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[whitespace] 'The Truth About Beef Jerky'
Photograph by Joachin Hanwright

Jerky Boys: Hippies end up roasted, toasted and dried in a new movie shot in Santa Cruz.

Meat Your Maker

In a twisted sendup of hunters and hippies, local filmmaker Fritz Jünker tells 'The Truth About Beef Jerky' at the upcoming Santa Cruz Film Festival

By Mike Connor

TED NUGENT HAS a new live album, and it's called Full Bluntal Nugity. I found this tidbit on his website, along with other amazing news and special offers, like "PIG KILLERS UNITE--WIN A HOG HUNT WITH TED NUGENT!!!" Plus, you too can order your copy of Ted and Shemane Nugent's Kill It & Grill It Cookbook. And while the pictures of Ted riding a huge live buffalo while rocking out onstage in spandex denim are wondrous strange, the writing on the site is nothing short of poetic--in a "jamranker guitarboy" kinda way.

It's no wonder that local filmmaker Fritz Jünker decided to send him up on the big screen.

"I spent six months researching his lifestyle," says Jünker. "He's a total and complete lunatic. He's got his own club called 'Ted Nugent's United Sportsmen of America.' He makes his own beef jerky. He's the kind of guy whose goal is to kill one of every living thing. I have no respect for the guy, except that he does everything with such fervor, it's admirable ... The whole film is basically a love letter to Ted Nugent."

And if your idea of love is the smell of smoked hippie flank, then love is definitely in the air. The Truth About Beef Jerky will premier at the Santa Cruz Independent Film Festival on May 11 at the Del Mar Theatre. In the film, a fanatic hunter called Count Nugent and his congregation of bloodthirsty outdoorsmen lure hippies into the backwoods to be hunted and "processed" for the Count's lucrative beef jerky company.

The film skewers the so-called "trust-afarian" lifestyle, dreadlocked Beverly Hills brats wielding cell phones and credit cards.

"The neohippies are holding onto something that isn't even there. Real hippies were cool, they believed in something and lived in their time. It's obvious that these new hippies are replicating something dead and gone. Their idealism is phony and they refuse to admit it."

"But I don't hate them," Jünker adds pleasantly. "If I can convert one neohippie back into a normal citizen, then my job is done."

Jünker is a clean-cut and rather beefy guy, looking surferishly relaxed in jeans and flip- flops for the interview.

"So far we've spent about $350,000, unheard of for a short film. We're breaking into the industry with a representation of what we could do if we had funding. We're going to use this film like a [very expensive] business card."

Jünker and his co-writer Boyd Carlisle conceived their über-business card at the Sundance Film Festival two years ago, where they found widespread ego but "nothing in the way of decent comedy. The shit was atrocious. The films there were churning out the same ideas, sticking to the same well-worn formulas. That's when I realized that Sundance is a dying beast; it's been going downhill for the past four years."

If a vegetarian is someone who eats vegetables, Jünker gives a whole new meaning to the word "humanitarian." Dreadlocked deadheads are lured into traps baited with hummus-topped bagels and fully loaded bongs, while fully loaded guns take aim from the surrounding bushes.

"All the hippies in the film are homegrown right here in Santa Cruz," says Jünker. "I actually donned beads and sandals and then set out to make some 'friends' downtown. I just headed for the dreadlocks and ridiculous buses. That's where I met Roots. When I told him I needed a whole bunch of hippies for my film he said, 'Look no further. I can get you your whole crew.'

"I knew that most of them wouldn't show up when we started shooting, or they'd be late or just completely baked. I panicked a bit because the Friday before the first day of shooting, all of my hippies packed up their buses and went to a Rainbow gathering. But I had given them call times that were three hours earlier than the rest of the crew was scheduled. They still showed up late, but they made it. It was perfect--they were taking bongloads in the parking lot. They were like, "We're in a movie!" and their eyes were all glazed over. We didn't tell the hippies what the film was about. All they had to do was play their drums, smoke their dope and just do their thing."

They shot the film mostly in Big Basin in an old lodge just beyond the main entrance to the park. They converted the lodge with three semis full of gear, props and various dead animals for decoration, and then shot the film in a week of 18-hour days.

"We found the sportsmen extras in Felton and Boulder Creek, right in the heart of the West Coast redneck district," explains Jünker. "Some of these guys were so perfect, but so insane that we couldn't cast them because we actually thought they might kill the hippies."

Enter Count Nugent, whose shining moment in the film comes when the hunt is on, and he bounds stealthily through the forest with a bow and arrow, wearing nothing but camouflage bikini underwear.

"We've heard that Nuge's manager is going to show him the tape," says Jünker with a satisfied smile. "I think he'll react in one of two ways: He'll either sue me, or he'll invite me hunting."

The Truth About Beef Jerky premiers at the Santa Cruz Film Festival on Saturday, May 11, at 3pm in the "Locals Only 2" short film program. Tickets are available at the Santa Cruz Civic Center box office, or call 420.5260. For more info about the film or background on Ted Nugent, visit www.thetruthaboutbeefjerky.com or www.tednugent.com.

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From the April 24-May 1, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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