Interview with 'Hollywood Treasure' Star Tracey McCall

Photo Credit: SyFy
August 29th, 2012

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to the lovely and talented actress, Tracey McCall. Tracey and I discussed her life as an actress, her ups and downs in Hollwood, and her rise to fame with her role on the hit show Hollywood Treasure. Tracey filled me in on some of the secrets of reality TV and her passion for all things Hollywood.  

Nick- Hi Tracey, how are you doing?

Tracey- I’m good!

Nick- Are you out in LA?

Tracey- Yes, I live out here in LA, and I will have been here 12 years this October!

Nick- You grew up near Toledo, OH, which is where I am from, do you get to come back much?

Tracey- Like four times a year; I get to come back for holidays and things like that.

Nick- That’s cool that you get to come back and visit your family quite a bit.

Tracey- Yeah, there’s a lot of people there I miss and want to see.

Nick- So let’s talk about your career as an actress. Tell me how you got started, and how you landed a spot on Hollywood Treasure.

Tracey- I came out to LA in pursuit of an acting career and I was doing it.  Right away I signed up to do extra work on a film because you have to get your SAG vouchers to become a member of the union SAG (The Screen Actors Guild).  So I signed up to be in this movie called Not Another Teen Movie, and I got all my vouchers, and they upgraded me to a speaking role; which was later cut from the film.  That was my first taste of Hollywood and I started having a pretty steady ride, but it has not been easy; things just unfolded in a nice way.

I got agents and I booked a national commercial for Taco Bell in the first year that I was out here. At the peak of my auditioning career I was interviewing every day.  I had: a TV and film agent, a commercial agent, a print modeling agent, a voice over agent, and a manager.  I was auditioning like two or three times while driving around changing clothes in the car.  I did a lot of WB shows like: Gilmore Girls, and What I like About You.  I did: Private Practice, South Land, a few pilots, and other shows that were canceled like: Dr. Vegas, and Twins.  I also did a lot of independent films that all went to film festivals and won awards. 

All of these were small parts, and so after ten years I was really sick of auditioning  The game had changed, all of a sudden movie stars were doing television and doing voice overs for films. Now the people that were working in TV as series regulars were competing against me for guest starring, or even co-starring, roles; it’s a luck game, and people want to hire what people recognize. With reality TV not going away, there’s not as many scripted shows and literally the auditions were cut in half because people are so interested in reality.  I was like: “OK, I’m done, I don’t want to do this anymore”.  I was over having to drive really far to say my one line and compete against thirty other cute, capable, talented, girls. 

In LA, you’re always doing a few different jobs and I did the waitressing thing for years and I made great money.  When I didn’t want to do that anymore, I was doing event planning and styling and meeting people.  When I started getting into event planning, I was hired to plan a party for an upcoming auction.  I met the owner, things clicked, and he told me I could do phone bidding for the auction and to let him know if I was interested.  At that same time the show Hollywood Treasure started looking around for people to work with.   Usually for a show, people have to go in and pitch their idea for it, but in this case a production company approached the owner of Profiles in History, Joe Maddalena, and said: “Hey man, we want to do a show on you and your business”.  At that time he had several guys that worked for him and luckily they met me, because they wanted a girl in the cast.  They were like: "You’re perfect. You have a background in acting and you can be the event coordinator on the show".  So I am playing a version of myself on the show and it’s been a lot of fun.  I get to travel and learn about the entertainment industry on a different side.  Everyone I work with is so intelligent, and their kind of geeky, and they know a lot about the history of Hollywood.

Nick- As I was watching the show, I was wondering if you had gotten on the show as an actress or because you were working there.  Apparently, you got the show because you were working there and because you had an acting background, huh?

Tracey- Well sort of.  I don’t go to the office. I don’t really work there. I help out when I’m needed.  I’ll plan events, parties, and do the phone bidding, but no, I am not the receptionist, or anything like that.  I don’t answer phones at the Profiles in History office, which people can’t wrap their head around.  People will call there and be like: “Is Tracey there?”.  The receptionist will tell them I am out in the field, which is funny. 

Nick- Are these types of reality shows scripted?

Tracey- Reality shows are basically scripted because you have to make interesting television.  Yes, the items are real; but maybe the roundabout way from how the consignor got the item, and why it’s going into auction, is a little gray.  It might not be the ‘exact’ story because if it was the exact story, it would be as boring as watching paint dry.  I’ve read blogs were people are pissed, and talk about how it seems fake, and how could a camera crew be there to capture this?  I’m like: “Are you people serious?”

Nick- It’s television, what do they expect?

Tracey- Yeah, we’re just trying to make good television here and you can’t please everyone. 

Nick- Why is the show on the SyFy network?

Tracey- Everyone always asks that and the honest answer is that they we’re the highest bidder with our original production company.  They shopped it around to: Discovery, History, A & E, and SyFy.  SyFy really liked it and wanted to give us money to get started.  The production company was like: “Yeah money lets go with SyFy,” but if they would have thought about it it’s not really the best fit because our show probably would be better for those other networks, because it’s a family show.  It’s not that science fiction oriented, and the main problem we have come across with it being on the SyFy network is the actual science fiction fans don’t really like our show because they want to see: Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, and all those kinds of shows. SyFy is trying to expand their audience, and they are trying to get more people to watch it with programs like Hollywood Treasure.  So it’s really between people that never watch SyFy, but only watch it for our show; and the people that have always watched it, but don’t want to watch our show.   It’s been challenging to find story ideas that the network and the producers agree on. One I idea the producers had was to do a story on Cameron’s dad’s car from Ferris Bueller. They said, “It’s in Chicago, let’s get it and do a story on it”.  The SyFy network was like, “No it’s not science fiction enough”.  I mean come on, it’s Feris f***in’ Bueller! Right?  So that’s the challenge.  It’s a great show and we hope that it gets renewed but it’s all in the control of the network and the people that are high up; sometimes those people are not the most creative people, and they’re the one’s making all the decisions.

Nick- What has it been like for you as an actress to be on a Reality TV show?

Tracey- It’s really been a learning curve because being on the show I get to see more of the ‘behind the scenes’, and i get to sit in on meetings and give my input; which is different from being an actor where you’re a puppet and they say, “Stand here, wear this, say this, do that”. With this show it’s kind of like Curb Your Enthusiasm where they’re like, “Here is the outline of what we want to get across, go”.  So a lot of it’s improve and they cut a lot of it out, but it really gives you a free platform.  I can say anything and you never know what they are going to keep, but they can’t keep everything. They do have extended versions, and I’m like, “I need an extended reel of all the outtakes!”.

It has been a trip because I was basically done with auditioning, and then all the sudden I found myself on TV.  It’s funny how the universe works, as soon as you don’t want something so badly, it comes to you.

Nick- I think it’s fun on the SyFy channel because I was watching it and a lot of the episodes had Star Wars stuff in them, and other cool science fiction movie memorabilia.

Tracey- Oh yeah.  There’s such a plethora between every wonderful Hollywood film or Television program.  Star Wars is awesome and that’s always going to be popular whether you’re a science fiction fan or not.  It’s kind of a narrow minded path that we have to stay on though.  Last season we were featuring Marilyn Monroe’s dress that she wore in The Seven Year Itch, and it was fighting tooth and nail with the SyFy network because they didn’t want to feature something of Marilyn Monroe; even when it’s one the most iconic dress of all time.  That dress actually sold last June at the Debbie Reynolds auction for nearly 6 million dollars.  So we are talking about the most expensive and iconic piece of costume that has ever been sold, ever. The fact the the SyFy network didn’t want to feature that is like, “Come on, open your mind a little”. 

Nick- Each thread is worth like a thousand dollars!

Tracey- I know, and it’s so crazy Nick because it was her, it was her curves, her sex appeal, and that’s what made the dress be such an iconic piece.  When you see it in person it’s very aged, it looks like a dirty handkerchief, it looks like your grandma’s off white, kind of stained looking, plain seated dress. 

Nick- You guys are dealing with serious money here.  What happens if someone wants too much money for their item and it doesn’t get that much in the auction?

Tracey- Yeah, I’m always baffled by the numbers, and I’m like, “Who has this kind of money and why are they buying this?”.  In December we sold the Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz and the man that had them had them since 1989. He finally wanted to sell them.  We put them up in auction, and he wanted no less then 2 million dollars.  It is really challenging when the consignor wants a certain amount because Joe puts them in at 1 million, and hopes he gets a bunch of bidders. The price could sky rocket, like the Marylyn Monroe dress, and get more than the estimated price.  But, this guy was like, “No no no I will only take two million, no less than that”.  That’s a really scary number to be the starting price point; even if they are one of the most iconic pairs of shoes of all time. When the auction started nobody bid and it was like you could hear a pin drop in the room.  It was so awful, because it’s exciting when a lot of people are bidding and the numbers get really crazy.  In the consignor contract, if the item doesn’t sell at auction; there is a two month grace period where it can still be sold. Joe feverishly tried to talk to his best clients and find a home for these slippers. Well, it ended up being a great story because Leonardo DiCaprio, along with Steven Spielberg, and the Academy of Motion Pictures, purchased them and they’re going to be at the Hollywood Memorabilia Academy of Motion Pictures Museum that’s due to open in 2017, or 2018.  They are going to be in Hollywood, California where they should be, and where the public can see them. In the end it turned out to be great but in that moment it was like, “Oh shit are they going to go back in that vault where no one will ever get to see them again?”.

Nick- Those are some amazing pieces of memorabilia you guys have dealt with! You aren’t auctioning off the small stuff, you are doing the serious Hollywood memorabilia: probably the biggest stuff of all time.

Tracey- Oh definitely.  It’s been a really cool thing.  Last year Debbie Reynolds, who’s like 80 years old, back in the day starred in movies like Singing in the Rain...

Nick- Does she have something to do with Carrie Fisher?

Tracey- Yes, Carrie is her daughter.  Debbie Reynolds married Eddie Fisher and had two children: Todd and Carrie.  Back in the day she was like the Jennifer Aniston of Hollywood.  She was a little darling, she sang and danced and acted in a lot of movies,  Singing in the Rain was probably her greatest claim to fame.  She always had this vision about collecting Hollywood memorabilia and to make a museum one day.  She collected this stuff and then when Paramount, and every big lot sold everything, she bought everything with her hopes of putting this museum together.  Well, she had a string of bad husbands, and a bad business partner, so, the museum never got off the ground, and she had all this stuff stored.  She went bankrupt, and she owed this guy money who screwed her over, and so she was forced to sell her entire collection.  Last June, she sold off iconic pieces like the Marilyn Monroe dress, among 6 others; she had all the goods.  Since she was forced to sell it we put together this exhibit and raised 25 million dollars for her.  It was the best auction ever.  She was able to pay her debt and get back on her feet,  it was really cool to be part of that auction.

Nick- What else was in the auction?

Tracey- Well, besides Marilyn’s dress that sold for 6 million dollars, there was the ascot that Audrey Hepburn wore in My Fair Lady, which sold for nearly 4 million dollars.  There was also stuff from: the Sound of Music, Wizard of Oz, Cleopatra, basically every famous movie from back in the day she had stuff from.  It was so cool to be a phone bidder because it’s almost like Vegas, things are going along and all the sudden a big item comes up and everyone gets so excited and re-energized.  Mainly people bid online because it’s easiest nowadays with technology, and people can do it from Saudi Arabia, or China; but you also have phone bidders, which is my job to bid on their behalf.  It’s really fun to play with somebody else’s money!  There is also people that come in the audience and bid, but usually someone sends them to bid on their behalf because they want to remain anonymous.  They don’t want people to know how much money they have and what they are spending their money on.  Joe has a lot of big clients that are movie stars, or movie directors, and sometimes I bid for these people and I know who they are even though they are using an alias.  I’m always gitty on the phone though because I know who it is.

Nick- You have such an incredible job especially for a girl from Toledo.

Tracey- I know! Everyone’s always fascinated with celebrities, TV, and film, so it’s fun because this is really the royalty of America pretty much.

Nick- Let me ask you this, what are three items that you really wish you could have taken home from an auction?

Tracey- Well, I love all the art. I’m not really into the costumes or the props that much, so in the Debbie Reynolds auction I loved the Cleopatra art.  They had these sketches that were just so beautiful, and I could see having them in my home.

I think the cars are really cool.  We had the Back to the Future car, which was the famous DeLorean. It was so cool to sit in it and see everything! How cool would it be if that was your car?

We don’t deal too much in jewelry but in the December auction we had Marilyn Monroe’s engagement ring that Joe Dimaggio gave her and that was up for auction; I think that went for like over half a million dollars. 

I’m more practical, I mean obviously I cant afford any of it, but I would love art, jewelery, or a car.  The weapons are also really cool.  We had a sword from Braveheart and that’s the whole symbol of the movie. If you see the weapons up close there pretty cool and well crafted.

Nick- Do you get to travel a lot and see different famous locations?
 
Tracey- In one of our recent episodes we went to North Carolina and we went to see the different locations where The Hunger Games was filmed, so that was cool.  I read the books and saw The Hunger Games so I really excited to see that.  Another example is when we went to the American Horror Story house.  I was a big fan of the show so I did get to geek out a little bit because it was cool to actually be inside the house.  Who gets to do that kind of stuff? Not many people.

We also went to Chicago to a mini comic-con and we did like a Hollywood Treasure Q & A  panel and we signed autographs, took pictures, people came out of the woodwork and told us they loved the show.  People had sexy pictures of me and asked me to sign them and it was very surreal.  I felt like a celebrity!

Nick- Well it’s a really fun show to watch and to see all the crazy items that go up for sale but their are some smaller items that come up right?

Tracey- Yeah, one thing that I splurged to get was a beautiful trio of Marilyn Monroe photos from the Bert Stern series, which was one of her last photo shoots.  To have a little piece of history like that is really amazing.  Everybody collects different things and that’s why the show is so fun because what is going to be your favorite item is going to be different for everyone else. 

Nick- Well thanks a lot Tracey for talking to me and I really like the show and I wish you the best of luck on everything you have going.  I know our audience will tune into the SyFy network to check out your show Hollywood Treasure.

Tracey- Thank you Nick!

Links for Tracey and Hollywood Treasure:

Tracey’s acting reel- www.youtube.com/user/traceymccall
Hollywood Treasure official site- http://www.syfy.com/hollywoodtreasure