Eric "Big Ed" Edelstein was beginning to take on near-mythical proportions on the ZagsHoops' message boards, and some Zag fans were trying to figure out if this guy was real or just someone's joke. It turned out he is both. But yes, "Big Ed" was real and, yes, he has solid ties to former Gonzaga basketball players. "Big Ed" also carved himself a niche in Gonzaga folklore with his television announcing and comedy routines, just like he is doing now in Hollywood.
He was just in "Austin Powers: Goldmember" and has more gigs in Showbiz on his plate. Could "Big Ed" be the next Bing Crosby? Zags Hoops caught up with this talented GU alum and diehard Zags fan in his Hollywood pad.
ZH: Your very first play-by-play job was Gonzaga versus Concordia in The Kennel. Tell us about that infamous night?
EE: Well, I had to go through a great deal of auditioning for the job so I was already on edge. The head of the program was a wonderful man named Father Don Highberger who told me if I screwed up once, I was gone. However, once that first game came I thought I would be fine. No such luck. I found myself announcing everyone's first names, "Matt over to Richie. He kicks it in to Big Axel, now rotates it over to Mike." Which Mike, Nilson or Leasure? Who knows... It was really painful to listen to. Not a very good showbiz start for me. Thank God in the beginning the games weren't sold out so I don't imagine too many people were listening.
ZH: You had help and feedback on your broadcasts from a variety of people. Who was most helpful and what was the funniest advice you've ever received?
EE: Well, Coach Few used to always ride me pretty well for giving more credit to my roommates than they deserved, "Well, big fella, it just sounded like the Floyd and Nilson show. From listening to you, I wouldn't even know there was anyone else on the team." Another time we had a real crew doing the game when they were trying to sell the game rights. They were raving about Dickau (as a broadcaster, they didn't even know he played) but they told me I'd be all right when my voice changed. They said I should start smoking cigarettes and not only would my voice get better but I'd also drop a few pounds. I think I called my Mom after that one.
ZH: You spoke of a game the Zags played and an overly critical listener afterwards who accused you of being a homer. What led up to you almost getting into it with that guy?
EE: Well, it was the St. Mary's game my senior year. I remember going to a party afterward and I was hoping there would be girls that had just seen me on TV. No such luck, as usual. However, a guy said to me that I wasn't fair that game, that I wasn't objective or critical enough of Coach Few or the players. He made the comment that I had gone on road trips, worked for basketball camps, and lived with three of the players. He said the team "had me in their pocket" and I basically wasn't fair. I wish I could say I engaged him in a philosophical argument that it is a color man's job to be critical (not play by play) and that there is a long and storied history of homer announcers in sports (Harry Caray, Dick Wright, etc.). However, I think I just wanted to pour a beer on him but I was stopped by my buddies. It would have been a waste of beer.
ZH: While broadcasting games for GUTV you had several different color commentators, including Lorenzo Rollins and Dan Dickau. Can you comment briefly on a few and a humorous moment or two?
EE: Dan Dickau was the best color guy I ever worked with and I have no doubt he'll announce 15 years down the road when he's done playing. By then I'll probably be working at Zips so maybe he'll get me a gig.I also coached our intramural softball team. Dan made two errors at short and I benched him. He was so mad. Then in flag football I benched him again. I hope he doesn't hold that against me when I need tickets. I think at first he was just doing the game as a favor to me, but he ended up really enjoying it. It was always good broadcasting with friends because there's already a rapport there.
It was fun announcing with Lorenzo because he threw out words that I don't think were ever heard out of an announcers mouth before. "He went and got himself some of that sooki sooki now from the thang with the sheezy wheezy"…"If you want to guard Bakari, you gotta get with your weight bearing bone." On some dunks he'd say stuff that I have no idea how to follow. I just smiled and said, "Yes Lorenzo." He'd also broadcast in cornrows and a long leather "Shaft" jacket. Also a first. I worked with Jeremy Eaton on girls games. One game he forgot he had to do so I sent a GUTV worker to get him. Jeremy came in and had been doing a little bit of "partying" with his roommates. He was openly saying which girls were hot and which were not and making fun of every mistake they made. Then one of his roommates passed him a "mystery" drink holder. The game went down hill from there.
ZH: Give Zag fans some insight into Greg Heister and the kind of guy he is.
EE: Greg Heister is one of the greatest guys I met in Spokane. What I remember most about Greg was how genuinely nice he was to me. I remember I first met him in Albuquerque and he took a lot of time to ask my goals and told me how best to pursue broadcasting. He always had time for everybody and was and is a great guy. When I was talking to Coach Grier this year he said Heister is literally always helping elderly people at airports and stuff. That didn't surprise me at all. I'm aware of the controversy and I am and was a huge Dennis Patchin fan. He was phenominal to listen to and also a great guy. I had to earn DP's respect, but he always made time for me and he's a fun guy. I'm sure one day Dennis will do play by play on a national level. People think that play by play is a lot easier than it is. Plus Greg will help your grandma across the street.
ZH: So instead of taking up sportscasting in Walla Walla you found your calling in comedy. How'd you and Mike Nilson hook up and what was your act like?
EE: Mike and I were roommates. After he tore his achilles tendon we were in the locker room. He mentioned he'd be playing a lot more guitar, so I suggested we do a "coffeehouse" show. We did and it was a blast. It was most memorable because he wrote a song for his then-girlfriend Rhiannon and then proposed to her. I couldn't get laughs after that because all the girls were crying and their boyfriends were mad because they looked so bad. Our act was Mike on the guitar and me doing some stand-up and bits with him. He is just a guy I envy. He is a phenomenal basketball player and guitar player as well. And his wife is hot.
ZH: How'd you end up in Hollywood? Did that first agent in the crowd eventually lead you there?
EE: Our first agent got us going as far as getting going locally in the clubs. He was at Mike and I's second show when we opened for Dr. Drew (of love line fame). I have a new agent now, but I appreciate him getting us started. I pretty much moved to Holly wood after a "moment of clarity" in Walla Walla, Washington. It was at a place called Barnaby's Pub and there were 6 people there, 3 of whom were Kyle Bankhead and his parents. The comedian after me got beaten up in the parking lot. I got 50 bucks and a room at the Comfort Inn. I realized I needed to be somewhere else. I moved down here with a buddy Scott Sayer, a Gonzaga pal I met through Dan. It's been a real adventure.
ZH: You were booed off rather quickly on a Fox show. What was the show and what really happened that viewers don't know?
EE: Well, all that booing didn't actually happen. It's edited in after we filmed it. You guys probably think I'm lying but I actually got laughs. I didn't know I'd been "gonged" until after the show. It was most frustrating because I hate doing that stupid Croc Hunter bit. I would have rather done a character, or a song, or an impression I do now of Bill Walton as a Jehova's Witness. However, it got me in a union and it was at least a good introduction of how TV really works.
ZH: Now you have a talent agency and a manager working for you. Did they help you get that bit part in "Austin Powers: Goldmember?" Did you get to meet Mike Meyers, Michael Caine or Beyonce' Knowles? What about MiniMe?
EE: [laughs] Unfortunately, I didn't get to meet any of those people. The bit I filmed was with what is called the "Second Unit". I was in the make-up trailer and I did meet Donna D'Errico of "Baywatch" fame. She looked at me and said, "What are you supposed to be?" I said, "A fat guy with my shirt off." She said, "Well, you are." It sucked. Other than that it was really fun. It was at Universal Studios and I snuck out of my trailer and into the "Leave It to Beaver" house. It was actually really scary and dank inside. It was like a haunted house. That show will never be the same for me. I kept expecting to see Wally hanging or something. I didn't really expect my part to make it, but then that Thursday night everyone kept calling me. It was hard to get excited because at the time I was mopping the floor of a liqour store.
ZH: You just finished a small part in an Independent movie. What's its title and what other gigs do you have lined up at this time, movies or comedy or both?
EE: It's a movie called "Pizza Star". I'm excited because I might get to kiss a girl in it. Lucky her. I am in two improv shows right now as well. One at Second City and one in a small theatre in the Valley. I do stand-up fairly regularly and it's a blast. My favorite gig was at Westwood Brewing Company right by UCLA. I did my Bill Walton impression and it was going well. Then I ripped my shirt off to show my "Gonzaga" shirt and yelled out, "Lowest point total ever in Pauley Pavilion....Gonzaga!" Getting booed never felt so great! I'd like to send a shout out to Ryan Floyd who single handedly carried the Zags on that wonderful day.
ZH: Ever been to any famous comedy clubs like The Improv? The crowds there must be tough after being spoiled by the likes of Steve Martin, Robin Williams, etc., in past years.
EE: I won a comedy competition where the prize was a slot at the Improv. I'm hoping to get up there soon. I played the Comedy Store, which was pretty amazing. Supposedly it's haunted by Andy Kaufman. It's weird to play down here and see just how good people are. At least I'm taller than they are.
ZH: You still stay in close touch with Zags like Ryan Floyd, Mike Nilson, Dan Dickau, Richie Frahm and others. Fill us in on all of the weddings this summer. And did you really catch the garter at Dan and Heather's wedding? What's that mean?
EE: Well, Mike and Ryan are just the best friends I've ever had. I'm a better person for having known them and everyone else. It sounds corny, but Gonzaga basketball really was and is a family. Richie is a great friend as well. He would literally give you the shirt off his back. He stayed with me last year after he played with the Jazz and he gave me his uniform. I'm a groomsman in his wedding so I'm trying (unsuccessfully) to slim down for the tux. I'm also in the great Kevin Williams' wedding as well. Dan is truly a great person that deserves everything he is getting. I talk to Axel in Australia and Mario in Germany, as well as Jimmy Tricco in Pittsburgh. This last weekend was great, as Matt Santangelo got married on Friday and Dan on Saturday. Yes, I did indeed catch the garter. [laughs] I'm pumped because let's face it, that's as close as I'm ever going to get to a classy girl like Heather. Does that mean I'm getting married? Maybe I'll pop the question next time I'm at the massage parlor...
ZH: Okay, your most embarrassing blooper as a Zag announcer was…?
EE: Wow. So Many! Two spring to mind. One time I meant to say, "Quentin Hall, beautiful penetration and the kick out." Instead it came out, "Quentin Hall, beautiful penetration and the dick out." I just turned white. Another time we had the players interview each other. Mike Nilson interviewed Matt Santangelo, who I went to high school with. He mentioned how in Freshman P.E. I had to ride the stationary bike because I couldn't do anything else. Ouch!
My most embarrassing off the court was probably in 2001. I am a terrible basketball player. I started my own team "The Fighting Sabi" (named after Arvydas Sabonis) pretty much because no one else would have me on their team. Before the year started I made sure MC'ing Midnight Madness paid me a buck so I would thus be an employee of Gonzaga and I could play intramurals. I also snuck Mike Nilson's and Richie Frahm's names on the roster. By the end of the year they were back from injury so they both played in a game with us IN THE C LEAGUE. That's right, the C league. Well when Mike and Richie showed up everyone was crying foul, but they were on the roster so no one could do anything about it. Well long story short...we lost. That's right we lost with Mike Nilson and Richie Frahm playing in the C League. The worst part is it was all my fault. The other team only had one good guy and he scored 46 points on me. Then we would put Mike on him and whoever I was guarding would start scoring. It was awful.
ZH: In a perfect world, what ideally would the future hold for your career and your life?
EE: Right now I think I would like to be in Dan Dickau's posse. Everytime I watch "The Life" on ESPN all those guys have posses with them. What do I have to do to be in a posse? Could I have majored in that in school? I think I could do well. I'll just follow Dan around and tell him how great he is, then ask him if I can have money for Cheetos. It would be great.
Seriously, I don't know. I'd love to make a living down here doing what I love. My grandfather was a comedy writer so this was all I've ever wanted to do. If I can, that would be great. If not, my buddies Jay and Kevin on "The Jay and Kevin Show" in Spokane are still holding my old job for me. They are the best, they've taken me with them to cover the NCAA Tournament the last two years, which has been a blast.
Eric is a regular reader of ZagsHoops and its message boards and he wanted to respond to some questions that were posed by fellow Zags.
To "Zags Fan"--
1. Yeah, I do miss Gonzaga camp. It was great, driving vans and coaching kids. I also "coached" future Zags Bankhead and Stepp and I never let them forget it.
2. "Beat the Geeks" was really fun. I appreciate your kind words. It was fun talking trash to the geeks. I don't think I got "hosed" but I appreciate you backing me up. Now I have complete strangers who come up to me and say, "Road Trip". I choked and I choked bad. It's weird, though, a few weeks ago they had me back to play a geek in rehearsal. I thought the Geeks would hold some grudges for my trash talking but they were actually really cool.
3. As for where I'd like to be, I'd like to give the comedy and acting thing some time. I really miss announcing, though. I'd love to one day do both. If acting and comedy don't work out, that's what I'll try for sure. All last year I worked on air for "The Jay and Kevin Show " in Spokane. They now have a sports show so I know they could help me if I ever decide to go back. It's interesting you mention Bud Nameck because that's the one guy I really owe a HUGE apology to. He offered me a job as a traffic reporter. I really wanted the job, but I also wanted to move to LA, plus I'm afraid to fly. So I just sort of moved and never called him. I feel terrible. I owe Bud a beer.
I think those other questions are from Carlos, my old roommate. I'll call him and answer those, but I'd like to say Hello to him in Alaska. He did once stumble home from Jack and Dan's and cooked red snapper at 3:00 in the morning. He left the burner on and our whole house smelled like snapper for weeks! It was the worst.