In The Pipeline: 'Combat' is ready to fire

Bob Chatt is ready for his close-up — a close-up that comes with a bang.

The Huntington Beach-based military antiques collector I spoke with early last year for this column has just finished wrapping up the first four episodes of "Combat Cash," a new reality TV series premiering next Wednesday night, Jan. 11, on the Discovery Channel (time to be determined, but it will be either 9 or 10 p.m. Check listings). In the same spirit as "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers," "Combat Cash" will take the audience inside the world of military antique collecting, protecting and, in some cases, detonating.

When I last visited Vintage Productions, the warehouse-like structure near Gothard Street and Edinger Avenue where Chatt houses tons of rare military artifacts (from the Spanish-American War, both world wars, Vietnam and the Civil War, among others), the show was a twinkle in his eye. And now, after traveling the country with the production crew and shooting even more in his warehouse, the show is ready.

"Combat Cash" will feature Chatt and his good friend Owen Thornton.

"He came here 14 years ago from Ireland," Chatt told me in his warehouse the other day. "And this show documents our friendship, our traveling — and our fighting. Often, we are at each other's throats."

Chatt also described some other aspects of the show. "It looks at how we find the stuff, how we search for it, the museums that need stuff, celebrities that need stuff — that's the basic setup."

Wandering among the thousands of patches, jackets, shirts and boots he owns, he also told me how, initially, the cameras made him self-conscious. But after a few weeks, he got used to them and eventually forgot they were even there.

In one episode, they went to a World War II reenactment in Ohio. Once a year, on a lake, a group actually reenacts the landing at Normandy, replete with a landing beach, bombers, etc. Chatt was recruited to locate a working landing craft, which he was able to do (without giving away too much, Thornton gets to experience a beach landing firsthand).

Chatt told me his most emotional experience taping the show was in Northern California. A young soldier, just 21, who had married his high school sweetheart six months earlier, was killed in Afghanistan after being hit by an IED.

To honor this member of the 101st Airborne, Chatt helped a group of Vietnam veterans make some authentic jackets they needed to perform a flyover in honor of the soldier (in a restored military helicopter). "We met the soldier's wife, his dad — and it was an unforgettable experience — we even got to take the flight."

They also, in another sequence, had to find old 76mm cannon shells and then got to "live fire" them (after getting to shoot live flamethrowers in the California desert, an exercise that actually set the sand on fire).

Chatt's wife, Danielle, also co-stars in "Combat Cash," and if it gets picked up for a second season like he hopes, he may get the kids involved.

But for now, it's all about getting a big audience next Wednesday to get things off on the right foot. Chatt will also be opening his appointment-only military antique business to the public for one day a week (I'll include details in this column when available).

As to the need for a show like "Combat Cash," Chatt said he appreciate the success of "Pawn Stars," "American Pickers" and other shows that focus on treasures that might be right under you nose — or in a closet, storage space or garage.

"I learned a new term making this show," Chatt said. " 'Recession TV.' That's what this is, like those other shows. In desperate times like these, shows like this give people hope that they may have something valuable, so in that sense, I hope we're helping people.

Here's hoping that Huntington Beach's own "Combat Cash" scores a direct hit.

CHRIS EPTING is the author of 18 books, including the new "Hello, It's Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie." You can write him at

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