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MUGGING FOR THE CAMERAS Patrons audition for beer commercial


Bees Distributing Co. and Anheuser Busch just might make the bar at Reunions and the Mason-Dixon Rugby team of Carroll County as famous as "Cheers" and barflies Norm and Cliff.

Tired, grubby and dressed in uniform blue-gray stripes, team members were topping off a rigorous practice Thursday night with beer and boisterous camaraderie at the Westminster restaurant when they played right into the spotlight of the Bud Light crew collecting footage for future TV ads.

With a little encouragement and no makeup, the local players rehearsed a few bars of their own material: a modified rugger anthem, set to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

A few notes later, they were ready to sign on the bottom line for a shot at commercial success.

The cameraman crammed 10 beefy men, each holding a frosty beer bottle, around a bar table for two, complete with a centerpiece rugby ball painted in an American flag motif.

"This is hard. We usually limit players to four," said Dennis Broderick, squeezing and adjusting bodies for the camcorder.

"Please don't move, and make sure the labels show," said the director, Betty Cree. "They are paying for a commercial."

A slightly exasperated Ms. Cree asked an assistant for a Bud Light of her own as soon as the take ended.

The players tuned their voices briefly -- "me, me, me . . . you, you, you" -- and then broke into a raucous rendition of their battle song.

"Bud Light for all the ruggers. Bud Light for all the ruggers as Anheuser Busch marches on," they sang in resonant male voices.

Restaurant patrons broke into cheers.

"The guys were really good," said Vicky Gittere, who had auditioned a few takes earlier. "I'm not going to pack my bags for Hollywood."

The commercial will have a good shot at state and national exposure, said Chris Richardson, sales associate for the Finksburg distributing company.

The staff forwards all takes to a Chicago-based advertising agency, which selects the best spots to air on radio and television across the state, said Rick Broderick, ad producer and owner of Bees in Finksburg.

The liveliest, such as a spotlight made last year at the 10 Mile House in Reisterstown, go to a national competition, he said.

The Bees group sets up shoots about once a week in popular neighborhood spots. At Reunions, they filmed about a dozen spotlights, most with two or three participants.

"Most people need a crutch," said Ms. Cree. "Only a few try by themselves."

Blue Taylor, a 21-year-old Western Maryland College senior, said she had seen the commercials. When she saw the Bees crew enter the restaurant, she asked two friends to film with her. The trio, the first to try their luck, broke the ice for many others.

"I was nervous, but we just acted natural," she said.

"We looked at each other, talked and forgot about the camera," said Rochere Whitaker, her classmate.

The company places posters in restaurants but does not give the exact time and date of the shoot.

"When patrons see the camera, they know what's happening," said Ms. Cree. "Some people are shy at first, but once they get started they usually run away with it."

Ms. Cree said preparation is ideal but spontaneity is the norm. She feeds questions to get contestants started and often hears zany answers.

"When do you enjoy a Bud Light?" she asked.

"In the morning, I spritz it on like perfume," said Patricia Bosley. "It's the next best thing to Obsession [perfume]."

Strangers have become film mates. Mary Jo Colbert said she had known Richard Hall for only five minutes when she invited him into a commercial with her.

"With whom do you like to share an ice-cold Bud Light?" Ms. Cree asked her.

"With my husband, but if he's not around, anybody," said Ms. Colbert, exaggerating her Southern drawl.

"I'd like to drink part of his, too," she added taking a swig from Mr. Hall's bottle.

As Ms. Gittere took her turn, she engaged in playful histrionics and demanded silence before her performance.

"Sssh, I'm becoming a star here," she said.

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