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Bison Pete and the Pants Trick

January 31, 2011 by jjosh

<all right chaps, put the meat on the head!>

I was working late one evening, assistant editing for the production company I worked for. We were working on a show about buffalo that we had produced for a late 90's series that was on TNT called "Wild! Life Adventures" (yes, they did have that "!" in there). The conceit of Wild! Life Adventures was that it was a nature show, but it was hosted by a celebrity! GENIUS!

The first one we did was about the return of the wolves to Yellowstone, and it was hosted by Matthew Fox. It was an amazing shoot, going to areas only accessible by horseback, and carrying the camera equipment on a mule. The mule would go on ahead of us with these handlers, and by the end of the shoot it had gotten to the point where they were doubling as grips, and would have the camera and tripod set up for us by the time we got to the location.

The second one was not as glamorous, but it was definitely weird. It was about Bison, and was hosted by Harry Hamlin. You know Harry Hamlin, right? The star of LA Law, and, more importantly, the original Clash of the Titans. I was a PA on the shoot and got to spend a lot of time with Harry. Once he found out I was geeking out over Clash, he began to tell me all these tales of working on the movie. Which was a hoot, because it was a low-budget b-movie shot in Italy, but it had Lawrence Olivier in it and all these other surreal touches. I remember he told me about the Medusa head prop having all this raw meat on the bottom of it to make it look shredded and bloody, but it was so hot that the meat kept rotting and stinking the place up. So in between takes they would take the meat off the prop and store it in a cooler. Then before each shot, the British AD would intone over the walkie talkie "Ok chaps, put the meat on the head!" For a while, making the Bison film, we would say "put the meat on the head" all the time.

Anyway, we were editing this show, and it wasn't going that well. Partly because Bison don't really DO much (although we had an amazing shoot in the middle of a rut!), and partly because Hamlin was only available for half the shoot. For the other half of the shoot (and show) we were focusing on a character named Bison Pete, who was a ornery old cuss out of Wyoming who got his name because he dealt in Bison furs. Since the production was trying to save money, they had me sharing a hotel room with Bison Pete. Which was fine, in theory, I mean I've shared rooms with lots weirder than that Bison skinner.

But the weirdness quotient increased because Bison Pete liked to sleep naked. Fair enough, sure, but also the man wasn't just called Bison Pete because of his job, youknowhatI'msayin? And he snored like a freight train! I didn't get any sleep, and when you're on those shoots, they start REALLY early and run REALLY late. And when you're the PA on those shoots, you get up even earlier to get everyone breakfast, and you run even later to make sure the next day's shoot is prepped. So I was completely shot. That day was brutal.

The next day I told the producer that I didn't care, she could take the hotel fee out of my pay, but I NEEDED MY OWN ROOM. And they got it for me. Very considerate. I continued to ride from location to location in Pete's truck with him, and had some great conversations.

ME: You know, it's amazing being out here in the West, it's so open…

PETE: Sure is.

ME: But I guess there's houses up there on that hill, and I wonder if you've seen it change in your lifetime?

PETE: Sure have. Didn't used to be houses up there.

ME: So do you think it's inevitable that everywhere will eventually just fill up with people?

PETE: Sure do.

ME: Why, do you think?

PETE: Cuz there's more and more people. And there's more and more people 'cuz people just keep on fuckin.

ME: Sounds right.

Anyway, the show was having a tough time coming together and we were having to put in some late nights. The producer and associate producer had rented an AVID and it was in the AP's house. She lived on a street in Annapolis in an ok area, across from the library on West St. So it was a bit late at night, like maybe 10:30, when there was a knock at her front door. Which was kind of weird.

The producer, AP, and editor all got nervous, and were like, hey Josh, you're the only man here, why don't you answer the door. Which seemed a bit like bunk, but ok, sure. I went to the door and opened it, leaving the screen door part closed. It was summer, and outside was standing a medium height black guy with a beard, wearing a backpack and no shirt. He looked a bit distressed.

"I'm really sorry sir," he said, "I know this looks weird, but I was wondering if I could just come in and use your bathroom for a minute?"

When I balked, he continued, "You see, my friends left me here, they drove off without me, and they played a trick on me, they put something in my pants."

And it took my mind a while to process what the hell this could all mean. It certainly didn't sound right.

"I don't know buddy, I'm not sure about that."

"I know, I know, but look, my friends drove off! They put something in my pants…"

"Well, it's kind of late, that's a strange story…"

"I know, I know, but if I could just use your bathroom for a moment…"

And I was in this strange mindset. I felt a little guilty, I kept thinking if this was pioneer times I would let the poor guy in, what if something happened, what if they really did play a trick on him, what if they —

and then I would hit the part where his situation just rocket blasted off into weirdness, and think, all of that might be the case, but what in the world does it mean that they put something in his pants?! Why would he mention that?

I eventually had to close the door on him, and he was pretty disgruntled about the whole thing. I tried to explain that it was too late, that I just couldn't, that it wasn't my house. What I should have said was, maybe if you had kept your pants out of it, we could make something happen. What I should have said was, alright chaps, put the meat on the head!


  1. Jasper says:

    Came to yuor web blog through Yahoo. You already know I will be signing up to your rss.

  2. jjosh says:

    Nice! Welcome Jasper…

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