Buggin’ Out for the Butterfly House

By BOB WIRE

After making noise for a couple of decades in this town, I’ve gotten to the point where a lot of propositions come over my transom. People request my services for everything from auctioneering (which I suck at), judging musical competitions (which I like when they’re kids), and doing strange things for fund raising events (next year I’m riding the Carousel for Missoula naked). My response to these requests depends on my availability, my level of enthusiasm for the organization, and my mood when the request comes in.

When Jen Marangelo of the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium asked me in January if I’d be interested in helping them with a fund raising project, the slot machine came up all cherries. Jen and her husband Glenn are good friends of mine, and I’ve been following her efforts over the years as she’s worked to create a permanent space for an insect zoo and butterfly room. Having wandered around Chattanooga’s amazing Butterfly Room many times, I understand the surreal and calming experience of having these magnificent creatures fly all around, sometimes lighting on you. (I also found out that you’re not supposed to smash them when they light on you.)

Jen and her people were going to mount a crowdfunding campaign in the spring, she said, and they were hoping I could write the lyrics for a parody song. They had a video production company lined up to make a music video, and that video would be the cornerstone of their campaign.

Making up songs is either really easy or really hard. Like a lot of song writers, I can anguish over a blank page, writhing around on the floor with a pencil clenched between my teeth, surrounded by empty shot glasses, clutching my hair in my fists, wailing, “I got NOTHIN’!” But when someone comes along and asks me to write about a specific subject, I shrug and say no problem. Fifteen minutes later, here are four verses and a chorus about a man whose job it is to stuff cotton balls into pill bottles at the vitamin factory.

So all we had to do was choose a song that was ripe for parody and lent itself to the subject at hand. Jen, Glenn, MBHI staffer Bryce and I sat down over coffee across the street from the Insectarium and brainstormed. Here are some of the ideas we rejected: Turning Japanese (Like This Horned Beetle), All You Need Is Bugs, The Power Of Bugs, I Want a New Bug, Burning Down the (Butterfly) House, Keep Your Mandibles To Yourself, Like a Rolling Dung Ball, and Street Fighting Ant. We settled on Baby Got Bugs.

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Here I am on the left, fresh from my urban hive, enjoying some hot nectar.On the right, I’m perched on my throne ofladybugs.

I did a little research on the various large “bug ambassadors” that would be inhabiting the MBHI, and wrote out the lyrics in a little over an hour.  This required several listens to the Sir Mix-a-Lot original, which really was mostly about how much he loves cooter. And big butts. I cannot lie. I had to dial it back to at least a PG rating, since a lot of kids would be seeing this.

Jen approved the lyrics, and we had a discussion about the music. Who was going to record this thing? I thought of my friend Travis Yost, who has a home studio and is becoming pretty adept at recording. Wait, I have a home studio, and I could just rap these lines over a karaoke track, right? Problem solved. They’d have their finished parody track, and I could just sit back and wait for the phone call from the Grammy committee.

But who was going to sing the song in the video? I felt like Al Pacino on Godfather III: “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in!” Or is that from Zoolander? I forget. I agreed to sing the song for the camera on one condition, I told her. You have to get me a bee suit. A full-on, John Belushi on Saturday Night Live bee suit. I thought this outrageous demand might get me off the hook, but I underestimated amazon.com. Jen informed me that, not only had she ordered me a bee suit (size XD: extra drone), but she’d also ordered a spider costume and a cockroach costume for the two hype men I’d demanded. At this point, I was firmly trapped in her web.

But who would serve as the hype men? I needed to come up with a couple of volunteers who had rhythm, and understood the parasitic relationship of the hype man to the MC, which is similar to that of a flea and a German Shepherd. When the rapper spits out a line, the hype men raise their wireless mics and holler, “Yee-uh, boyeee!” In between doing this, they stride in a menacing fashion across the stage behind the MC with angry expressions like guys who have drank nine cups of coffee and they’re waiting outside the door of the public restroom at Target while someone finishes up in there but they obviously have to go bad because their pants are already pulled halfway down.

We kicked around a few ideas for backgrounds, funny moves and bits to go with the lyrics, and what props we could come up with. A choreographer was brought in. Laurel introduced herself to the growing group of planners at the video meeting.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Bob. So you’re a choreographer? That’s cool. Who’s going to be dancing?” She said nothing. I looked around the conference table and everyone was looking at me. I gulped.

As it turned out, most of the plans we made that day went out the window once the video producer joined us. She’d done parody videos before, and they were quite successful. The key, she said, is to match as many shots as you could from the original. Most of the ideas we’d come up with to that point had nothing to do with the Mix-a-Lot video, so we retooled and started discussing how to achieve the producer’s vision on our shoestring budget.

I was initially concerned about this wholesale shift in direction, but as the meeting wore on, I felt a renewed sense of confidence that this thing was going to fly (pun intended). We’d just gotten word that the dream team of hype men we approached had agreed to don the cockroach and spider costumes, and completely bug out on camera.

Like a Chilean Rose Tarantula with a hapless frog in her grip, I was licking my chops. This was going to be a wild ride indeed.

NEXT:  Gum-popping Missoula Valley girls, green screen scene stealers, and why that pure cotton panel in your tights is so important.

   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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