Whirlwind experience of being part of cable TV show 'fantastic' for Nebo man

Posted: Sep. 27, 2012 5:32 pm Updated: Dec. 21, 2012 9:15 am

John Yasenko says a week's worth of long days and short nights in preparation for what will likely be his 15 minutes of fame was undoubtedly worth it.

Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz, the stars of the cable TV show "American Pickers" on History, were in Nebo on Sept. 13 to visit Motor Car Investments, which is owned by Yasenko and housed in the old Nebo grocery store. The cast and crew pulled into town at about 9 a.m. and were there for several hours.

When he finally made it home that night, he was in a daze.

"I was going on about 20 hours worth of sleep for the past week, and I could no more than the man on the moon gather my thoughts together," he said. "I was absolutely burned out."

Yasenko runs what he calls "a private shop" in Nebo, a tiny car lot that deals with cars that generally sell for about $3,000 to $4,000. He also has collected items over time in the shop, including what he claimed was "the first futuristic exotic automobile" built in 1935.

He had worked with the producers of "American Pickers" for about a year, sending emails and photos back and forth for several months. A representative from the show based out of New York called to say Wolfe and Fritz were going to make a trip through Illinois "sometime in the spring or summer."

On Sept. 6, he received a call that an advance "scout" would be at his business -- in six hours.

"I think they do that so it wouldn't allow me to stage my business," Yasenko said. "That gentleman showed up, took some pictures and then sat me down with a camera and interviewed me right there on the spot."

He had six days to prepare for the arrival of the cast and crew.

"I wasn't prepared to go on to a nationally televised show," Yasenko said. "You don't really get informed as to how many people are in the staging crew, how many trucks are coming, nothing like that. I had to swing into full gear, cleaning up, making it presentable. I was representing the town of Nebo and Pike County as a whole."

And he couldn't tell anybody.

"That was an absolute no-no," he said. "They've actually had to shut down productions before because so many people will come. Believe me, I was tickled pink and wanted to tell everybody, but they forewarned me."

Hundreds of people came to Nebo throughout the day to watch the proceedings once word spread. During breaks, some people talked with Yasenko and the crew about items they had that they thought Wolfe and Fritz would want.

"How do you answer them?" he said. "They would say, "I sent emails and I left messages, and they never call back.' With the thousands of requests they get, that just doesn't happen often."

Yasenko said he got a "crash course" on how a show like that is filmed and admitted he never could prepare for becoming the center of attention.

"Everything just seems to fly," he said. "You can't read about it in advance and know what it's like."

What did the "American Pickers" take from Yasenko's collection? As you might expect, he can't say as part of an agreement he signed with the show's producers. All he has to show for his work are "some killer pictures" and a few autographs.

He thought the show might be aired in the "next three months." Until then, he'll spend his time getting back to his old classic and vintage cars.

"It was fantastic," Yasenko said. "It's an experience very few people ever get to encounter."


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