While most Americans will remember the late summer of 2001 as a time of mourning, Dan K. Harvest will always remember it for his awesome trip to Hawaii. But it didn’t start out so rad. Al-Qaeda’s suicide missions totally messed with his travel plans, scuttling all flights out of San Francisco International Airport for days. Once air travel resumed, there promised to be heightened security, with more dogs sniffing for contraband such as the marijuana that Dan and his crew were planning to bring with them to the islands.
As Dan K. tells the story, he and his posse caught the very first plane off the mainland a few days later. To avoid suspicion, he even wore nice clothes that day, donning slacks and a dress shirt in place of his usual baggy jeans and backward baseball cap adorned with two mudflap girls separated by a dollar sign. He and his boys made it through the checkpoint and boarded the plane without a hitch. When they landed, it looked like they were home free. There was just one problem: The bikes didn’t make it with them. The airline lost the two-wheelers containing the stash they’d hid in the tires.
To everyone’s relief, an airline rep called up the next day to say the bikes had been found. This sparked a panicky debate over who would go down to the airport and retrieve them. No one wanted to do it. “We were gonna give a bum a bottle of wine to go down there,” Dan K. recalls. Eventually they all decided to go together. They recovered their bikes without anyone being arrested or detained. And, yes, later they got plenty stoned.
That week, they lounged on the beaches and biked down a 14,000-foot mountain from above the cloudline. “That was like the best time of my life,” he says.
This post-9/11 smuggling tale is the kind of thing you might expect from a guy who goes by the name of Dan K. Harvest, a play on “dank,” a slang name for pot. It’s also the kind of exaggerated boast you often hear from stoners between bong hits.
The funny thing is, a lot of Dan K.’s bongload boasts are true. He really is a downhill mountain bike champ at one of the world’s most prestigious two-wheel events; he really does have his own pair of signature sunglasses produced by a Colorado firm he wooed by schmoozing its owner; he really did perform and produce a rap CD; he really did make a wild Jackass-like video that some describe as an “underground classic”; and he really was the subject of a segment on a hipster-lifestyle TV show hosted by ex-Baywatch babe Carmen Electra.
No doubt about it: This Berkeley boy’s got game. But the boy is now a man, and even celebrities with the profile of Dennis Rodman have a hard time turning a beach-party lifestyle into a paying job. But that’s exactly what Dan K. Harvest, real name Dan Harris, is trying to do — rise from the bong resin to become a national personality in the era of MTV and ESPN2.
Dan K. Harvest is at a crossroads. By the fall, Harvest reckons, he could be the next Johnny Knoxville. Or he could just as easily end up another aging slacker with a hangover but no steady job.
On Dan’s birthday this spring, when he turned 32, his mom sent him an e-mail congratulating him on his survival: “Hello, Son. I can’t believe you’re still alive.” From her oldest son’s days as a Berkeley toddler, Mimi Luebbermann knew her boy had a thing for bikes. She remembers when Dan was four, neighbors gave him a bike without training wheels. The next thing she knew, her kid was racing down Hillegass Avenue. “He’s always been one of those people who is a risk-taker,” says Luebbermann, who adds that she still pays for her son’s health insurance, aware as she is of his fondness for putting himself in harm’s way. It’s a good thing she does, too. “When they bring my file out, it looks like the phone book,” Dan boasts.
Although he’s a dude with many angles — rapper, underground videomaker, pothead extraordinaire — biking has always been the one constant in Dan’s life. As a kid, he developed a rep for doing sick stunts at a place local riders called Horse Hill, an undeveloped hillside near the Caldecott Tunnel. The others started calling him Dangerous Dan. He and his buds would play tire-tag. According to Dan, the game always turned into near-chaos, with 39 guys chasing after one last rider: “I was famous for being last caught — elusive and dangerous to chase.”
The exploits of the Horse Hill crew were immortalized in a 1987 story in BMX Action magazine. The caption under his picture said, “Dangerous — no one knows what his real name is.” Dan, then in his mid-teens, was a total shrimp — short with skinny arms, his blonde hair bleached from the California sun. After the article came out, he basked in the glory of being in a national magazine. It was a formative moment. He remembers quitting soccer, his other favorite childhood pastime, because “there was no publicity in it.” Besides, team sports didn’t make sense for a guy who didn’t want to share the spotlight. “That’s why I don’t play team sports. I’d just yell at my teammates the whole of the game unless I had the ball.”
Dan grew up at a time when schools in the East Bay were being integrated. In seventh grade, he and ten friends were sent to Claremont Middle School in Oakland where, as he puts it, they were “ambassadors of honkiness.” That’s when Dan got into breakdancing and rap. “My routine was hella dope,” he recalls. “It ended with a jump split that left my knees black and blue for days. I had a little rap about bikes and chicks and breakin’ that was pretty tight — somethin’ about the Lone Ranger ridin’ into Oakland with Tonto, looking for some freaky chicks pronto.”
It was a tough school populated by ninth graders a lot bigger and meaner than Dan. A former classmate remembers Dan surviving by becoming the class clown. “We went to school with, like, thugs, basically, and Dan was that kid who could breakdance and make everybody like him.”
Dan went to Oakland Technical High School for a short time, until a shooting there persuaded his mom to send him to the safer confines of a private school near the Cal campus. At Maybeck, Dan did his first major video project, in which he compared snowboarding to skateboarding. At the time, in the late ’80s, snowboarding was in its infancy, and had not yet helped launch the extreme sports movement that Dan would later personify in some ways. “It had BMX stunts, motorcycles, and other stuff getting compared to snowboarding,” he says. “I jumped a Fiat, forty feet off a rise in the road, cracking the frame in half.” A videotape-stuntman was born.
After graduating from Maybeck, Dan enrolled in a few junior college courses at Merritt College, and smoked a bunch of weed. Of course, he kept biking, although he ultimately switched from BMX to downhill mountain biking. He also started going to sideshows in the early ’90s and doing his own tricks. Dan had developed a fondness for American muscle cars — Mustangs, Firebirds, and Camaros. He hooked up with a guy with a relative in the music biz — a Merritt College parking enforcer who’d ticketed Dan dozens of times — and started writing funny raps about being a crazy Raiders fan or a bad-ass BMX racer.
Ultimately, this strange brew produced Dan K. Harvest, the persona devised by Mimi Luebbermann’s little risk-taker. It was a character who encompassed all Dan’s seemingly disparate interests: biking, rapping, getting stoned, driving BIG AMERICAN CARS, doing stunts, videotaping those stunts for videos and, most of all, having fun.
I first heard about Dan K. Harvest through my friends Fred and Allison, a nauseatingly attractive couple with a passion for hip-hop. Over dinner a few months ago, they announced they were going to check out this local character who was rapping at Berkeley’s Temple Bar, a Hawaiian-themed dive on the west end of University Avenue. They described Dan as a kind of Gen X renaissance man — rapper, BMX bad-ass, and underground video auteur. They convinced me that I had to go see him.
Before the show, Fred introduced me to Dan, who was greeting everyone at the door. I was instantly struck by his close resemblance to Woody from Cheers, except for his buzzcut. To my surprise, he didn’t talk like a gangsta, which I figured went with the territory of being a rapper. He was polite and welcoming. I bought a pint of Red Hook and waited for the show to start.
His act didn’t exactly inspire thoughts that I was watching the next coming of Eminem. His stage show was no-tech, with Dan just rapping over cuts from his self-produced CD, Hella Crazy. And he raps in a peculiar raspy voice reminiscent of those guys who do baritone voiceovers for monster-truck show commercials, booming, “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY.”
But there was no doubt the guy had a certain comic charm. And his raspy reverb was perfect for the show’s finale, “Redneck Battle Truck,” Dan’s homage to four-wheel American gas-guzzlers.
The rap’s rhythm comes from a sample of the opening riff of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song,” giving the tune its subliminal hesher sensibility. It has a few lines that are laugh-out-loud funny, such as “Suck on my fumes as I blaze a new trail/Tires so big, I’m drivin’ by Braille” and “Dodge, Jimmy, Chevy, Ford/US Steel smashes Honda Accords.”
Practically no one in the fifty-person crowd knew all the verses, but when it came time for the frantically repeated chorus, everyone put on their best “SUNDAY SUNDAY” voice and sang along with Dan, “Redneck battle truck, redneck battle truck, redneck battle truck!”
After the show, I bought Dan’s video Str8 Mackin’ at Fred and Alison’s urging. Fred called the video for “Redneck Battle Truck” an “underground classic.” Underground is right. You won’t find copies of Str8 Mackin’ at Tower Records. Dan sells copies at his shows, bike races, and cycling conventions, and on his semi-operational Web site, HellaCrazy.com. Pro BMX rider Greg Romero gives a nod to “Redneck Battle Truck,” which he helped produce and edit, in his own biking video, “I Ain’t Mad At Cha.”
“Redneck Battle Truck” apparently has a plot, although Dan admits that most people can’t tell. In the for-the-hell-of-it spirit of MTV’s Jackass, it’s a video record of the crazy shit more than one hundred people did one day three years ago in the Petaluma backcountry during a day of alcohol-fueled mayhem. It begins with a guy whose Plymouth gets stuck in a pond out in the middle of nowhere. A friend goes to bring back help, other ragged-looking pickup trucks arrive to rescue the stranded truck, and everyone parties. For sure, everyone parties.
It had all begun the night before. Dan invited a bunch of people he met at a San Francisco rave to jump on his friend’s bus to shoot the video at his mom’s 25-acre farm in Petaluma. Things started getting chaotic when some guy Dan didn’t even know rolled a donated red Hyundai hatchback while speeding around the grass and dirt. The driver survived without a scratch; the car wasn’t so lucky. The crowd then started to attack the imported hoopty. One guy jumped feetfirst through the rear window, shattering the glass. The mob then flipped the Hyundai onto its roof and tied it up to the back of a battle truck for a tow, with Dan K. riding it like a chariot. Interspersed between the Hyundai-mobbing are scenes of general drunkenness and shots of Dan K. dressed in a basketball jersey with the number “420” on the back, standing atop a bus, singing the chorus. At the end, a guy does donuts in his Ferrari.
People who have seen the video seem either to laugh with Dan or at him. But either way, they come away entertained. Alison laughs with him: “I think it’s just generally hilarious. I mean, it’s a bunch of guys destroying vehicles, and putting it all together into a music video.” Erika Hauskens, a 26-year-old East Bay indie-rock musician, laughs at the guy. She met Dan randomly a couple of years ago, looking for a house near his swinging bachelor pad. Dan loaded a bowl for her and gave her a copy of Str8 Mackin’ to take home. “My friends and I would just get stoned and watch it; it was the most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen,” she recalls. “It was silly.” Still, Hauskens admits she couldn’t stop singing the chorus of “Redneck Battle Truck” for weeks after she first saw the video. And she credits him for having the nerve to put the thing together.
The remarkable thing about Dan K. isn’t exactly his nerve. It’s more his promotional flair and ability to get something started. With a budget of exactly nothing, using little more than personality, weed, and beer, Dan got more than one hundred people to drive from San Francisco to Petaluma in a bus and a bunch of pickup trucks to pull off a show that left people wanting more.
His mom still remembers that crazy day at her usually peaceful property. Unlike her son, Luebbermann lives a mellow lifestyle. She writes gardening books and doesn’t even own a television. Naturally, she wishes her son would live a safer, nine-to-five existence: “He’s chosen an awfully difficult sort of path.” Still, she had to give him props: “He is very determined and clear about what he wants to do.”
But what, exactly, is that? To be a rap star? A video director? A pro mountain bike champ with sponsorships coming out his ears? Not exactly.
“To be in the spotlight,” Dan says.
After I met Dan at the Temple Bar, he called me with his best FM DJ greeting, “This is Dan K. Harvest — hella juiced!” He was working on a new video project, a follow-up to “Redneck Battle Truck.” The working title for the new video was “Kung Fu Honda,” and it was gonna have sick stunts and even a smash-up derby. In a couple of weeks, he and his crew were heading up to Tahoe to shoot the snow-chase scene in which he would be chased by Silver Surfers and lumberjacks at a ski resort with a terrain park. Sure, it didn’t make a whole lotta sense but, as “Redneck Battle Truck” and a whole generation of James Bond movies demonstrate, a coherent plot doesn’t really matter as long as you’ve got cool stunts and mayhem caught on tape. “It’s really just an excuse to do some gnarly shit,” he admitted, all the while promising that this was a chance to witness “the making of an underground classic.”
Even a no-budget underground classic takes a remarkable amount of planning, lobbying, and luck. For six weeks, Dan nagged his buddy with a bus to give the cast, mostly Dan’s riding pals, a lift to North Lake Tahoe. At the same time, he constantly bugged his other buddies to keep their, ahem, calendars clear that weekend. On the morning of April 4, it looked as if Dan’s planning had paid off — a motley cast of fifteen snowboarders and skiers skipped their Saturday morning cartoons and piled onto the bus to make the four-hour drive to Alpine Meadows ski resort. By then, he’d given up on some of his more outlandish ideas. A few weeks earlier, he’d been telling everyone how he was gonna jump over a Greyhound bus on his bike. But when that turned out to be just a little too hard to get together, Dan resigned himself to shooting the snow-chase scene.
I wouldn’t be the only member of the media in attendance. A couple of freelance cameramen working with Fox Sports would also be there, Dan said. He met them when they shot a segment on him for the new Livin’ Large syndicated lifestyle TV show cohosted by Carmen Electra. A friend of Dan’s from junior high happened to be a segment producer for the show and arranged the shoot. The Livin’ Large segment featured concocted high jinks — see Dan jump parked cars on his BMX; see Dan wade through a sea of empty beer bottles in his apartment building; see Dan and his crew chop the top off a Cadillac and grin into the camera and proclaim “If I can’t fix it with a hammer, then it’s broken.” The segment had apparently caught the attention of someone in TV land.
The morning everyone left the Bay Area, the weather was promising, with clear skies and sun. But as the bus made its ascent into the Sierras, the skies gradually turned from blissfully blue to ominously gray. By the time Dan and his entourage arrived at Alpine, no snow had fallen yet but it looked like it could dump at any moment. Diffuse lighting meant a greater chance of injury, since bumps in the snow are harder to see when it’s overcast.
Dan started getting edgy and wasn’t in the mood to answer questions from a reporter as he began setting up a base camp at the lower part of the terrain park. As everyone assembled, the production started to unravel. Only one guy had brought a lumberjack costume; everyone else brought Silver Surfer outfits, many of which were spray-painted jumpsuits. Then the snow started dumping. Things were not going well.
Other skiers had already been doing sick somersaults and landing perfectly. Dan wasn’t gonna let some other skier or boarder steal the spotlight from him. For his first warm-up jump, he wanted to impress the Fox camera guys with his own sick move. As he recalls, “it was a badass fucking jump” in which he flew right over his friend’s head. But when he landed, his right knee buckled. Moments later, he was crawling on his belly at the bottom of the run. He said it felt just like the time he tore up his other knee in another skiing mishap.
“There goes my cover story,” he says to me, pitifully, like a man whose dream is slipping through his fingers.
Dan skipped first aid and went straight back to the bus and crept into a sleeping bag. He nursed a Corona and looked at me with an apologetic shrug. His mind was definitely elsewhere. Dan K. Harvest had left the bus. This was just some guy named Dan Harris who had fucked up his knee and was totally bummed out.
But as soon as the Fox guys turned on the cameras, Dan K. returned, stringing together jivey slogans like “Hella crazy for life,” and “Don’t watch TV: make TV.”
The Fox guys were loving it and shot each other looks that said “the kid is a natural.” They kept egging Dan for more material. The older of the two cameraman adopted his vernacular, urging him to “give it up for your dawgs here,” meaning all the other guys in the bus. Dan complied and gave it up for his dawgs, promising a healthy return to the slopes. He even managed to get in a plug for his next CD, Urban DK.
“Today I got worked, but tomorrow I’ll be back,” he told the cameras.
But after the cameras were off, his bravado faded, and Dan didn’t seem so optimistic. “Face it, buddy, I’m gettin’ old.”
Two days later, Dan Harris was back at the animal house in the South Berkeley neighborhood he and a dozen or so other guys call home. He pays $600 a month for a room in this quasicommunal, three-story bachelor flophouse on Benvenue Avenue. He has one of the better rooms in the place, with balcony access and even its own bathroom, where he stores his bikes. But the place is far from luxurious. Dan wrote a funny rap about it called “Crazy at Benvenue”:
“Holes been punched in every wall/Phone only works for local calls/Windows busted, but you need fresh air/Because the furnace smells like grandpa’s chair. … The walls are tarnished, the wood needs varnish/The toilet’s broke and that’s not the harshest/They don’t make enough traps to catch up all the rats/There’s varmints in the garbage and they’re scaring the cats.”
Given Dan’s reputation on the block for throwing wild house parties, some of his neighbors consider the Benvenue pad a place in need of a little human vector control. “Our ways of life are different, our vocabulary is different, our outdoor habits are different,” neighbor Ann Matranga groused to Livin’ Large about the bachelor pad. “My neighbors have a very different way of life.” Dan later nicknamed Matranga “Onionhead” because “everything that comes out of her mouth stinks.”
Then there was the time Dan’s buddies blocked off both ends of his block with their cars for his “guerrilla block party video shoot,” as he called it. Anyone else who lived there and came home during this spectacle would have had a hard time getting through the blockade to their driveways. Dan pulled off a scene in which he was chased by a “bloodthirsty bike gang.” The scene culminates with a shot of him jumping over four cars parked vertically from the curb. Just before the shot, when Dan was sizing up the jump, a little kid asked him, “Think you can do it?” Dan gives two thumbs up and tells the kid, “Nope.”
On any day of the week at practically any time, you can drop by the Benvenue pad and seemingly find somebody partying. On a recent Thursday afternoon at 1:30, I dropped in to find Dan and a friend sucking down a six-pack of Budweiser and watching ESPN2. Dan had just finished a construction job in Oakland (being a lifestyle stuntman doesn’t pay the bills just yet) and was chillin’. A few minutes after I arrived, another Benvenue boy came home during his lunch break to smoke weed from his two-foot bong.
After the skiing accident, Dan reluctantly went to the doctor. He was reluctant because he feared the doctor would say exactly what she did say: No bike racing. The doctor’s warning meant Dan couldn’t defend his title at the upcoming Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, billed as the second largest cycling event in the world (only the Tour de France is larger, promoters say). Dan had dominated the amateur dual slalom event — a one-on-one competition just like the ski slalom race — for mountain bikers the year before. And he had big plans for this year’s Sea Otter. Not only did he plan to defend his amateur title, he also wanted to jump up to pro on the final day of the five-day event.
Now he could only watch the races as he nursed his knee back to health. Still, he insisted on making an appearance at the Sea Otter at least one day as a civilian. Of course, he wouldn’t be just any civilian. Dan K. Harvest was comin’ to Monterey hella juiced!
For a guy who likes having the spotlight to himself, Dan never seems to go anywhere without a posse. The day we all set out for the Sea Otter at Laguna Seca Race Track in Monterey was no different. Joining us for the festivities were his sidekicks Cody and Kirt. Cody met Dan when he used to live across the street at Benvenue. Short, stocky, and goateed, he plays Joe C. to Dan’s Kid Rock, supplying a needed guffaw or a biting under-the-breath remark when the MC needs a lift. When Dan raps onstage, Cody is there beside him, waving his hands and provoking the crowd. Dan’s other sidekick for the day, Kirt, was a twentysomething Berkeley dude whom I initially mistook for a latent hippie because of his ponytail. I was quickly convinced otherwise when he uttered the salutation “Blood” with an authentic ghetto drawl.
A shameless self-promoter can’t go to a big event like the Sea Otter without something to promote. Dan stuffed his backpack with Hella Crazy CDs and T-shirts, as well as copies of Str8 Mackin’ to hawk at the race. He also had his various corporate sponsors to consider. He handed me a black hoodie from Ridin’ High — a San Jose-based athletic-wear company that features Dan — to wear. But he couldn’t promote his new signature Dan K. Harvest sunglasses from Optic Nerve, a Colorado shades company specializing in eyewear for snow-sporters, surfers, and cyclists. His last batch of sunglasses had accidentally gotten crushed on the bus to Tahoe.
Before we even get two blocks from the bachelor pad, we make a pit stop to buy a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon. Next stop, a friend’s garage, to pick up a boombox to play Dan’s CD, and a dolly to carry the keg for this mobile party.
Two hours later, when we finally pull up at Laguna Seca, Dan scams a parking spot in the reserved lot by claiming he’s just dropping off some stuff for his mountain bike sponsor. “I was the champ here last year,” he told the security guard. For some reason, this half-truth persuades these rent-a-cops to treat the dudes in the Subaru wagon with the keg like official dignitaries. They let us down in to the area reserved for bigwigs and hotshots. We park there for the rest of the day.
As Dan and his boys pull out the keg from the back of the car, two young hotties walk by.
“You riding, ladies?” Dan asks in his flirty-sweet voice.
“Who you here with?”
“I’ll call ya later,” he jokes.
Kirt riffs off an annoying cellular phone commercial and quips, “Can you hear me now?”
We roll the keg and boombox into the vendors’ area, an outdoor trade show for bike nuts. Like most such events, the Sea Otter shamelessly promotes its corporate ties. The official name of the event in press releases and signs is “Sea Otter Classic, Powered by SRAM.” This, I take, means underwritten by the good people at SRAM, the makers of bicycle components. Traditional American sports like football and baseball may have purist fans who complain about such impurities, but that’s definitely not the case with cycling. Having a corporate sponsor is considered a badge of honor here, a symbol that you’re somebody. Dan is sponsored by Emeryville bikemaker Jericho Bikes.
Cody and Dan roll the keg and boombox to the middle of the grassy quad next to Jericho, and crank up a CD by 50 Cent, the foul-mouthed Queens rapper. Looking around at all the little kids, Kirt suggests turning down the music or moving somewhere else. “Nah,” Cody mocks, “this is perfect.”
Dan, dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball cap with silhouettes of naked chicks he bought at the Coliseum flea market, slaps hands with Jericho’s main man, Josh Ogle. Ogle recalls when he met Dan a couple of years earlier through his friend at the Solano Cyclery in Berkeley. He and Dan eventually met up to do a downhill ride described by MtbReview.com as “the hardest single track on this side of the bay” at the Side-O trail. Dan showed up wearing jeans, gardening gloves, and boots — hardly the look of a bad-ass mountain biker. Josh started out in front, but not for long; soon he heard Dan warning from behind to get out of his way. “I’ve never been so outridden before by anybody,” Ogle says.
A few minutes after we settle in, Dan borrows a bike and sneaks off. A half-hour later he returns with four girls in tow. Four very young girls — one even has braces. They cautiously approach the keg, looking at each other with faces that ask, “What’s with this guy?” One girl scratches her face, then grabs a blue plastic cup and pours herself a Pabst. Dan sits down on the grass next to the girls and, before launching into his sales pitch, asks, “How old are you?” In succession they all say, eighteen, eighteen, eighteen, eighteen. Satisfied, Dan shows them his medals from last year’s slalom race.
Later, I ask Dan how he wooed the young chicks down there. “Free beer. That’s it. That was my pickup line. It works. That’s a great pickup line: ‘Free beer,’ or ‘Do you chicks wanna smoke some grass and hang out?'”
Dan has a reputation among his friends as a nonstop flirt. Although he says he once came close to marrying his long-term girlfriend of seven years, he’s now a committed bachelor, something his mom doesn’t like hearing. “I have definitely been denied grandchildren,” she complains during a later interview.
Free beer certainly didn’t buy Dan any grandchildren with ladies at the Sea Otter, and the jailbait girls eventually wander off without scandal. Throughout the rest of the day, the keg continues to attract a steady stream of racers and freeloaders. At one point, Mark Weir, a pro downhill racer affiliated with Wilderness Trail Bikes in Mill Valley, cruised by to shoot the shit. To Dan’s delight, Weir asks him to join the WTB Factory Team. When I join the chat, Dan asks Mark — obviously for my benefit — why he invited him to join his biking team. Weir doesn’t start off by saying what a great rider Dan is or even anything to do with riding whatsoever. “Because you bring media,” he said. “You know how to promote yourself.”
Dan has indeed brought the media this day (and in the best tradition of the media I’m drinking my own share of free beer). Still, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the action is elsewhere. As the sun and the amount of beer in the keg both sink, Dan’s spirit seems to sink with them. Sure, we are having a chill time, eating burgers and pounding brews. But for Dan, it isn’t as much fun as being “up there” — the downhill race course off in the distance.
“When I’m not up there, I’m sufferin’,” he says.
Two weeks after the Sea Otter, Dan quit smoking weed to clear out his head. After his hellish crazy experience at Alpine Meadows, he had shelved the Kung Fu Honda smash-up derby for lack of a car that he could destroy, and he realized that he needed to plan his shoots more thoroughly. Dan says he actually feels better when he doesn’t smoke pot, but then he gets stoned again and forgets about having felt better before he sparked up.
Dan has taken to calling me “Chill Will,” which I unexpectedly find flattering. But I’ve sorta lost touch with his latest schemes, and a couple of weeks went by where I didn’t talk to him at all. By now, I’d grown skeptical of his schemes anyway, even if the ones he did pull off deserved recognition. As he lamented that day at Alpine, his knee injury had screwed up his chances of getting a cover story in his hometown newsweekly. I’d originally envisioned a story about a talented and trippy young local showman in search of a show. Instead, I had witnessed a thirtysomething dude living like a frat boy, in danger of becoming a one-hit wonder for a song that no one had ever heard of. His mom was right: Dan had chosen an incredibly difficult path for himself. He wanted to get paid to party — and become famous for it.
Then he called me with big news: He was going to have his own television show. He’d mentioned the possibility before, but I’d reflexively dismissed it as a bongload boast, something that would never really happen. Being an underground video king was one thing; being a national TV star was another.
According to Dan, his segment on Livin’ Large had attracted the attention of Hollywood producers. His connect in SoCal was Nisa Ahmad, an old friend from Claremont Middle School, who had produced the segment for Livin’ Large after seeing “Redneck Battle Truck.” Afterward, she hooked up with other producers, whom she says “immediately saw his talent” when they saw the segment. Ahmad — who worked for many years as a talent agent for the Mitchell Agency in San Francisco — shared their assessment. (At Mitchell, she once represented a model who did a stunt for Jackass and broke her back.)
Dan didn’t have his own show just yet, Ahmad said. To use the Hollywood lingo, “It’s in development,” she says, meaning that she and her partners are shopping the idea of a male-oriented reality TV show with Dan K. Harvest as the star to different television outlets, looking for a taker.
But why Dan?
Ahmad says he’s a regular guy who regular guys can relate to, but one they can also envy for the wild and wildly fun stuff he does — the partying, the bike stunts, the rapping, the videos. “He’s a young man that men would like to live their lives through vicariously,” she explains, adding that there’s a market for a dude like Dan K. on television. “I’m not necessarily going to call him the next Johnny Knoxville, but with Jackass having had its reign, so to speak, there’s a space right now.”
She suggested that cable channels like FX, which has been looking for new dude-oriented programming, could use someone like Dan K. The new all-dude cable channel currently known as TNN — sort of a Maxim for television — is another possibility.
Ahmad was a little mysterious about some details. She wouldn’t name her partners, though she said that one has 25 years of executive-producing experience and is well-known in Hollywood. And she refused to divulge the exact premise of the program.
Dan, however, was more forthcoming. He described the show as Mr. Rogers with a comic edge: For instance, Dan K. goes around his neighborhood outing all the stoners at the local snowboard and bike shops. “It would be called, hopefully, Dan K. Harvest Is Crazy at Benvenue Again, something like that.” He hopes production will begin by the end of the summer.
Hard to say when that will be exactly, because for Dan K. Harvest, summer never ends.