TERRE HAUTE —
At some point, this stuff becomes routine.
First Hautean: “Isn’t that Will Ferrell shooting a commercial over there by the hotel?”
Second Hautean: “Yeah, I ran into De Niro at Square Donuts yesterday. You think the Colts will win a game without Peyton?”
Last month, actors Jesse Ventura and Tom Sizemore came to town to act in the Terre Haute-based movie “The Drunk.” Tuesday morning, film funnyman Will Ferrell showed up with a crew at various locations downtown, including the Crossroads of America at Seventh Street and Wabash Avenue, apparently to film a comedy sketch about Old Milwaukee beer.
Ferrell held an Old Milwaukee beer can as he spoke and the cameras rolled, and read from cue cards where the word “Milwaukee” was clearly visible, according to people who encountered the brief spectacle.
The film crew used multiple locations — besides the Crossroads of America marker next to the Max Ehrmann statue and plaza, in front of the Hilton Garden Inn-Terre Haute House, and near the railroad tracks at 10th and Wabash. For one take, Ferrell spoke into the cameras while walking through the Seventh and Wabash intersection, crossing from the Hilton toward Old National Bank.
Kids in a passing school bus spotted Ferrell and snapped cellphone photos. People working in the bank building, Boo’s Crossroads Cafe and the Vigo County School Corp. did the same.
“How often does Will Ferrell come to Terre Haute?” Vickie Wallace, executive assistant at ONB, asked rhetorically as she described the reaction of those who watched his short filming session. That’s a good question, but Ferrell breezed in and out of town so quickly, apparently unannounced, that no one heard whether he’d been here before.
An even more puzzling question is, why Terre Haute?
Sure, we’ve got a long history of beermaking, including the long run of Champagne Velvet and the once-massive Terre Haute Brewing Co. That all ended when the brewery closed in 1958, until a beer-making revival in the 21st century initiated by entrepreneur Mike Rowe and followed by Ted Miller and the Brugge team at the reopened plant.
Still, connecting that history to a Will Ferrell commercial for Old Milwaukee — now a Pabst Brewing Co. product — is a big stretch.
Maybe Will’s a fan of Larry Bird, “Desiderata,” Eugene Debs or Clabber Girl Baking Powder. Maybe his crew is stopping at scenic points along the Old National Road, U.S. 40. (Scratch that. With the state’s new road sign system, they’d probably end up at the airport.) Maybe Will wanted to rekindle some of Steve Martin’s Terre Haute magic, and show how Terre Haute, circa 2011, is light years beyond Steve’s 1978 “Nowhere USA” label.
Maybe they pulled off I-70 for gas and breakfast and wound up downtown. (After all, Ferrell and his crew eventually ate at Cracker Barrel shortly after leaving Wabash Avenue.)
As of Tuesday evening, the reason they picked Terre Haute remained unclear. Voicemail messages left with Ferrell’s publicist and the Pabst Brewing marketing staff were not immediately returned.
While the “why” is, for now, a mystery, the “what” may not be so murky.
A 2010 story in Businessweek explained how the Pabst new ownership was aggressively marketing its brands. Pabst Blue Ribbon — believe it or not — has become a hipster beverage, popular in Los Angeles and New York’s trendy places. (That’s a head-scratcher. Anybody remember that picture of Larry Bird in his Indiana State Sycamore days wearing a PBR ballcap?) That same Businessweek piece also revealed that the comedy website Funny Or Die, created by Ferrell’s production company, would produce sketches incorporating Pabst products.
That possibility might at least explain what they were up to.
In the meantime, we all can speculate where — and in what light — our city will show up in Ferrell’s comedic portfolio. Everybody who thinks he’s funny (and I do) has a favorite Will Ferrell movie.
“My kids love ‘Kicking and Screaming’ and ‘The Other Guys,’ ” Wallace said. “He’s just hilarious.”
Julia Madison, a receptionist at the Vigo County School Corp., who saw Ferrell’s crew pull up in two vehicles just before 8 a.m., likes “Elf.”
Jon Campbell, the cook at Crossroads Cafe who briefly left the grill to see if it really was Will Ferrell outside, said, “I love Ron Burgundy — ‘Anchorman,’ ” referring to Ferrell’s character in that TV news spoof. “ ‘Talladega Nights’ is a classic, too.”
Sarah Brinkman, Campbell’s co-worker, likes “Stranger Than Fiction.” That phrase sums up Terre Haute’s situation Tuesday. … Will Ferrell came to town, filmed some sort of Old Milwaukee beer sketch while wearing tube socks and sandals, and then took off in a van, stopping first to eat biscuits and gravy and grits at Cracker Barrel.
For Terre Haute, to quote “Anchorman,” this was “kind of a big deal.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TERRE HAUTE —
At some point, this stuff becomes routine.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
Lent meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute
Initially, the concept might conjure images of Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman jumping out of an airplane or sitting atop the Pyramids. Instead, think “Lent Meets ‘The Bucket List’ in Terre Haute.”
MARK BENNETT: Never truer: Knowledge vital to narrowing ‘skills gap’
The pillar at the gates of Faber College in the movie “Animal House” bore a wise motto, despite its tongue-in-cheek intent …
MARK BENNETT: Great-niece to re-enact Paul Dresser’s musical legacy in Terre Haute show
People can be forgotten. Their lives end, time passes and memories fade.
Often, the only keepers of their legacies are family and friends, who tell and retell their stories, generation to generation.
For Paul Dresser, his fame burned strong enough as a turn-of-the-century, million-seller songwriter to preserve bits of his public notoriety.
MARK BENNETT: An Olympic takedown
Imagine an iconic image of American sports history erased.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s ‘skills gap’
A problem lasting decades ceases to be a “problem.” By then, the situation becomes “part of the culture.”
MARK BENNETT: America’s best quality of life? Indiana must address flaws, set priorities
Just as the job interview seems smooth, the interviewer drops the question.
“So, where do you see yourself in five years?”
MARK BENNETT: Pondering what is meant by ‘quality of life’ to Hoosiers
Sometimes it’s sincere. Other times, it’s sarcasm.
You cross paths with a friend, ask how they’re doing, and they say, “Ah, just livin’ the dream.”
Livin’ the dream. What exactly does that involve? Can it be defined?
MARK BENNETT: By whatever name, stomach virus still a sick story
It’s the ugly side of the cold-and-flu season.
MARK BENNETT: Living on the banks
We are the Wabash.
MARK BENNETT: Rising young producer lands spot in Sundance Film Festival
When a project clicks, the moment is clear.
MARK BENNETT: Remember the 20 children lost
Their names were listed on the screen at the front of the church on Sunday.
Our pastor asked us to choose one and pray for their family. I selected Noah Pozner, just by chance.
MARK BENNETT: Tasting panel to help find Champagne Velvet’s ‘million-dollar flavor’
Rounding up enough volunteers to serve on a committee can be a struggle.
MARK BENNETT: Thanksgiving’s feast can be defined by either the presence of family or the family’s quest for presents
The best gift deals will be gone by 12:01 a.m. Nov. 23.
MARK BENNETT: Salvation Army touches many lives
Sometimes, the unexpected happens.
MARK BENNETT: Election excellence: 30 out of 32 is pretty darn good
Detroit car makers unveil the latest Mustangs and Corvettes on Wabash Avenue.
MARK BENNETT: Climbing the rungs of Lincoln’s Ladder
One crucial quality helped Abraham Lincoln become America’s greatest president.
Courage? Political savvy? Wisdom? Moral character?
MARK BENNETT: Drop the needle
Over time, excellence and nostalgia inappropriately merge in our minds.
No matter the age, voting’s a part of American fabric
The electoral karma seemed, well, unfair.
MARK BENNETT: A moment on the brink
Ominous, but distant.
MARK BENNETT: Valley-born filmmaker influenced by roots
Real-life stories inspire Laura Brownson.
Even those vastly unlike her own.
MARK BENNETT: No debating it: Candidates have it easier than ‘forensics’ specialists
Nightmares can jolt us awake, just before we fall off a cliff or show up for work or school unprepared.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment