The Television Academy, more accurately known as the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, decided in 2014 to create a promotional ad for their upcoming Emmy Award ceremony. It featured the stars of Breaking Bad and Veep and spoofed the television show “Pawn Stars”. At a span of six minutes, fans of any of the three popular shows might have been inspired to watch the awards.
Still, they need not have paid prominent celebrities for the scene had they been able to wait for a couple of years.
In November of 2012, Ismail “Smiley” Cekic found a winged statuette in a trash can on the streets of New York. Hurricane Sandy had recently blown through, and the construction worker assumed it was one of many items which had been discarded amidst the destruction. He liked the look of it. The statuette was retrieved from the trash, cleaned, and placed atop his coffee table.
Many months later, Smiley – an aspiring actor and musician as well as construction worker – decided to watch the 2013 Emmy Awards as a way of focusing on his long-term goals. While watching the event, he realized that he wasn’t going to have to wait to get an Emmy; he had one on his table.
Smiley contacted a friend of his, a young Brooklyn director named Eric Rivas, and arranged to bring it to the screening of Rivas’ film Vamp Bikers so anyone who was missing theirs might be able to identify it. The Daily News covered the story. What he didn’t consider is that all of the Emmys look alike; they are differentiated by a inscribed band with information about the winner. Unsurprisingly, nobody was able to identify the generic Emmy.
Smiley contacted the Television Academy, who verified that it was an Emmy, and furthermore identified it as coming from the 1950s or 1960s. They then launched an investigation to determine the original recipient.
Cekic, who had originally wanted to give the Emmy back, grew impatient with the investigation which seemed to be getting no attention. He declared his intent to sell the award in order to further film… specifically, to get funding for Vamp Bikers Dos. The Academy prevented this, pointing out that they were letting him keep it temporarily because he’d found it and been so honest in his attempts to return it to the rightful owner… but that technically, all Emmy awards (as with most Oscars) remain the property of the Academy which presents them, and the recipients are given guardianship in perpetuity. They cannot be sold.
Vamp Bikers Dos was made anyway. And then Vamp Bikers Tres started filming, only to run into an issue. One of the stars, Angel Salazar (best known as Chi Chi in the Al Pacino version of Scarface), was arrested for failure to pay child support.
It was Smiley who found the loophole. He could not sell the statuette for the bail money to get Salazar out of jail, but he could, and did, temporarily pawn the Emmy to raise the cash. $1200 dollars later, he’d helped his friend complete a highly dubious trilogy and managed to turn a promotional comedy skit into something highly akin to real life.
Thanks to Ismail Cekic, this film was completed:
I suspect the director would have preferred to work with Bryan Cranston and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss.
Question of the night: Is there a memorable time a friend has stepped up to help you (or vice versa)?