A talk with gakmeister Bethanne Goehringer

The gak kitchen is one of the highlights if you ever got to tour Nickelodeon Studios Florida when it was around. You see the trademark for Nickelodeon has always been the green slime. So just to see up front how this substance is artificially made was exciting just to taste it and get the whole thing on you! Getting to talk to one of the first gakmeisters employed there Bethanne Goehringer ,now Seel, was cool because if you seen the pics or the video down below you’ll see that she is one of the main people who you got to see in the advertising to come to this special place and see the slime and gak. Bethanne shares with me her fabulous time working at the facility and just how precious the slime making process was!

gakmeister

nsf94

(you could see Bethanne at 7:40)

1. How did you get to become a gakmeister?
  I was hired by Nicky Nichols, who was the Operations Manager responsible for opening NSF.  She was so kind to me, and had me work a few freelance jobs to get some experience in television.  I worked MTV’s Spring Break at Daytona, and an Orlando Magic basketball game, to name a few.  The studios were not completely finished when I started there, so I did odd jobs for different departments while waiting for the Gak Kitchen to be completed.
2. What was your first impression of Nickelodeon Studios when you got there?
  My first impression was “What a fun place to work!”  There were quirky decorations all around, but it seemed normal to us.  The offices got more colorful as time went on.
3. How many hours did you stay in the gak kitchen preparing all the slimeful and gak substances?
  Once the tours began running through the building, my hours were really  9 to 6, like most jobs.  Tours came through every 4 minutes, and I got to be great friends with the Universal tour guides.   Many of them wanted to be actors, and they were so talented and funny.  We laughed a lot!  When we started taping Super Sloppy Double Dare, the kitchen went into full-on production mode.  I would do the visits for the tours, while the production assistants would hustle all around the kitchen, mixing up concoctions for the show.
4. From many advertisements and specials promoting NSF I think you were often seen in them, are you aware of this?
  Yes, I am aware of the ads and promos I am in!  It was always exciting for me, and a bit surreal.   However, I am well aware that the real star in the photos is Nickelodeon’s iconic slime.  I was just lucky to be the one holding it for a short time.
5. Describe the feeling the kids would get when coming through the studio tour. It must’ve been exciting for everyone that they wanna witness what you all do!
  Naturally the kids were excited walking through the building, but the place was so magical and wonderful that parents and adults were in awe, too.  The tour started in a gathering room, then they came down the hall, past the make-up room, wardrobe room, and finally to the Gak kitchen.   Then, they went upstairs and looked down over the two sound stages.  You could see actors from your favorite shows right there in front of you, on the set.  What a thrill!
6.  Was there a particular show there that you loved visiting the set of?
  All of the shows had something special about them…the actors, the crew, etc.  But Super Sloppy Double Dare was so unique!! How could you not laugh at a giant nose with green slime oozing out of it, or an enormous ear with pudding smeared all over it?  The prop masters and artists were so talented.
7. In the early 90s, I learned that you and the crew got to perform Nick shows for the NBA Orlando Magic halftime show. How much fun was that?
 I did not perform in the Magic halftime show.  One time however, Nickelodeon had a tent set up at an event at Loch Haven Park, Orlando. We had some props from Double Dare, and I was there in the Gak Meister costume.  Many people came by to taste the green slime and take photos.  One woman walked up and said to me, “Are you anyone?”  I was so shocked, I just said “No”.  Ouch, that still hurts even today!
8.  Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
 My favorite ride at USF was the ET ride, because one time my sisters came to visit me and brought my grandmother.  When you got on the ride, the employees would type your name in, so when the ride ended, ET would say goodbye to you.  Hearing ET say my grandmother’s name made us laugh so much!
9.  Orlando back then was shaped up to be Hollywood East but never lived up to it. As a Florida native, how great was it to have all the TV and film production going on in the area and why do you think it has since decreased?
I’m not a Florida native, I am a Yankee!
10. How great was all the staff who worked there? I always hear positive stories.
 The staff truly was like a big family.  I was just a kid back then, and I felt like I was friends with everyone on the staff.  Everyone’s office was always open, you felt like you could talk to anyone, from the highest executive on down.  I was always impressed that Emmy Laybourne worked alongside everyone on the set of Welcome Freshmen.  She is the daughter of our then- president, Geraldine Laybourne, so we really were all a big family.
11. Do you mind telling the ingredients used to make gak and slime?
  Hmmm… not sure I can divulge the secret recipe!
12. Have you been slimed yourself?
 Nope, I’ve slimed lots of people including CBS news anchor Mark McEwen, and Orlando Magic GM Pat Williams, but never been slimed myself.
13. Do you mind explaining what you have been up to these days?
 I left Nickelodeon to have my first child, and since then have worked in preschool, and public elementary school.
14. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
 I have so many great memories, it’s hard to pin down just one.  Linda Ellerbee did a tv special for kids about the environment, with an appearance by then- Vice President Al Gore .  The Secret Service came through the day before to secure the building,  and on the day of the taping, we could not be in the hall, so I stood in the wardrobe room as Mr. Gore walked past us to the studio.   That was a thrilling day.
15. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
 Nick Studios was so special because of the staff.  It was a wonderful company to work for.  Every time a show wrapped, there was always a fun party.  The staff once held a pumpkin decorating contest, and camera man Ken Krause and I won for our “Slime Pumpkin”!  And at every Christmas party we watched a video created for that year, where each department had to come up with their own segment.  These were super creative people, and I was so lucky to be among them!
16. Would you like to see it reopened?
 Anything is possible, but the magic wouldn’t be the same.
Advertisements

Kel Mitchell talks with me about Nick Studios Florida

It’s a special day because today April 16, marks the 20th anniversary of the Nickelodeon sketch comedy show All That.  It quickly became a hit and the main go to for the network lasting for an impressive 11 years! All That which has always been called “the SNL for kids” was fantastic not only because of its wholesome, hilarious sketches from the talented cast members but because of the musical guests ranging from R&B to hip hop to pop who you were all waiting to see at the end of every episode.  I did talk to original cast member Kel Mitchell about his beginnings of the show in Orlando,Fl at Nickelodeon Studios and how great it was for everybody to get their start there (keep in mind this interview is from last December so no discussion of the 20th landmark at the time). You can see all about Kel by looking at his website here. In the meantime here are also two latest articles where the cast members, crew and musical guests discuss the legacy of the show now nearing 20 years later https://myspace.com/discover/trending/2014/04/14/all-that-oral-history-season-one/ and http://www.complex.com/pop-culture/2014/04/behind-the-scenes-all-that/.  Here is Kel’s interview about NSF below(there is an audio out of sync problem so forgive my part in this video. I tried to fix it)!

Byron Taylor interview

You’ve seen his name from the credits of all the classic Nickelodeon shows ranging from Double Dare to Finders Keepers to Nick Arcade to Guts to Weinerville to Figure It Out to Legends of the Hidden Temple and more! His job was titled “Production Designer”. His name is Byron Taylor and you can just say he was the one who transformed the sets and colorful features of alot of different shows. Our interview talks about how he was involved with the creation of Nickelodeon Studios Florida to his shows, how big everything was, good times, and challenges.

1. How did you first become involved with Nickelodeon?
 I became involved with Nickelodeon completely by chance. I was at the blue-printer’s with a friend and we ran into Jim Fenhagen who we had gone to NYU with. Jim needed someone to assist him. The other guy wasn’t available but I was. It was supposed to be two weeks of drafting on a new show called Double Dare. The set was almost completely designed, but I did work on the Sundae Slide, the Wringer, and other stuff. About a month later it was being built at shops in Brooklyn & Manhattan. I then went to Philadelphia to baby sit during load-in. There was a certain degree of chaos figuring out how to do a show like that and I wound up staying through the first 65 episodes.
2. When Nickelodeon Studios was first seen as an idea what was your initial reaction?
 My initial reaction to “Nick Studios” was: having a dedicated facility to produce the shows in would be a great idea, and a lot better than spaces we had worked in by that time, even though it would be in Florida!
3. Were there any changes to the studio’s final format than the one it was originally designed to be?
There were so many “tweaks” made to Nick Studio’s original configuration that you could write a book about it. The stages and production support space was set early on using the same Butler Buildings as the other Universal stages. Each stage was supposed to hold two shows the size of the original Double Dare, which had started out in a 50′ x 90′ studio in Philly. This was a huge error since the most recent version of Double Dare was considerably bigger. The cyclorama was scaled to the original Double Dare even though there was about 30′ to the overhead steel available. A “state of the art” automated lighting system was installed oriented for the two set configuration as well. This posed a problem for the rigging of all future sets. I could go on…
4. How exactly large was the studio?
Nick Studios stages were approximately 110′ x 150′, slightly larger than the other Universal stages. The 3 story Core Building was 80′ x 200′ and included space for the studio tour show.
5. The first tv show to produce there was Family Double Dare. What exactly did you change about the art direction than the original show?
I can’t remember what show was first produced at the studio but some version of Double Dare had been shot the year before on one of the Universal stages with the biggest change being a bigger obstacle course area to go along with a bigger home base first used in Philly on the Imax stage where Finders Keepers was produced.
6. Which set did you have the best time working on and which set was the hardest to shoot on?
 My favorite show to design at the studio was Double Dare 2000 (my favorite all time is Finders Keepers) but I also liked Legends, Roundhouse, Weinerville and even art directing Kenen & Kel and Shelby Woo.
7. Since the budget set of Roundhouse was big was it an easy task at first creating the design of the show?
 Roundhouse did not have a very big budget and I reused parts of older sets to create the environment. The original concept had an actual working turntable to hold multiple sets that would rotate into view for each scene. We wound up painting a turn table on the studio floor and all the scenery for each scene was made from “found objects” and sheets of corrugated cardboard by Art Director Diane Stapleton & the crew.
8. “Guts” was filmed in the largest soundstage at Universal. Can you describe how the production layout was formed for all the pyrotechnics and “Extreme Arena”?
GUTS was taped on the biggest stage at Universal (100′ x 200′). In later seasons it was basically configured wall to wall and grew to require an additional stage to store game pieces (as did Legends and DD2K for storage and prep). About 25% of floor space was given to the Aggro Crag at one end of the studio, and about the same for pool area at the opposite end. There were no pyrotechnics used in the show, just air cannons with metallic confetti, compressed nitrogen blasts and a lot of dry ice fog.
9. How great were all the staff you worked with in Florida?
The Florida crews were great to work with over the ten years the studios were in operation. And I’ve had the chance to work with a number of them on a shows subsequently shot at Universal like My Family’s Got GUTS.
10. Have you been slimed yourself?
The slimiest I ever got was when we shot a special episode of Family Double Dare with some of the creators of the show like Geoffrey Darby, Bob Mittenthal & Gerry Laybourne.
11. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
I only went on 3 or 4 rides at Universal the entire time I was there, so I never had a favorite but I liked Back to the Future.
12. Was the studio tour ever a hassle for you whenever you were designing the production or working on a show?
The integration the studio tour both physically and from a content point of view had lasting effects on shows produced there, while at the same time, the type & scale of the shows themselves changed. Nick started producing multi-camera sitcoms that took up an entire stage with multiple sets. The studio tour that wound it’s way through the production facility (called the Core Building) necessitated the sets be oriented as much as possible to the long windows on the second floor that provided a view down to the stage for the guests. This was a real problem for shows that were shot single camera style like Fifteen and Shelby Woo.
13. Favorite behind the scenes memory.
There were are many behind the scenes memories at the studios it’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll work on it…
14. What do you think made Nick Studios so great and special?
 The thing made Nick Studios so special was a combination of the growth of Nick as a network and the variety of shows it produced and of course, the people who contributed to them.
15. If given the chance would you like to see it reopened?
 The studios were never very sound proof, and that became evident once the Geyser was up and running and going off every hour! Now that there is a roller-coaster running by outside the stages I don’t think they could be used for television production due to noise and vibration. And I think they are very happy in Hollywood and Santa Monica.

16. Do you know where the big props from the studios are at now like the giant Nickelodeon sign that was in front of the studios and the slime geyser?

I’m not sure what Universal did with the sign or the Geyser… maybe they’re in the bone yard if there is room for one on their property.
17. And the colorfulness that made the front of the studio was very unique & lively. How exactly did you or the staff come up for the colors that blended in front and inside the studios?
The studio facade decoration took awhile to develop and there is an early version of it shown in a large aerial rendering of Universal Studios hanging in Building 22 (the production office) still as of 2008.
The actual Core Building between the two stages changed quite a bit as the Tour was developed and issues of capacity and accommodation were dealt with (if you bring several hundred people an hour to what amounts to a dead end at that section of the park, you have to provide restrooms, and if the there is a loss of power where the escalators and elevators are out, you need to provide an exterior stair from the second floor for people exiting the tube).
Eventually, it came down to two design schemes for the exterior that were essentially collages, with the one implemented more architecturally driven that the other.

 

Moira Quirk interview

From 1992-95 “Guts” on Nickelodeon set a new boundary for kids across the country. It combined extreme sports for and athleticism for kids. Swimming, running track, boat paddling, and of course the final challenge–the famous Aggro Crag is what made it was one of Nick’s groundbreaking game shows of all time. It was so successful that it spawned a spin off titled “Global Guts” which featured kids,not just U.S. this time, from countries all over the world competing on the show. I guess you can say Guts in the 90s was a great time for kids to be active pre obesity and technology of the new millennium.  Well the “On your mark. Get set. *blows whistles*” game referee Moira Quirk who we knew as “Mo” on the show took the time for me to interview her to discuss what it was like filming at Nickelodeon Studios Florida and her time on the show. Do you have it?

Then
Now
1. How did you get the role in Guts?
It was simply an audition… or a series of them. They kept bringing me back to show me to the next person up the Nickelodeon line.
2. What was a typical day like at Nick Studios? I know the cast & crew filmed in Soundstage 21 as opposed to Stage 18 and 19 if I’m not mistaken.
I remember it was the largest soundstage Universal Studios had. We’d shoot three shows a day. Then we would or wouldn’t go home.
3. I know you’ve answered this before but describe climbing the Aggro Crag.
It wasn’t quite the same for me as when the contestants climbed it. I didn’t have Mylar being shot at me for a start. I remember being surprised that the ground below me was squishier than I had anticipated!
4. What was one of the good things about living/working in Orlando?
I made great friends in Orlando with amazingly talented people. A few are still there, but most of us are in LA and New York and Chicago now. As for Orlando, or rather Florida, the heat and humidity was too much for me. The cockroaches were too much for me. But I loved going to the ocean and the beautiful beaches. I lived in a lovely old Southern Gothic Victorian by a lake and I loved that!
5. Orlando,FL had a reputation of being known as Hollywood East in the early 90’s. Do you remember any other shows being filmed where you were at?
Other than Nickelodeon shows, not really.
6. What was it like to see all these other nations, particularly your hometown England, compete on Global Guts? It was really like a mini Olympics to me.
It was fun! It was a great way to see the show out.
7. What did you think of the 2008 revival “My Family’s Got Guts”
I’m embarrassed to say I never saw it.
8. Do you still talk to Mike O’Malley?
Of course!
9. You were also appeared on Figure It Out sometimes. How much fun was that show?
Perhaps it was my schedule, but I always felt I walked off the plane, walked onto the set, got slimed and then had to fly home. So, if it was a fun show, I never had time to notice.
10. Describe the feeling of getting slimed.
Well, if you can imagine a really slimy substance landing on you… it’s like that.
11. Speaking on upcoming projects you do alot of voice acting these days. is there a difference between that and regular acting?
Implying it’s irregular acting? Hmm! But yes, voice over is my gig now. Sometimes you might actually see me in person- check out Dirty Work at dirtywork.com (only if you’re older!)- but usually I’m in front of a microphone. There is definitely a different skill set involved, even between the different types of VO work I do. An audiobook is very different from a BBC radio play, which is different from an LA Theatre Works play-recording, which is different from a game like Skyrim, which is different from a game like Star Wars or X-Com, which is different from a Marvel cartoon which is different from Madagascar.
12. Did you have a favorite ride at Universal Studios Florida?
I did! At that time there was the Hanna Barbera ride. It was a simulator ride and you would chase Dick Dastardly and Muttley. I am hugely into Hanna Barbera cartoons, so that was like my happy place. Mostly because there was an interactive area attached and my favourite spot was where you could push the buttons to make the sound effects (like ‘zup zup zup’ when someone takes off really quickly!) I could waste quite a lot of time in that room.
13.How do you feel knowing that Guts is loved today along with the other Nickelodeon shows during that time?
It’s rather nice. I still remember shows I enjoyed as a kid, so if GUTS evokes those same feelings that’s pretty cool.
14. Any other behind the scenes or fan moments that happened on set at the studios?
Honestly, it’s all the behind the scenes tomfoolery that really informs a show. And my lips are sealed.
15. What do you think was the best thing about Nickelodeon Studios?
Its love of orange.
16. Would you like to see Nick Studios be reopened?
I don’t know what studios might already be there and operating, but if Nick wanted to reopen and run a union operation and it was beneficial to the region, then godspeed!