TV show is his reality

Courtesy of Discovery

Brit Eaton discovers an old and possibly valuable pair of chaps in John Gecho’s barn near Cameron, Mont. in an episode of “Ghost Town Gold.”

By Ted Holteen Herald staff writer

Brit Eaton has made a living – and had a lot of fun doing it – by finding value where others simply can’t see it. And every Thursday night, viewers from coast to coast and around the world can share in the fun part, if not the profits, of the Durangoan’s travels.

Eaton opened Carpe Denim on College Drive in 1997. More than just a secondhand store, Eaton’s business involves finding rare vintage items, mostly clothing, and refurbishing them for resale or rental to the entertainment industry. As the name implies, much of his hidden treasure is indigo, and Eaton is world famous for his cache of Levi Strauss clothing and accessories. And because world fame requires world travel, Eaton’s life reads like a modern day adventure story; the kind of story that should be on television. Well, now it is.

“I know old clothes, and I know Western items,” Eaton said Friday at Carpe Denim, the morning after his new show “Ghost Town Gold” debuted on the Discovery network. “The more authentic this show can be the more interesting it will be. I know what I’m talking about.”

On the show, which will air for the next five Thursdays on Discovery, Eaton and his Kansan friend Scott Glaves visit old family ranches and farms throughout the West looking for items that they can buy cheap, fix up and resell for a profit. If that sounds like History’s “American Pickers,” it’s similar in concept to that show but differs in scope.

Eaton searches specifically for vintage clothing or items, such as covered wagons and old signs, that can be sold rented to film production companies. Glaves is an expert on cowboy history, and he’s always on the lookout for a prized pair of spurs or a unique saddle.

Both men are experts in their fields and offer personal historical insights that aren’t matched by the catchall style of that other show, at least in one reviewer’s opinion. And Eaton’s.

“The irony is that, every time I got passed on for this it was because they said it was too similar to ‘Pickers,’ but now I’ve got a better show,” Eaton said.

It’s not Eaton’s first foray onto the small screen. He’s received the proverbial “green light” for this show five times only to have the plug pulled; previous titles such as “Abandoned Treasures” and “Indiana Jeans” never made it this far. The hard work yielded even more fruit, however, as Eaton made enough of an impression on producers to land a job as host for “The Ancient Life,” a Discovery/Sony/IMAX joint production shot in 3-D that took Eaton to every corner of the globe in 2011.

Both shows are produced by JWM Productions, a Maryland-based documentary film company that regularly produces shows for PBS, Discovery, TLC, NBC, CBS, TBS, TNT, CNN and History, including the successful “Digging for the Truth” series. JWM co-founder Jason Williams, who grew up in England and started the company in 1996 with filmmaker Bill Morgan, said he first read about Eaton’s business in an in-flight magazine and thought his story would play well on TV.

“The moment I saw the clipping, I thought ‘if this guy’s good on camera we can tell real American history, which is what I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” Williams said by phone from New York. “He’s surpassed my expectations – he’s lightning in a bottle. It speaks to extraordinary enthusiasm and ownership of what he does as a collector. There isn’t anybody out there who’s got this compendium of knowledge. You can’t touch the guy.”

The future of “Ghost Town Gold” is up in the air. The first six-episode season has been filmed and is on the Discovery schedule. Nielson ratings for the first episode haven’t been released, but Williams has his ways of hearing how things are going and he’s encouraged.

“Our boy did good,” Williams said. “I can tell you that for a freshman series with absolutely no advance support and last-minute scheduling, it performed very well, indeed.”

Eaton said he hopes a second season is in the plans as there are many more locations on his and Glaves’ list to visit. There’s a possibility that “Ghost Town Gold” will move to one of Discovery’s other channels, most likely Destination America. But whether his journeys are televised or not, it doesn’t change how Eaton lives his life. And that alone makes for good television, as he said himself on Thursday’s debut episode.

“If I think something’s cool, I just feel like there’s other people that are gonna think it’s cool, too,” he said.”

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