House Hunters International in Puerto Cayo, Ecuador: The Inside Info

Remember the pop-up videos on VH1?

I enjoyed those little factoids and tidbits because they revealed things you’d never know, even if you watched a hundred times. I’ve always enjoyed knowing the story behind the story. It gives you a whole new appreciation and perspective on what everyone else just wants you to see.

If you enjoy House Hunters International, and tune in to our show tonight, here are a few things you’d never know without reading this post.


A final fun shot with our crew in Ecuador. That's a wrap!

A final fun shot with our crew in Ecuador. That’s a wrap!

*The entirety our show was filmed in chronological reverse. We filmed in Ecuador for three days, came home to the U.S., and filmed the “back story” 10 days later. Furthermore, the first scene we filmed in Ecuador was the “reveal” scene at our home, one of the last things you’ll see on the show. It went backwards from there.

*Two days before we began filming in Ecuador I walked outside to our backyard and smelled a terrible stench. It was as if something had died very nearby, times 10. Further investigation proved that our three-month old septic tank had backed up and was overflowing into the yard and toward the house. Panic ensued. We were unable to flush our toilets for about 36 hours, and some very unfortunate Ecuadorian workers had the job of pumping barrels of raw sewage from our septic tank 12 hours before the HGTV crew arrived. I felt so bad for them. Such is life in Ecuador.

*The “realtor” on our show is an American named Joel Lewis. With his red hair, fair skin and freckles, Joel is a gringo personified. He spends most of his time as an English teacher in nearby Jipijapa. We met only a few days before filming, became good friends, and have stayed in touch.

*One of the opening scenes where we “meet” Joel to provide our wish list was

Saying goodbye to Roberto and Jaha at Sanctuary Lodge on the day we returned to the U.S.

Saying goodbye to Roberto and Jaha at Sanctuary Lodge on the day we returned to the U.S.

filmed at Sanctuary Lodge, the very nicest hotel in Puerto Cayo. Sanctuary is owned by our friends Roberto Cristi and Jahaida Delgado, and their daughter Isabella. If you ever visit this part of the world, it’s highly recommended lodging.

*We had the same director, but two different film crews in Ecuador and the U.S. Our Memphis crew had experience filming “Great Balls of Fire,” and worked on several of the John Grisham films made in there.

*One of the homes we filmed in Ecuador was rented by an Australian couple and their three children who spent much of their time on mission for the Jehova’s Witness Church. They are lovely folks, and were actually in the house the whole time we filmed. As we moved from one room to another, so did they, just out of camera sight.

Doron Schlair of New York, takes time to let an Ecuadorian child look through his camera lens on our first day of filming. Doron is a real artist behind the camera.

Doron Schlair of New York, takes time to let an Ecuadorian child look through his camera lens on our first day of filming. Doron is a real artist behind the camera.

*I’ve always admired talented people who work behind the camera, and our chief videographer in Ecuador, Doron Schlair, is immensely talented. He’s filmed documentaries on Billy Joel, Arnold Schwarzenegger and climbed to the top of Mt. Ararat in search of Noah’s Ark. I sat down for a long conversation with Doron one night and we were discussing his work – the intricacies and interplay between light and dark. In his work all across the world, Doron told me at sunset, it gets darker in Ecuador faster than anywhere he’s been. I’d noticed the same thing, but never thought about it until he mentioned it. I suppose it’s because we’re on the equator and the earth’s bulge at the horizon is more prominent than other parts of the world. But that’s just a guess.

*You’ll see some scenes of us riding our blue scooter on the beach. During the filming I made a turn on some rocks, and Dana and I shifted our weight in different directions. The result was a pretty good tumble with the scooter landing on both of us. It caused quite the scene on the beach. I know the director thought we were going to sue for damages. We were just really embarrassed.

*You’ll see lots of Ecuadorian people in background shots. Every person you see signed a release for the show. The director was very strict about that.

*There’s a scene at the Agua Blanca mud bath where Dana and I jumped in the water for an impromptu swim race. As we jumped in I accidentally swallowed some of the water (which tastes just like sulfur) and nearly choked. I tried not to let the camera see it because we had to get the shot in one take.

*Speaking of takes, it’s interesting that our entire show was filmed with one camera. But each and every scene is filmed from three different angles. This obviously means each scene is filmed three times, and that’s why it takes 40 hours to film 22 minutes of television.

*In the hours before the crew arrived for Ecuador filming, we were working feverishly to clean the house. As we finished cleaning, and just as I was about to take my shower, on cue, the electricity went out, and stayed out. I filmed the entire first day without the benefit of a shower.

*To make the show interesting, the director always wants a little conflict going on between husband and wife. So for us, it was Dana’s focus on a beach house, versus my interest in staying on budget and living close to the locals.

I can hardly wait to watch the show and see which one we choose!


House Hunters International in Ecuador: Answers to the Questions

(Blogger’s Note: The House Hunters International episode featuring our home buying experience in Ecuador will air this Thursday night at 9:30 Central on HGTV.)


Setting up living quarters in another country isn’t something you do every day. Dana and I always dreamed about it, but until about 18 months ago never knew if things would come together in such a way that we could actually pull it off. So because written communication is what I do, and is actually the way I process things mentally, we decided from Day 1 to take the unique experience and chronicle much of it on my blog so family and friends could take part, too.

The whole ordeal has made for some interesting conversation, and we get lots of questions almost every day about all sorts of things. People want to know what it was like to do what we did, and what it was like to be on the show.

house hunters international in ecuador

Our “realtor,” Joel Lewis, getting wired for sound in one of the three homes we toured on the show. The mother and daughter in the left background are from Australia, and are the actual residents of this home.

These are some of the questions we’re often asked, and the answers we give:

Q: Is House Hunters International real? I’ve read it’s fake.

A: The short answer is this: It’s television. HHI is a reality show, and in my opinion, an entertaining and educational one. The television medium has lots of restrictions. It’s not easy to convey a couple’s home buying experience on another continent in 22 minutes. So for the sake of television, concessions are made. No one in their right mind flies into a new country, looks at three houses in a day and decides to buy one at the end of the day. Our actual experience in deciding to build a home in Ecuador was a 10-day process, and I would never recommend anyone move as fast as we did because that’s very fast. Still, the producers worked very hard to replicate our experience as best they could, and I think the show will be an accurate reflection of what it’s like to buy a home in Puerto Cayo. It glosses over a lot of the hard stuff, and our experience in building a home and acclimating to a new culture posed some real challenges, but that’s not what the show’s about. Is House Hunters International real? It’s more real than most of the television you probably watch.

Q: What did you enjoy most about being on the show?

A: Dana and I became fans of HHI during a formative time in our marriage. In 2009, the economy and a few bad decisions forced the closure of my publishing business and a career that I loved. For the first time in my life, I was uninspired, very uncertain about the future and pretty depressed. There were many nights when we’d watch the show, and for 30 minutes I’d be rescued from that depression. HHI actually inspired me to dream again, and ultimately took our life, and our marriage, in a direction I never imagined. The day we learned we’d been chosen for the show, it felt like a victory over something that had been a very hard fight. So being on the show was very much a celebration of that victory.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

One of my best Ecuadorian friends named Duver, was a huge help to me when he helped get our yard in shape just before the HHI crew arrived.

Q: Have you seen the show yet?

A: No. We will see if for the first time when it airs.

Q: What is life like in Ecuador?

A: That’s a lot like asking what life is like in the United States. It depends on where you live. The coastal region where we built our home is not a tourist or expat destination as you might imagine. Ecuador is a wonderfully diverse country and life can be radically different depending on your locale. The Ecuadorian coast is actually very rural, and has a relatively poor economy. Locals make their living fishing, farming or making crafts. The infrastructure (roads, utilities and other basic services) is in its infancy. We’ve driven lots of gravel roads, and became accustomed to very sporadic electric service. I think many times people believed we were sipping pina coladas by a pool every day, and nothing could be further from the truth. Latin America is not for everyone.

Q: So why would you want a home thousands of miles away in a place like that?

A: Many reasons. First of all, because it is the education of a lifetime. Learning to live a new way, and making friends in a different culture is riskiest, and most educational thing I’ve ever done. Dana and I are never more alive than when we are pushing our comfort zones in Ecuador. Secondly, it gives me an entirely different perspective on my writing, and our lives in general. And finally, even though the economy is still very much emerging and developing, we are going to see unbelievable opportunity on the Ecuadorian coast over the next 15 years. I want to see that, and be part of it.

Q: What do you do when you’re there?

A: Mostly, I write a lot and take a lot of photos. Travel and major changes of environment really inspire my writing. But when we’re there, the culture forces us to slow down a lot, and that’s another reason we enjoy it. We spend a lot of time visiting with local friends, sharing new experiences and we learn something new almost every day.

Q: How did you find a realtor?

A: We didn’t. There are some people who call themselves realtors in Ecuador, but most have no formal training or licensing credentials, and a good number of them are fairly corrupt. Not all, just most. Dana and I conducted our search on our own which made the learning curve even higher.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

One thing we learned in South America, was not to freak out over creatures like this monster I found on our front porch. Those clampers could take a finger off.

Q: Is it safe in Ecuador?

A: In the US, I think we unfortunately stereotype Latin America to be unsafe. I’ve never been fearful in Ecuador, but I also always use a lot of common sense, and am very respectful of the culture. Any international traveler I’ve ever visited with said the media almost always paints a darker picture than that which really exists, and that’s true all over the world. Ecuador is quite safe.

Q: Biggest challenges?

A: (1) Driving in the big cities is madness. Crazy madness. If you don’t have nerves of steel, avoid it. (2) Always remembering that even though I’m a property owner there, I’m still a guest. This very much requires us to forget everything we think we know about right and wrong, take one day at a time, lose our judgmental nature, and laugh a lot. (3) Knowing that when someone in Ecuador says that something conforms to US standards, it will never be true. Only two or three people in Ecuador even know what US standards (especially in construction) mean. That’s partly joke, mostly truth.

Q: Biggest perk?

A: Gas prices regulated by the government at $1.48 per gallon. No contest.

Q: Do you have any regrets?

A: I think anyone who builds a home from the ground up knows what it is to have hindsight. We definitely made some mistakes. But do I regret even the most difficult experiences we had? No way. And I’m eager to see what future adventures are in store.

Q: What advice to you have for other people who are even remotely considering doing what you did?

A: (1) Do a lot of research, but understand that no amount of research can substitute an exploratory trip to wherever you may be considering. (2) It’s very easy to get into a mindset that you could never do something like this. Lose that mindset. Barriers are easier to overcome than you think. (3) If you are close to buying a new house in a foreign country, never, never, never close the deal until you personally witness how the property reacts to a heavy rain. Oh, the humanity.


House Hunters International: Our “Tryout” Story

In one form or another, I’ve worked in mass communications my entire life – and 99 percent of that as a print journalist.

Never, I repeat, never, did I have the ambition to work for a single, solitary moment in broadcast journalism, especially television.

At best, I’ve always had a face much better suited to radio.

So there’s a quirky irony that for the next three days Dana and I will work withhouse hunters international a film crew from New York to produce an  upcoming 30-minute episode of House Hunters International set to air on HGTV this fall.

Here’s the short story of how it happened.

On December 21, 2012, we left Jonesboro, AR bound for Puerto Cayo, Ecuador, in search of an adventure we’d remember a lifetime. We were looking to put down some roots here on a part-time basis that would allow us to pursue a different kind of lifestyle several months out of the year. One where, above all things, we could immerse ourselves in a different culture, broaden our horizons a bit, and live out a life on mission in a place where circumstances don’t exactly hand you a dozen roses each and every day.

We’ve been here almost 100 days now.

Steve and Dana WatkinsBut a month or so into our stay, I received an email from a friend whose family was featured on House Hunters International about six months ago. HGTV was looking for new families interested in filming, and was soliciting the help of their alumni.

So she forwarded the information to me, including a casting contact based London and said we should drop her a line if we were interested.

For years, Dana and I had spent time watching the show, living vicariously through the featured couples who pursued crazy dreams in far away places. We didn’t even think twice about giving it a go.

So early that evening I fired off an email to an HHI casting director, told her our situation, background and a few other details, pretty sure I’d never hear another word. Early the next morning my inbox contained a reply that said, “Let’s talk.”

Honestly, that was pretty exciting.

A few days later, we orchestrated a Skype session from our home base in Puerto Cayo to Michelle James in London. We discussed our goals, our interests, our cultural philosophies, etc. Mostly, I’m pretty sure she just wanted to get a good look at us. By the end of the conversation, Michelle said she’d like to move forward with our story, but we’d need to produce our own four-minute “casting video” to give the producers better insight into our personalities.

We told her we’d have it ready in a week.

Did I mention I am a print journalist?

The next day, Dana and I sat down and drafted a rough film script outlining where we’d film ourselves and doing what exactly…

We filmed ourselves from the top of Puerto Cayo’s overlook, where we’d first seen this picturesque fishing village and its beautiful coast. Took shots on the beach riding our moto-scooter. Shopping and relaxing in Puerto Lopez, and several other special locations. Going into the self-made casting video, the producers told us they really wanted us to express our personalities and give them a glimpse of what we are really like.

We’re not shy. So we let it all hang out and went for broke.

Dana downloaded it all to Vimeo and the producers said we’d hear back in a few weeks. I put it all out of mind, and life went on.

Just a few days later I had an inbox email from London.

I’m quite sure they say this to everyone they bring on, but nevertheless, Michelle said the producers loved our story, and they invited us to come on the show.

Dana was cooking breakfast when I looked up from my computer to tell her.

“House Hunters wants us on the show,” I said.

“What?!” … was her reply … and I think the eggs and toast burned at this point.

Dozens of Skype sessions and a plethora of emails later, we have our casting call today and filming begins at sun up tomorrow. Ten to 12 hours a day for the next three days, and a full day of filming back home in Arkansas on April 4.

The show should air in late July or early August.

Fun times.


Goodbye to the Old Years: The Ano Viejos in Ecuador!

It's not at all uncommon to see the young Ecuadorian men near the speedbumps at every road, dressed up like women looking for a few extra coins to buy party drinks on New Year's Eve. For a quarter each, these guys gave me a pretty good show.

It’s not at all uncommon to see the young Ecuadorian men near the speed bumps at every road, dressed up like women looking for a few extra coins to buy party drinks on New Year‘s Eve. For a quarter each, these guys gave me a pretty good show.

In Denmark, they break dishes.

In the Philippines they wear polka-dots.

In Ecuador it seems we burn “scarecrows” at midnight.

It’s a cultural New Year’s tradition we’ve just learned, and it really brightens up the roadways in the last days leading up to New Year’s Day.

Since Thursday or so, Dana and I have noticed colorful papier mache-like characters everywhere. The Hulk. Sponge Bob. Minnie Mouse. You name it. Strapped to vehicles driving down the road, on moto-taxis, prominently adorned on peoples’ homes. They are everywhere, and are called ano veijos “the old years.”

These colorful characters are everywhere, and to the Ecuadorian people, represent all the old problems of the past year. They are burned at midnight as a way to represent a fresh start.

And depending on how much one’s had to drink depends on exactly where, and how, it is burned. Some have told us they can be seen burning on cars as they drive down the road as the clock approaches midnight. Can’t wait to see that.

DSC_0287New Year's Eve in Ecuador

Minnie Mouse, and an Ecuadorian soccer player sponsored by Pilsner, pretty much the national beer of choice.

Minnie Mouse, and an Ecuadorian soccer player sponsored by Pilsener, pretty much the national beer of choice.

This poor guy's strapped on with a measuring tape.

This poor guy’s strapped on with a measuring tape.

New Year's Eve in EcuadorNew Year's Eve in Ecuador

New Year's Eve in EcuadorNew Year's Eve in Ecuador

I Am So Over Nutella and 14 Other Things

I like to think I’m a caring, sometimes decent and patient man, but I’m SO OVER the following things:

pat sajak and vanna white

1. I’m so over Wheel of Fortune. Oh, the humanity, how long can this go on? The very sound of that wheel spinning sends me into a frenzy.

2. I’m so over the National Basketball association (NBA). London‘s Olympics reminded me of the greatness of the 1996 Dream Team, the greatest basketball team ever to take the court. Twelve Hall of Famers on one team. There’s not a player in theLarry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordon NBA today who can match a single one of them, and they’re mostly all a disrespectful bunch of brats.

3. I’m so over Survivor. Guys, you’re running out of tropical islands and has-been sports pros and sitcom stars from the 80s to keep things interesting. You should have gone out on a high note three years ago.

4. I’m so over soft drinks. I’m sick of the way they taste. No mas.

nutella5. I’m so over Nutella. Oh, Nutella marketing people … promote it as the world’s most delicious health food if you must, but it’s chocolate candy and you know it.

6. I’m so over The Bachelor/ette. I watched it a few times early on, but now leave the room when it comes on. How many people can sleep with one another in a series of shows?

7. I’m so over thinking my yard has to be the best manicured in the neighborhood. Just in time too. A guy moved in two doors down and his every blade of grass glistens with groomed perfection. Thank goodness I no longer have to compete.

8. I’m so over phone aps. This smart phone thing is a fad. It’s gonna pass.

9. I’m so over the mainstream idea that our kids must follow a prescribed curriculum of 12 years of school, four years of college, and maybe four more years of professional school to be a success in life. Certain college degree programs, I believe, should call for two years of mandatory public service or international travel prior to admission.

10. I’m so over Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. Are they three different people or all one person? I really can’t tell.

11. I’m SOOOO over Dr. Phil.

12. I’m so over Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I’m so over Obama’s clear belief that he’s always the smartest person in the room, and I’m so over Mitt Romney’s failure to project the good guy he really is.

13. I’m so over both sugar and salt. The more I age, the more your tiny little granules make me feel bad. You’re banned from my taste buds now.

14. I’m ALMOST so over being overweight. My best friend’s losing a dozen pounds a month. All my work colleagues are on a weight-loss binge, and I still succumb to the Friday donuts. I’ll be glad when I’m so TOTALLY over being overweight. I’m going to run another marathon just to prove I can.

15. I’m so over my hair. It’s grey, course and totally unmanageable, and that’s a tough thing for a fashion diva guy-who-doesn’t-care like me. I’m considering the slick look.

See today’s additional posts @ and


I’m Augustus McCrae, Texas Ranger: I Called it First.

(Blogger’s Note: Currently in the midst of a six-part series on How to Write Copy that Kills, I’ve taken a break over the last few days to write about other opportunities that have popped up on the radar screen. I’ll return to the series tomorrow, but it’s just another good lesson that there are no rules when it comes to writing.)

On a recent weekend trip to Mountain View, Arkansas, we came across this sign, made famous in Lonesome Dove. I love this photo of Brady and me, taken by my wife, Dana.

When we were elementary school kids, we were children of the country and had to get imaginative when it came to having fun. Often during recess we’d pretend to be the favorite characters from the popular sitcoms of the day. I remember around 1977, one of our favorites was Happy Days.

My best friend then, and now, Brady Cornish, was drawn to the character of Arthur Fonzerelli. Brady went on to become a high school golf medalist, and on the course, he was The Fonz. To this day for many, he’s still The Fonz.

Fast forward 25 years.

When Larry McMurtry‘s best-selling novel, Lonesome Dove, was made into a 1989 made-for-television mini-series, it immediately became my favorite movie of all time. It’s still my favorite today.

And there’s a good reason.

Lonesome Dove was a brilliantly written book, and the mini-series lived up to McMurtry’s novel. It’s a story of adventure, love, life, death, justice, mercy, but most of all – friendship – between the two unlikeliest of men.

Robert Duvall portrays Texas Ranger Captain Augustus McCrae, a man full of life, rough, but tender-hearted. He lived life in the moment and to the fullest.

Tommy Lee Jones portrays Texas Ranger Captain Woodrow F. Call, a no-nonsense quiet man, visionary, loyal, focused and business-minded. Easy-going, yet not a man you want to cross.

The film is special to me, because it reminds me of the friendship I have with Brady. We are different, he and I, but there’s something that holds us together like glue, and the Gus-Woodrow friendship,  parallels the relationship we have.

Brady’s never seen Lonesome Dove.

After a time of separation, our friendship was re-kindled in January of this year at the death of my father. Other than my wife and mom, he was the one man I needed by my side to get through a difficult time. At the funeral, he sat next to me as my brother.

Shortly thereafter, I gave Brady a copy of Lonesome Dove. I wanted him to watch it and see if he recognized the friendship between Gus and Woodrow as being the same as ours.

He’s saving the six-hour video for a long snow day at home and that’s fine by me.

The scenes throughout remind me of us. There’s the one where Woodrow beats the living daylights out of a Union soldier who has just horsewhipped a young boy in an attempt to requisition his horse for the army. Woodrow wouldn’t stand for abuse and neither does Brady. The end of the scene has Gus pulling  Woodrow off the soldier just before he kills him, then Woodrow calmly says: “…never could stand rude behavior in a man. Won’t tolerate it.” That’s my friend.

Most fans would acknowledge the most moving scene in the movie at Gus’s death, where the two friends have their last conversation. Gus makes an unbelievable request of Woodrow to give him one final adventure. Even at his demise, Gus was thinking of his friend. It’s odd, I know, but I’ve imagined that conversation between Brady and me at the end of our days. Carrying out the request, Woodrow carries McCrae’s body 3,000 miles to bury him at the place of his desire. I know if I asked my friend, he would do the same for me. For many reasons, I tear up each and every time I view this video.

Truth is, either one of us could be Gus or Woodrow. But I’m Gus. I called it first!

It’s silly for a 46-year-old man to see himself in a movie. I guess it’s the kind of thing ole’ Gus would have done.

Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit!

For a related post on my sidebar blog see:


The Man Who Knew the Man: Elvis Presley’s Bodyguard

(Blogger’s Note: Over the weekend, I took a quick getaway weekend vacation to Mountain View, Arkansas. When a friend shared with me the rumor that a local restaurateur had previously worked as a body guard to Elvis Presley, I couldn’t resist the urge to probe a little further. This is the result of that surprise, impromptu encounter.

For a related sidebar post on my secondary blog, you can check out:

“Famous” Tommy Miller was head of Elvis Presley’s security detail in 1975.

It was the most unlikely of interviews.

I hesitantly walked through the screen door, up to the counter, and the exchange began this way:

Tommy Miller: What can I do for you?

Me: Well, sir, I’m just an out-of-town visitor passing through, and I’m an internet journalist who enjoys writing about interesting people. I heard you were a bodyguard. Is that true?

TM: Do I owe you money?

Me: Nope.

TM: Do you have a subpoena in your hand?

Me: Nope.

TM: Are you an Elvis freak?

Me: Not even close. Would you mind if I asked you a few quick questions?

TM: I lay pretty low and this is not something I talk a lot about, but you seem like a decent enough person so go ahead.


And that was how we broke the ice. My journalists’ blood pressure went to new levels and my heart skipped a beat to bag such an interesting interview out of the clear blue sky.


“Famous” Tommy as he is known in his hometown, is the owner of Tommy’s Famous Pizza BBQ and Ribs in Mountain View, Arkansas. It’s a town of around 2,500 residents, and the self-proclaimed folk music capital of the world. Not exactly the place you’d expect to find a guy who was perhaps a heartbeat away from being a made man in Elvis Presley’s Memphis Mafia.

The former head of security for Presley’s protective detail, Miller said he is currently putting the finishing touches on his memoirs. He even asked me a few questions about copyright law because of a dispute he’s having over a photo he proposes to feature in his book, claiming he was in the last frame of the last scene of the last movie Presley ever made.

Elvis on Tour is a 1973 documentary portraying a behind-the-scenes look at Presley’s life on tour. It went on to win a Golden Globe award for best documentary film, and Miller says the film’s last scene shows him escorting Presley from the stage at the conclusion of a concert.


When you’ve interviewed enough people in your career, it doesn’t take long to get a certain sense of your subject. Tommy Miller’s forearms are massive. He’s built like an anvil. His words are straightforward and to the point. Miller may not have a Harvard MBA, but he commands respect.

I knew immediately my best strategy was to ask a few questions, get in, and get out.


Miller was hired as a detail guy on Presley’s security team in 1969. He finished his career with Presley at the end in 1975 as head of the security detail team.

“In the 60’s I ran my own private investigation firm in Memphis. Times were pretty tough in ’68 and ’69, and I knew if I could ever make it to Vegas, things would start looking up,” Miller said.

With Presley’s never-ending popular demand, it didn’t take long for Miller to ride Presley’s coat tails to his desired destination, and in the last years he managed the entire security team.

For the most part he coordinated security in the hotels where Presley stayed. The details ranged from 60 to 80 men strong, depending on the locale and logistics.


Ten minutes had passed, and I knew it was time to bring the “interview” to a close. Miller’s massive forearms continued to draw my attention, and the last thing I wanted to do was monopolize his time.

Hesitant, I asked if he’d mind if I took a quick photo. Sure, he said. Unprepared, I had to quickly run outside to get my camera where my wife and friend were waiting in the truck. They said they’d never seen me smiling quite so brightly.

I darted back inside, expecting Miller to strike a pose of some sort. But he just sat there, chin in hand, never flinching. I took one shot and one shot only. You never know how a flash may set a guy off. The result was the photo you see above. What you see is what you get with Famous Tommy.

One last question, I thought. I wanted to get something good. End on a high note. See my related post here:


“Did you ever rough anyone up?” … and I waited for the response.

“Yeah,” Miller said. “Especially the ones you had warned so many times. We were the toughest on the room-invading freaks. We put the hurt on some people. There were a lot of times I wish we hadn’t hurt people so bad, but it’s like I’m the lawn mower and you’re standing in the way of my job, so you get mowed down.

“Still to this day, I get a certain feeling when there’s a full moon. You just want to go out and punch somebody in the face. Strange as it may sound, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of someone’s face collapsing around your fist.”



I don’t know what the moon phase was at that particular moment, and I didn’t take time to check the almanac.

This ain’t my first rodeo. Interview over. And I was outta there.

(This was a great example of how to take advantage of recognizing a freak writing opportunity. I’m currently in the midst of a series of posts on how to write copy that kills. You can view a recent post that sets the stage for opportunities like this at: )