Tuesday, January 30, 2007

One Dozen Questions with Jay Maynard, the Tron Guy

There are a handful of people out here on the World Wide Web who have gained a measure of notoriety - by accident or design - through quirky, funny, or simply unusual circumstances. They are the "Internet Phenomenon" people, and they walk among us. You know who these folks are - Gary Brolsma the "Numa Numa kid", Ghyslain Raza the "Star Wars kid", Mahir Cagri the "I Kiss You" dude... they are legion.

Back in 2004, an IT professional from Fairmont, Minnesota joined the ranks of the Internet Phenomenon elite when photos of him wearing his handcrafted electroluminiscent Tron costume hit the Web. By sharing those photos with the world, Jay Maynard became an online celebrity - and the butt of more than a few jokes thanks to his formfitting gear and non-catwalk model physique. His geek prestige garnered him a series of appearances on the late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where Jimmy set the "Tron Guy" up on a number of dates with eligible ladies. My sister, Nurse Rachet, and I found Jay's appearances on Kimmel's show really engaging and funny (there's a sweet moment when some guy on the street hugs the Tron guy.) We thought it was very genuine and gutsy to appear on national television in body-hugging Lycra pimped out to look like a character from a slightly cheesy (but innovative) 1982 science fiction film. That really takes a degree of confidence that many folks simply don't possess.

A few days ago, I posted an entry/rant where I talked about the new guy's fashion "must have" from the catwalks of Milan: "man leggings." In a snarky rebuttal to this breaking style news, I posted a photo of Jay Maynard, noting that this is what a Real Guy - as opposed to the fashion elves in Milan - would look like in "man leggings."

Jay Maynard discovered my blog.

And, very reasonably, Jay commented.


I pondered this. Here, I'd been Madame Snark, and Jay was very nice in return. So, I decided this was the right time to revive "One Dozen Questions." Very kindly, Jay Maynard agreed to answer one dozen questions for the readers of the Church of the Big Sky. Here they are, with Jay's answers. Enjoy!

You are a genuine Internet phenomenon – has the response from people on the Web generally been positive? As an IT specialist, has being “the Tron Guy” worked to your advantage professionally? Socially?

By and large, the response from people on the Web these days is quite positive. That wasn’t always the case, though: the first couple of weeks were pretty rough, along the lines of “AUGH! Fat guy in spandex! Why didn’t you warn me? The goggles, they do nothing!” In retrospect, I should have expected nothing better from the denizens of Fark and Slashdot and Something Awful.

The folks I work with think the whole thing is pretty neat, but it hasn’t really done more than that professionally. There are a few folks I’ve become friends with because of it all, though. The most notable of those is Cindy Morgan, the actress who played Yori in Tron. She’s a really nice lady…and still babe-a-licious.

Has your Internet notoriety led to any strange requests or really odd messages? Has most of your correspondence come from the U.S. or abroad?

Most of my correspondence comes from the US, though I’ve gotten quite a bit from Europe. I can’t really say that there have been odd requests that have come from it.

Lots of folks enjoyed your appearances on Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show. Jimmy was working to find you some romance. Did anything pan out, or are you still looking for the woman of your dreams? Was the whole TV experience fun, or a pain?

I still keep in touch with a couple of the ladies I’ve met. It didn’t really turn into more than that, though. I had a lot of fun doing Jimmy Kimmel Live!. If they called me back, I’d go in a minute. They really were good folks: they’d fly me to LA, send a chauffeured limo to pick me up from the airport, put me up in a nice hotel a couple of blocks from the studio, and generally treat me like I was someone important. Make no mistake: it was definitely work… but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

I understand you strip down to a unitard for going through airport security. Do you do this when you’re traveling with clients or colleagues, or only when you’re traveling solo? I’m dying to know what traveling companions – and TSA – think about it.

I don’t travel with clients, but my colleagues, on the few occasions where I’ve been with them, have thought it was amusing. The TSA’s reactions have been all over the map. Screeners in Newark thought it was great and that all travelers should dress like that. The screening manager in Greensboro, North Carolina was personally offended to the point that he told me he would not allow me to fly at his airport if I did it again – after one of his screeners told me that she thought it was neat. The folks at Baltimore-Washington International thought I needed to be taught a lesson, so they did the pat-down search anyway (despite it being obvious that I wasn’t carrying anything on my person) and then did the explosive residue test on every singe piece of electronics equipment I was carrying. The whole process took 45 minutes. Most TSA people either just shake their heads or get mildly offended that I would dare question their methods in that manner.

Seriously – many women worry about the dreaded “visible panty line” or VSL. How does a man in tights – or a unitard, for that matter – handle that quandary?

Not trying to get too personal, but how does one, uh, keep all the “fiddly bits” from swinging in the breeze? (Now that “man leggings” are making their debut on the male fashion scene, this could become an issue for urban guys by springtime!)

These two get the same answer. It’s called a dance belt. It’s a cross between a thong and a jock strap, and is designed to be invisible under tights, while still providing support and (for most men) a bit of concealment.

In the pictures on the original page that made me (in)famous, I wasn’t wearing one. That’s why everything’s so prominent. I made the decision not to wear a dance belt originally because I’d thought that the actors in Tron weren’t wearing them, either. When I got the 20th Anniversary Edition of the DVD, and watched the “making of” video, I found out that I was wrong: not only did they wear them, but they were a running joke on the set. Properly sized and worn, a dance belt is quite comfortable; from the comments Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner made in the video, theirs apparently weren’t.

From visiting your website, I know that you’re an NRA member – have you ever worn the Tron suit out to the shooting range? What is your weapon of choice?

I haven’t worn the costume out shooting but in one Jimmy Kimmel Live! segment (the third date). I had a hard time washing the powder residue out of the gloves after that. In general, I don’t wear the costume unless I’m making an appearance in it. It’s seen a lot more use, and a lot more wear, than I’d ever expected it to, and it’s beginning to show.

I’m a handgun shooter, and a fan of the .40 S&W caliber. When Minnesota adopted a concealed carry law that required issuance of a permit to anyone who met the requirements, I got one. My carry weapon is a Glock 27 pistol. I’ve got a few other pistols for other kinds of shooting.

I went to college in Minnesota, and I know Fairmont, where you live, is a relatively rural location – are your neighbors amused by your notoriety, or do they even know about it?

Not many of them seem to know about it. I’ve made a few appearances at local events, and the Fairmont Sentinel did an article on me – in November 2004, well after things started happening – but, for the most part, it never comes up.

What does the Tron Guy do on a swingin’ Saturday night in Fairmont?

There’s no such thing as a swingin’ Saturday night in Fairmont. In general, though, I spend my evenings quietly at home, poking at a computer or talking with friends, on the radio or IRC.

Back in 2004, for the Jimmy Kimmel dating introduction video, you mentioned having 46 computers in your single-family house. I recognize you’re an IT guy, but isn’t 46 just a little over the top?

That number includes both my computers and my roommate’s. It’s up to 57, though…Over the top? Well, it would be if they were all the same. They’re not. We’ve got stuff from Apple ][s to PCs to different kinds of minicomputers all the way up to a small IBM mainframe. They run different operating systems, and generally do things differently.

Hillary or Barack in 2008?

Neither. I haven’t decided who I’m supporting yet, but it’s much more likely to be John McCain or Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney than either of those two.

Have any advice for the next Internet Phenomenon out there?

You’ve got two choices: either try to make it go away, or else jump on the bandwagon and ride it for all it’s worth. Once it starts, there’s not a thing in the world you can do about it, so trying to make it go away won’t work and will just fan the flames. If you ride it, you may well find that you get to do things and meet people you wouldn’t have a chance to any other way. You may not have as much fun as I did, but trying to make it go away will be no fun at all.

I'd like to thank Jay Maynard for answering one dozen questions for me. Jay's website is TronGuy.net. Swing by and give him a shout-out!


Heather Meadows said...

What a cool guy!

I've had people come by and respond to my snarky posts about them before, but I never had the guts to ask them to be interviewed by me ;>

Merujo said...

Heather, you should definitely do it! My philosophy is, "What the hell! Why not?"

Cyn said...

Excellent interview!

Jay seems to be pretty grounded in reality for a guy who choses to wear tights.

Not to infer that men shouldn't have the right to wear tights -- I'm all for equal tights rights.
Just that you need a fair amount of courage/security-in-your-body-image to wear a unitard in public, regardless of your gender.

Anonymous said...

I don't consider myself particularly courageous for wearing tights in public. This is the body I have, and what I wear will not change your opinion of it (I look just as fat in a T-shirt and Dockers).

Besides, if I ever had any self-consciousness about wearing tights in public, appearing repeatedly on national TV that way has completely burned it out of me...

Anonymous said...

(Let's see if it asks for my name this time.)

That last comment was from Jay Maynard...