TERRE HAUTE — By now, Brad Hauter can deal with the police. Angry homeowners are another matter.
It’s not hard to feel their pain. Imagine winning a home or backyard makeover by professional contractor, and then watching the work crew leave the project in a disastrous mess with no apologies and only a suggestion of someone to call to clean it all up.
That’s the premise of the syndicated TV show “Junk’d,” starring Hauter — a soccer coach with limited construction skills — and Bret Skipper — a real-life landscape contractor. They take on a dream kitchen or patio job, Hauter messes it up, and then they shrug and tell the duped homeowner it’s finished, and face his or her wrath. Finally, Hauter and Skipper let the homeowner in on the joke, and give the project a proper completion.
Most laugh. A few don’t.
Hauter tries to explain “as well as you can while yelling over your shoulder as you run, ‘It’s only a joke. It’s only a joke.’”
Since “Junk’d” debuted in 2003, Hauter has seen irate homeowners call the police “five or six times.” After three seasons, the “Junk’d” crew now calls the local law authorities before starting a makeover project in Terre Haute, Indianapolis, Anchorage, Biloxi or South Carolina.
Most often, though, “It’s a playful show,” said Hauter, the 41-year-old coach of the men’s and women’s soccer teams at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
And Hauter is the center of that playfulness.
His pairing with the 47-year-old Skipper is an entertaining train wreck of personalities — the serious straight man (Skipper) colliding with his cut-up sidekick (Hauter). It’s also a reunion. Skipper runs Rose Brook Farms, a landscaping firm in Zionsville, with his wife. Years ago, Skipper actually hired Hauter, then a teenager in school at Park Tudor High and later DePauw University.
So when Hauter was presented in 2003 with the idea for a home and lawn makeover show, he and Skipper linked up again.
Not much had changed.
“I was shocked that, at age 40, he still treats me like the 16-year-old I was,” Hauter said, somewhat jokingly.
Skipper admits he’s “probably got a Type A personality, more than I care to admit. My kids’ll tell you I’m in a bad mood all the time.”
By contrast, the mischievous Hauter “sees the world as a perfect world,” Skipper said.
So, as Skipper sees it, when they take on a “Junk’d” makeover project, he’s the “all business” perfectionist and Hauter plays the carefree pretender who is usually “goofing around.” Skipper’s resulting frustration has plenty of time to intensify.
The “Junk’d” crew typically flies in to a town late on a Friday. Hauter, Skipper and local laborers work Saturday and Sunday in front of the cameras, then Brad flies back to Terre Haute on Sunday night. Bret stays back with the workers to keep the makeover project on schedule. Hauter doesn’t return until the next Friday for the big weekend, when the joke job transforms into the homeowner’s desired result.
“By that time, Bret’s fighting mad ’cause I’ve been gone all week,” Hauter explained.
Their friction was a surprise element to the original concept of “Junk’d.” It’s also not totally exaggerated.
“What you see is what you get,” Hauter said.
Skipper confessed that his co-star means well and is eager. “Brad’s always asking for more to do,” he said. “He presents himself as a problem solver, and he’s exactly the opposite. He’s a problem creator.”
That characterization is all in the context of construction work, though. In reality, Skipper calls Hauter “very intelligent and very creative on non-construction projects” and “is generally the funniest guy I’ve ever met. I mean, I love the guy.”
Of course, he then added, “but I know I wouldn’t let him work on my house.”
Terre Haute resident Fern Cawley let Hauter, Skipper and the “Junk’d” team work on her kitchen last fall. Cawley, the guidance director at Terre Haute South High School, answered a request on WTWO for interested viewers to submit a video and an essay on why their home needed a kitchen makeover.
Unaware of “Junk’d,” Cawley won the makeover.
So Hauter and the crew came into her Farrington Grove home and gave her kitchen a sleek makeover. There was, of course, a glitch. After having her sign a release to leave their work intact for three years, Hauter and Co. left gaudy company logos on the appliances and woodwork.
Surprisingly, Cawley’s reaction was mild. So “Junk’d” heightened the prank. Skipper showed up as a pest-control inspector and told Cawley her home needed $20,000 in repairs from termite damage.
“I’m standing there, thinking, ‘Oh, my God, Oh, my God,’” Cawley recalled.
After venting upstairs in front of her son, Patrick, she walked back into the kitchen, where the pranksters handed her a “Junk’d” hat and revealed the joke. “I just thought it was hilarious,” she said.
Cawley also learned that Hauter isn’t the goof-up he seems to be in the show.
“There’s all this other part to him,” she said.
That other side includes Hauter’s coaching at Rose-Hulman, where his Engineer men have a record of 43-31-3 in his six seasons, while his women’s teams are 67-36-6. Hauter also has written a book called “Counter Terrorism,” a soccer coaching manual “The Invisible Game” and several screenplays; founded the nonprofit organization “Off the Streets” to help Chicago’s homeless; played professional soccer; and drove a lawnmower from coast to coast in 1999 and 2003 to raise $200,000 for the Keep America Beautiful campaign.
Hauter said his adventurous spirit stems from his high school years. He discovered a quotation from Martin Luther King insisting that our society should not be limited by the evil in the world. “I read that and said, ‘Well, I hope I can make some noise for the good,’” Hauter recalled.
Those adventures aren’t simple for his family. Hauter and his wife Charlotte have 8-year-old twin sons. Hauter had them in mind when he wrote “Counter Terrorism,” which is actually the story of a squirrel that teaches a boy a better way to live. He actually wrote its passages by speaking into a tape recorder as he drove the lawnmower across America in 2003.
“I just wanted them to keep some perspective, that this world isn’t about money or things,” Hauter said. “It’s about family, friends and people you love.”
That 5,000-mile slow ride also led to the show “Junk’d.” The production company owned by “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels heard about his venture — billed as the “Yard-Man Mow Across America II” — and asked him to star in a home makeover show, based in either Los Angeles or New York.
Hauter balked. He had a family, a coaching job and security in Indiana. So he asked if it could be based in the Hoosier state, and he was told that wasn’t feasible. So he passed on the deal.
Still, Hauter was intrigued, yet not convinced it couldn’t be done from an Indiana base of operations.
“I work at Rose-Hulman, the No. 1 engineering school in the United States. Our kids build this equipment. You can’t tell me there aren’t enough people in Indiana to produce it and run cameras,” Hauter reasoned.
They found plenty of talent, including many production professionals who formerly worked on the East and West coasts. WFYI — a Public Broadcasting station — was the first station to carry “Junk’d.” It is now syndicated on nearly 350 stations and reached 50 percent of U.S. households, said Cassie Yde of the Florida-based Television Syndication Co., which specializes in distributing independently produced shows.
The chemistry between Hauter and Skipper is a key to the popularity, Yde said. So is Hauter’s personality.
“He has this little-boyish charm,” she said. “It’s like he’s got this little devilish streak in him.”
As Skipper puts it, Hauter, on camera, is “kind of like the little brother who gets away with everything because your mom won’t let you hurt him.”
Together, Yde said, Hauter and Skipper are “a happy combination, and that’s what makes it unique.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (812) 231-4377.
TERRE HAUTE — By now, Brad Hauter can deal with the police. Angry homeowners are another matter.
Walk of a Lifetime: Writer discovers views fit for a painting while walking the cliffs of Prout’s Neck, home to famous artist Winslow Homer’s seaside studio
Editor’s Note: Today, we continue the New England Journal as Mike Lunsford writes of a day walking the Maine seacoast in search of the great artist, Winslow Homer. Join Mike in January for the fifth installment of this series as he visits Edna St. Vincent Millay’s rural New York farm, Steepletop.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Sustainability hubs will leave the world a better place
There is something powerful that happens when people ban together for greater good. In many cities throughout the United States there are sustainability hubs. While each one is uniquely different, they all have the common theme of leaving the world better than when they entered into it.
TRIED ’N’ TRUE: You can’t tell there’s Velveeta in this fudge
At Christmastime we make sweets, candy, cookies, etc. When we were in State Soil and Water, we would bring cookies and candy for the last night at the meetings. A friend of mine, Marie Bunting, brought this fudge recipe and samples.
Heightened Sense of Place: Educators’ efforts helped put geography back on map in schools
Geography transcends dots on a map.
Teachers traveling abroad alongside Terre Haute geographer Dorothy Drummond have experienced the real-life cultures, atmosphere and people existing within those dots. An educator herself, Drummond has organized affordable geography tours of foreign lands for Wabash Valley schoolteachers for many years. The journeys involved more than sight-seeing.
Fade to Black: A few local theaters among last to part with century-old 35-mm film
The projectionist behind the first movie shown in the Indiana Theatre nearly 92 years ago would likely feel right at home in that same booth today.
HEALING WATERS: Team River Runner offers inspiration, opens doors for wounded veterans
Some people say the fun of boating on the Wabash is dealing with unexpected challenges such a big body of water can present on certain days; others delight in the wild beauty at Terre Haute’s doorstep, from bald eagles soaring above trees lining the banks of the Wabash to the panorama of the river itself as it curls through woodland in many places reminiscent of primeval splendor seen hundreds of years ago.
Leaving ‘footprints on the sands of time’
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. — Had I taken the time to read a street map, I would have been able to walk through Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s historic home four years ago. My daughter, Ellen, and I spent the better part of a day hiking over the grassy hillsides of historic Mount Auburn Cemetery, just a few blocks away from the great poet’s house, and never knew we were that close.
‘Abraham’s Family’: New musical illuminates common ground, value of respect the three Abrahamic faiths can share
At a table inside a Denny’s in Terre Haute on a July night in 2012, a trio of theatrical writers conjured a bold idea.
They considered creating a musical based on the story of Abraham, a religious figure to whom three faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — trace their ancestries.
Musical explorer: Quest to see the world is a full-circle journey for Marshall native Chris Bennett
Marshall lies 5,553 miles away from the mountains of Tahiti, far too distant to see from the French Polynesian island paradise.
The small Illinois town can’t be spotted from Germany, either. Or Los Angeles. Or Croatia.
Chris Bennett has performed in all those far-away places, and many others, but her heart needs no GPS to locate her hometown.
Legends of the Valley: Region has its share of spooky stories and paranormal tales
“It’s creepy and it’s kooky, mysterious and spooky, it’s all together ooky,” the Wa-bash Va-al-ley!
Believe it or not — words similar to the old “Addams’ Family” TV show theme song are not far from truth in describing this region that seems to have a high concentration of the paranormal in its legends and modern-day stories — from documented bigfoot sightings, to a long-distance phone call made from inside a tomb, to a ghost at a cemetery you meet after climbing 100 steps — if you dare to count them!
‘Writing is an act of faith ...’ Visiting writer E.B. White, in Brooklin, Maine
BROOKLIN, MAINE — This town of 820 souls sits in the middle of a wonderful nowhere, its craggy toes dangling from rock ledges that hover above the blue Atlantic. For a place that doesn’t seem to have much going on, it has plenty to see, so one day this summer, my wife and I, a week or so into our New England journey, hoped to find the home of writer E.B. White, who lived nearby for over half a century.
Lessons of the Holy Land: New book explores geographic impact of small, but significant place
The appeal of a book based on the geography of a small stretch of land 4,000 years ago might seem limited.
The key is location, location, location, as a real-estate agent might say.
The focal point of a new release involving Terre Haute authors and editors is a place 50 miles wide and 145 miles long — about 10,000 square miles total, or the size of Vermont. The story of that state in 2000 B.C. might garner a niche audience.
River of inspiration: Adventurous spirit leads artist to paint sights up, down the Wabash
Nancy Nichols-Pethick slogged through knee-deep mud in the woods near New Harmony last month. Her quest was to find the ideal view of the Wabash River and sketch the scenery.
Practical knowledge: Retired Parke County resident dedicated career to values, educational bent Extension offers
Being a “guide on the side” with a desire to serve others recently garnered Parke County resident Mark Spelbring the Indiana Extension Educator’s Association’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Career Award.
‘The road less traveled’: The Indiana National Road Association encourages exploration, preservation of ‘the road that built America’
Its significance cannot be overstated. Its past is our past. Our future will be a product of the opportunities it provided. In a young, thriving nation, it loosened the dam on economic development and provided a route for the open floodgates of prosperity. It was the great migration route west. It holds 200 years of history to be uncovered and discovered.
“It” is the Historic National Road, the nation’s first “superhighway.”
Visiting Emily: 'New feet within my garden go...'
In an early stillness that belied the busy streets just outside the door, my wife and I stood in the cool back porch of poet Emily Dickinson’s imposing old house. It was a humid June morning, one that had turned warm after an overnight rain, and there were few visitors to the home of the strange woman who once said, “I sing, as the boy does by the burying ground, because I am afraid.”
Points of interest along the Wabash: Small towns along southern stretch of river offer peaceful sights, historic stops
A drive along highways running parallel to the Wabash River’s southern miles offers peaceful sights.
Points of interest along the Wabash: A few public access points provide unique peeks at river communities
While giving a presentation on the Wabash to a gathering of Indiana State University’s Osher Lifelong Living Institute in June, river enthusiast Brendan Kearns asked how many people in the audience had been “on the river.”
Points of interest along the Wabash: Parks, diners, nightspots — even ice skating — surround Wabash at Lafayette
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette and West Lafayette share the liveliest riverfront on the Wabash.
The most compelling sights depend upon a visitor’s tastes.
Points of interest along the Wabash: Small northern Indiana towns display Wabash front-and-center
BLUFFTON — A quest to see the white limestone bedrock that gave the Wabash River its name requires tenacity.
The Miami Native American tribe labeled the waterway “waapaashiki,” meaning “water over white stones,” describing the clear river they witnessed in its upper reaches in northern Indiana. Their moniker morphed to “Ouabache” by French fur traders to the pioneers’ Anglicized “Wabash.” The river water appeared clearer in those Native Americans’ days than now, thanks to a murky tint from sediment and nutrients.
Usher in the holiday season with … ‘The Sound of Christmas’
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Hatfield Hall will usher in the holiday season with “The Sound of Christmas,” featuring Elisabeth von Trapp and the Carolian Brass, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Community School of Arts open house features steel sculpture
Indiana State University’s Community School of the Arts will host an open house from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Turman Art Gallery in the Fine Arts Building, 649 Chestnut St.
The open house will present an opportunity to meet the teachers, learn more about spring 2014 offerings and register for classes and private music lessons. On display in the Turman Gallery will be artwork created by adult students participating in “Metal Sculpture” and “Digital Photography” classes and children participating in “Saturday Art Day.” There will be a special performance by the “Terre Haute Guitar Club,” and guests can enter a drawing to win a free spring arts class.
Bridgeton to host Country Christmas celebration this weekend
Bridgeton will host its annual Country Christmas celebration from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The shops will be open and full of gifts.
GRAPE SENSE: ‘Today’s Bordeaux’ campaign features more affordable wines
There is an old saying among wine enthusiasts: “The more you drink wine, the more you gravitate toward the French.”
And if you haven’t heard that one, certainly you’ve read and heard people talk about expensive French Bordeaux wines.
TRIED ‘N’ TRUE: A good bread for dishes like spaghetti or lasagna
I have made this bread for many years. It is wonderful with spaghetti or lasagna. I’m not sure where the recipe came from. We all love garlic bread. If you are just starting to make bread, this is a good one. I have taken this bread to the field, carry-in dinners, just about everywhere.
Comedienne Chonda Pierce coming to Indiana Theatre
Southern charm blended with some sass, wit and a woman’s view of the world’s quirks produce comedienne Chonda Pierce’s “Girl Talk.”
Music, cookies and Santa Nov. 23 at ‘Christmas at the Cecilian’
The Sinfonietta Pops Orchestra concert “Christmas at the Cecilian” sets the mood for the holidays with music, punch and cookies and a visit from St. Nicholas. The concert begins at 3 p.m. Saturday in Cecilian Auditorium at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College.
‘Real! Live! Reindeer!’ Dec. 6 at Vigo library
Children are invited to visit the Vigo County Public Library from 4 to 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 to enjoy a free program featuring a real, live reindeer and other arctic animals.
YOUR GREEN VALLEY: Nothing healthy about seeing green in mid-to-late November
Fall is in full force, the skies are gray and trees have shaken their leaves to the forest floor. The outskirts of dormant wooded areas are lined with a thick brush of green. While green may signify a healthy forest, there is nothing healthy about seeing bright green in mid-to-late November. What you are witnessing as you drive by is an invasive species called Asian Bush Honeysuckle.
CHRIS DAVIES: While you’re waiting on a quick fix for weight loss, a couple suggestions …
By now you may have heard about a wonder supplement Cortislim. Annoying Cortislim ads claim to rid your body of unwanted belly fat by suppressing the stress hormone cortisol. Like other supplements before, their claims were not proven.
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