I get a perverse and evil satisfaction out of putting members of my crew on camera at every opportunity. Their discomfort–particularly once the “vampire clip” microphone is attached to the inside of their shirt (and they have to remember that every trip to the bathroom might provide considerable amusement to the guy wearing the headphones in the other room) — is exquisite. The shoe on the other foot as they say…Those used to heedlessly pointing the cameras at others are suddenly caught under its merciless and unwavering gaze. Every pimple, bad pant decision, errant hair, ill advised comment potentially the subject of timeless Comedy Gold.
Producer Tracey Gudwin knows this all too well: her inside-out underpants captured forever on YouTube when I plucked a leech off her ass in Borneo. Cameraman Todd Liebler has been chased across the town square of a rural Chinese village by Asian fans shrieking “Mr. Clumsy-Man! MISTER CLUMSY MANNN!!!” — famous as he is for a memorable blunder into plates on the Indonesia show.
But knowingly putting down the camera, clipping on the sound pack and agreeing to take your colleagues to your home — introducing them to your family, letting them wander freely in your small New England town, interrogating passersby, former schoolteachers, childhood friends — that takes some guts. Especially knowing what Zach Zamboni knows about our work habits.
His poor grandmother had to endure persistent on-camera interrogation from me about any possible episodes of peeping, fire-starting, or mistreatment of animals in Zach’s early childhood (She neatly deflected my questions as smoothly and effortlessly as a mob lawyer).
Zach’s a born and bred Mainer — raised in the small town of Milo — and real proud of that fact. Unlike the rest of us on the crew, who, when a show is done, return to apartments in New York, Zach goes home, puts on a funny hat and — I gather — does all sort of Dinty Moore type stuff like chopping wood and sailing. Whenever I’d ask him about this while on the road, he’d be so insistent as to the glories of his home state that I finally challenged him to show us. For this, he will no doubt be punished.
Generally, when you’re proud enough to take me around a place for purposes of television, the reaction from fans runs along the lines of “How could you NOT take him to (fill in blank here).” Followed by vitriolic expressions of doubt that you were a “true” local.
Zach will no doubt be taken to task by food bloggers (of which Maine has many) for NOT taking me to the “best” restaurant in Portland. By others for managing to avoid the lobster roll entirely. Or, perhaps, not being sufficiently foodie, chesty, or vivacious.
To which I can only remind viewers that this show will never show “YOUR” Baltimore…or “the best” of anything. I felt no responsibility to have a maple syrup scene. This episode is about Zach’s Maine. And frankly, the closer we got to Zach’s little town of Milo — and his family — the happier I was with my time there. For me, Maine will always be a golden hour, post-breakfast, swacked on Crown Royal, shotgunning snowmen with Zach’s cousin Bobby.
I’m particularly honored that the brilliant, reclusive and extraordinary John Conte actually came out of his kitchen and sat down with us in the dining room. This is, I am assured, no small thing. And I am forever grateful for the original hardbound copy of “My Life and Loves” by Frank Harris that John just happened to have tucked among a pile of saute pans — and which he gave me.
Zach, for all the days and hours we’ve spent together over the years in faraway places, has always been something of a mystery to me. He’s a man who’s always seemed happiest when dangling from the skids of a helicopter, strapping himself to the bow of a speedboat, or fiddling for interminable periods of time with lens adaptors, home made gyros or strings of jury-rigged lightbulbs. But I think I know something else about him now — having seen it first hand: what makes him happy about being a Mainer.