Hoosick Falls man to co-star in National Geographic reality show
In the first episode of "Building Wild," Pat "Tuffy" Bakaitis, of Hoosick Falls, and Paul "Paulie" Dimeo, of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" fame, team up to build Mike Carney and his 11 friends - called "The Dirty Dozen" -- a new hunting camp in the Jackson/Cambridge area.
The show's first season includes 10 episodes, the first of which premiers Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the National Geographic Channel.
Bakaitis and Dimeo are an odd couple. Bakaitis is a farmer and owns Hoosick Sand and Gravel. Dimeo, who lives in Los Angeles, was a featured designer on all nine seasons of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which aired on ABC Television and won two Emmy awards.
"You can see it in the first episode, Tuffy is a practical guy," said the show's producer, George Verschoor, who produced the first four years of the MTV series "The Real World," which is considered to be one of the earliest reality programs. Dimeo, he said, is more of a dreamer whose ideas often rankle his partner in terms of their feasibility.
"He's no outdoorsman, he's a city boy. He's a hoot to follow around," said Bakaitis of his business partner. "He just doesn't know what it takes to pull a job off."
Verschoor and Bakaitis have known each other since they were children. "We rode the school bus together," said Verschoor, who owns a home in Hoosick Falls. He said he knew Dimeo through "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," and introduced him to Bakaitis one day.
As it turns out, Bakaitis and Dimeo share a love of building, especially cabins. Bakaitis had built five and showed them off to Dimeo.
"We got a lot of good ideas and decided to build them for other people," Bakaitis said.
The two have formed a business, Cabin Kings, and the show, "Building Wild," is about them making a go of it, said Verschoor. He pitched the idea to National Geographic, which liked the outdoors angle.
Viewers should enjoy watching Bakaitis and Dimeo work together, said Verschoor, as the two both love what they do and are experts, but approach things from different angles. One client suggested they get marriage counseling.
The two clash in the first episode when Dimeo and the client want to raise the frame of the camp the old fashioned way using "gin poles," but Bakaitis thinks using his excavator would be faster and safer.
Many of their projects have a "build-as-you-go" feel, he said, and he often finds himself trying to bring his partner down to earth. Bakaitis said when they do pull off an amazing feat of woodland engineering, it only encourages Dimeo, and their clients, to want more.
One of their projects is a ski cabin that rotates so sunrise and sunset can both be watched from the front porch.
All the episodes feature projects in the upstate New York and southern Vermont area, such as Shaftsbury, Sandgate, and Glastenbury.
Bakaitis said Cabin Kings' business model keeps costs low because they use materials found on-site, as is labor. The Dirty Dozen's hunting cabin was built using wood salvaged from a barn on Carney's property, and the men themselves along with friends supplied much of the labor.
The end result was no simple cabin. Dimeo designed a bar using boards from an old bowling lane perfect for sliding bottles of beer, and an old truck provided the frame for an outhouse on rails -- one that can be brought close in the cold weather and moved farther off in the summer months.
Bakaitis said having the clients help build gives them a greater sense of ownership with the final product, especially when building materials come from structures they knew and loved.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.
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