Reached by phone a few weeks after the taping, Hester, who is undeniably more cordial and soft-spoken than he is on camera (“It’s a different game when you get behind the gates”), ratchets up the intrigue. “You’ll have to stay tuned,” he says. “If I’m coming back, they’ll want to play that into the show.” A day later, a network publicist informs me he’s taping with them in Los Angeles.
Contemplating this season’s potential Yuuup! factor only lasts so long, as I attempt to absorb the elephant in the parking lot — a 26-foot polished-aluminum vintage-looking Decoliner motor home. It’s the crux of the latest grande entrée by Barry Weiss, the show’s silver-tongued and haired “Collector,” who could pass for George Hamilton’s hip younger brother.
In previous episodes, he’s arrived at auctions in garages’ worth of collectible cars, with minibikes, doughnut stands and psychics in tow. Pulling in a half hour before the day’s auction, a rarity for this classic latecomer, Weiss pops out of his black Jaguar wearing blue khakis, white bucks and a white sweater, singing the theme to The Love Boat through an antique bullhorn.
“He called in yesterday and said, ‘I need a Captain Stubing outfit,’ ” says segment producer Heather Mansfield as Weiss dons a white jacket and captain’s hat that were procured from an army surplus store in Burbank, Calif., the night before.
“Who’s Brandi: Mary Ann or Ginger?” Weiss asks the crew, who invariably vote Mary Ann, which seems apt given Passante’s demure-vixen ensemble of a navy wool checked skirt and a white blouse. As the producers argue over whether Sheets or Schulz represents Gilligan, Weiss climbs aboard the Decoliner’s roof-mounted, fly-bridge cockpit and proceeds to drive the silver beast down South Western Avenue with a police escort from Gardena’s finest. After a few laps for the camera and far too many nautical jokes to count, Weiss walks into the front office to sign in for the auction, boisterously asking, “Where’s the harbor master?”
If all this sounds a bit over the top, don’t underestimate the time, effort and countless hours of footage it takes to craft 26 episodes of hit television — since its first season, Storage Wars has been A&E’s top-rated nonscripted show — out of the quotidian, if formerly underground and corrupt, world that is buying and selling storage lockers.