound opportunity.

Luckily I had CASH and lots of it, because as we all know "Cash Is King". The number of hands by business types reaching out for the money I offered was like beggars in the slums of a third world country. It was indeed a unique moment in time.

Add to that the Corporate chaos within Pez Corp. In there rush to expand East into a rich new market, many choices that favored my efforts were made. People I found easy to deal with were given positions of authority, In normal times I wonder if the same choices would have been made?

Because the expansion East was so hurried, product was a huge problem and corners were cut. Older inventory and older molds, some no longer under license were rushed into new warehouses and new injection molding factories. Add to that the new user friendly staffs and this brave new world was perfect for me/Pez Outlaw to make his entrance on a world stage.

I loved this time. As I look back now I realize what a huge gift this magic moment was for me.
I grew up lower middle class and definitely not from money. I had a stereotype 1960s youthful experience. Free Love, Drugs and Rock and Roll.

I left my youth of the 1960s behind for love and 25yrs of torture to my soul working in the shop.While working in the shop I dreamed of the moment that finally arrived in 1994. A moment where if you could walk that delicate line between legal and illegal I could escape and lead the life I'd only dreamed of. When my moment arrived I grabbed that brass ring with both hands like a starving child.

What followed was My Perfect Decade. Money I can now only dream of having, because as you might guess it ended badly. That moment in time and I were both ill suited to survive, but ignorance was bliss and we both thought it could go on forever. With all my soul I wish it had, but like a crossroads deal with the Devil I got the standard ten years before my time ran out.

Now two decades later a story about Pez Outlay in Playboy Magazine and interest in a Hollywood Movie. Again I wait at the Crossroads like Robert Johnson eager to make that deal for just one more great decade before my time runs out again.

For ten years I had the unexpected pleasure of traveling to Europe & other areas of the world searching for Pez. A more noble journey would have been in search of wisdom or truth. My journey was in search of Plastic.

 My lifestyle allowed me to travel Worldwide roughly 10 times per year for most of 10 years. Each trip lasted 4 to 8 days. Some of the trips were more of a whirlwind affair involving many countries on the same trip. Austria to Hungary, Sweden to Hungary, South Africa to Hungary, Slovenia to Hungary, France n Germany to Hungary. Somehow I always ended up in Hungary. I also took my dream trip to Australia. I don't miss it, especially with flying being what it is today. Though for ten years it was my life & beyond what I ever thought possible. 

Everywhere I went people on the hustle with a recent jolt of freedom. Eastern Europe was to me a real contradiction. Remnants of the old oppression side by side with the new energy of a fresh batch of entrepreneurs. My timing could not have been better, the perfect marriage of an idea, the will to act on it n the environment for it to be possible.

In my years as Pez Outlaw I bought n sold well over 2 Million Pez Dispensers.
In my Pez Outlaw Decade I earned 4.5 Million Dollars.

So many hushed conversations where things were spoke of in an abstract shorthand, even when you'd think nobody could possibly hear.
Bribes to grease the wheels n routes chosen very carefully to avoid detection.
Flamboyant when selling but maintaining an undetectable profile when buying.
What a crazy decade.



In the 1990s a major cable channel contacted Pez Outlaw thinking I was Pez Corporation. 
I can't stress the significance of that n that it happened because my activities were so big at that time that they would get that confused.


My Movie. 
opening shot
an 8 year old child, (1959) Pez Outlaw being dragged to, then pushed into the classroom closet at the Maple Grove Elementary school. Darkness, then the door opens revealing Pez Outlaw 10 years later in solitary confinement county jail Ohio. 
see C1. Crazy Is Easy If You Are Motivated, #pezoutlaw... for the rest of this story 
scene 2
She Whispered, "Kolinska" With that one word, Kolinska, a decade long Fairy-tale that changed my life began.

Segue to a crowded Pez/toy show floor where a woman whispers Kolinka in my ear to Josh n I on the little plane to Ljubliana about to die. see C3.She Whispered, "Kolinska" #pezoutlaw #hollywood... for the rest of this story
scene 3

1994 Flight to Ljubljana. After waiting all night on benches in a small corner of the Vienna airport finally it was time to board. We walk out onto the airstrip & are directed to board Sky Kings plane. 
“Sky King” starred Kirby Grant as Schuyler “Sky” King and Gloria Winters as his niece, Penny.

Pilot copilot & 4 seats for passengers. One of the seats occupied by the overweight male stewardess handing out sandwiches from Rubbermaid containers. This did not look good. The flight turned out to be quite similar to a ride on a scary roller coaster with the male stewardess in your lap more than his own seat. Something to do with flying over the Alps in winter in a small plane, wind currents, downdrafts & low altitudes. We drove clown cars down through the mountains after that. The single most beautiful drive you will ever take is a winter drive from Vienna to Ljubljana through the mountains. The air is crisp & clean. The scenery unmatched anywhere in all my travels. Whenever I think of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen it is that drive in winter. Though driving clown cars through serious mountains can be a harrowing experience.

see C3.She Whispered, "Kolinska" #pezoutlaw #hollywood... for the rest of this story

Wardrobe. Me in my Trench Coat n Midnight Blue Velour Track Suit, clutching a paper towel in my left hand for security, true story. On the flight from the US to Europe I would not let the Flight Attendants take my coat as I did not trust anybody. 

 Sitting in my seat on that flight to Slovenia, I began wondering how I ended up here, sure I was about to die. The whispered word "Kolinska" that led me to that moment in time. From 1970 to 1990 I had been an accumulator of things old, from 1990 to 1994 I started doing antique n toy shows as a seller. During 1993 I started selling Pez from Canada, which led to the decade that changed my life's direction forever. All the previous was reflection while sitting on this plane ride from Hell, from here the adventure begins.


The story unfolds.

Final shot.
As the credits roll show a backshot of Pez Outlaw today sitting on set in the dark watching his life being made into a Hollywood Movie.
To me this is the money shot, telling the audience that after all that they just watched HE WON.
Life is hard n people need the encouragement of seeing that if you stick with it n believe in yourself, you actually can succeed.





The 1st known photo of Pez Outlaw






The Pez Outlaw story takes place in the 1990s and involves my conflict with Pez Corporation. 
A decade that was the happiest time of my life.

In 1997-1998 I made a fateful decision to invest 1/2 million dollars in Pez. Half was old stock, half was product I designed.

In late 1998 I received the news that Pez USA was going to copy everything that I had designed n bought from Pez Europe.

My biggest regret is deciding to buy that 1/2 million dollars worth of Pez Product.
The irony is that without that choice I never would have entered this phase of my life or written Pez Outlaw Diary. 
Pez Outlaw Diary only exists because I needed a way to understand and process the rise n fall of Pez Outlaw. 

Spies, Black Market Deals, Smuggling n Bribery. 
10 Years Nobody Could Catch Me. 

Gun Towers, Armed Guard Check Points, Military Equipment on Tarmacs at Airports n Hookers almost everywhere you turned. FYI the Hookers were anything but shy. Five or six on the roadside as you drove by, one out of five would be flashing you, lifting her shirt as an invite. At a roadside food-stand one Hooker was wearing, we'll call them trousers, so sheer that she might as well have been wearing nothing. Add to that the always present groups of Gypsies
n bubba you got a story. 

Ex KGB Resorts. This place was actually pretty cool in a KGB sorta way. At the center of everything was this old looking glass enclosed swimming pool with a brick changing room attached, surround by wooden cabins for rooms. Lockers the whole bit. It was the pool that was the big deal. The pool was fed by a hot sulfur spring, so you swam in hot sulfur water. Of course we tried it. It was a very unique experience and as we were lost when we found it, I could not tell you for the life of me where it was. A lot of these experiences were very unique & the last remnants of something soon gone forever.


Ex KGB Towers. At the borders of most old Eastern Block countries there were at regular intervals Guard Towers. They reminded me of water towers here but flatter & more saucer in shape with windows & a wrap around porch. These were the big ones, there were also smaller ones made of wood that reminded me of Park Ranger Towers over here. There were still a lot of cold war things standing in the early 90s.

The stories of Gypsies, Prostitutes, clandestine meetings, Bribes, smuggling in plain sight, my own version of the Wild Wests Hole In The Wall being The Raba Hotel in Gyor Hungary n how Pez Corporation would have killed to know that location. How the staff at the Raba literally guarded my privacy. How my movements resemble a covert agent more than some Redneck buying Pez.

Note
I didn't just drive on the sidewalk in front of Pez Austria, Linz. This happened in other places in the old eastern block + Slovenia. I can't remember exactly why josh n I did this, all I remember is that on multiple occasions it was just the easiest solution. I blame this behavior on tiny tiny cars.
I also accidentally drove through a non vehicle area of downtown Viena.
Offers from prostitutes was a daily occurrence. Exposure sometime literally to prostitution were multiple daily. 

 The following are surveillance photos taken on the sly by me. For this transaction I paid Gunther Leitner for 50 boxes of 12 carded Silver Glows per box. The driver and I were then told where to meet off site by Gunther.
It Fell Off The Back Of A Truck. 


Photos are of the silver glow Pez buy. The driver was under orders from Gunther Leitner. I paid Gunther, then met the driver for delivery.


That's me on the left. These are Photos I took covertly while buying Pez.


Covert Pez photos I took. That's me on the right. Tell a friend many more to come.

The Raba Hotel in Gyor Hungary
This is the Raba Hotel in Gyor. I spent well over 6 months here if you add up all my stays over a 10 year period. I loved this place. Highly recommended if you visit Hungary. Last few years of my travels my room was in far left corner of picture. The ones with balconies.

Restaurant at the Raba Hotel. I spent a lot of time here smoking cigarettes drinking espresso & Fanta orange as a chaser. Absolutely lovely place, many fond memories. Table with thingy on it was my table.

The Elvis Cafe.
The Elvis Cafe was this really weird restaurant located at the side of the road. I used to pass this cafe every trip in Hungary. Like I said, If you take the M1 freeway you really don't see Hungary. You have to take two lane blacktops if you want to see a passenger plane sticking out of a building. This restaurant was located about midway between the Vienna Hungarian border and Gyor. I actually stopped at this cafe several times. Had espresso up in the plane and bought several T-shirts.
Elvis Cafe outside Gyor in Hungary. Picture courtesy of Rudi.

The Real Pez Truck
The real for real Pez truck. Parked at the Yellow House aka Hungarocany in Gyor. For all the trucks that have been made and sold to collectors. I never understood why someone did not make the real thing. For me this truck is an icon. This truck is also the reason I thought Gunther was disappointed after we made our first Pez buy. He had them back it up to the warehouse, so once we were done it could be loaded for transport. That buy was early days only a few thousand dollars. What am I saying? I never in 10 years bought more than could fit in a good medium size car. Five duffel bags was my limit. I used to see this truck in Hungary, Slovenia and in between. Picture courtesy of Rudi.

Janossomorja
J√°nossomorja  was the name of the town or was it the warehouse where Gunther sent me. All you had to do was spot the smoke stack with Pez on it. then find the roads that got you there. This was the warehouse where Pez dispensers were stored. At the time it was also where candy was made and pez were carded. Like Kolinska in Slovenia. More or less the distribution hub for the old Eastern Block countries and Russia. Gunther owned that part of the world when it came to Pez.
Austria, Traun.


This is the building Where I found Gunther Leitner that day. That's my crappy little red rental car turning the corner. Unlike the photo the parking lot was empty and the main door was wide open.
Below Photo of the Ferry Boat I booked passage on with Silja Ferry Lines in Sweden. Inset is Pez Pal Mariner. 
I arrived at Silja Ferry lines & was allowed to board the ferry & go to the gift shop on board the ship. There I met this really wonderful lady who ran things named Tuula. She said we have about 60 or so Pez Pal Mariner available but you have to be on board as a passenger & at sea before I can sell you any. I told her I really needed a lot of them so she checked & said she had 2 pallets of pez pal mariner at the other port. Off I went to buy a ticket. I booked a round trip, in a Tax deductible high end room. It was a room with an exterior window, so a view of the whole trip. This room even had a shower & a TV. Until this trip the idea of being on a large boat out in the middle of a big body of water left me a little uneasy. After this trip I realized it was more like being in a small city that happened to be a boat.




Pez Outlaw - SJ Glew, The biggest Pez Dealer in the world for 5 years in the 1990s. Spent more than 2 million dollars buying over 2 million Pez dispensers. Made over 70 trips to Europe buying Pez, paying bribes and smuggling Pez dispensers. Pez Outlaw had a very big impact on an entire line of Pez Corporate product causing the Pez Color War.  Over 20 Pez Dispensers were produced in direct result of Pez Outlaw activities by Pez Corporation. Distribution procedures in place for decades were altered because of Pez Outlaw Activities. Author of Pez Outlaw Diary. pezoutlaw.com
On one trip Gunther Leitner sold me aprox 50 boxes of Silver glow Pez dispensers. If I remember correct each box contained 24 carded Silver glow Pez dispensers. At this point Josh n I were staying in Austria so back to our hotel we went. At the Austria Hungary border the Austrian guards required a bond on the 50 boxes of Pez dispensers to be refunded when items were checked in at the airport. So we went back to the hotel n down packed the 50 boxes of pez into 3 large boxes of pez. When we got to the airport customs refused to refund my bond, saying 3 boxes is not 50. Where are the other 47 boxes of pez? The scene escalated till what the Delta airlines rep saw when he walked into the room was. An American with a pony tail & long beard screaming at officials. Two machine gun armed Austrian border guards looking on at the ready n Josh petrified at the whole scene. Delta walked in calmed everybody down, gave Josh a couple aspirin & mediated the whole situation. I flew Delta Airlines from then on, they never failed to stand up for me in any situation.




I've always felt that when Pez Outlaw walks off into the sunset, it will be under one of these Alien Umbrellas.
Homage to Chaplin's Little Tramp. For me there are a lot of similarities between Chaplin's Little Tramp n Pez Outlaw. Both stuck there fingers in the eyes of authority. Both are charming yet wicked. Both have very big hearts.