Monday, July 30, 2012


By Barry Dutter

In 1997, I was hired to work on a movie called MICHAEL KAEL IN KATANGO.  You’ve never heard of it? That’s because it was part of a trilogy of movies that was only released in Belgium -- and, as far as I can tell, was never released in America.
The movies starred Elliot Gould, Victoria Principal, and screen legend Mickey Rooney. (I like to say it was an all-star cast -- for 1977.)
I didn’t get to work with Mr. Gould or Miss Principal, but I was on set one day when Mr. Rooney was there. He seemed to be in a really bad mood. He never cracked a smile once the whole time I was there. He came out of his trailer, did his scenes, and then, with a  sour puss on his face, trudged back to his trailer.
Maybe he was mad because in 1939, he was the biggest star in America and now his movies were only getting released in Belgium.
I figured I had caught the Mick on a bad day. This was a guy who had been in show business his whole life. He had entertained millions, ever since he was a kid, and always done it with a  smile on his face. I mean, sure, the Michael Kael movies lacked the universal appeal of his popular Andy Hardy movies or his musicals with Judy Garland, but still, at least he was still working. That had to count for something, right?
Surely he hadn’t become some cranky, bitter old man.I had to know for sure. I pulled aside a cameraman who had been working with the Mick since the shoot began, and asked “What’s Mickey Rooney really like?”
Without missing a beat, the crew member announced, “He’s a cranky old man!”
Well, that settled that.
I guess there is a lesson to be learned here but I’m not sure what it is!

Thursday, July 12, 2012


By Barry Dutter

Regular readers of this blog know that I like to appear as a contestant on TV game shows, but I am very "old school" when it comes to the types of shows I am willing to do. Basically, I like to do shows where I get to stand behind a podium or sit in a comfortable chair and answer fun pop culture questions.
What I won’t do: any show where you are expected to perform any kind of dangerous stunt that could result in you getting injured (WIPEOUT, FEAR FACTOR, OH SIT!); any show where you have to eat disgusting things (FEAR FACTOR again, SURVIVOR); or any show where you are embarrassed or ridiculed (well, ok I did dress up in a stupid costume on LET‘S MAKE A DEAL, and I did put myself out there on a conveyor belt like a piece of meat on CONVEYOR BELT OF LOVE, but I do have my limitations!
Problem is, sometimes when you try out for a  game show, you don’t know which show you are trying out for.
That was the case recently when Iauditioned for a show called TOTAL BLACKOUT.
The casting department for that SyFy channel series had placed an ad on Craigs List looking for people who wanted to be for a fun game show that took place in darkness. I never watch Sy Fy Channel and I had never heard of TOTAL BLACKOUT.
In fact, they didn’t even tell us the name of the show we would be trying out for. But I was looking for a show for my friend, Trish, and I to do together. The ad for this show was asking for a team of two, so we figured we would give it a shot.
It was a sunny Monday morning when we headed in to the offices of Freemantle, a company known for making game shows like THE PRICE IS RIGHT and LET’S MAKE A DEAL.
Freemantle isn’t known for doing gross-out shows so we figured we would be safe.
Trish and I were led in to a small room where we met the two casting directors who were conducting the audition. There were 3 sealed boxes on a table in front of us. Trish and I were told that the lights would be turned out, and we would be asked to open each box, one by one, stick our hands in it, and try to guess what was inside.
The casting directors and cameraman were wearing infrared goggles, so they could see our every move. The lights went out.
Trish and I could see nothing. We reached our hands into the first box. We felt something furry inside, but we couldn’t tell what it was. A teddy bear? The next box held something slimy -- maybe spaghetti?
Trish reached her hand into the third box. What she didn’t know was that there was hole in the bottom the box, and a hole in the table beneath the box as well. Beneath the table was a man waiting to grab her arm. Sure enough, Trish found a man’s hand grabbing her wrist in the dark, and she let out a high-pitched scream.
The lights went back on and we all had a good laugh.
I had figured Trish would make a great game show contestant because she is very vocal. (I was told to bring the loudest person I know for the audition, and she definitely fit the bill.)  She is also very genuine in her emotions, whereas I tend to get very fake when I know there are TV cameras on me.
Overall, I thought the audition went very well. I have a dry sense of humor and Trish is more emotional so we balanced each other out pretty well.
We were given some paperwork and told to fill it out ASAP if we wanted to be considered to be on the show. These were the standard forms -- a sheet where we would supply some background info about ourselves, and a waiver preventing us from suing over anything that might happen to us in the dark on the show.
The forms had the name of the show on them: TOTAL BLACKOUT. I was curious if the show was on the air yet. I decided to do some research online when I got home.
Sure enough, there were a couple episodes of TOTAL BLACKOUT available to watch on the Net.
I only needed to watch one. And I shut it off about hallway through. The episode I watched showed contestants trying to navigate an obstacle course in the dark. It looked pretty hard.
If that was all the contestants had to do, I might have had no objection to going on the show. It was what came next that had me disgusted.
With the lights turned out, contestants were asked to stick their noses in some glass boxes and identify the item in each box -- using only their sense of smell.
Among the items in the glass boxes were: moldy old cheese, stinky sweat socks, and a man’s naked ass. That’s right, they actually had a man hiding in the box, exposing his bare ass. One by one, each contestant would stick his or her nose in the man’s ass and breathe in deep, trying to figure out that smell. (One woman actually guessed it.)
It was the type of thing that was funny to watch --as long as you’re not the one who has to do the sniffing.
I felt bad for those poor contestants. At least I had the benefit of being able to watch the show at home and making a decision about whether I was willing to put myself through that kind of humiliation.
Those hapless souls likely had no idea what to expect. They may have been the very first people to ever play the game, so there was no way they could have had known what to expect.
As soon as I saw that video online, I ripped up the contestant application. There was no way I was going to sign a release form, to let some TV producers abuse me like that. I called Trish and told her what I had seen. She agreed that it would be a bad idea to do the show, no matter what kind of money was at stake. (Contestants on TOTAL BLACKOUT compete for $25,000, but it is an elimination show which means that most of the contestants go home with nothing.)
A few weeks later, I found out that the old $25,000 PYRAMID show was coming back on, and I auditioned for that instead.
Now PYRAMID is my kind of show. You get to sit in a chair, partner up with a  celebrity, and impress everyone with your charm and wit. I would much rather make 25 grand by guessing “Sounds You Hear on a Farm” rather than sticking my snout up some gross guy’s hairy butt.
I guess then lesson here is to try to find out as much information about a show before you try out. Decide what you’re willing to do and not do. And never sign a release form unless you’re willing to face the consequences.
Because you never know what might be waiting for you in the dark. It just might be a man’s naked ass!