11-02-2011, 05:18 PM
Brenda stared at Criss incredulously. "He wants them to do what?"
"He wants them to be in a commercial for some energy company," Criss explained again. "He says all they got to do is cross a street and that's it."
"Criss, you know we're trying to raise these ducklings so they can be returned to the wild," Brenda argued. "You just can't exploit them like this!"
"Hey, this wasn't my idea," Criss protested. "Dave called me this morning and told me we got an offer for them to do a commercial."
"And what did you tell him?"
"That I'd run it by you first."
"Well, I appreciate the fact that you did," Brenda said, "but what's your personal take on this?"
Criss ran his hand through his long black hair. "Personally, I don't see the harm in it," he replied. "I mean, all they do is cross a street. Besides, the money's good."
"How much are they paying?"
Brenda was aghast. "Ten thousand?!"
Criss nodded. "That's what they offered. I think it's a pretty good idea, myself, and we could use the money for your Wildlife Rescue reserve," he quickly added.
Brenda mulled it over in her mind. "All right," she said finally, "but on one condition--that I'm present during the shooting. As a member of the ASPCA, I have a duty to make sure those ducklings are treated humanely."
Criss extended his hand. "You got it, Doc," he said.
They shook on it, and the deal was made. "I'll call Dave and tell him we're good to go," Criss said, reaching for the phone, "and don't worry about a thing. I'll make sure nothing happens to our ducks."
Dave Baram handled the business end of the deal with smooth efficiency. It was setting up an available time to shoot the commercial that proved to be a stumbling block. Criss' schedule was filled to bursting with live shows, taping his series, personal appearances and interviews, leaving no time for him to be on the set.
Though the ducklings were accustomed to Dr. Gilchrist being present, they refused to budge from their carrier without Criss present. They huddled in a corner of the carrier; they refused to follow direction; they hid under the cars and refused to come out, and they peeped incessantly. Frustrated, the director told Brenda to get Criss Angel on the set pronto! or the deal was off.
Brenda called Dave. Dave called Criss. Criss called Brenda and told her he'd be right over ASAP. Within twenty minutes a sleek black Viper pulled up to the set. The director trotted up to him, relieved and grateful. "Criss! Thank God you showed up! Those ducklings of yours won't do anything, and I mean anything I tell them!"
"Where are they now?" Criss asked.
"They're under there," the director answered, pointing to a silvery Lexus. "They won't come out, not for nothing."
Criss strode over to the Lexus and squatted down. He saw the six ducklings near the muffler, huddled together in terror. "Hey, guys," he cooed to them. "It's okay, I'm here."
At the sight of their foster mother's face, the ducklings waddled out from under the car. The camera crew applauded; the director sighed with relief. "All right, now let's get this thing over with, shall we?" he growled. He turned to Criss. "Can you get them to cross the street over there?"
"Sure," Criss replied. "No problem."
"Okay, you and the ducks stand over there on the curb," the director ordered. "All right, places everybody!"
The drivers of the Lexus and two other late-model cars climbed into their assigned vehicles half a block away. An actor dressed in an EnerCon unform, safety vest and yellow hardhat took his place on the same side of the street as Criss and the ducklings, a couple of orange channeler cones under his arm. "Okay, roll 'em!" the director shouted. "Drivers!"
A cameraman signalled the drivers to move forward. "Jerry! Action!"
Jerry, the actor in the EnerCon uniform, trotted into the street, waving his arms frantically and setting down the channeler cones. The cars stopped immediatly. "Okay, Criss," the director shouted. "You're turn to move!"
Criss walked casually across the street. The ducklings automatically followed him. Behind them, Jerry was shooing them along, muttering, "Go, go, go!", hustling them safely to the other side of the street. "Aaaaaannnnd cut!" the director shouted. "Print that!"
Everybody burst into applause. Criss waved in response. "Hey, it was nothing, really," he said.
There were a couple more takes of the ducklings for closeups and different camera angles, then shooting wrapped up. "Good job, people!" the director cheered. "We got a winner here!"
Criss herded his brood back into the carrier. "Good job, guys," he said. "See? It wasn't that bad, now, was it?"
He carried the ducklings to the Viper. "I hope this will be the last time they appear in a commercial," he heard Brenda say to Dave. "I don't like the idea of exploiting these ducklings for profit."
"Look, Doc, this is Las Vegas," Dave argued. "Everybody and everything gets exploited for profit. Money's the name of the game here! Our little duckies are a big draw now. You just wait--they're gonna be more famous than Donald Duck at Disneyland!"
"Our little duckies?"
"Okay, okay, Criss' little duckies," Dave conceded. "But lemme tell you, people are falling head over heels in love with 'em! You know they even get their own fan mail? It's true! Everybody's nuts over 'em!"
"Mr. Baram," Brenda said patiently, "our goal is to raise these ducklings so they can be returned to the wild. Need I remind you that keeping migratory birds in captivity without a permit is illegal? We had to get special permission from the Department of Natural Resources just to raise them the way we are now, under the proviso that they be released when they're fully fledged. I consented to doing this commercial simply to raise money for Wildlife Rescue, though I still have mixed feelings about it--I still do, as a matter of fact. As for getting their own fan mail, well, I take it as a good sign that they're creating awareness to conserve wildlife. No, Mr. Baram, I'm not going to exploit these ducklings for profit, no matter what people say. Money may be the name of the game you're playing, but I play by a different set of rules."
Brenda turned and walked away. Criss walked toward Dave, carrier in hand. "She means well, Dave," he said. "At least the money's going to a good cause, right?"
"I'm a businessman, Criss," Dave said, "not a wildlife expert. The only 'green' I deal with comes from the US Treasury. Now, you'd better take your ducks home and get ready for your show. Me? I got work to do."