Tuesday, March 24, 1998 ........... NEWS JOURNAL ............ Community 3B

Float pens put Ontario collector on TV show by Peggy Welch Mershon 'About Antiques' column

Personal FX: 'The Collectibles Show' is a hour-long New York-based program that runs live every day at noon on the FX cable channel, 45 in Mansfield. I try to catch it when I can because, although I have some problems with the appraisals, it's generally a fun show and I learn something from each person who appears to show off his or her collections.

On Tuesday, March 10, I saw in the opening teasers that one segment would deal with float pens, and my thoughts turned to Diana Andra of Ontario. I had written a story in November 1996 about Diana, principally about her fascination with Felix the Cat but also mentioning her collection of some 1,300 float pens, whose see-through tops reveal various characters and scenes bobbing around in a liquid.

Diana Andra of Ontario, who owns hundreds of float pens,
recently showed many of them to a national audience on a cable television show. (Jim Bikar/News Journal)

I was on the verge of calling her to tell her about the FX segment when - lo and behold! - who should appear on national television but Diana herself, who did not seem at all nervous as she explained and demonstrated for host John Burke just what float pens were.

And is was live, so I still couldn't call her right away to congratulate her on her TV debut. I had a thousand questions, but I had to wait a few days to get the scoop after she returned from New York City.

Diana said the folks at FX had seen an article about her and her float pens in the Fall 1997 Collectibles and Flea Market Finds magazine and contacted her around Christmas time to see if she would be interested in doing a three-minuted segment. They agreed on a date in March.

Diana is a craftswoman, making her living at woodworking, although she says she's been spending about eight hours a day lately on the Internet, buying, selling and talking about float pens. So the trip to New York was all business for her. Riding along were her boyfriend and fellow craftsman Bill Schmidt, basketmaker Vicki Bright and artist Marilee George. They stayed at the Edison Hotel near Times Square, and her friends managed to squeeze in some sightseeing and theater during their six days in the city.

Was this trip paid by FX? No Way! 'They don't give you a dime!' Diana laughed, but she had nothing but nice things to say about the cable television crew, both on and off camera. 'Everyone on the staff was extremely professional. They were extremely attentive to my needs,' she said.

In fact, their questions had been mailed to her in advance, and she sent back her answers, creating a kind of script that would from the basis for the on-air interviews, although she was told she could ad-lib is she wanted.

Diana and her friends arrived at 10:30am for the show that would go on the air live at noon. They were carrying some 500 float pens along with display racks. About 250 were picked out to be used in her segment.

Because the show uses a real apartment for its set, Diana found herself being shuffled from room to room during the preparation period and as the show progressed since her interview was to be in the last 15 minutes.

During her segment, she was advised to look at Burke, not the camera, which she said, was just as well, since she's 'extremely camera-shy.' A glance at the four television cameras trained on her left her feeling 'like a deer in headlights.'

Then, after her interview was done, she had to pick up and pack her displays VERY quietly since the show was still in progress. 'We had to sneak out and stand around and be silent. Then the minute the show went off the air, there was lots of racket.'

She was a little disappointed she didn't get her float pen Website mentioned in the segment, but viewers were advised that they could get more information by calling the show. She's received a couple of requests for articles since she's returned, including one from Antique Review in Worthington, Ohio.

If you missed the show, the float pens Diana collects (she now has more than 2,600) were created by a Danish firm, Eskesen, which still produces about 50 new designs a week to order by various companies around the world. Often sold as promotions or souvenirs, they cost around $3 new and can be priced as high as $6 on the secondary market.

Since Eskesen's patent expired in 1996, float-pen knockoffs have been coming out of Italy and China, but these are inferior, Diana said. Eskesen pens are usually marked with an 'E' or 'MADE IN DENMARK.'

A sample copy of Diana's bimonthly newsletter, Float About, is available for $2. Call her at 529-8876 for more information or call up her Website, www.turn2001.com


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