Media Life: From Weimar beaver to Super Bowl star

By: Gus Thomson/Media Life
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Add Waldo the Super Bowl beaver to the lengthening list of Auburn-area locals who have made their mark on a wider stage. Waldo, a 7-year-old beaver originally rescued from the lowlands of Lincoln, was the star in a heart-warming Super Bowl ad for Bridgestone tires. Give or take a few fans who were out of the room to replenish their supply of tortilla chips and beverages of choice, about 100 million people saw Waldo in a commercial that tells us good karma is not dead. And another 2 million who missed the Big Game have watched the YouTube video since the ad first appeared. Waldo was literally plucked from his pond at Weimar’s non-profit Wild Things Inc. to join a cheetah adopted by Auburn’s Wild About Cats and angler Skeet Reese in the realm of Locals Who Have Appeared in Super Bowl Ads. The cheetah starred in a well-received Mountain Dew ad from a decade ago and Reese got lost in the crowd of 20 other athletes five years ago in a spot for Mobile ESPN. Wild Things’ Gabe Kerschner said he got the call from Los Angeles inquiring about Waldo’s availability last fall for a Bridgestone ad shoot. His first reaction was to ensure that the work wouldn’t be stressful and it would put the animal in a good light. Heart-bumping action Assured of those two things, Waldo and Kerschner were soon on their way to Washington State to film at a river near Seattle. The beaver actually enjoyed himself as he dragged a stick and stood up for the camera. The rest of the beaver footage involved puppetry, including the “heart bump.” In the 30-second commercial shown Super Sunday, a man brakes his Bridgestones in time to avoid hitting a beaver crossing the road with a branch. Six months later, a tree crashes down over the road as he’s driving in the same area. Again, saved by the Bridgestones. The camera then shows the bridge the man was about to drive over washed out and floating downstream. Cut to the beaver – the same one from six months earlier – pointing at the man and giving a heart bump. Shift to the driver, giving an unbelieving heart bump back. Cue the “awws” in millions of American homes. For his Super Bowl star turn, Waldo has been instantly enshrined in the Media Life Hall of 15-Minute Fame. In the hall Here are a few other people or events Waldo joins in the hall that you may or may not already know: - Sandra Day O’Connor, the U.S. Supreme Courts first woman justice, visited Old Town Auburn, dined in Foresthill, and then took a whitewater rafting trip on the Middle Fork American River during a mother-daughter weekend in July 1986 with her daughter-in-law. - 1970s Bowman resident Walter Latting was the man who brought light to the Statue of Liberty. He was the engineer in charge of designing the first floodlighting in 1931 for the world-famous symbol of freedom. - Custom-car owners can pay a debt of gratitude to an Auburn man. “Candy Apple Red” creator Joe Baillon has lived in the city for many years. - Der Bingle had a soft spot for a local burger. Ikeda’s Sam Ikeda revealed in a 1984 article that Bing Crosby told him he’d been all over the world and had never eaten a hamburger as good as theirs. Bob Hope – Crosby’s Road Movie buddy – was also an Auburn restaurant patron. He stopped off with his family at the Koffee Kup on High Street in the early 1950s. - Ophir may be small but it can stand proud on a couple of noteworthy nuggets. It was the site of California’s first railroad to carry paydirt – one mile to Auburn Ravine. And Ophir was also the site of Philip Armour and George Aldrich’s butcher shop. Armour went on to establish the Armour meat packing company in Chicago. Flying to fame - One of the famous “Flying Wallendas” high wire family disappeared into the woods along the North Fork of the American River near Gold Run only to suspiciously reappear in Nevada a few days later. No charges were laid in a late 1970s disappearance that grabbed national headlines. But authorities were under the impression that the missing report was fabricated as a publicity stunt. - Auburn resident Ernie Van Dersel, who died in 1982 at the age of 101, was a schoolmate of Herbert Hoover. Van Dersel remembered shagging tennis balls for Hoover when the two were growing up in Salem, Ore. - Kurt Russell filmed scenes for 1996 thriller “Breakdown” at the Middle Fork American River, inside a Newcastle Bank and a climactic scene at a nearby Newcastle house. - Making it a family affair, Russell’s significant other, Goldie Hawn filmed a climactic scene for 1984’s “Protocol” in Auburn’s Old Town. Goldie shopped. Kurt stayed in his trailer. - Iowa Hill mining footage was used in the opening scenes of classic silent film “Greed” from 1924 starring Zasu Pitts and directed by Eric Von Stroheim. - Campaigning for U.S. Senate in 1950, rising political star and president-to-be Richard Nixon dropped in for lunch at Lincoln Way’s Auburn Hotel (now the stately Auburn Promenade) and did a meet and greet on the front porch. - Auburn has a resident on a coin. Check out the gold-colored Sacajawea half-dollar and you’ll see baby Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in the famed Lewis and Clark expedition member’s papoose. “Pomp,” as he was know to one and all while he served as a clerk at the old Orleans Hotel in Old Town, is the only Auburn resident to make it onto a U.S. coin. - When you hear “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” think of Auburn. Andrews Sister Maxene Andrews was an Auburn resident just off Bell Road in the 1990s. - And with the Grammy Awards on Sunday, don’t forget Placer High grad Bob Thompson. He was nominated in 1959 with his orchestra for their space-age, bachelor pad landmark “Just for Kicks” LP. He lost out to David Rose & His Orchestra with Andre Previn’s “Like Young,” in the best-performance-by-an-orchestra category.