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The remarkable thing about Dan K. isn't exactly his nerve. It's more his promotional flair and ability to get something started. With a budget of exactly nothing, using little more than personality, weed, and beer, Dan got more than one hundred people to drive from San Francisco to Petaluma in a bus and a bunch of pickup trucks to pull off a show that left people wanting more.
His mom still remembers that crazy day at her usually peaceful property. Unlike her son, Luebbermann lives a mellow lifestyle. She writes gardening books and doesn't even own a television. Naturally, she wishes her son would live a safer, nine-to-five existence: "He's chosen an awfully difficult sort of path." Still, she had to give him props: "He is very determined and clear about what he wants to do."
But what, exactly, is that? To be a rap star? A video director? A pro mountain bike champ with sponsorships coming out his ears? Not exactly.
"To be in the spotlight," Dan says.
After I met Dan at the Temple Bar, he called me with his best FM DJ greeting, "This is Dan K. Harvest -- hella juiced!" He was working on a new video project, a follow-up to "Redneck Battle Truck." The working title for the new video was "Kung Fu Honda," and it was gonna have sick stunts and even a smash-up derby. In a couple of weeks, he and his crew were heading up to Tahoe to shoot the snow-chase scene in which he would be chased by Silver Surfers and lumberjacks at a ski resort with a terrain park. Sure, it didn't make a whole lotta sense but, as "Redneck Battle Truck" and a whole generation of James Bond movies demonstrate, a coherent plot doesn't really matter as long as you've got cool stunts and mayhem caught on tape. "It's really just an excuse to do some gnarly shit," he admitted, all the while promising that this was a chance to witness "the making of an underground classic."
Even a no-budget underground classic takes a remarkable amount of planning, lobbying, and luck. For six weeks, Dan nagged his buddy with a bus to give the cast, mostly Dan's riding pals, a lift to North Lake Tahoe. At the same time, he constantly bugged his other buddies to keep their, ahem, calendars clear that weekend. On the morning of April 4, it looked as if Dan's planning had paid off -- a motley cast of fifteen snowboarders and skiers skipped their Saturday morning cartoons and piled onto the bus to make the four-hour drive to Alpine Meadows ski resort. By then, he'd given up on some of his more outlandish ideas. A few weeks earlier, he'd been telling everyone how he was gonna jump over a Greyhound bus on his bike. But when that turned out to be just a little too hard to get together, Dan resigned himself to shooting the snow-chase scene.
I wouldn't be the only member of the media in attendance. A couple of freelance cameramen working with Fox Sports would also be there, Dan said. He met them when they shot a segment on him for the new Livin' Large syndicated lifestyle TV show cohosted by Carmen Electra. A friend of Dan's from junior high happened to be a segment producer for the show and arranged the shoot. The Livin' Large segment featured concocted high jinks -- see Dan jump parked cars on his BMX; see Dan wade through a sea of empty beer bottles in his apartment building; see Dan and his crew chop the top off a Cadillac and grin into the camera and proclaim "If I can't fix it with a hammer, then it's broken." The segment had apparently caught the attention of someone in TV land.
The morning everyone left the Bay Area, the weather was promising, with clear skies and sun. But as the bus made its ascent into the Sierras, the skies gradually turned from blissfully blue to ominously gray. By the time Dan and his entourage arrived at Alpine, no snow had fallen yet but it looked like it could dump at any moment. Diffuse lighting meant a greater chance of injury, since bumps in the snow are harder to see when it's overcast.
Dan started getting edgy and wasn't in the mood to answer questions from a reporter as he began setting up a base camp at the lower part of the terrain park. As everyone assembled, the production started to unravel. Only one guy had brought a lumberjack costume; everyone else brought Silver Surfer outfits, many of which were spray-painted jumpsuits. Then the snow started dumping. Things were not going well.
Other skiers had already been doing sick somersaults and landing perfectly. Dan wasn't gonna let some other skier or boarder steal the spotlight from him. For his first warm-up jump, he wanted to impress the Fox camera guys with his own sick move. As he recalls, "it was a badass fucking jump" in which he flew right over his friend's head. But when he landed, his right knee buckled. Moments later, he was crawling on his belly at the bottom of the run. He said it felt just like the time he tore up his other knee in another skiing mishap.
"There goes my cover story," he says to me, pitifully, like a man whose dream is slipping through his fingers.
Dan skipped first aid and went straight back to the bus and crept into a sleeping bag. He nursed a Corona and looked at me with an apologetic shrug. His mind was definitely elsewhere. Dan K. Harvest had left the bus. This was just some guy named Dan Harris who had fucked up his knee and was totally bummed out.
But as soon as the Fox guys turned on the cameras, Dan K. returned, stringing together jivey slogans like "Hella crazy for life," and "Don't watch TV: make TV."