Snarl, Granny--you're on 'Candid Camera' Seniors show true grit in filmed 'karate class'

August 10, 1991|By Joel McCord | Joel McCord,Anne Arundel Bureau of The Sun

They grunted. They groaned. They snarled. They snorted. One gent even whipped his cane back over his shoulder as if to whack the head off anyone who got near him.

The group from the Allen Senior Citizens Center in South Baltimore was learning how to scare off muggers by looking threatening, by practicing that snarl that says, "Don't mess with me," in a mirror at the Martial Art of Karate school on Airport Park Road in Glen Burnie.

"I wish you would," hissed one woman as she screwed up her face in a scowl.

"AAARRRRRHHH," shouted another, putting up her dukes as her eyes bulged wildly. Then she giggled, apparently feeling a bit silly.

Soon, they all were smiling and waving at the two-way mirror. They had just been told -- you guessed it -- they were on the syndicated television show "Candid Camera."

Sure, the routine may have seemed preposterous if you thought about it long enough. But "it's absolutely unbelievable the amount of times people will do things" without realizing that they are the butt of the joke, said Chris Smith, the segment coordinator for the show. The actors who are in on the gag "don't give people time to think," he explained.

Yesterday was the end of the crew's stint in Baltimore and the first time they allowed outsiders to watch them at work, fearing publicity would make people wary.

For three weeks they have been hiding cameras in the Harvey House restaurant on North Charles Street, along the promenade at Harborplace, in Security Square Mall and at the Baltimore Zoo. They have been conning the unsuspecting into tasting pudding with chopsticks or listening to a waiter recite an endless list of specials.

They even used the Baltimore Colts Band for a bit at the Inner Harbor.

Barbara Blackwell, a production team coordinator in Los Angeles, said she did not know when the segments would air. "Candid Camera" begins a new season as a five-nights-a-week show in mid-September, and the first 20 shows already planned do not include the pranks taped in the Baltimore area, she said.

Yesterday, crew members were holed up in the darkened office of Al and Ab Bartlinski's karate school in an industrial park near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. They watched through a two-way mirror as Al Bartlinski and Joshua Ben-Gurion, a professional wrestler from New York hired for the day, drilled the seniors on the art of looking mean.

Director Ernesto "Tito" Romero called the shots from a seat beside the television monitor, even feeding lines to the actors, who listened on tiny remote receivers plugged in their ears.

"Show some teeth," Mr. Romero said as one woman stepped in front of the mirror.

"Show some teeth," Mr. Bartlinski echoed.



"Good job." "Good job. Thank you. Who's next?"

"You have to be anticipating all the time," Mr. Romero said later. "You don't know what people are going to do. And you don't know if a skit is going to work. It could be really funny on paper, but when you do it, it goes flat. And then you have to think of something else, right away."

He and Mr. Smith figure they shoot 12 to 14 hours of film to get a four-minute segment on the show. Yesterday, for example, they started setting up their equipment at 6 a.m. and began filming at 10 a.m. They didn't finish until late in the afternoon.

It's long hours, Mr. Smith conceded. "But the beauty of it," he added, "is that in the end, what you're doing is you're making people laugh."

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