Bee All You Can Bee

Publisher’s Note: This is the Second and FINAL part of a Bob’s Blogs on the topic of “Buggin’ Out”.  See last week’s blog “Buggin’ Out For The Butterfly House“.

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By BOB WIRE | Photos courtesy of GLENN MARANGELO

Green screen. The technical term is chromakey. This is the concept: you film your subjects in front of a flat background that’s painted the one shade of green that doesn’t appear in nature. Then your video software removes all of that green from the picture, and unless your subject happens to have some of that green woven into his Christmas sweater because he didn’t know any better and besides the rest of the sweater is red and who really gives a shit because it’s for a low-budget YouTube video that only his immediate family will ever see and JUST GET OVER IT, you can put in whatever background you want. Like, a roaring fire in a fireplace with a couple of friendly guitar players on the hearth with HOLES IN THEIR SWEATER THAT LET YOU PEER INTO THEIR SOULS.

Better left to the professionals, like Katy and Sam at Sprout Films. This is the team that shot the Missoula Butterfly House fund raiser video back in February, on the green screen soundstage in some building on the UM campus. The green screen was crucial to their plan of loosely recreating the Sir Mix-A-Lot video for “Baby Got Back,” which we were parodying with our song, “Baby Got Wings.”

CastandCrew

Katy-Robin Garton, second from left, directing the cast. Note her gold lamé skirt. Truly a teamplayer.

My friends at Gravity Productions also donated their services, shooting my daughter Speaker and her friend Jalynn at Caras Park, where they performed the spoken word intro. Their Valley Girl accents were so convincing that I checked both of their IDs to see if they were from Van Nuys.

Local musicians Andrea Harsell and Travis Yost were recruited to act and dance in the video while wearing the costumes of a cockroach and a spider. They spent at least six hours on the set, gamely gyrating and mugging for the camera, take after take. This is one of the things I love about Missoula: here are two creative powerhouses with their own bundle of musical projects in the works, but they’ll drop everything to come climb into a ridiculous critter outfit and dance all day long to a dopey song about bugs. For zero pay. Watch the video. These two brought the juice, taking all kinds of crazy directions and keeping their energy and silliness up throughout the day.

Meanwhile, I was in my trailer, dressed like a bee, complaining about my wifi signal and demanding fresh squeezed pineapple juice while my agent worked the phone, trying to reduce my onscreen time and increase my points on the back end.

AndreaPhone

Andrea Harsell telling her son she’ll be late getting home, sure he’ll never believewhy.

Just kidding. I was over in the corner between takes, just out of range of the green screen, squatting in front of a box fan. After several hours and dozens of takes, my foam rubber bee outfit had created its own internal weather system. The concentrated humidity, a mixture of man steam and coffee sweat, combined with the black tights I was wearing, produced a sticky heat wave that was encased in a stretchy labyrinth of synthetic material. The only ventilation was happening via the Pure Cotton Panel at the nexus of the black tights. While the camera crew was filming the gold lamé-clad dancers working their routine in front of the green screen, I was holding open the leg of my bee body, letting the fan blow a welcome breeze across my chafing, sweaty dude fruit. Ahh. Bzzz.

The video is about two and a half minutes long. You’d think we could have just set the camera on a tripod, cranked up the playback and let everyone go nuts for a couple of takes. I mean, it worked for the Beastie Boys. But we had a thematic mission, and that was to match as many shots from the original music video as we could in one day. This meant a 16-hour day for Katy and Sam, and a ten-hour day for your intrepid honky tonk bee, going through the song something like 40 times. I kept forgetting the words, even though I WROTE AND RECORDED THE SONG THREE DAYS EARLIER. I even enlisted a cue card girl to scrawl the first few words of each verse on the back of a script and position herself behind the camera. I probably cussed and stamped my feet more than any bee-dressed man since John Belushi’s personal assistant whispered that his sandwich bag full of cocaine would be late getting to his dressing room.

Lip-syncing and dancing for the camera is a lot tougher than doing it behind the wheel of my truck, where most of my sick dance moves happen. Driving alone, I can mouth the words to a Van Halen song better than David Lee Roth, and Usher would be jealous of the tight shoulder rolls and hip twitches I pull off while at a red light. But get me on a soundstage, with the hot lights beating down, six other dancers onstage waiting to nail their routines, and a pair of Target Plus Size textured tights treating my undercarriage like a cement mixer, and I tend to clutch up in a grand mal leotard crotch vapor lock. It was hard to concentrate. There was a lot going on.

AndreaBobTravis

Andrea Harsell, Bob Wire, Travis Yost expressing their innerarthropods.

Speaking of my crotch, you’ll notice that the bee suit is cut pretty high. And the leg holes are big. I had no idea of the exposure factor, but apparently when I stood around between takes, with one foot up on a folding chair, people were treated to a view they did not bargain for. One guy told me that it looked like my junk was ready to pull a bank job. I was asked to stop doing that.

Flashing my grapes to the cast and crew was not really one of my concerns, because I had plenty of other things worrying me. Earlier, in the planning stages, I was afraid that I’d be required to dance for real when our choreographer Laurel joined the crew. To my relief, she would be leading a team of four actual dancers during the song, doing their tight routine while I just sloped around like a middle-aged dad with two mimosas under his belt, throwing my hands around and spitting rhymes. Our other two dancers, the bugs, Andrea and Travis, played off each other with an over-the-top sense of humor and rhythm that reminded my why they are two of Missoula’s most beloved—and unique—performers. Just watch the video and try to picture any other two people bringing these giant bugs to life. They’re perfect.

As for me, I had studied Mix-A-Lot in his video, and saw that he didn’t really do much actual dancing. It was more like rhythmic posturing. The huge white three-fingered gloves I wore accentuated my movements, and in the end, we got the living cartoon I hoped we would capture.

I hope you like it. I hope you donate a few bucks to the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium.

I hope I never have to wear tights again.

HERE’S A LINK TO THE VIDEO:

http://www.razoo.com/story/Missoula-Butterfly-House-And-Insectarium

   Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blogarchive.

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Have an off-white Christmas with Bob Wire.Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an openmind.

Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.

You can hear his music on his website, or download it at iTunes, Amazon, and other online music providers. Follow @Bob_Wire on Twitter.

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