Monday, August 07, 2006

TV show reenacts dolphin attack!

Venice residents Chris Golden, office manager, and Mark Mason, service consultant of Gulf Harbor Marine, Nokomis, will become TV stars Sunday night when the National Geographic Channel airs "Hunter and Hunted" at 8 pm. on Comcast Channel 109.

The story is the re-enactment of a near deadly attack and drowning in the Intercoastal Waterway by the Albee Road Bridge in Nokomis in July 1993.

Golden plays Sarasota resident Kim Foy, who jumped into the water to swim with "Beggar," a dolphin given the name because of his habit of constantly begging for fish from passing boats.
The four members of the Foy family were boating when Kim, in the water with her 4-year-old son, was bitten seriously on her leg by Beggar, according to Golden.

Eight-year-old Jimmy Palm and his friend, 6-year-old Kevin Szafan, who attend Laurel Nokomis School, played the two Foy sons for the TV program.

"They were very happy to ditch a day at school and join the all-day filming session," said Donna Palm, Jimmy's mother and owner of ReMax Gulf Shores Realty in Venice.

Venetians Tom Lanaida and Alex Whalen played the two lads who during the incident were taunting the dolphin by banging the side of the boat.

Filming took place in February, when Capt. Tim and Cheryl Polito, who had opened Kahuna's Wind & Waves store six weeks earlier, were approached by Meghan O'Connor, a National Geographic Channel associate producer. She required four boats and help in finding local people to act in the TV documentary.

Making calls to colleagues, Cheryl Polito identified and put together the cast according to age requirements.

"O'Connor came into the office, told us about the filming and popped the question, 'Would you be interested in being in it, because you are around the same age and build?' " said Golden. "My first impression was no, because I could not take a day off from work for this, but then I spoke to my marina manager and he encouraged it. I went to Mark Mason, who I thought would be game for this, and he popped at the opportunity."

As Ned and Kim Foy, Mason and Golden set off with their actor "sons" for an outing accompanied by the two young men in another boat with the TV crew and cameramen following.

"They filmed us riding in the boat, getting off at an island, and even shot some film under the deck below the dock of Casey Key Fish House near Blackburn Point Bridge," said Mason.
The actors purchased bait to feed the dolphin.

Filming of the incident was done near Spanish Point, because the area near the Albee Road Bridge was being dredged, making it too murky for filming under water.

In the original incident the dolphin was all wound up from chasing from the other boat to the family boat to be fed and appears to have taken its frustrations out when Kim Foy went into the water, said Mason.

In the recreation, a cameraman was the "dolphin," riding a boogie board moving like Beggar. Golden was dragged down a couple of times under water, then "it" "bit" her leg. There was fake blood where she was badly bitten.

"They made us act like we were hysterical and she was bleeding to death," Mason said. "I dived in to save my wife."

Because they filmed on a cold day when the water temp was only about 65 degrees, Szafan did not get in the water, although the younger Foy son may have originally.

The filming took nine hours, of which Golden and Mason were in water two hours.

All the local actors and the Politos are anxiously looking forward to the National Geographic edition of events and their portrayals of the Foys.

"No, never done it before, but I would like to do it again," said Mason.

He was given the impression by the TV film crew this is part of a series to illustrate that dolphins are not like Flipper on TV, but are wild animals and people can be attacked by them. Dolphins can grow as big as 12 feet and 1,000 pounds.

Apparently it is common practice for people to buy bait with the intention of feeding Beggar, who continues to fascinate boaters, frolicking around passing vessels just north of the bridge.

Unfortunately, encouraging him to come closer to people increases the risk of another dangerous, or even deadly, confrontation.

As he cannot distinguish between a finger and bait, it is common for lots of people to get bitten, according to Mason. Feeding wildlife, although very tempting to boaters and tourists, is illegal, and fines of $150 per person can be issued to violators.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"