Setting up contestants in a tank filled with tons of dead squid was one of the most complicated gross stunts that we've ever done. But it was definitely worth every minute of preparation.
When you're looking for a lot of dead fish - and we mean a lot of dead fish -- you can't just go to a supermarket. You need to go right to the source. In Los Angeles, that means a trip to the fishing boats of San Pedro.
Actually, it means several trips to San Pedro. Fishermen, you see, are not the easiest guys to communicate with. They kind of live by their own set of rules. For example, when a southern California fisherman catches his first yellowtail, tradition dictates that he rips out its still-beating heart and eats it raw. See what we're getting at here?
Eventually, we hooked up with a great crew on a fishing boat called the "Eileen." Unlike a lot of the crusty old fishermen of San Pedro, this crew was made up of cool surfer dudes. In fact, some of them were actually Fear Factor fans.
Now that we had a boat, we had to figure out the right mix of fish and water needed in the holding tank. Associate producer Molly Weiss bravely volunteered to don a wetsuit and climb down into the squid-filled tank as we raised and lowered the water level. Even more bravely, she went into the boat's dingy little shower to clean off after the test.
As a result of the test, we realized we'd need about 10,000 pounds of squid. Still, there were many variables. Even though it was squid season, there was no guarantee that the fishermen would be able to catch enough in time for the stunt. Also, if we didn't shoot the stunt right after we caught the squid, there was a good chance it would turn ripe and cause bacterial problems. And, to top it all off, the squid fishermen of San Pedro decided to go on strike just days before our scheduled shoot.
Somehow, everything fell into place. The captain of the boat convinced the fisherman's union to let them catch the squid for our stunt. Then, just 12 hours before our scheduled shoot, he called us from his satellite phone out at sea to let us know they had hauled in tons of the stuff. Finally, with the help of the boat's refrigeration unit, we managed to keep the squid from rotting.
Now we were ready for the stunt. Each contestant would get three minutes to dive into 10,000 pounds of smelly, slimy squid mixed with ink, blood, and guts and try to retrieve as many five pound weights as possible from the bottom of the tank. Adding to the difficulty, the refrigeration placed the water at an unbearably cold temperature in the low 30s.
Needless to say, the contestants did not have a very good time with the stunt. We left San Pedro with another great stunt...and a lot of seagull poop on our cars.
by RICH BROWN