Frank O. Hill Back to Bike Stories // Back to the Weeville Home Page
The Herald, Friday, October 27, 1989
Take time to meet S.C. celeb Frank Hill
The fourth day of the lizard tour dawned in Winnsboro. So far, I had vainly searched for the lizard man in Lee County, endured heat and hills in the middle of the state, and tried some world-famous chicken wings in Lugoff. On this day I would seek and find a national celebrity.
In 1982, Frank O. Hill of Union appeared on Johnny Carson's show. His claim to fame was handmade bolo ties, tie tacks, rings, pins and necklaces. Each piece is centered around a 100 percent pure quail dropping encased in clear plastic. The jewelry is actually quite handsome, and the whole thing started as a joke "for some friends who really knew how to manure things up."
He makes all the jewelry. He said, "I contract the quail for the droppings, and I do the rest. There are 20 steps from poop to package. Lots of folks ask how I go about collecting the stuff. Well, it's real easy. I just go out into the pen and whistle like a hawk....I stand there wearing a big floppy hat and two catcher's mitts like you would use for a knuckle-ball pitcher. In just a jiffy I've got enough poop to last awhile."
Mr. Hill's wit in person is bottomless, and all of his brochures are decidedly tongue-in-cheek. The caption under the color photos of his ring says, "Your wife or ladyfriend will love this glimmering ring of quail manure, and she will be reminded of all your happy times together each time she looks at it."
It was the appearance on Johnny Carson that made me interested in Frank Hill, the person. Carson intimidates the biggest names in show business, but Mr. Hill behaved just as he did in front of me. He was himself. "Everybody tells me I did such a good job on the show, but I didn't know what I would say."
Carson Productions found out about Mr. Hill through the Associated Press. The whole process was begun by a reporter who did a piece on the jewelry. The next thing he knew, he was being whisked out to California and provided with limousine service.
Burt Reynolds saw the show and liked Mr. Hill enough to call him. Burt wanted Frank Hill in the movies. That led to roles in "Stroker Ace" and "Cannonball Run Part II."
Mr. Hill showed me photo albums chock full of pictures taken on the movie sets. There was Frank Hill chumming with Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Joe Theisman, Bubba Smith, Dom Delouise and a host of the world's most beautiful women in killer bathing suits.
Among his other attributes, Mr. Hill is a pretty hot pilot. I met a neighbor of his who described his spins, loops and stalls, all performed in a single-engine, low-wing passenger plane. He showed me a photo that proved beyond a doubt his outrageous prowess behind the stick. Chuck Yeager, look out.
He is buddies with a world-class fisherman who endorses a particular type of boat. Mr. Hill helped out by tying one of the trailored bass boats to the tail of his airplane. As he taxied over the horizon pulling the boat on a rope, the caption is, "I told you that boat could fly."
After all the commotion, Mr. Hill seems relaxed. The publicity around him has waned considerably. An endless string of charity speaking engagements wore him out and left him understandably tired of talking about bird poop all the time. His jewelry, though, is still very much for sale, and he keeps his ears open for what he calls "some new ventures into the future." With his character and experience, he is a public relation man's dream waiting to happen.
Mr. Hill gave me a big black and white glossy photo of himself with Burt Reynolds. He autographed it beside his figure and on Burt Reynold's shirt he wrote, "This is Burt." He handed me the picture and said, "Folks are all the time getting us confused."
In the picture Frank sports a button on his familiar bait-company cap. The button says "Why be normal." That pretty much says it all.
A Memorial of Sorts to Frank Hill - He passed away in 2001 - I was one fortunate human to be able to meet him up close and personal at his house. He was suspicious at first. I had talked a waitress in a restaurant in Lockhart SC, into calling him. She knew him. I convinced her I was for real. That I wanted to do a newspaper story about him. And she was finally able to convince him on the phone before he finally talked to me and gave me directions. He was very, very cautious at first. But as soon as I got there I showed him some newspaper clippings of my work, and then with the fact that I showed up on a bicycle from far away, he opened up. I was an adventurer just like he was. He gave ma a sample package of his work, shown below the video links.
And here's his appearance on the Johnny Carson Show:
Here's a news video from shortly after he was on the Carson show:
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