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"Bar Studs" flex muscles and gain glory

Game show at The Longbranch puts money where your mouth is

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UPDATED: 21 January 2014 | 4:24 pm   ::  

Jay “The Boss” Larimer can hold his breath for hours, or rather; he wants you to believe he can. “Hours, I am not even lying,” said the 22-year-old, matter-of-factly. Larimer was bluffing, or mistaken. Either way his masculine bravado was put to the test in the second episode of Bar Studs — a local start-up television show being produced by two cousins — when Larimer’s lungs failed him at just shy of 30 seconds. Rob Cassidy and Charlie Von Presley are attempting to develop a television show. The idea came from a common occurrence Cassidy said he witnessed at his local gym where guys would boast they could perform physical feats similar to those of professional athletes. “None of them are in decent shape and they have the answer for everything,” Cassidy said of the guys in the gym. “No one ever challenged them on any of it.” So Cassidy is looking to change that with Bar Studs. The game pits four competitors in a poker-style betting scenario. A physical task is presented to them and the participants bet their chips, either from a sense of confidence that they can best the others in the task, or in attempts to bluff their opponents into submission. If a bet is called, the task is attempted, and to the winner goes the spoils, both chips and pride. And once all but one competitor is drained of chips, the winner receives a $100 bar tab at The Longbranch Bar, while the runner-ups receive tabs for $25. “We don’t want guys who are in the gym every day, we want the guy who has a little bit of a gut,” Cassidy said. “We want to see if that everyday guy who is sitting next to you at the bar drinking a beer can actually do all the things he says he can.” While the cousins have recently finished the filming and production of the second episode — both taking place at The Longbranch Bar in Cedar Rapids — they were originally concerned about finding an establishment that would be interested in hosting. But after hearing the pitch, Aaron Kuhle, the food and beverage manager for the bar bit at the idea. “It was interesting, something that I didn’t really know what the concept was going to be at first,” Kuhle said. “But when we did the first run of the show I came out as a spectator and it was really entertaining.” And spectators had reason to be entertained. Some of the tasks were deceptively simple, like balancing on a ball, or throwing a football through a target, while others were physically intense like a two-minute whirlwind bike ride, or 100-yard-dashes. “It was awesome. It was fun,” said Mary Drake, the first female contestant on Bar Studs, who owns a physical fitness company, Ultimate Body Shaping. “It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be. Some of the activities like the sprints, going against these young guys, but it was good. I did well.” And while Drake finished third in the episode she participated in, Cassidy said the tasks are varied so that no one physical type, or gender can dominate. “We wanted it to be kind of an all around deal, because you could have a 500-pound guy, and if he only had strength events, he might dominate,” Cassidy said. Cassidy’s wishes came true when Drake outlasted her male counterparts with an impressive display of balance and core strength while standing on one foot on a BOSU ball. Her arms stretched out above her head, and leg pointed towards the floor while she calmly held the pose, but Kuhle, who competed in the second episode, flailed wildly before tumbling off the ball. And while the competitors had bar tab money on the line, the patrons at the bar watching the competition found reason to cheer and become invested. This is something Von Presley — who acts as the host of the show — was hoping would occur. “There is also the voyeuristic aspect of it,” he said. “Because you hear these people saying they can do this, and as a spectator, this gives you a unique opportunity to actually see that stuff put to the test.” Von Presley is able to effortlessly banter with the contestants, which helps to keep the show lively and friendly, but he is able to add more to the production than just a clever phrase or two. Von Presley works for Von Presley Studios, a Cedar Rapids-based video and photography company. This provided the duo with easy access to camera equipment and volunteers who wanted to help get the show off the ground. The volunteer labor helped Cassidy and Von Presley produce the first few episodes quickly  - the second of which will be shown at The Longbranch Bar this Tuesday night -  which was imperative for the potential success of the show. Because Cassidy said when he attempted to just explain the show to people, they never got it. He needed to be able to show them. “I would tell people about it and say it would be fun and cool to watch and everyone would just kind of go, ‘Yeah, yeah, that would be alright,’ but I had this clear picture in my head of what it was supposed to be, but no one else did.” But now with two episodes under their belt — both won by Larimer, despite his paltry breath-holding skills — the cousins hope the show can be seen by someone who can help them get it on the air. But if that never happens, they will be just fine producing it on their own. “We are doing it because it is fun, it is a break from the regular, and it is a blast,” Von Presley said. “To see that Rob (Cassidy) had an idea, and just that process from something that is non-physical, it is in your brain, and Rob just focused and put this energy and effort into it and now it is a thing, and that is awesome.”

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