Skulls Unlimited

December 5, 2009 by USA Post 

Skulls Unlimited:Mike Rowe, Ford spokesman and host of the Discovery Channel’s popular show ‘Dirty Jobs’, is serving as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Ford 400. He visited the Homestead-Miami infield media center to discuss his role and answer questions.

WHAT ARE YOUR TOP THREE DIRTY JOBS? “Top three or bottom three? There’s no difference anymore. It’s hard to know. You can’t compare chipping out the concrete from the inside of a cement drum on a concrete truck, to replacing a broken lift pump in a five-story silo and a waste-water treatment plant versus washing windows from a bosun’s chair at 500 feet in Hawaii. They’re all weird. What they have in common is generally people who are willing to do that thing, and not just willing to do it but have a good time. That’s the secret of the show. We sweat and we bleed and we cry, and sometimes we throw up, but we always laugh and, at the end of the day, we always enjoy a frosty beverage, so it’s not all bad.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING GRAND MARSHAL? “I feel grand. I kind of have a dysfunctional relationship with parades as a rule. In fact, in the first season of Dirty Jobs one of the jobs was parade float dismantler and after the Rose Bowl, they bring in these giant floats, and it rained that particular year, so all of those flowers and stuff were rotting on the things, so I went in and spent the day venting my frustrations, tearing floats apart. I vowed I would never go to a parade and wound up being the grand marshal at the smallest parade in the world two years later because so many people wrote me letters saying, ‘Listen, you’ve got parades all wrong. You should give them another chance.’ The shortest parade in the world is the St. Patrick’s Day parade down in Arkansas. It goes one block, but 50,000 people show up. I sat on a toilet and a guy dragged me on a tractor and I waved a plunger. That was my last grand sort of anything, so this is what you call a step up.”

IS THERE ANY DIRTY JOB YOU’VE DONE THAT’S CLOSE TO YOUR VOICE-OVER WORK ON DEADLIEST CATCH? “Danger, risk, those things are a big part of the show because people used to always equate them into the value of the job that gets done. Nowadays, risk gets mitigated a lot more than it used to, so when you see a show like Deadliest Catch or a job like high-rise window washing, it’s hard not to watch it because you’re seeing people who are still actually getting paid to assume risk, so that’s a big part of this whole genre. Deadliest Catch, nothing really comes close to it statistically. The first time I went up there I spent six weeks. I worked on the boats and I hosted the first season of the show and most everybody I knew got hurt in some way, some seriously, and there were six funerals I went to, so it’s hard to even really talk about it in terms of the unusualness of it because in the job, as the job is going on, it’s just a part of the job and those guys don’t think twice about it. Me, I think twice. My job is an apprentice, so everyday for me is the first day on the gig, so I live in a perpetual state of wonderness/hope/fear/regret/gratitude. It’s complicated being me.”

WHAT DO YOU SEE AS THE DIRTIEST JOB IN NASCAR BESIDES OURS (IN THE MEDIA)? “This room is not bad, actually (laughter). There’s metaphorical dirt. There’s literal dirt. I talked with a lot of the mechanics the other day and, obviously, they’re up to their elbows in all kinds of grease. But the fact is this is not a dirty job. There’s just way too much fun going on here for my brain to even make that particular association. I haven’t seen anything necessarily that would make me go, ‘Man, I wish I had my crew here for this.’ Although this morning I did take a test lap in the pace car and hit the big turn at about 140, and there might have been a dirty job in the passenger seat, but, again, a totally different story.”

WHAT PREPARES YOU FOR THOSE DIRTY JOBS? “That’s a great question and the honest answer is nothing. We really wanted the show to live up to the name reality — not the way it’s become associated with so much programming, but to really be an honest show. The more you prepare, in TV anyway, the less honest you can be. The more produced the program becomes, the less authentic it becomes. The more you rehearse, the more you study, the more takes you do, the more scouting — all of those things in a weird way are counterintuitive to what I think viewers want to see, and certainly to the kind of TV that I would like to make. So the short answer to your question is none. I really want to — to the extent that I’m able — show up with the viewer’s point of view and experience whatever it is for the first time.”

A PARTICULARLY PUNGENT ODOR IS WHEN THE REAR END OF A RACE CAR GETS BURNED UP. HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO OTHER THINGS YOU’VE SMELLED? “How do I juxtapose a burning rear end with anything else? That’s basically your question? Top 10? You can’t compare it. For instance, there’s a place in Oklahoma City called Skulls Unlimited. I didn’t know what Skulls Unlimited was anymore than I know what the end of a rear end smells like when it’s on fire, but at Skulls Unlimited they take the head of a Bison, in fact they take the whole Bison and they put it into a boil and they keep it their until all the flesh is gone. You can’t compare anything on the planet to that smell. You really, really, honestly can’t and I tried. I went home and I wrote for three hours in my journal and I tried to capture the flavor of scraping and invisible thing off your teeth and then it still gets on your fingers and you can still smell it. I don’t know how to do it, but I also can’t compare it to going into Bracken Cave, which is outside of Austin a few miles — 40 million Mexican Free-tailed bats live in this cave. I went in with a bat biologist and the bats, they’re constantly crapping. They don’t stop, so you walk into three or four feet of guano and when you get to the end of the cave it’s up to your waist, and then you’re sinking in it, and in the guano live flesh-eating domestic beetles and they’re biting you, and the bats are continuing to defecate and urinate and give birth, so little placentas hit you and explode. So when you’re standing in the feces of another species slowly sinking and being eaten alive by domestic beetles while they defile you from both ends, it has an odor. It’s hard to put that in a context with the back end of a burning car, but it’s up there (laughing).”

HAS THERE BEEN ANYTHING TOO DIRTY? ANYTHING YOU SAID NO? “No. There have been some jobs that we passed on because we knew they wouldn’t pass muster with the network. Fundamentally, I want the show to be a celebration. It’s important. I want people who watch the show to understand that these are the jobs that are holding polite society together, and even though an embalmer or a crime scene clean-up technician is important, it’s tough to go be a smart-aleck when there’s a body in the trunk. It’s just not the show that I want to do, so I’ve passed on some that are just grim and dark, but I’ve never said no to a job because it made me uncomfortable. My job is to be uncomfortable and to try my best. And really the only honest way to pay a tribute to the people who do these jobs, which is also critical to the show, is to let the view see me try. When I’m in Bracken Cave sinking in that horrible soup of stuff and the bat biologist is with me, it lets the people who are watching realize that the bat biologist is in there everyday, and as bad as it might be for me in that little snapshot of time, this is what he does. So that’s an important thing to point out, to me. The show is not about succeeding, it’s about trying.”

ON YOUR WEBSITE MIKEROWEWORKS.COM YOU SAY IT’S ‘PATERNALISTIC, UNCHARACTERISTICALLY SINCERE AND PEDANTIC.’ TELL US ABOUT IT. “I knew that three or four seasons into the show I wanted to talk about more than exploding toilets and misadventures in animal husbandry and a lot of the things that make the show kind of fun and make it kind of a spectacle, so I suggested to the viewers that it might be fun to build a trade resource center online — a place that actively celebrated carpentry and steam fitting and pipe fitting and plumbing — these kinds of industries that essentially provide all the jobs we’ve been profiling — and I got thousands of links from the people who watch the show. From that, we began to build this modest site, and then people wanted to talk about work and wanted to talk about labor, so we set up some forums. And then people wanted to literally find jobs, so we tried to find some more useful resources that we could combine together, so right now MikeRoweWorks has been around over a year. It started on Labor Day and it’s been the thing that’s grown from the show that I’m most proud of because there’s a big conversation going on now nationally about what a good job is and what a good job looks like and what it means to actually work, so even though Dirty Jobs is maybe the simplist show in the history of TV, it’s got some very big fundamental themes in it, and it’s those themes that MikeRoweWorks is about.”

DO YOU SCOUT OUT THESE JOBS BEFOREHAND OR NOT EAT BEFORE YOU GO OUT THERE? “I try not to show up hungry as a rule on this job, or full, but, no, not really. In the first season when we were trying to find an audience and see if the thing had any legs at all, I took an active role in making sure that the places we were going, that there was a there there. We’ve never really been disappointed. All of the ideas for the show come from the viewers. Dirty Jobs is essentially programmed by viewers and hosted by the people I meet, so it doesn’t do me any good to know any more than I have to, and I really don’t have to know very much. The show is more mission than story.”

YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FORD AND THIS WEEKEND IS A PERFECT FIT FOR YOU. “It’s been great. Ford was a perfect fit before MikeRoweWorks. As soon as this show became a thing, we sat down and thought, ‘Who looks at work the same way?’ And just made a very short list of companies who would be good partners and Ford was at the top, and we began talking a little over three years ago and quickly realized we were saying a lot of the same things just as a matter of philosophy. I started working with the Truck Division, and continue to to this day — cars as well, parts and service — it’s an across-the-board relationship and they’ve been wonderful. Not only have they sponsored and supported the show, but they’re sponsoring and supporting MikeRoweWorks, and for that I’m grateful and glad to be here.”

ANY HINT ON WHAT WE MIGHT HEAR TOMORROW? “It’s gonna be a surprise to me first and foremost. I don’t do a lot of rehearsal, so I’m not exactly sure, but from what I’ve seen others do, the deliveries seem to vary between a sleepy kind of ho-hum to somebody having a seizure on the ground. Maybe somewhere in-between would be sensible. Maybe not. I’m not sure.”

I IMAGINE CLEAN-UP AFTER THESE JOBS IS PRETTY IMPORTANT TO YOU. TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU GO THROUGH TO MAKE SURE YOU CAN USE YOUR HANDS TO EAT WITH AND NOT WORRY ABOUT GOING TO THE HOSPITAL? “First of all, thank you. I’m touched by the level of your concern. It’s good to hear that (laughter). Of course it’s important, but it’s also relative and it’s a concept that evolved over the last five years. After that shoot at Bracken Cave, that was very, very early in season one and I had stupidly worn into the cave my favorite pair of khaki’s — super-thick, army-issued khaki’s — and one of my favorite t-shirts. Now they were completely soaked in all the fluids I’ve already mentioned, but I was determined to salvage them, so I rolled them up and I put them into my carry-on and I got to Dallas and I got toward the plane. My bag was going through security and apparently it triggers something. They wipe that wand on it and they had trace elements of gun powder, so, of course, they stop me. Now it’s not gun powder it’s fertilizer, but there’s a link. I don’t know what they’re thinking, but they open up this bag and my khaki’s that had been soaked in all that bat crap and all the other stuff, it kind of exploded. It wasn’t a flame, but the stink on it filled the whole terminal. The FBI came over and the cops came over and everybody was looking at the bag like it was full of bat crap and it was, but I realized then that I could no longer travel the way that I used to and I would either have to embrace the idea of disposable clothes or find a cleaner that could take care of it. There are no cleaners, so I don’t wear the same thing twice anymore — ever. I just leave them behind.”

-credit: ford racign

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