'Bond' nemesis 'Jaws' on hand at Merced collectibles show

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 18, 2013 

— There aren't many folks who'd line up to have a giant put his massive hands around their skull.

For Richard Kiel, however, people always make an exception.

Kiel, the 7-foot-2 actor known worldwide for playing the character "Jaws" in the James Bond movies, was on hand Sunday afternoon at the Vintage Toy and Collectible Show at the Merced Elks Lodge.

Sponsored by the Merced Elks Lodge along with Collectiques, an antique store in downtown Merced, and area antique collectors, the event was Merced's second in two years.

Kiel, 73, signed autographs, posed and took photographs with his faithful fans during the event, while hundreds of attendees perused tables filled with classic board games, collectible action figures, colorful diecast model cars and other toys.

Those who purchased an autographed picture of Kiel could have their photo taken with him at no extra cost. One of Kiel's more popular poses is to pretend he's crushing the head of male fans, similar to a photo he has with James Bond actor Roger Moore, or go cheek-to-cheek with his female fans in Jaws fashion.

Kiel said he no longer has his metal "teeth" from the James Bond movies, as there was only one set. They're on display in a London museum. Wherever Kiel goes, however, he can't shake the legacy of playing the popular James Bond nemesis. "I can't go anywhere without being recognized. Sunglasses and a hat don't work for me," he said, laughing.

Kiel has appeared in numerous films, including "Happy Gilmore," "Cannonball Run" and "Tangled," along with numerous classic television shows such as "The Twilight Zone," "The Man from U.N.C.L.E.," "The Wild, Wild West" and "The Monkees."

Kiel said playing Jaws in the James Bond movies led to many roles. "We made movies in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Yugoslavia, all over the world," he said. "I made commercials in Japan, France. It was good for the family. I took my wife and kids with me everywhere I went," he said.

Of all the movies he's acted in, Kiel's favorite was 1974's "The Longest Yard," with Burt Reynolds. While filming the movie, Kiel met his wife, Diane. "And now we have four children and six grandchildren so far," he smiled.

"Also, The Longest Yard was a breakthrough movie for me. The director liked my extemporaneous acting and encouraged me to do more of it. He had the whole cast and crew gather to give me a big hand. It really was very encouraging to me. And then I could bring something to the table. And that helped me with Jaws."

Dealers and collectors from many parts of the state were on hand at Sunday's event to sell their goods and network with others who specialize in the field. Pete Culver, one of the organizers for the event, said it's popular because toys played a role in nearly everyone's life at some point. "Everybody's got a toy history. A lot of times you want to buy what you had when you were a kid, that you busted up or threw away. Or your mom threw it away," he said.

However, many of those same discarded toys may now be worth quite a bit of money, Culver said. "If you go through the show, you'll see items anywhere from $5 to $2,000," he said.

Jose Vasquez, a Merced collector, displayed a 1993 beanie baby snake at the show he says is worth nearly $2,500. "I got the first generation," he said. "I just looked around and bumped into it."

Vasquez added, "I think anything that has a history behind it is worth collecting."

Culver said the show will likely be held again in Merced next year.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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