Is this site for real? If it is I weep for the future...
Origins: Another cruel real-life example of the shocking degradation of women, or a big put-on? That was the question raised about Hunting for Bambi, a Las Vegas-based business which
purportedly offered "hunters" the opportunity, for $10,000, to stalk naked women and shoot them with paintball guns. According to the Hunting for Bambi site, the business they were promoting was:
If you would like to fly out to wonderful fun filled Las Vegas, Nevada for the hunt of a lifetime now is your chance. You can actually hunt one of our Bambi babes and shoot her with paintballs while we film the whole thing and tape it for your own home video. We will send you a complete list of wall hangers to choose from once your reservation is confirmed for your hunt. With over 30 women ready to be chased down and shot like dogs we guarantee a wide variety of Bambi's to choose from. Whether it is the girl next door or a perfect 10 we have an abundance of these beauties. So if you are the ultimate sportsman and are seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush then come out to our ranch and shoot one of these trophies. Then take home the video of her mounted on the wall for all your friends to see.This is the gift for the person who thought he had it all.
The Hunting for Bambi saga played out as follows:
June 2003: The Hunting for Bambi web site is established to advertise a video described as:
. . . without a doubt one of the sickest and most shocking videos ever made. Women are screaming with fear as the Team Bambi hunters track them down and blast them with paintball guns. You’ll also see an actual road kill scene as a semi-truck takes out Bambi on the highway, not to mention fat chicks fighting in the mud, and much, much more.
The video is a spoof — the hunts are all staged for the cameras, the hunters are hired hands, and hits on the "bambis" are simulated through tossing paint-covered balls at them (or arranging carefully planned shots to the thigh and buttocks only). Burdick attempts to promote the video through the publicity stunt of inviting Las Vegas TV stations to attend a real "hunt."
July 10: KLAS television reporter LuAnne Sorrell accepts Michael Burdick's invitation to witness a "hunt." Sorrell accepts everything she is shown at face value and reports it all as real, asking no probing questions and confirming nothing with outside sources.
The "hunt" is actually a phony dog-and-pony show staged for the cameras. The hunter, George Evanthes, is a confederate engaged by Burdick, not a paying customer; two of the three cameramen covering the event work for Burdick; and the only hit on a "bambi" is an arranged shot which takes place off-camera. Hunting for Bambi has no real customers and has conducted no real hunts.
HOAX HINT: Paintball is a sport in which responsible, experienced participants observe proper safety precautions by wearing helmets, goggles, and other protective gear. Consider the legal liabilities of a business which allows its customers to fire paintballs at human targets who are prohibited from wearing any protection whatsoever, even goggles.
HOAX HINT: Real businesses — especially ones offering services costing several thousand dollars — display addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information on their web sites.
July 15: Brass Eagle Inc., the largest paintball product company, issues a press release in which they
"condemn this irresponsible activity" call upon city and county officials in Las Vegas to look into the Hunting for Bambi matter. The company and its distributors are especially concerned about:
1) Purposely shooting at persons who are not wearing a paintball mask, which could result in serious eye injury, including blindness.
2) Purposely shooting at persons not wearing clothing, which provides some protection from the impact of a paintball. Playing paintball nude may result in significant bodily injury.
July 16: FOXNews also runs a sensational, non-critical news report on Hunting for Bambi, presenting it as an outfit conducting hunts for men who pay "thousands of dollars" to participate. Their interviewer is at least sufficiently skeptical to question the legal liability aspects of the putative operation, especially after Michael Burdick claims that paintball hits during hunts often "draw blood." (Taylor, the bambi, claims that potential injuries are irrelevant from a legal standpoint, because "I know what I'm getting into.")
July 17: KLAS television reporter LuAnne Sorrell, having finally been clued in that maybe she was duped into reporting a phony story, performs a penetrating follow-up in which she naively asks Michael Burdick whether his outfit is on the level:
Many people are questioning whether this absurd new sport is real. The snopes.com website is one of several which call the whole thing a big hoax. Eyewitness News reporter LuAnne Sorrell went back to the scene, and asked Burdick directly if he had staged the hunt for the cameras, to which Burdick replied, "No. I'll tell you I wish I was that clever."
To verify Burdick's comments, we contacted the company that hosts the HuntingForBambi website. That California company asked us not to use their name, but confirmed that they had actually processed orders for several so-called "hunts" in the past and they continue to get new orders in.
Burdick tells Sorrell: "The hunt you went on was exactly the 18th hunt. We have done 20 hunts since you, and we've booked one for Friday and Saturday." Actually, the hunt staged for KLAS is the only one Hunting for Bambi has conducted. In response to complaints from Brass Eagle and others, Burdick suddenly announces that "the women being hunted will now wear protective eyewear."
HOAX HINT: Asking a hoaxster whether he's fooling you is a very poor approach. People who expend time, effort, and money to perpetrate hoaxes don't simply throw up their hands and exclaim, "Shucks, you got me!" the minute someone questions their truthfulness.
HOAX HINT: Questioning business partners of suspected hoaxsters is a very poor approach. Those who stand to make money from hoaxsters' activities have little motivation to tell the truth.
HOAX HINT: Checking whether orders have been submitted through a business web site reveals little unless you can verify who is submitting the orders, whether they're legitimate, and — most important — whether they're actually being filled.
July 17: A Las Vegas television station, KBVC, files an appropriately skeptical report on the hunting for Bambi phenomenon. The Las Vegas Review-Journal also questions the bona fides of the "hunter" engaged for the staged KLAS hunt:
The story showed purported hunter George Evanthes stalking nude women in a desert location, shooting them with paintball guns.
"I wanted to do something exciting, something different," Evanthes said.
Evanthes, who said he owns a Las Vegas-based adult video production company called Tough Girl Productions, said he had no relationship with Burdick or anyone else from Hunting for Bambi before he paid the company $4,000 for his hour-long hunt. Though he lives in a rented, 400-square-foot condominium in an aging part of town, Evanthes said coming up with the money to buy the hunt was not difficult.
"Let's put it this way: Everything's relative," he said.
His video company produces female nude and topless boxing and wrestling videos, he said.
July 18: KVBC also reports that George Evanthes, the "hunter" who supposedly shelled out $4,000 to take part in the (staged) Bambi hunt conducted for KLAS, is in fact a local Las Vegas resident who lives in 400-square foot rented condo in one of the town's less desirable neighborhoods. Hunting for Bambi spokesperson Dave Krekelberg declines KLAS' request to show how Evanthes and other hunters paid for their hunts, claming that "Evanthes paid in cash and he has no way to prove Evanthes paid anything for his hunt."
HOAX HINT: Those who operate real businesses keep track of their revenue with items known as "receipts." The folks at the IRS get kinda cranky otherwise:
HOAX HINT: Hunting for Bambi claimed that they paid their "bambis" $2,500 each for getting through a hunt without being hit, and $1,000 each otherwise. George Evanthes took part in a hunt featuring three girls, only one of whom was hit, for which he supposedly paid $4,000. In other words, the girls got $6,000, and the hunter paid $4,000. Most real businesses don't pay out 150% of the money they take in:
"I've done this three times," says Nicole, one of the three women allowing themselves to be shot at. Two other women, Gidget and Skyler, claim they have done this seven times.
So why does a woman agree to strip down and run around the desert dodging paint balls? Nicole says it's good money. "I mean it's $2,500 if you don't get hit. You try desperately not to and it's $1000 if you do," said Nicole.
July 19: A second staged hunt is held for a German TV camera crew, a photographer from the National Enquirer tabloid, and an ABC radio sound man. According to the ABC news report:
The hunter that day claimed to be a businessman from Hawaii named Frank who said he'd paid $10,000 for the experience.
After a few misses, Frank hit his target — a woman named Katie — in the leg with a paintball, and the game was over. He then approached his victim, made some crude comments, but Katie told reporters she didn't feel degraded by the experience.
Frank, the hunter is actually another confederate of Burdick's who hasn't paid anything for the experience. Katie is hit in the leg not by a paintball, but by paint splattered from a ball as it rips through a bush.
ABC, at least, acknowledged that what they witnessed may have been nothing more than a publicity stunt:
Even after the event, it wasn't clear if Hunting For Bambi was just a publicity stunt. The company acknowledged the $20 video sold on its Web site contains staged footage, and is not meant to be taken seriously. They insisted that Saturday's hunt was real, but they refused to provide proof that hunters have actually paid to participate.
July 24: Michael Burdick, under pressure from Las Vegas city officials, recants and claims no real hunts were held:
The Hunting for Bambi video that has been sweeping the media in the past week or so is a hoax, city of Las Vegas officials said Thursday.
No "hunts" have ever been sold, and no "Bambis" have ever been shot with paintballs, the officials said in concluding a weeklong investigation.
City officials said the man who made those admissions was Michael Burdick, the self-professed mastermind behind the videos and the purported hunts of nude women in the Southern Nevada desert they portray. Burdick told several officials the hunts were staged events designed to fool the media so his video-selling operation would get free publicity, the officials said.
Officials also noted that no one, other than the man featured in the KLAS-TV report, has come forward to say they've participated in or witnessed a real hunt.
"He confessed to our investigators that this was simply an effort to get attention so he could market his video," said City Manager Doug Selby.
Burdick also told officials he offered the hunts at exorbitant prices to scare off anyone interested in booking one. Furthermore, his Web site is incapable of accepting credit card charges in the amount necessary to reserve a hunt, he said.
That same day, Burdick is interviewed on MSNBC by Keith Olberman and maintains that he has conducted real hunts.
OLBERMANN: The mayor’s office wanted me to mention that, as it is, they're looking into criminal charges against you, especially if you've actually conducted one of these Bambi hunts. Do you still want to claim that you've actually conducted one of these Bambi hunts?
July 25: An angry Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman announces that he plans to see Burdick prosecuted on criminal charges:
City officials plan to prosecute the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the Hunting for Bambi video on a charge of doing business without a license.
Michael Burdick was issued a misdemeanor citation Thursday evening after city investigators said they determined he isn't listed on the license for the business that he runs and has continuously promoted in the media over the past two weeks.
"We're going to prosecute him to the full extent the city can, and do everything we can to make sure he doesn't do any business in the city from this point forward," an angry Mayor Oscar Goodman said Friday. "We have plenty of jail space available in Las Vegas."
The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine or six months in jail.
City officials investigated Burdick's claims that he was selling, for between $5,000 and $10,000, the opportunity to use paintball guns to hunt nude women.
Goodman and other city officials said Thursday they had determined through interviews with Burdick and others that his claims were a hoax to stimulate sales of videos in which "hunters" shoot paintballs at nude women.
Goodman appeared ready at that time to end the city's inquiry.
But after Burdick continued to state in the media that the hunts were real and for sale, city officials decided to pursue licensing irregularities discovered in their investigation.
We suspect this saga hasn't yet played itself out. Although no non-staged "bambi" hunts were conducted in Las Vegas, nothing rules out the possibility that the Hunting for Bambi folks (or someone else) won't eventually try this concept out for real elsewhere. We wouldn't be at all surprised if Burdick & Co. decamped somewhere outside the jurisdiction of Las Vegas city officials, once again proclaimed that real hunts had been held, and announced that the bambi hunting business would be resuming in a new location.