Hotles quarter horse farm near Winfield offers a respite from
the pressures of his job rigging lighting and other stage equipment
for television productions such as Jeopardy and Wheel
Dave Hotle is hundreds of
miles from his next job but already his work has begun. As he pores
over blueprints and engineering drawings spread across the kitchen counter
of his home near Win-field he begins to envision the Grand Ole Opry
and what he will soon do there.
In a few weeks the television
show Wheel of Fortune will go on the road, taping episodes
in Nashville. But before Pat Sajak and Vanna White take the stage Dave
will be there.
Dave is a production rigger.
His job is to hang the assorted lighting trusses and set pieces needed
to produce a TV show or stage event. But unlike technicians based in
entertainment capitals on the West and East Coasts, Dave lives in Missouri
and travels from job to job. His work is particularly specialized because
with jobs like the upcoming Wheel shoot in Nashville, he
must adapt to an ever-changing set.
Every job is like starting
from scratch, he says. You know the wheel is going to be
there and the puzzle board is going to be there but everything else,
all the lighting, and all the carpentry, it all changes. On top of that,
the buildings always different.
Now 39, Dave got his start
nearly 20 years ago working as a roadie, setting up gear for a St. Louis-area
band. One job led to another and he ended up working for a staging company
that sent him to a seminar to learn rigging the job of hanging
Dave has toured with the
rock band Stone Temple Pilots, the Mannheim Steamroller ensemble and
with Latino heartthrob Ricky Martin. Life on the road with a band was
everything its rumored to be, he says. But along with wild parties
came long days, hard work and not particularly good pay.
I didnt make
a whole lot of money back then but it was fun, he says. Its
not glamourous, though. Youre living on a bus with 10 guys. Thats
no fun. And being away from home for six months is no good.
It was during those days
that the Cuivre River Electric Coopera-tive member earned the simple
nickname hes carried even after becoming the chief production
rigger on many jobs.
I was on a tour with
five other Daves bus driver Dave, carpenter Dave, rigger Dave.
Ive never introduced myself as Rigger Dave but the name stuck,
In time, his skills and easy-going
manner led Dave to the top riggers in the entertainment world. I
just shut up, worked for them and learned a lot, he says.
One of the things he learned
was that TV offers a more comfortable life than rock and roll.
Television is a totally different world, Dave says. Youre
paid a lot better. You work civil hours. They put you in the best hotels
and they treat you with respect.
Besides Wheel of Fortune,
Dave gets steady work with the Jeopardy television show,
beauty pageants such as Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen, and other
major productions, including the NBA All-Star Game and national political
Despite working in celebrity-packed
environments, Dave says nearly all his time is spent among the crew.
He seldom has direct contact with the stars. Its not really
professional to approach them, he says.
Still, some contact is inevitable.
Most of the people
you meet are really down to earth, Dave says. Vanna White,
shes a very, very nice lady. She cut my birthday cake for me one
Dave has plenty to keep him
busy without trying to meet stars, though. Coordinating the needs of
the various departments in-volved in a production requires far more
than placing the lights so Vanna looks her best. Dave once suspended
an airplane and even rigged a pair of mini vans so they appeared to
jump a 16-foot-high wall of video screens.
Its a challenge,
Dave says. Youve got a big puzzle youve got to solve
and youve got to do it right.
Since large productions often hoist as much as 30 tons, doing it right
means the riggers first responsibility is making sure that what
gets hung stays hung.
Its the most
serious job on the road. If you dont do it right people can get
hurt or die, Dave says, adding that there are risks to the riggers
themselves. Ive witnessed two guys dying on the job already.
One fell and one got electrocuted.
Despite the challenges and
risks Dave says he enjoys the freedom that comes with location work.
I consider myself the luckiest guy in the industry, he says.
I have the best of all worlds. I get to travel and do the hustle
bustle. I go out of town for 10 days or two weeks and then come back
here and just decompress.
Daves retreat is a
15-acre farm between Troy and Winfield where he and his wife, Carole
Roberts, raise quarter horses. While nearly everyone he works with lives
in California or New York Dave says his Missouri home, complete with
swimming pool and tennis court, offers a respite from the highly charged
The California folks
think its the greatest thing in the world to be from California.
I think its the greatest thing in the world to be from here,
New York City, I just
dont get it. People love it. But Im like, its really
nice to go there for a couple weeks, but to get home and get on a tractor
is really cool.