When preparing a Fear Factor stunt, it's always important to start with the experts. In many cases, that involves consulting with Hollywood's top stunt men. But who do you go to when the challenge involves eating live worms?
I called my buddy George the Giant, a 7' tall side show geek who makes a living eating live worms and other creepy-crawly things. During busy periods, he'll eat as much as a pound of bugs and worms in three days. If anybody knows anything about eating worms, its George.
I asked George to come to our production office and show us our worm possibilities. He brought three types of worms, each in their own cute little Tupperware containers. For starters, he showed us waxworms. They're actually bee moth larvas, pretty small and yellowish and maggot-like in appearance. George conceded that the protein-rich waxworms didn't taste as bad as they looked, they taste like popcorn.
Next up were superworms, the same feisty little guys that made their way 300,000 strong--into our worm pit stunt. Although birds and fish love to eat them, superworms aren't anywhere near as tasty as waxworms. And they have six pointy little legs that make them difficult to eat. They're mean and they fight, said George. You have to chew them up or they will try to climb back out.
But George saved the best for last. He reached into a container and pulled out some long, squiggly nightcrawlers. They're typically 4-6 inches long and are often used as fish bait. He put one in his mouth and sucked it down like a long string of spaghetti. That's the best way to take them in, he explained. When you chew them up, they can taste pretty nasty.
We eventually decided that superworms and nightcrawlers would be the way to go. The trick was in figuring out how to make the contestants chew up the worms without any of them getting sick. No problem, said George. He enlisted one of his many freaky friends, side show performer Johnny Tong, to help make the worms more palatable by feeding them a steady diet of cornmeal.
On the day of the shoot, George and Johnny showed up with a bunch of worms squirming around in little containers filled with cornmeal. When we took some out to see how they'd look on camera, we discovered a problem: their slimy little bodies were completely covered in cornmeal. I went to get a bottle of water to try rinsing them off but George was way ahead of me he had already started licking them clean with his tongue!
Lunch on the set with George and Johnny was an interesting experience in itself. We learned that Priscilla the Monkey Girl (the hairy-faced woman who was once married to the alligator skin man) had recently passed away. We also learned that the only thing that really creeps George out is the thought of having his legs broken when he dies (so he'll be able to fit in a standard cemetery plot). And we heard some things so gross that some of our staffers had to pick up their plates and move to another table.
But it was all worth it when it came time for the actual worm-eating stunt. Although worms and caterpillars are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, they're not high on the list of favorite foods here in America. And that became very clear as each contestant was given a glass filled with the "Fear Factor Martini" consisting of five nightcrawlers and one superworm. Afterwards, the contestants described them as tasting bitter and slimy and kind of like raw oysters in their mouths. Just imagine what they would have said if we had been stingy with the cornmeal!
As you can imagine, George gave us lots of ideas for other stunts. Bet you'd like to know what they are, eh? Well, just keep watching.
by RICH BROWN