Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Secrets of The Strip Snake Stunt

I don't know why this image probably freaks out so many of you, Miles included. It's just a cute little Florida grey ratsnake, the first of two slitherers that Animal Planet herpetologist Donald Schultz handed me while I visited him inside the glass box he's living in until Jan. 26 for a Feb. 9 TV special called Venom in Vegas.

I went inside the box yesterday, when there were about 60 of the eventual 100 venomous and in some cases quite exotic snakes, for a very cheeky Sphere.Com piece that explains the point and some of the intricacies of the effort. Then I created two videos -- a short and a long version -- of the adventure. The shorter one (5 minutes) is on YouTube:

And the longer one, 16 minutes that include a snake sneaking into my pants and a look at Schultz's snake-bitten backhand, can be viewed by clicking below or can be downloaded and watched at your leisure by right-clicking here.

Folks can watch via Animal Planet's live -- albeit slightly intermittent, partly due to inclement weather -- webcam or come by to stare in person across the street from Caesars Palace. The box stands in the alley between O'Sheas and the Flamingo where Harrah's plans to build a bar street someday. They might consider asking this guy to come back as a permanent attraction for that.

Here's what I looked like on the webcam yesterday:

I've probably lost half of you by now because of everyone's fear of snakes. It's so odd because I've never minded them. They don't especially interest me, but they also don't gross me out. Then again, I have phobias of my own, too; I turn down assignments every year from travel editors wanting me to evaluate Vegas' thrill rides. I hate roller coasters, so I don't think I'm the guy to grade them.

Anyhow, I had no second-thoughts about signing the legal release that included this terrifying passage, bold-face and capital letters intact from the form itself:

I hereby acknowledge that my involvement with the Program includes my presence around, and possibly at close distances to, multiple snakes that have the capability to bite, envenomate, harm and even kill me and that snakes can and will attack for no reason. I acknowledge that my presence around these animals and my participation in the Program INVOLVES INHERENTLY EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, HIGH- RISK ACTIVITIES WHICH MAY RESULT IN MY DISFIGUREMENT, DISMEMBERMENT, ILLNESS, SERIOUS INJURY, EMOTIONAL TRAUMA, PROPERTY LOSS AND/OR POSSIBLE DEATH and no amount of planning and preparation can eliminate the risks inherent or otherwise in these activities. I understand that EVERY DECISION I MAKE WILL BE MY OWN DECISION and I hereby acknowledge and agree that my participation in the Program and undertaking of these dangerous activities is in my sole and absolute discretion and neither Producer nor O'Sheas is requiring me to do so and that I VOLUNTARILY AND FREELY ACCEPT AND ASSUME ALL RISKS, HAZARDS AND DANGERS THAT I MAY ENCOUNTER OR BE EXPOSED TO ASSOCIATED WITH MY PARTICIPATION IN THE PROGRAM AND UNDERTAKING OF THESE DANGEROUS ACTIVITIES and that I do so with full knowledge, appreciation and understanding of the dangers and personal risks involved and I understand and acknowledge that the waivers, releases and indemnities in this Release expressly apply to these risks, hazards and dangers.

Yeah, whatever. Here's what the box looks like from the outside...

...and an exclusive (ooh, how exciting!) look at Schultz's opaque bathroom:

Here's what his bed looks like...

...and, as noted in the Sphere.Com piece, he's using some of his time to get into "Lost" and to, eerily, read the memoir about the late Animal Planet adventurer Steve Irwin written by his widow.

One thing that's interesting is that the room -- 320 square feet with a killer Strip view -- has all these snakes but you don't see them as much as you'd think. They hide in the (silk) plants or under the Ikea-like furnishings. See?

But Schultz, who is milking the venom and answering the public's questions via a speaker set up at appointed times, lures them out from time to time.

Oh, and I've included this last image...

...for a reason. Internet rumors have it that the box is being kept cold to subdue the snakes and keep Schultz safer. Not so. The room was really warm and has spaceheaters all over the place to keep the temperatures up. This is a stunt, to be sure and as Schultz readily admits, but he's doing it for real.

P.S. Thanks to Thee Merry Widows for "Snakebite Kind of Love" for the videos. It was used free from the Podsafe Music Network but now I can't get it out of my head. Check out their site and other music at MerryWidowsMusic.Com.


Tom M. said...

You are crazy, but not as crazy as this dude. Everything I have seen on tv about black mombas is that they get very aggressive. Great article Steve.