Riding the Producer or Some Kind of Mixed Metaphor
By Producer Max Landes
We set out to explore Hawaii\’s central myths – Tiki bars, luaus, Spam, the Vulcan Goddess, and, of course, big wave riding. And when I say \”big wave\” I mean the 30 foot vertical wall that boys from Palm Beach to Palm Springs gaze up at from their bunk beds before going to sleep at night. After all, this is the Bourdain Show, the man\’s eaten a wart hog\’s ass – it has to be spectacular.
Back in NY I had pitched the idea of pairing Tony up with legendary Darrick \”Double D\” Doerner, Laird (the God of surf) Hamilton\’s right hand tow-in man. My executive producer was initially excited but as we got closer to the shoot, hidden expenses started to circle the sequence like sharks drawn to a bleeding rookie. I think the boss\’ last words to me were \”fine, do it, but bring me back Riding Giants.\” No problem.
Surfer\’s are not production types. They don\’t synch their iBooks to their Blackberries – they sleep in VW\’s and rub their equipment in something called Sex Wax. Needless to say, nailing down Darrick and his cohorts is slippery business. We would call, wait, get cryptic messages about the sea. We were getting the impression that the size of the surf might not be what we were hoping for, so, on the day Zach (trusty camera man) and I decide to pre-scout the North Shore and let Tony catch some extra Z\’s. Keeping Tony happy is every producer\’s PFD (personal flotation device).
On the way to the infamous Haleiwa Harbor – home to crankster gangsters (meth dealers) and other assorted ornery locals – I finally get the elusive Double D on the phone. His few words to me are \”meet me in the parking lot, I\’ll be in a hood.\” This is gonna be neato. When we get there a lone figure is set against the surf, back to us, staring not at tsunamis, but something more akin to a punch bowl – something you\’d loose your toddler in were he equipped with the appropriate floaties. Darrick actually turns out to be a very cool guy, the consummate soul surfer who doesn\’t so much answer questions as respond with greater philosophical queries, like \”today, nobody owns the ocean, but who will the ocean own today?\” Deep and foreboding.
We quickly hatch a plan to send Zach out on the jet ski so that we can determine if he\’s even capable of holding a shot while bouncing around on the back of one of these things. So while Zach and Double D zip around on the giant puddle, I pace the shore trying to decide whether or not to postpone the shoot. On the one hand, there are no waves and my boss\’ parting words are still ringing in my ears. On the other hand, I\’ve already spent one day\’s steep set of fees just to get Double D and crew out in the slop with their neon crotch rockets. I\’m really in the production trenches now boy.
Finally, the prospect of slogging Tony through traffic to present him with the lagoon of love I\’m looking at, scares me more than my mounting budget and I decide to call base camp and tell them to reschedule for Monday. Meanwhile, Double D and Zach come puttering back – Zach looks like he just saw the Titanic sink, shaking his head slowly, a mix of fear and apology. You see, way back in the early planning days of this debacle Zach had insisted that we didn\’t need a special surf videographer, that having braved so many inhospitable climates with Tony before, he was the man for the job. Shoulders slumped, wet, a shadow of his former self, he was now resolute about our need for a specialist. I had to agree, if he couldn\’t hack it in the kiddy pool how would he do in the real surf I was banking on for Monday. Double D informed us that this meant we had to contact the renowned Don King – ocean shooter non pareil. I pictured the fat boxing promoter in a skintight wetsuit with his shock of white hair whipping around in the spray. Apparently, it wasn\’t the same guy – but he was going to charge the equivalent of a championship purse … Cha- ching. This segment\’s gonna rock.
When Zach and I get back to Honolulu, dejected and tired, we find out that Tony has found a local and eccentric take on the hotdog (apparently an obsessive quest for him), and not only that, he\’s directed his own scene revolving around this meat tube that gets mechanically shot into a closed cylindrical bun. Yes, apparently he couldn\’t stand for the lag in productivity our excursion had caused and roused his beloved cameraman \”Toddles\” out of bed to shoot his own segment and in effect pirate my show (if the captain of a ship can be mutinous)… I wont spoil what happened Monday because you can see for yourself when the episode airs. I will, however tell you that Double D sent us off with a warm smile and the ancient surf dictum \”the sea is in charge…\” I could adapt that in a number of ways to apply to my line of work but I think in this case it\’ll have to be \”how much does the sea charge?\”