Dropping in on Turkmenistan’s ‘door to hell’ – in pictures

Posted on July 19th, 2014

Forty years ago, a vast molten cavity known as the Darvaza crater – nicknamed the “door to hell” – opened up in the desert of north Turkmenistan, and has been burning ever since. Now, Canadian explorer George Kourounis has become the first to make the descent into the fiery pit to look for signs of life.

-THE GUARDIAN

The origin of Turkmenistan’s Darvaza Crater – nicknamed the “door to hell” – is disputed, but the theory most widely accepted involves a Soviet expedition to explore for gas.

A Turkmen geologist claims the borehole was set alight in 1971 after fears it was emitting poisonous gases. It has now been burning for 40 years.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The crater, which is 69 metres wide and 30 metres deep, is located in a natural gas field in Ahal Province in Turkmenistan, which has the sixth largest reserves in the world.

George Kourounis, a Canadian explorer, became the first person known to have ventured into the pit last year, though footage of his expedition first aired this week on National Geographic, which partly funded the expedition. The aim was to collect soil samples from the bottom of the pit, to try to establish whether life can exist in such a harsh environment.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

“The story behind how [the crater] came into existence has been sort of shrouded in mystery, and there’s no other place like it on Earth,” Kourounis told National Geographic. “It is very unique, in that there’s no other place where there is this pit of burning methane that’s being ejected from the ground at high pressure”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The project took 18 months to plan. The team set up a rope-rigging system over a river gorge to practice lowering Kourounis in. He even had a Hollywood stunt expert set him on fire a few times, to “prepare myself for not panicking being up close around flame”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Kourounis admits he was a little nervous before the expedition.

“When you first set eyes on the crater, it’s like something out of a science fiction film,” he says. “You’ve got this vast, sprawling desert with almost nothing there, and then there’s this gaping, burning pit… The heat coming off of it is scorching.

“You have to shield your face with your hand just standing at the crater’s edge. Here I am thinking, ok , maybe I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew.”

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

To withstand the intense heat, Kourounis wore special breathing apparatus, a heat-reflective suit, and a custom-made climbing harness made out of Kevlar so that it would not melt.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

The crater has become a minor tourist attraction in Turkmenistan, though Kourounis says he didn’t have any trouble with crowds of people turning up to watch him. Only a few “tourist outfits” and a couple of people with camels passed by.

“Once you’re there – if you can find the place – you can drive up, get out of your car, walk over to the edge, and jump right in, if you want,” he says. “The choice is yours. And I’m so far the only person who has actually done that”.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Kourounis compared his experience of descending into the pit with what it might feel like to land on another planet. He describes it as a “coliseum of fire” made up of thousands of small flames, which together sound as loud as a jet engine.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

“You feel very, very small and very vulnerable in a place like that,” says Kourounis.

Flying over fire

Kourounis and the team were happy with the results of their expedition, and believe it may even help to inform potential space missions in the future searching for signs of life outside of our solar system.

“We did find some bacteria living at the bottom that are very comfortable living in those high temperatures, and the most important thing was that they were not found in any of the surrounding soil outside of the crater,” he says. “Outside of our solar system, there are planets that do resemble the conditions inside this pit, and [knowing that] can help us expand the number of places where we can confidently start looking for life outside of our solar system.”

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated countries in the world, yet its fledgling tourism industry hopes to capitalise on crater as an attraction for thrillseekers. Because it’s not fenced off, visitors can stand right on the edge of the crater, despite the safety hazards.

Darvaza Crater

Photograph: George Verschoor/National Geographic Channels

 

Check out the original article HERE

 

NEW SERIES “DIE TRYING” Airs tonight July 9th @ 10pm ET

Posted on July 9th, 2014

Hello HFPLA Fans!

Our new series, DIE TRYING, A Hoosick Falls Production by Executive Producer George Verschoor, is airing tonight (10pm ET) on the National Geographic Channel!


Tune in tonight at 10PM ET, for the first episode Polars Vs. Grizzlies, where Nat Geo’s veteran bear expert Casey Anderson and seasoned naturalist Jason Matthews plunge into some of the most dangerous bear country in the world, the Alaskan Arctic, determined to collect conclusive DNA evidence and visual footage of a different breed of bear: what they call the Super Bear. Half polar and half grizzly, this hybrid Super Bear has the DNA makeup of two of the world’s most tremendous predators.

Die Trying is a documentary series about six high-risk, high-reward expeditions that highlight the capacity for determined men and women to conquer unprecedented scientific and human challenges.  Crisscrossing the globe from the frozen Alaskan arctic to a fiery crater in a Turkmen desert, Die Trying presents unforgettable stories and characters pushing themselves to their absolute limits for the chance to bring groundbreaking knowledge to the world’s attention, for the very first time.

 

http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/channel/die-trying/

 

Judd Winick Tweets Old-School ‘Real World: San Francisco’ Photos 20 Years After Filming

Posted on February 14th, 2014

posted 02/13/2014 3:36:42 pm by matthew scott donnelly in real world, top tv shows.

Judd Winick, Pedro Zamora and Pam Ling enjoy a San Francisco brunch in 1994.

This season’s “Real World” is putting a twist on the iconic series by bunking housemates with their exes in San Francisco, but when the show first hit Fog City in 1994, it was all about strangers simply getting to know each other. With memorable cast members like AIDS activist Pedro Zamora and medical student Pam Ling, Season 3 is still a favorite among longtime viewers, and to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its filming, cast member Judd Winick is taking a look back.

Today, the twentysomething housemate best known for his mission to find the perfect girl and land a syndicated cartoon strip tweeted photos from his time in San Francisco, and even a couple from his cast’s vacation in Hawaii. Between brunch with good friends, a tandem bike ride and braving the rainforest, the experiences Judd has shared are clear reminders of why the first “Real World: San Francisco” is still so beloved. (Plus, can’t you just tell that he and Pam, who are now married, would become a thing?)

Check out the pics for a proper blast from the past, and keep up with 2014′s “Real World” Wednesday nights at 10/9c!

Judd Winick, Cory Murphy and Pedro Zamora hang out in Hawaii.

The group poses with former show director George Verschoor.

Judd Winick and Pam Ling, before they were married!

“The rain forrest! (Can you tell?),” Judd Winick tweeted of this Hawaii photo.

Photos courtesy of @JuddWinick

 

National Geographic Channel “Building Wild” In Brattleboro!

Posted on February 10th, 2014

By BuildingWildTV | Fri, February 07 2014

New Episodes to air Tuesdays @ 9/8c

“Building Wild” is a fun, rugged new cabin-building series currently airing on National Geographic Channel Tuesdays at 9pm. The entire first season was filmed in the Bennington area, and features Paul DiMeo of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Hoosick Falls native Pat “Tuffy” Bakatis.

NOW, the series is looking for new build challenges in the Brattleboro area! In each episode of the show, Paulie and Tuffy – The Cabin Kings – meet a client who has a big, rugged piece of land and a dream of putting a cabin on that property.

The Cabin Kings get it done in one week’s time. If you live in the Brattleboro area and have some wild, remote acreage that would be a challenge to our crew, and a dream of your own wilderness getaway, we’d love to hear about it! Find more details here:  http://www.cabin-kings.com/apply.php !

 

‘Cabin Kings’ looking for sites in the Brattleboro area

Posted on February 5th, 2014

By BOB AUDETTE / Reformer Staff

The Building Wild crew works into the night on a cabin in Arlington. (National Geographic Channels) (George Verschoor)

BRATTLEBORO — If you have a piece of land in the woods in need of a cabin, the National Geographic Channel is looking for you.

The first season of “Building Wild,” currently airing on Tuesdays at 9 p.m., was filmed entirely in the Bennington area, and now the show’s producers are looking for locales in the Brattleboro area.

The series features Paul DiMeo of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and Hoosick Falls, N.Y., native Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis. The pair — known as the “Cabin Kings” — meet with prospective land owners and determine whether a cabin can be built. They then take about a week to do it.

DiMeo is a city boy at heart and Bakaitis is a gruff, logical woodsman. Together, they create wilderness getaways, transforming discarded materials into fabulous contraptions and overcoming outrageous building challenges along the way.

“You can see it in the first episode, Tuffy is a practical guy,” the show’s producer, George Verschoor, told the Bennington Banner. Verschoor produced the first four years of the MTV series “The Real World.”

DiMeo, said Verschoor, is more of a dreamer whose ideas often rankle his partner in terms of their feasibility.

“He’s no outdoorsman, he’s a city boy. He’s a hoot to follow around,” said Bakaitis of his business partner. “He just doesn’t know what it takes to pull a job off.”

Verschoor and Bakaitis have known each other since they were children.

“We rode the school bus together,” said Verschoor, who owns a home in Hoosick Falls. He said he knew DiMeo through “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and introduced him to Bakaitis one day.

As it turns out, Bakaitis and DiMeo share a love of building, especially cabins. Bakaitis had built five and showed them off to DiMeo.

“We got a lot of good ideas and decided to build them for other people,” Bakaitis said.

The two have formed a business, Cabin Kings, and the show, “Building Wild,” is about them making a go of it, said Verschoor. He pitched the idea to National Geographic, which liked the outdoors angle.

“We’re documenting the startup of this cabin building business, and the Cabin Kings are headquartered in Hoosick Falls, New York,” Verschoor told the Reformer. “The area they’re currently building in is in the Southern Vermont/Upstate New York area, an area with a very heavy cabin culture. In the future, they do hope to take on builds across the country.”

Viewers should enjoy watching Bakaitis and DiMeo work together, said Verschoor, as the two both love what they do and are experts, but approach things from different angles. One client suggested they get marriage counseling.

The two clash in the first episode when DiMeo and the client want to raise the frame of the camp the old fashioned way using “gin poles,” but Bakaitis thinks using his excavator would be faster and safer.

Many of their projects have a “build-as-you-go” feel, he said, and he often finds himself trying to bring his partner down to earth. Bakaitis said when they do pull off an amazing feat of woodland engineering, it only encourages DiMeo, and their clients, to want more.

One of their projects is a ski cabin that rotates so sunrise and sunset can both be watched from the front porch.

All the episodes of the first season feature projects in the upstate New York and southern Vermont area, such as Shaftsbury, Sandgate and Glastenbury.

Bakaitis said Cabin Kings’ business model keeps costs low because they use materials found on-site and the landowners are asked to bring together a workforce of friends and family and agree to do the entire build in one week. It’s up to the landowners to usher the project through the local permitting process.

Find more details on how to apply, visit cabin-kings.com/apply.php.

Bennington Banner reporter Keith Whitcomb, Jr. contributed to this report.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.

 

Delco ‘Makeover’ guy goes ‘Wild’

Posted on February 1st, 2014

Paul DiMeo, the Media native and famously emotional carpenter from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," is now building cabins for people who want to get away from it all - including their flat screens - in National Geographic Channel's "Building Wild."

MILLIONS OF Americans will settle into their man (and woman) caves this weekend for the big game, but chances are those retreats won’t have been designed by Paul DiMeo. The Media native and famously emotional carpenter from “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” is now building cabins for people who want to get away from it all – including their flat screens – in National Geographic Channel’s “Building Wild.”

The show, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, chronicles the odd-couple adventures of DiMeo and his business partner Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis as they build one-of-a-kind getaways, with the help of their customers, in places where the challenges may include building a road to get there.

DiMeo, who lives in LA these days but still vacations at the Jersey Shore, spoke with Ellen Gray about his newest venture.

Q So, were you looking at this as a business or a TV show first?

A business first. But I mean, I came off a decade of television, so I like the idea of being in television.

Q How many cabins had you two built together before the show?

None at all. It happened very quickly. George [Verschoor, executive producer of "Building Wild"] introduced me to Tuffy. I liked the idea of building cabins, maybe making a bit of money, and George said, “What if I try to get Nat Geo to follow you guys from its inception?”

Q Was your plan all along to be a TV star?

In life? No. I mean, I’ve always loved theater. Building sets, acting. When I got to New York, I was building sets by day, working for a lot of great theater companies down on 4th Street. Being that I was a carpenter, I got to do a lot.

Q It’s a great skill. Wasn’t Harrison Ford a carpenter?

Harrison Ford was a carpenter, yeah. Now he’s a pilot.

Q Is that your next thing?

No, no. My next thing is goat cheese. I like the idea of grabbing some goats and making some cheese.

Q How do you find clients?

In New England, everyone wants a cabin. I really wanted this business model to happen where [customers] helped, where you brought the labor pool, doing it together, hitting it hard for five days. These are only 400-square-foot homes, there’s no plumbing.

Q No plumbing? Because I think I’d want plumbing.

There’s an outhouse. Plumbing is really great. The problem with plumbing is getting rid of the waste. No, we want to build forts in your back yard.

Q People often want more house than they need. Do they want more cabin than they need?

No. So we’ve built 10 cabins. Four of our clients [said] “I don’t want any electricity” – because usually what I’ll do is I’ll put in like four to six outlets and a generator hookup. But a lot of the guys said, “No, I don’t want any of that. Let me come up here, let me read.”

Q You’re known for being emotional. What gets the tears going on this show?

You spend a week with somebody and you do something. You look at it, and then you look at how it affects the people you did that for.

Even if it’s a cabin and it’s a father and a son. They worked on something together that week that never would’ve happened without us bringing it to them. I did that with my old man, and I loved that.

Q You built a cabin with your father?

No, but I worked with my dad.

[Also] our house burned down in ’63, in Delaware County, right on the border of Media and Brookhaven. [DiMeo was 5 at the time.] The contractor went on strike. So here’s my dad, with five children, and my mom. And I watched the Knights of Columbus, I watched Our Lady of Charity [parishioners] come and help my dad.

I also learned at a very early age that if it’s not breathing, what good is it? So maybe it’s why I don’t collect things.

Q What’s your house like?

We have [cowboy actor] Tom Mix’s house. It’s beautiful. Right now I’m redoing a bathroom.

Q You’re still working on your own house?

Oh, yeah. Does that ever end?

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140202_Delco__Makeover__guy_goes__Wild_.html#1XFqYbCLB5TSSCLe.99

 

A Cabin That Turns? Turn to Hoosick Falls native for that

Posted on January 28th, 2014

HOOSICK FALLS NATIVES BACK NAT-GEO REALITY SHOW

By John Craig, The Record

Photo provided From left to right: Co-executive Producer Will Spjut, Pat "Tuffy" Bakaitis and George Verschoor

In her dream cabin, the wife wanted to wake up with the sunrise. The husband wanted to look out the same bedroom window and watch the sunset. So they turned to Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis of Hoosick Falls and his team for help.

He’s not a marriage counselor – Bakaitis is a woodsman, excavator and builder.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but could never do it on my own,” Bakaitis told The Record. “You can do all kinds of goofy things with the bottom of an excavator.”

And he has. Tonight on NatGeo, the National Geographic Channel, his “Building Wild” show will turn an old excavator into a cabin that spins 360-degrees. It’s part of a show based in eastern Rensselaer County and southern Vermont with Hoosick Falls natives Bakaitis and George Verschoor.

“Tuffy is one of the most talented fabricator, woodsman, and backwoods inventors you’ll ever meet,” Verschoor said. “He’s known as a local legend.”

“We found one (excavator), stripped it down to the turntable; the house bearing is made to manage the whole machine,” Bakaitis said.

The producers, including Verschoor, who actually rode the school bus with Bakaitis as kids, were skeptical and didn’t want to layout the money for the big machine.

“They were kind of against me on it,” said Bakaitis, 51, who has owned Hoosick Sand & Gravel for over 35 years. “The price of scrap is so high; it’s kind of killing us a little bit.”

But they found one with a 14’ x 8’ base and built a cabin on it. They estimate that the kit alone was 18,000 lbs. without roofing, flooring or furnishings. When it was all said and done, it weighed about 25,000 lbs.

Bakaitis and designer Paulie DiMeo, who is a jack-of-all-trades and TV veteran, have created “Cabin Kings” which will build dream cabins in five-days. They built and filmed each episode from last June through October. The series began airing January 14 on the NatGeo Channel. DiMeo became known for building the impossible over nine seasons on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” including a house in Colonie in 2007.

Bakaitis says “there’s nothing scripted about it” and it combines education, humor and you get “the real deal.” As for the turntable cabin, “I bet Paulie I could put my thumb on the corner and it will spin. That was my design.”

Verschoor asked Tuffy: “What if this doesn’t work?” Tuffy answered, “It’s going to work.”

VERSCHOOR IS SURE

Verschoor studied filmmaking at Syracuse University and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream in 1983, after graduation.

“I caught the bug for storytelling and filmmaking,” Verschoor said. “My first break came when I produced and directed “The Real World” (on MTV). Those early years were great on that show. It was ground-breaking and launched a lot of different opportunities.”

Verschoor, 53, also headed “Nashville Star” which discovered Miranda Lambert and he later worked on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” where he met DiMeo and worked on a house in Springfield, MA.

“He and I started talking about our love of the outdoors in the northeast,” said Verschoor. When DiMeo met Bakaitis, who owned five cabins at the time, they came up with the idea for “Cabin Kings” to help people build a wilderness man cave and soon after, the show was born.

“It’s great to be back in my hometown working with a lot of the folks I know,” Verschoor said from Vermont, where his team is scouting the next season. “These are great, salt-of-the-earth characters. There’s hard-working talent, a lot of great craftsman here. There’s a great cabin culture and the people are saving and looking for that little piece of paradise.”

The show doesn’t just give the cabins away. The families have to put some of their own money and labor into it. But it is built in less than a week.

“It’s not a program that is just giving these things away,” Verschoor said. “They work with Paulie and Tuffy on their cabin. They’ve got some sweat equity in it…it’s fun to take people on that adventure.

“Paul does things fast and keeps costs low,” Verschoor said. “Each of these cabins has a bit of a twist to them.”

“Building Wild” is beginning its second season and they are looking for new spots and new ideas – up to 15 projects. You can contact them through their website, cabin-kings.com, to apply and offer up land and materials.

“Pursuing the dream is the story,” Verschoor said. “It’s outdoors and hardship and challenge. That’s what this story is all about. You go on this adventure for a weekend.”

NO DOWN TIME

For special work, Bakaitis will take work to his own workshop – “we can’t do everything out in the bush…and on the job site you will find mud, stumps and gravel.”

The premiere of the show was held at the new “Dutchaven Sports Pub” in Buskirk next to the golf course. All 14 flat screen TVs were tuned in for the party. And that’s one of the rare times Bakaitis watched TV. Bakaitis is a different cat. To relax, he likes to spend time in his woodshop when he gets home.

“I’m a busy guy,” Tuffy said. “I’m a family farmer. I leave the house at 6 a.m. and I’m not home till 8 or 9 p.m.”

Bakaitis, who this week braved the cold to feed his cows – 30 on his farm and 17 on the way – says there’s a lot of excavation with these shows. They have to build roads, prep the site, get up mountains and put in foundations, “plus there’s a camera in my face all the time.”

“We’d all like to take a little more time to build these,” Bakaitis said. “I don’t know who came up with the five-day time limit but it’s rush, rush, rush and work your ass off.”

And he says it’s done well for the local economy. They bring in a whole crew, rent a wing of a motel in Bennington, VT, plus get supplies from local saw mills, hardware stores and roofing companies.

He has had to promote the show in California a couple of times but says he doesn’t like that because it feels like bragging and he remembers what his mother told him – “Don’t talk about yourself.”

Additionally, he doesn’t follow any sports but will go to a friend’s Super Bowl party “just to be polite…they have got a lot of good stuff to eat.”

As for this week’s episode, which airs at 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Tuffy said: “I think it’s one of our better builds.”

Hoosick Falls’ Tuffy Bakaitis on Nat Geo’s “Building Wild”

Posted on January 14th, 2014

Hoosick Falls’ Tuffy Bakaitis on Nat Geo’s “Building Wild”

Reality show reunites a dozen childhood pals from Hoosick Falls

By Paul Grondahl

Published 10:02 pm, Friday, January 10, 2014

Pat "Tuffy" Bakaitis,left, Mike Carney (landowner) and Paul Dimeo, right, during filming for "Building Wild,"which airs Tuesday on the National Geographic channel. (Courtesy George Verschoor)

Hoosick Falls

Paul “Paulie” DiMeo and Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis call themselves the Cabin Kings, and when they’re not engaged in trash-talking, testosterone-laced tirades followed by the inevitable bro hugs, they are taking the concept of man caves to places they have never gone before in a new National Geographic reality TV show.

“Building Wild” airs its first episode Tuesday with a project to transform a tumbledown 19th-century barn into a tricked-out new hunting camp in Cambridge, Washington County, for farmer Mike Carney and 11 pals since childhood who call themselves “the Dirty Dozen.”

The kicker is that the Dirty Dozen and the professionals have only five days to build the camp, using mostly recycled lumber from the barn.

They end up fashioning a bar that used salvaged boards from an old bowling alley — all the better for sliding bottles of beer — and repurposing a reclaimed old tractor cab as a rolling outhouse that moves on rails: closer to the cabin in winter and further away in the pungent summer months.

Cold brewskis will flow in all seasons.

“We’re like little kids building a fort in the backyard,” DiMeo said. “Only we have better materials and bigger tools and hopefully a little more wisdom.”

Don’t count on that last bit. A trailer advertising the show features plenty of backwoods antics, pratfalls in swamps, a clash of cultures and locker-room humor.

The TV show reunites two childhood buddies who rode the Hoosick Falls school bus together, Bakaitis and producer George Verschoor. It also extends the team of DiMeo and Verschoor, who worked for a decade on the popular “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

DiMeo and Verschoor were part of the “Extreme Makeover” team that tore down an old ranch house on Fairway Lane in Colonie in 2007 and transformed it into an Adirondack-style custom home for Debbie Oatman and her sons.

When that show ended, DiMeo and Verschoor kicked around ideas and Verschoor arranged for DiMeo and Bakaitis to meet. Bakaitis is a heavy equipment operator who owns and operates Hoosick Sand and Gravel and is something of a local legend as an iconoclast and hell-raiser.

Bakaitis was working on his grandfather’s dairy farm by age 8 and driving tractors by the time he turned 9. “He’d put blocks of wood on the pedals so I could reach them. I loved spreading the manure, cutting the hay and doing other farm jobs,” Bakaitis recalled.

He turned the idyllic scenes of Grandma Moses’ rustic country life paintings — Bakaitis is a neighbor and friends with Moses family members — on its head.

He built five camps on his farmland over the years.

“Every one has a purpose,” he explained. “One is a happy-hour camp where me and the guys have been going on Friday nights for 20 years. That way we don’t trash each other’s houses.”

What do they do at the happy-hour camp?

“We drink a lot of beer, sit on the porch, build a fire in the fire pit and we vent,” he said. “We also shoot things. We fire off a big, old cannon. We might blow up an old car. Just fun stuff.”

DiMeo said he hit it off with Bakaitis right away, despite the fact that he’s a L.A. dude, a city slicker who fancies himself as an artiste. Bakaitis is a burly fellow who is an artist with bulldozers, backhoes, excavators, front-end loaders, skid steers and more.

“Paulie’s such a city boy,” Bakaitis said. “He fell down in a swamp. He was scared of every critter. He’s not at home at all out there in the woods.”

“He’s everything I’m not,” DiMeo said of Bakaitis. “But I learned a lot from him, including that a goat has two teats and not four.”

“There’s a great chemistry watching these two work together, and annoying each other, too,” Verschoor said. “Paulie is really creative and Tuffy is like Huck Finn mixed with Davy Crockett.”

Bakaitis recalled Verschoor as the quiet, brainy kid on the bus who left town, graduated from Syracuse University and won fame and fortune in the TV industry in Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Bakaitis and his rabble-rouser brothers and friends stuck around Hoosick Falls, population 3,474.

The fourth-generation town resident said his excavation and sand and gravel business took a hit during the recession and he was happy for the TV work. They shot a first season of 10 episodes, creating over-the-top man camps in and around Hoosick Falls and Bennington, Vt.

“I’ve only heard positive things around town,” Bakaitis said. “We employed 30 local people for four months. The local diners did great business. We bought a ton of wood from the local sawmill in North Petersburgh.”

Verschoor said he enjoyed getting to work in his hometown, where he and his wife and two daughters have a house they enjoy on holidays and summer vacations away from their home in Los Angeles.

“I’ve got 10 guys I grew up with who still live there and it was great to see my buddies,” he said. “I love telling these stories about everyone coming together to make something great from nothing. And, of course, Paulie and Tuffy are two amazing personalities.”

pgrondahl@timesunion.com • 518-454-5623 • @PaulGrondahl

A camp for the guys

“Building Wild” premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the National Geographic channel. The first episode is called “Dirty Dozen Deer Lodge.”

 

Hoosick Falls man to co-star in National Geographic reality show

Posted on January 14th, 2014

Hoosick Falls man to co-star in National Geographic reality show
Creativity foundation of ‘Wild’ series
KEITH WHITCOMB JR., Staff Writer
POSTED: 01/10/2014 01:00:00 AM EST

The “Building Wild” crew works into the night on a cabin in Arlington. (National Geographic Channels)

HOOSICK FALLS, N.Y. — A local man will be co-starring in a new National Geographic Channel reality show about building cabins in out-of-the-way places.

In the first episode of “Building Wild,” Pat “Tuffy” Bakaitis, of Hoosick Falls, and Paul “Paulie” Dimeo, of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” fame, team up to build Mike Carney and his 11 friends – called “The Dirty Dozen” — a new hunting camp in the Jackson/Cambridge area.

The show’s first season includes 10 episodes, the first of which premiers Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.

Bakaitis and Dimeo are an odd couple. Bakaitis is a farmer and owns Hoosick Sand and Gravel. Dimeo, who lives in Los Angeles, was a featured designer on all nine seasons of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” which aired on ABC Television and won two Emmy awards.

“You can see it in the first episode, Tuffy is a practical guy,” said the show’s producer, George Verschoor, who produced the first four years of the MTV series “The Real World,” which is considered to be one of the earliest reality programs. Dimeo, he said, is more of a dreamer whose ideas often rankle his partner in terms of their feasibility.

“He’s no outdoorsman, he’s a city boy. He’s a hoot to follow around,” said Bakaitis of his business partner. “He just doesn’t know what it takes to pull a job off.”

Verschoor and Bakaitis have known each other since they were children. “We rode the school bus together,” said Verschoor, who owns a home in Hoosick Falls. He said he knew Dimeo through “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” and introduced him to Bakaitis one day.

As it turns out, Bakaitis and Dimeo share a love of building, especially cabins. Bakaitis had built five and showed them off to Dimeo.

“We got a lot of good ideas and decided to build them for other people,” Bakaitis said.

The two have formed a business, Cabin Kings, and the show, “Building Wild,” is about them making a go of it, said Verschoor. He pitched the idea to National Geographic, which liked the outdoors angle.

Viewers should enjoy watching Bakaitis and Dimeo work together, said Verschoor, as the two both love what they do and are experts, but approach things from different angles. One client suggested they get marriage counseling.

The two clash in the first episode when Dimeo and the client want to raise the frame of the camp the old fashioned way using “gin poles,” but Bakaitis thinks using his excavator would be faster and safer.

Many of their projects have a “build-as-you-go” feel, he said, and he often finds himself trying to bring his partner down to earth. Bakaitis said when they do pull off an amazing feat of woodland engineering, it only encourages Dimeo, and their clients, to want more.

One of their projects is a ski cabin that rotates so sunrise and sunset can both be watched from the front porch.

All the episodes feature projects in the upstate New York and southern Vermont area, such as Shaftsbury, Sandgate, and Glastenbury.

Bakaitis said Cabin Kings’ business model keeps costs low because they use materials found on-site, as is labor. The Dirty Dozen’s hunting cabin was built using wood salvaged from a barn on Carney’s property, and the men themselves along with friends supplied much of the labor.

The end result was no simple cabin. Dimeo designed a bar using boards from an old bowling lane perfect for sliding bottles of beer, and an old truck provided the frame for an outhouse on rails — one that can be brought close in the cold weather and moved farther off in the summer months.

Bakaitis said having the clients help build gives them a greater sense of ownership with the final product, especially when building materials come from structures they knew and loved.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.

Building Wild Teaser Trailer

Posted on January 7th, 2014

Check out the Building Wild Extended Trailer and get pumped for the series to premiere Jan. 14 @ 9/8c!

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