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GIBSON CITY — Ray “Beetle” Leisure kept apologizing to the stars of "American Pickers" as they dug through disorganized piles of antiques in Leisure’s sheds and garages on South Church Street in Gibson City.
But Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz — two of the most skilled pickers in the antique business — apparently didn’t mind the dirty work.
“We worked and worked to get some of it out,” Leisure said Monday, after the popular History Channel television show spent Sunday at Leisure’s property filming a segment for the show. “Mike and Frank and I, all three of us were covered with dirt and dust and cobwebs. And I kept apologizing for having to do that, and they said, ‘No, this is good; this is what we want.’ And I said, ‘Well, you got it, buddy.’”
Crowds of Leisure’s neighbors and "American Pickers" fans waited outside Leisure’s home on Sunday to get a glimpse of Wolfe and Fritz, who took breaks between filming to sign autographs and pose for photos.
“We never seen so many people (in front of our house). ... There must have been 500 cameras out there (on the street),” Leisure said. “They probably got a better view than I did.”
Leisure, 73, was selected to appear on American Pickers after the show put out a call for candidates in August.
The show, in its fourth season, has not set an air date for when Leisure will be featured, but Leisure said he was told it might be in December. He said he will be given two weeks’ notice prior to the airing date.
Leisure is not permitted to talk about what items were purchased by Fritz and Wolfe — or for how much money. But otherwise, Leisure said, he can talk about the experience freely.
“It was quite an experience,” said Leisure.
Leisure said Fritz and Wolfe showed up with a couple of cameramen, a sound man and producers and directors a little after 10 a.m. Sunday.
They did not leave until around dusk.
By the time it was over, Leisure was “tired and wore out.”
“My back was hurting. I came and sat in my chair, and that’s the last thing I remember until about 2 this morning,” Leisure said. “And I’ve got cramps in both legs (from standing so long). We was up and down and moving stuff so they could get to things.”
Leisure, who started looking for old, one-of-a-kind items when he was 12 years old, has a massive collection of pickings crammed into five buildings. Leisure wanted to be on the show — if for no other reason, just to get rid of some stuff.
But Leisure said Fritz and Wolfe “hardly scratched the surface” during their search for some of Leisure’s most interesting items.
“I was hoping somebody would rescue me,” Leisure said. “I told them, ‘I think it’s a disease; you’re the doctors.’
“But (having 'American Pickers' come to my house) got me more or less pumped up to try to do something with what I’ve got. I know it’s going to take a while (to get rid of some stuff) because it’s just piles and piles (of antiques). For years, I’ve been wanting to get things sorted out, and then, of course, I always find something else to do. But now I’m going to concentrate more on getting things organized.”
Leisure said "American Pickers" can always come back to take more stuff away.
“They can come back anytime. Maybe I’ll have things more organized for them,” he said with a laugh.
Leisure plans to schedule a viewing party at his house when the show airs. Leisure said he was told he will receive a DVD of the episode.
“I really can’t wait to see it,” Leisure said, “because they were here for eight hours, and if you make the show at all you might get five or 10 minutes — so how they can cut it down to five or 10 minutes, I don’t know; but I do know they do a good job of it.”