SPRINGTIME IN WILD ALASKA
There is a TV series titled "WILD ALASKA." I agree
with this title. It is a huge area, untamed and unpredictable!
I went there to film a commercial for Miller's Beer.
The airplane that flew me from Anchorage inland to a mud
landing strip was held together with fourteen coats of paint, trying to
hide the rust. It was a two motor prop with windows too dirty to
see out, but cracked enough to let gas fumes in. I was with three
other actors and ten guys with the production crew. Before we ever
reached the mud field, we all vowed we would never fly in this plane again.
The first three days and nights the camera, lights and
sound equipment never got out of their carrying cases. Why? A blizzard
hit us! After all it was April and we were in the southern part of
Alaska, near Valdez.
The aluminum, pill-shaped trailers we slept in had been
made into two postage stamp sized rooms with a bathroom. Small? When
you put your suitcase on the floor between the bed and the wall, you couldn't
open it. You had to put the suitcase on the bed to open it.
Small? You had to go outside to change your mind!
The blizzard changed our trailer into our own amusement
ride. A gust of wind would lift one side of the trailer up a few
inches off its wheels. Then the wind would subside and we would bounce
down until the next gust of wind.
Saturday night the storm had passed and the local "Pipeliners"
(the pipeline had not been completed yet) gathered in the Big Quansit Tavern
for the entertainment for the night -- to get smashed. They had poured
a new cement dance floor and we all watched the cement dry... very slowly!
The next morning was too overcast for the helicopter to
fly for aerial shots. A 3/4 ton truck drove to Valdez for wood to
build a track for the camera dolly shots. The actors and the carpenter
were going in the truck and the Assistant Director was to drive it.
One minor problem -- the A.D. was drunk! So, I became
the designated driver. The forty mile drive was smooth compared to
the blizzard-bouncing trailer we had endured.
After purchasing the supplies and lunch, we headed back
along the winding road. The sign ahead read "Slow, Icy Road in Tunnel."
About half way through the tunnel, the truck started to slide into the
on-coming car lane and I could see their headlights. The next ninety
seconds I was very busy. I turned the steering wheel left, then right,
then left again. I could not remember which way the driver's manual
When we stopped moving, the truck was up against the tunnel
wall. One small problem, we were facing the wrong way! I did
not mention to my passengers, that I had my eyes closed a lot of the time.
Once I finally backed the truck, very slowly, out of the
tunnel and got going in the right direction, we hit a white out.
The white out lasted for a very long five minutes. The rest of the
trip was uneventful.
Ah yes, Wild Alaska, in the Springtime!