Sometimes, it takes an exterminator to do a journalist’s job.
Such was the case when Billy Bretherton and his brother, Ricky – stars of the A&E reality series ‘Billy the Exterminator‘ – took a six-hour drive to the Gulf Coast for a close-up look at the devastation wrought by the catastrophic BP oil explosion and subsequent spill, and how the oil is harming wildlife in the marshes and lowlands, home to raccoons, rabbits, deer and scores of other species.
Maybe Anderson Cooper and other newshounds have done much of the same thing, but it wasn’t until I watched a preview DVD of this week’s episode of ‘Billy’ that I got a real idea of how thick and downright disgusting this oil slick is, and how it just lays there on top of the water.
“Oil and water just don’t mix, man,” declares Billy, after plunging his hand in the oily water a few miles off the coast of Biloxi, Miss., in this week’s special one-hour episode, ‘Billy the Exterminator: Billy Goes to the Gulf’ (Wednesday, July 28, at 10 p.m./9c).
“It doesn’t get any more disgusting than this,” adds Ricky later in the show, as he encounters a vast crust of black, sticky crude floating on the water like a layer of thick padding.
Fancast caught up with Billy on the phone the other day from tiny Benton, La. (pop. 2,817), home base for his family’s pest control business, Vexcon, to ask the affable exterminator about his trip to the Gulf Coast and also to check up on how he’s handling his new-found reality-show stardom, now that his show is in its second season and he’s become one of Louisiana’s most famous residents.
What’s your take on this oil-spill mess, Billy?
Here’s my opinion on it: Oil is the bloodline of our economy. I mean, without it we’re just doomed, that’s what we’re invested in. Now, we’re all involved in this: The oil companies started to get out there trying to make money, to keep the economy going. [And] people, whether it’s mowing their yards or getting to work, they need the oil. I don’t know if the government can fix it, I don’t know that BP can fix it. It’s a mankind problem, we’re all invested in it. I blame every one of us and if we want to [kick the oil habit] we’re all gonna have to [change].
Being in pest control, you come across insect colonies and they all know what they’re supposed to do, they have a purpose and a plan that works great for them and they live in harmony. We just have to find our system!
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How has the show changed your life?
Right now, the only way it’s really been affected is just a lot of fans coming up. I’m so used to people running away from me, from the way that I look to the horrible animals and the disgusting things I do like pulling dead animals out of people’s houses and stuff. And now, I walk out of a house holding a dead raccoon in a bag and I’ve got 25, 30 people running up for autographs and pictures everywhere I go and that is a big change. And it’s supposed to be an adult, after-hours show [and yet] kids are jumping all over this like I’ve never seen before – kids of all ages everywhere I go. The biggest change and adjustment is, now, I have to do dangerous things, but with a celebrity status, and that can be hairy scary!
You mean, when you’re in the middle of doing something kind of delicate, someone will come up to you and slap you on the back and ask for an autograph?
Has the experience of starring in a TV show turned out the way you envisioned it?
No, sir, it hasn’t. I really kind of saw the show as a show that some people, [do-it-yourselfers] maybe looking at doing lawn care themselves or maybe some carpentry themselves, they could learn some things about pest control too. But me and my brother, we’re in a very small town. There’s not very many people here and we just go around handling these animal emergencies [and] nobody cares what I look like around here digging a dead rat out of their wall, so we’re just being zany and having fun with it and I guess that kind of hit that pop culture nerve and it’s starting to get extremely popular. So, no, I did not see it getting like this and I never thought children would be watching it. That never even entered my mind.
What bothers you about children watching?
To me, a lot of the subject matter we’re covering is over the top – you know, maggots, dead animals, me and Ricky cursing. So, when the kids are coming up repeating the same things that I’m saying on television, I’m like, wow, I just did not foresee six year-olds repeating the things that I was saying. It happens daily so it’s shocking for me because it’s an adult program, it’s on late at night, but yet some of these kids are watching it.
It sounds like you’re surprised kids are up as late as 10 p.m. watching you.
I know I look like a rebellious wild child out there, but I’m 41 and I had an 8 o’clock bedtime. I didn’t see things like that and, you know, cable television only started when I was in my teens – you know, when it really got going, and back then, if you had HBO, you might get some explicit language, but that was about it.
Are you more self-conscious now about what you say and do?
I am, but I’m also being produced by a lot of people, so I don’t always get my way. I clean up dead rats for a living – nobody’s going to listen to me on anything having to do with production!