July 30, 2012 by JoBe Cerny
Some adventures are greater than others. For the first time in my life, I was going to South America by myself. LeRoy Koetz and the Proctor & Gamble client went ahead to meet with the Venezuelan crew to get things organized. I was looking forward to the trip, but I was nervous since I didn’t speak Spanish. As I read the onboard Airline Magazine, I happened upon a story about a group of tourists who wanted to charter a boat up the Amazon River to Angel Falls. Angel Falls are so high in the air that the water dissolves into mist before it reaches the water below. Sounds great, doesn’t? But that is not the most interesting part of the story. Less than half the tourists arrived alive at their destination. On their journey up the Amazon they encountered head hunters who killed one of the tourists. An animal attack killed another of the tourists. The writer concluded that the Amazon was still too dangerous for tourists to travel upon. The grisly nature of the deaths made Huck Finn’s journey down the Mississippi look like a piece of cake compared to what those adventuresome tourists encountered. Much of the Amazon has not yet been explored.
But, the flight was pretty calm and peaceful, and we made most of the trip high above the clouds. But as we prepared to land in Caracas, we descended back down into the clouds. As it turned out, we landed in the clouds. That is how high up in the air we were! As I looked down, I could see the city, but on the sides of the mountains, I realized people were living in make-shift housing built of whatever kind of building materials they could find. Some people actually lived in cardboard boxes. But, the interesting thing was that all the people who lived in those houses got free electric from the government, and they had televisions in most cases. I was going to be doing television commercials in a country that had active head hunters in the jungles and poor people watching me in houses made of cardboard boxes. There were soldiers with guns at the airport as I went through customs. No one picked me up at the airport, so I had to take a cab. All I had was the name of the hotel so I just said “Inter Continental”. The driver didn’t say a word, and he took me to the hotel. I had the foresight to exchange some American Dollars for Bolivars. Since I didn’t speak Spanish, I had trouble getting the attendant at the front desk to give me my room key. Apparently “JoBe” is not a common Spanish name. But, I finally did get into my room, but there were no instructions for me. When the phone finally rang I was afraid to pick it up. But, it was LeRoy’s producer, Elizabeth Keenan, so I breathed a sigh of relief. Proctor & Gamble always treated me well on Cheer shoots, and there was a basket of snacks in the room, and I had the day off to unwind.
Whenever I go someplace new, I like to explore a little bit. In this case, I had to walk across a bridge to get from the hotel to the city. The streets were lined with chain link fences and to cross a street, I had to walk up a stairway and over a bridge to cross the street. There were lots of motorcycles and but very few cars on the streets, and I never figured out where the cars parked or how the people got out of the mazes of fences. So, I spent a couple of hours exploring stores, but I felt pretty nervous the whole time I was out on my own. So, I went back to the safety of the hotel. The next morning we all met in the lobby, and we were driven to the site of the shoot. Since the people who lived in cardboard boxes had electric, I took it for granted that the building we were shooting in would have electric, and it did have electric. But, it didn’t have windows. In fact it looked like a building that had been built as a movie set for a war movie. But it was an old factory. Lots of doors were missing, and some of the walls were crumbling, and there were no other tenants in the building. It was definitely and “open air” facility. But, everyone was really nice and pleasant, and they made me feel at home. However, I got pretty nervous when I noticed that the first A.D. wore a holster with a loaded hand gun in it. So did most of the crew members. I felt a little underdressed in my Cheer Man suit. Every assured me they wore guns as a precautionary measure to protect me. “Shooting” in South America suddenly took on a whole new meaning.
-To Be Continued-