'Caveman' gets city key: Homer welcomes guy from Geico ads

Posted: Monday, March 15, 2010

At first glance, the guy hanging around the F/V Time Bandit Thursday afternoon with the shaggy hair, bushy beard, red turtleneck sweater and down vest might look like your average crab fisherman. There's something a bit odd about him, though. Maybe it's the heavy brow, the wide nose and the hairy hands. If he looks a bit Neanderthal, well, that's because he is.

Photo By Michael Armstrong
Photo By Michael Armstrong

Homer, meet the Caveman.

Thursday, during the last gasp of a howling blizzard, Homer Mayor James Hornaday formally welcomed the Caveman to town. On the deck of the Time Bandit, Homer's star crab boat on the Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch TV series, Hornaday presented the Caveman the key to the city. He also gave keys to Capt. Andy Hillstrand and Capt. Johnathan Hillstrand, the Homer-raised captains of the Time Bandit.

The Caveman is a character in a series of commercials for Geico Insurance Company. Playing off Geico's slogan about getting a quote, "So simple a caveman could do it," the commercials presume that the ancient human race of Neanderthals didn't die out, and a few cavemen survive. They're hip, urbane and sophisticated -- and mad at Geico for making fun of them.

This week, DK Productions came to Homer to film new commercials featuring the Caveman and the Time Bandit. Zev Kanter, a spokesman for Geico marketing, didn't want to give away the plots of the commercials being made or identify the actor playing the Caveman.

Crews were seen around town at the Deep Water Dock and at the All About You nail saloon in the Hillas Building on Pioneer Avenue. A big motorhome and a small caravan of trucks, trailers and vans also was parked on the Spit. Filming started Wednesday and continued on Thursday and Friday -- as with all things in crab fishing, weather permitting. It doesn't take much to imagine funny scenarios -- say, the Caveman joining the Time Bandit crew.

"The last two spots we've been doing have been a lot of fun," said Andy Hillstrand.

The Hillstrands connected with Geico after becoming fans of the Miss Geico, the offshore racing boat. Johnathan Hillstrand joined the Miss Geico crew, Marc Granet and Scott Begovich, in setting a world record speed run from Miami to Palm Beach, Fla., last December.

"I thought it would be cool to go from the fastest boat in the world to the slowest, deadliest boat in the world," Johnathan Hillstrand said of getting Geico to film on the Time Bandit.

The Geico commercials are only the latest in the Hillstrands' marketing of their boat. Spinning off their success on Deadliest Catch, the brothers have written a book (with Malcolm MacPherson) "Time Bandit: Two Brothers, The Bering Sea and One of the World's Deadliest Jobs," published in 2008 by Random House. They also have the Time Bandit store, managed by Lou Lovelace, with a street operation on the Homer Spit and online at www.timebandit.tv.

Kanter said that filming with the Hillstrands and the Time Bandit has been a good choice for Geico.

"It's a really good fit," he said. "They're good guys. It's a great show."

Kanter did not know when the commercials would appear on TV.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.

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