American Picker: Danielle Colby
She’ll pick through your junk for hidden treasures, don a sexy outfit on stage for a burlesque routine and strap on her roller skates for a derby session… all in the same day. You’re probably familiar with the inked-up gal behind the counter on History Channel’s American Pickers, but do you really know Danielle Colby ? Inked Magazine had a chance to sit down with the long-time picker and actually pick her brain for a change.
Inked Magazine: We are in the midst of season 4 of American Pickers on the History Channel, what has the season been like so far?
Colby: It’s crazy how quickly American Pickers has progressed. Even just a few months ago, it seems like it’s kind of exploded. I guess in season 4 we are trying out a few new things but still heading in the same direction; our focus is still on the people we pick from and the items that we pick. The focus is at the heart and soul of what we do and that’s what keeps people so intrigued and excited about the show. It’s not really about us, it’s about our audience.
Inked: You and fellow “American Picker” Mike Wolfe have been friends for a little while now, how did you two meet?
Mike and I met at a yard sale and we both actually wanted the same item. I didn’t have enough money for it and he did, so I put it down and he picked it up and went and bought it. And I said “I was looking at that,” and he said “yeah well you should have bought it then.” And that’s kind of how our friendship started.
Inked: And your friendship continued.
Colby: Yes, I had a little punk inspired DIY shop along Maine St. and he would come down and ask me to repair things that he had picked up off the road. Because I have a little bit of a technical mind, I can take things apart and put them back together really well. So to design clothes, he would bring in articles of vintage and antique clothing. So that’s kind of how it all started.
Inked: And how did you become part of the show?
Colby: Well, Mike came up to me one day and asked me if I would go to coffee with him, which was not abnormal because we spent quite a bit of time together in the morning. So we sat down at a Coffee Shop and discussed all the details of him wanting to make the show. And I know enough about Mike to know that he is not a bullshitter. If he says that he is going to do something, he is gonna do it. So he asked me if I could help him out in the shop because he is going to be gone a lot. He kept getting turned down by television network after television network, which was pretty disheartening. The idea was finally picked up and he came over and I had already planned on moving back to Chicago. I had an apartment there. I had a job. But he came up to me like you can’t move, the show got picked up and you can’t leave because I am going to need you at the shop. And it just all happened from there. I was not originally supposed to be on the show as far as I know. And he just kept pushing for it and pushing for it. They didn’t necessarily want to see tattooed chick running around on the History Channel but he just kept really rallying for me. And History learned to love the idea of who I am and they embrace me now. It’s pretty neat.
Inked: Tell us more about why they decided to have a tattooed chick on the show.
Colby: I think that there is a certain portion of history that is very, very conservative. But at the same time, I think they realized that it was wise to kind of make a move to be bolder. Kat Von D basically opened up the door too see tattooed women on television. And I think that after seeing that example, they probably weren’t as hesitant especially due to the success of the show. It proved that it wasn’t going to stop people from watching the show. So I mean I’m sure it was all executive board decision stuff but I’m a pretty kick ass girl and a pretty nice person and I have a good head on my shoulders and I think that they can see that so they were just like “well let’s give it a try.”
Inked: it seems to be a decision that worked out well, no?
Colby: yeah it has, it’s worked out really well. I tend to think that it’s more because of the boys but you know I am glad that i am involved in the process. And you know it’s weird, even in the tattooed culture, as far as people reacting to the tatttoos, you have people who feel the need to pick apart everyone’s tattoos. Some of us have deaths in the family, we have crises and we have happy times and we just want to express the passions for those moments on our skin. You just grow thick skin. Which is not necessarily good for tattooing, hahaha, but it’s better for the ego.
Inked: Do you do any picking yourself?
Colby: Yes I do, I have certain people that I pick from, which is actually quite a small group. I learned a long time ago, and very, very fast; pickers are extremely territorial. And you don’t wan to overlap each other. If there is someone that I want to pick from that is affiliated with mike or frank, then I have to go him or her and say “hey look dude, they have stuff that you are not going to buy that I would love to buy. Is it okay if I pick from your guy?” Which you know, sometimes it is, sometimes its not. But you know, when it is okay, it’s actually really nice for them to give me that ability.
Inked: How do you choose where you, Mike or Frank pick from?
Colby: The process is actually exceedingly simple but it is a lot of hard work. But the recipe is very simple. I can’t really give you all the details of that recipe but I can tell you all the basic stuff. There are some people that we have picked from for years and we try to stay in contact with them. I also try to find out as much information as I can about them, who they spend their time with, who they go to meets with, and I am very forward about it, I am not sneaky at all. I let them know, “hey, I am actually looking for toys do you have a toy guy, or I’m actually looking for rifles, do you have a rifle guy.” And everybody does. So all hoarders have hoarder friends. It’s in the rulebook somewhere. So that’s kind of the easiest way to get into picking in general, to find one person who has an extensive collection and ask them who their friends are.
Inked: You also run a shop yourself: 4 Miles 2 Memphis
Colby: I’m actually at the store right now. I am glutton for punishment and I love to completely overwhelm myself at every turn. So I have the day job over at Antique Archaeology and then I come over here to check on everything and stay here for a few hours.
Inked: You also have your own burlesque group, how is that going?
Colby: Beautifully, I got my name actually from my dad’s best friend when I was about four years old. Danny Diesel because he was a mechanic and my dad drove a diesel Mercedes. As far as the troop goes, it’s just an absolutely beautiful group of ladies. It’s a cool thing to see so many women that are supportive of each other and strong and empowered and not insecure.
Inked: Are you also still active in roller derby?
Colby: Um no I am not actively doing roller derby anymore. I will occasionally because my derby wife sucks me into it now and again. She has this wonderful thing called skate the state which is a traveling roller derby team. So when she comes around this area, then I’ll strap up and skate with her. But other than that, roller derby really demands so much of your time that there is just no way that I can do it on a regular basis anymore.
Inked: You have your hands in a little bit of everything!
Colby: I think that I am OCD, or ADHD or something with a D in it. Like I have crazy shit happening and it’s all alphabetical. hahaha
Inked: You do have a lot of beautiful tattoos, even though I haven’t a clue when you have the time to get them. Can you tell us about them?
Colby: I have a mustache on my right inner wrist and that’s for my burlesque troop which is Burlesque Le’ Mustache. On my knuckles and on my hip I have the font, which is the same as our burlesque logo, it’s called circus font. I tried to keep that theme because I wanted to keep close too this troop that I started. I just wanted to make sure that the theme ran throughout. My collar is dedicated to my younger sister, who suffered from a stroke a few years back, actually from a roller derby game and I have my collar done in honor of her. I have the letters LCHC on the outside of my right wrist it stands for Le Claire Hard Core and itself is quite a duality because we live in a town called Le Claire and it started here so I actually got that tattoo with a picking friend of mine that I love very much, Jeff. We got those tattoos at he same time because we are, you know, basically people who hard core run through the trash. So that one I guess is picking related.
Inked: Any future tattoos in mind?
Colby: Oh yeah. I really would like to finish up my left arm. Which is all bugs, just different bugs because I really love entomology. The left arm is dedicated to my dad and my son and my antique entomology fetish. My right arm is dedicated to my mom and my daughter. And I have a little fetish for hearts so there a lot of hearts on my hand and they will go up my arm as well.
Inked: So here is a cliché question, what was your first tattoo?
Colby: Um my first tattoo was a tribal style butterfly. It really does not get more first tattoo-ish than that. I think I broke every rule of cool tattoos with my first tattoo so there is no more hope for me after that.
Inked: Was it a tramp stamp?
Inked: Yep you broke every rule, I did too so don’t feel bad. So what’s in the future for you Miss Colby?
Colby: I’m not done living yet. I’m going to live as fully as I can until my last breath. If that means being completely overwhelmed then i am okay with it, as long as in the process I can smile a shit ton and I can actually enjoy every moment. Because honestly I have the best life ever. If I were to die today, I would be able to be at piece with it. I have awesome kids, an awesome family, amazing friends and an amazing job – it doesn’t get better than this. So I am just going to keep doing as much as I can do until the day I stop breathing. That’s the plan.