Media Life: “Deadliest Catch” star’s death a personal loss for Lotus videographer

Todd Stanley forged bond with Phil Harris during their seasons on the sea; Colfax High grad Jodi Hernandez’ eatery throws down Bobby Flay; Odd twist to new film “The Real Revolutionaries”
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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The “reality” in reality TV is hitting home hard in recent days for the Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch.” The wildly popular, Emmy Award-winning series lost the crab fisherman who was arguably the star of the show when Capt. Phil Harris died Feb. 9 in Anchorage, Alaska. He had suffered a stroke less than two weeks earlier. For producer and videographer Todd Stanley, a Lotus resident who has been onboard Harris’ “Cornelia Marie” the past three seasons, the loss was an intensely personal one. Stanley was filming Jan. 29 as Harris and crew were offloading a crab catch. An engineer found Harris in his cabin, unable to move because of the stroke. Stanley stayed with the captain as others went for help. Harris was flown to Anchorage for a lengthy operation. In an interview with People magazine, Stanley said that Harris could barely talk at one point but finally scribbled on a piece of paper “Got to get the ending, ending to the story.” Stanley said he asked Harris if it was alright to keep filming and the captain shook his head affirmatively and shook his hand with excitement. The filming continued, with Stanley and Harris relying on a friendship and trust built up by their seasons together at sea. “It’s been said that he and I were like a married couple,” Stanley said. “We had a good understanding of each other and I spent the last three years by his side.” The bond was forged early between the sometimes-cantankerous, tough-as-nails fishing captain used to getting his way and a videographer who could match or better him in life lessons and testosterone-laced adventure. Harris, 53, had spent more than three decades in the fishing industry and was one of the youngest captains when he started out. Stanley, who grew up in Rocklin, has been a whitewater river guide for much of his adult life as well as a videographer in more recent years. LOTUS WELCOMED HARRIS Harris visited Stanley and stayed at his home in Lotus a couple of times, including last fall, during a break in the crab season. During that visit, Harris celebrated the success of Stanley’s work on “Experience El Dorado” TV series at a party put on at the Red Hawk Casino. And while the two didn’t always agree on how filming “Deadliest Catch” should go, Stanley said they were good friends to the end. “He’s always been a huge supporter of mine,” Stanley said. “Over the past three years, I was in the wheelhouse by his side. No one probably spent more time with the guy and he let me be in his life.” Exactly what “Deadliest Catch” executive producer Thom Beers will do with the footage surrounding Harris’ last days is still uncertain. He’s reportedly working with his family on what can be aired. In the meantime, filming for a new season airing in April is continuing. The show must go on. And this Saturday, Discovery plans to show a 15-hour marathon of “Deadliest Catch” episodes featuring some of Captain Phil’s most memorable episodes from recent seasons. Beers told Entertainment World that a tribute special honoring Harris is being planned for this spring’s upcoming Season 6. THROWDOWN TRIUMPH It was the case Wednesday of the little restaurant that could. San Francisco’s Papalote Mexican Grill – co-owned by Colfax High grad and Bay Area TV news reporter Jodi Hernandez – ended up in a burrito-making battle with “iron chef” Bobby Flay and managed to win the cooking competition with its own popular recipe. Flay’s new “Throwdown!” show on The Food Network pitted his skills against Hernandez’s husband, Victor Escobedo, and Victor’s brother, Miguel. The Food Network didn’t initially tell the Papalote family partnership that Flay was going to be in the house. Instead, they said they would use Papalote as the location for a pilot of a new show called “Brotherly Grub.” “It was a pretty stupid name for a show but, hey, I wasn’t about to tell The Food Network what I thought about their stupid name for a show,” Victor said. The burrito “throwdown” started when Flay strolled in the middle of taping and challenged the brothers to take their best shot against the chef. With plenty of Best Burrito awards in Bay Area polls, the brothers ended up beating Flay’s best. Auburn’s Janet Macy has visited Papalote, loves the food, and watched Wednesday’s show knowing that Hernandez was part of the restaurant team. “The throwdown special was wonderful to watch and I just knew the brothers would win,” Macy said. THE SHOCKLEY ZONE We guess it’s just a coincidence but in a way it’s kind of weird – and perhaps a connection that only Media Life would even think of making. But here goes. The Auburn Recreation District’s William Shockley park saga has been reduced to a rolling boil for now and maybe it’s just the Media Life talking here. But the whole naming-a-park-after-a-racist thing does appear to have tinges of an NBC TV show “Parks and Recreation” storyline lurking between the lines. For fans (of the show, not necessarily the distinct) it draws some striking parallels with the “gay penguins” episode earlier this season. Now for the odd connection. We learned this week that the Cinequest Film Festival in the Bay Area is showing “The Real Revolutionaries” – an indie film that looks at the team of 1950s high-tech visionaries generally credited with a start-up that helped launch the Silicon Valley phenomenon. The group included Shockley and, while his paranoia soon found the Nobel Prize winner on the outside looking in, formed a foundation for the Digital Age to come. The kicker was that Morgan Sackett, the producer of “The Real Revolutionaries,” is also a “Parks and Recreation” producer. Hmmm. Media Life’s Gus Thomson can be reached at 530-852-0232 or