July 25, 2003 04:30am
"Bambi Hunt" an Elaborate Hoax
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal
by: Michael Squires and Richard Lake
(LAS VEGAS, NV) 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.
"The bottom line is we are convinced as a city, based on the information we have, that ... some in the media were used as unwitting dupes to promote a private enterprise," said Mayor Oscar Goodman. "It would appear from all sorts of admissions ... that the purported Hunt for Bambi was a scam. That it was all staged. That there were actors and actresses and there wasn't even the real shooting of paintballs."
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.
Burdick, reached Thursday afternoon by telephone, declined to comment to two Review-Journal reporters. He swore at them and hung up.
City officials said Burdick was so brazen he admitted to them, in a call to the mayor's office Thursday, that he intended to lie during an appearance on the cable news network MSNBC later that afternoon.
"He told me he was going to tell everyone that it wasn't a hoax even though it is," said city spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez. "He said, `I hope that's OK with the mayor.' "
After her conversation with Burdick, Sanchez said she called MSNBC producers to inform them of Burdick's desire to continue the sham.
During an appearance on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown," Burdick stuck to his claim that the hunts are real.
"You're doing a great job hyping this," said Olbermann, who several times called the Bambi phenomenon a hoax.
"Thank you," Burdick responded, smiling. Then he plugged his company's Web site.
Hunting for Bambi became an international sensation earlier this month when KLAS-TV, Channel-8 aired a piece by reporter LuAnne Sorrell that purported to show a local man hunting several nude women and shooting them with a paintball gun.
Women's groups across the country decried Burdick and his exploits, but others wondered if the whole thing wasn't a setup designed to generate publicity.
Sorrell did not return a phone message Thursday afternoon seeking comment.
Burdick admitted in an interview last week with the Review-Journal that, at first, selling the videos was his priority. The videos, which he called spoofs of real hunting videos, show men stalking naked women and apparently shooting them with paintball guns.
He said there was so much interest in the concept that other men actually wanted to participate in the "hunts."
He claimed that he then began to offer the hunts for anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000. He said the company had sold about 20 such hunts, and he showed a reporter a computer screen that appeared to show credit card deposits for $2,500 for hunts.
The claims drew the attention of city officials because the business license of Real Men Outdoor Productions Inc., which is owned by Burdick's fiance, Lakana Campbell, only allows the sale of videotapes.
City officials said their inquiry into the matter amounted to interviews of Burdick by city licensing and legal staff. Goodman also spoke with Burdick.
Assistant City Attorney John Redlein said the only evidence to support the existence of the hunts are Burdick's statements to the media and Sorrell's story, which shows a hunter discharging what Redlein described as an unloaded paintball gun.
"We could tell the gun wasn't loaded. This guy's gun was going click, click, click. It wasn't charged and it wasn't shooting anything," Redlein 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.
When questioned by city officials, Burdick explained how he had created the film using actors to portray the hunters and the hunted, officials said. When a woman is shown being hit by a paintball Burdick explained to officials it's merely him standing off camera, throwing a paintball coated in paint at the nude woman.
Burdick also told officials he offered the hunts at exorbitant prices to scare off anyone interested in booking one, Redlein said. Furthermore, his Web site is incapable of accepting credit card charges in the amount necessary to reserve a hunt, he said.
"He's told us in great detail a story that does hang together perfectly, that it's a scam to sell videotapes," Redlein said. "The lie is absurd; the business explanation is entirely believable."
Although primarily concerned with whether or not hunts occurred in Las Vegas, city officials said their investigation had raised questions about the company's business license.
Burdick is listed as an officer in a corporate filing with the state, but only Campbell appears on the company's license with the city, Selby said. "There may be some issues we need to deal with on the license level," Selby said.
Burdick's continued insistence in the media that the hunts are not a hoax, after he admitted as much to city officials, also riled Goodman.
The mayor said earlier in the day that the investigation was "virtually" complete. After learning Burdick was to appear on MSNBC and continue to insist the hunts were real, he indicated he may have more to say on the matter.
"Either there's a screw loose or he's lied to everyone in the city," Goodman said. "I am going after him."