Cold Spot owner says the Buck(wild) stops here
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bill Smeedy didn't think too much about it when a camera crew approached him in April about using his restaurant, The Cold Spot.
"They said they were doing a documentary for the university," the 61-year-old explained. "It was about struggling college kids and the challenges that face them -- an educational documentary to help, they said."
The crew just needed a space to shoot some video.
"It looked like a good cause to me," Smeedy said. And the kids seemed sort of familiar; he'd seen some of them around for a while.
So he agreed. They could shoot their documentary.
But the television crews weren't shooting a documentary. They were shooting scenes for MTV's "Buckwild."
Smeedy said, "Right away, I started getting reports that what they were doing didn't look like educational stuff."
Dawn Miller, the Cold Spot's long-time bartender, told Smeedy there'd been some kind of altercation. A couple of kids were yelling at each other, and she'd stepped in to see what was going on.
Someone from the crew had told her not to worry. They weren't really fighting. "They're just acting."
They were also talking to some of the other patrons, getting them on camera.
Smeedy brought all this up with his girlfriend, Krista Given.
"He told me he'd given the OK to a film crew making a documentary about college students trying to get educated and their struggles," Given said.
He told her what Miller told him.
"Something didn't sound right," Given said.
She asked Smeedy if it would be OK if she tried to find out a little more about who these people were. Her boyfriend agreed.
"She's much more educated than me. She knows things I don't."
Given went online and did a quick search based on the little Smeedy had told her.
"Right away, it pulled up a story on Yahoo about 'Buckwild.'"
The article, which included excerpts from a TV Guide article, quoted MTV program head David Janollari, who said, "[The show] is so wholeheartedly not making fun of these kids... they have a great sense of humor, and you're drawn to them and this world."
However, the writer for Yahoo didn't believe that, and neither did Given.
"I thought, 'This is MTV. That's not what they do,'" she said.
Given told her boyfriend, "Don't let them come back, and you've got to tell them not to use the footage they already have."
Smeedy told her, "No, they told me it was all going to be in a positive light."
Given told him there was no way that was what this was.
A few days later, the production company returned with a bigger crew -- "like four or five SUVs full of people," Smeedy said. He stopped them before they unpacked and told them they weren't going to be filming in his restaurant. The producer told him not to worry, that the owner had agreed.
Smeedy told them, "I'm the owner, and you people lied to me."
The producer said, "Let me call California."
Smeedy shrugged. He said he didn't care who they called. They weren't filming at The Cold Spot.
The man made his call and came back with an offer.
"What if we made it worth your while?" he asked. "What if we paid you $2,000?"
Smeedy said he told them, "You misrepresented the deal. I don't know what you're doing, but it's not what you said. You all have to leave, and you can't use the footage you already have."
The producer wanted to reason with him. He told him that they'd brought in people from California for the shoot. They'd spent money on airline tickets, hotel rooms and food.
Smeedy said they told him, "You know, we've been here every day. Our crew comes here and eats your delicious wings and drinks your cold beer. We love this place. We're not going to make it look bad."
Smeedy wouldn't budge. He felt like they'd already done that.
They offered him $5,000.
He still said no.
They asked him what if they gave him more money and shot their scenes outside, in the parking lot.
"I said no, and by then I got real firm with them," Smeedy said. "I used a little bit of foul language and told them to get the hell out now."
Smeedy said he felt turning MTV away was the right thing to do. Born in Brazil and raised in Lebanon, Smeedy said he's a redneck by choice. He started The Cold Spot almost 40 years ago, and the state has been good to him.
"From my understanding, this show doesn't do our people or state justice. I don't want them here."
Given added, "We're not trying to draw attention to the show. We just want local people to know that Bill was deceived, and when it was found out, it was stopped immediately."
A representative from MTV said the network was unaware of Smeedy's story and said, to MTV's knowledge, The Cold Spot will not be featured in the series. The representative also said the producers and cast of "Buckwild" were not available for comment.
Reach Bill Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-5195.