Link: Requiem for a micro-celebrity

Michael Ashe

Michael Ashe, the actor who played Trip Fisk in Cautionary Tales of Swords, died in the summer of 2008.

Vanity Fair wrote an article covering CTOS and Ashe’s time as a struggling actor.

Michael Ashe was a professional actor, a lifer in the business. You could say the same of Paul Newman or Jerry Orbach, but Ashe was of a more common breed: the scrapper who never becomes famous but somehow makes a living…

But in 2007, the year he turned 75, Ashe finally achieved a degree of celebrity. “Micro-celebrity” is probably the better term, since Ashe’s new recognition came via the Internet. He was the star of a willfully ridiculous show called Cautionary Tales of Swords on Channel 101, a popular Los Angeles–based Web site known for its comic film shorts…In it, Ashe starred as Trip Fisk, the program’s grizzled, profane host, who presented vignettes in which incautious characters were slashed, gutted, and otherwise mauled by, yes, swords. In real life a dignified-looking man with a senatorial head of white hair, Ashe played Fisk decked out in a wife-beater tee, an eye patch, and a wig of long, bleached-out tresses that made him look like the eldest and most strung-out Allman Brother. Fisk’s catchphrase was “Don’t fucking touch swords! They’ll fuckin’ cut you wide open!” Uttered in Ashe’s parched rasp—he was a lifelong smoker—it was downright menacing. And very funny.

“He suddenly had this fan base of wacky kids,” says his daughter, Deborah Merle, who lives in New York. “He called me up, very excited about what was happening to him. It was weird watching my father do this character—the language was kind of shocking—but he was good at it. My daughter goes to Clark University, and she’d play the videos for her friends. They were like, ‘Oh my God, that’s your grandfather?’”

It also covers the conception of Cautionary Tales of Swords:

When Acceptable TV was not renewed, Hancock and his compadres refocused their energies on Channel 101, where the work was unsalaried but no one could fire them. Hancock decided to revive an idea for a mini-pilot that VH1 had deemed unacceptable for Acceptable TV: an utterly silly show about the dangers of swords. The germ of the idea came during the Acceptable TV days, when, he says, “We all got professional offices for the first time—and, therefore, the opportunity to decorate our offices.” A fellow 101er, Eric Falconer, used some of his VH1 cash to gussy up his space with a wall-mounted decorative sword. “This,” says Hancock, “got me thinking of how weird swords are. And then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head of Mike Ashe in a blond wig, wearing an eye patch.”