This wouldn’t be a house party that needed beer goggles. That much was obvious to the Budweiser executives plotting Bud House, a reality television series set in South Africa during the FIFA World Cup tournament. The house would be home to 32 attractive soccer enthusiasts, one from each competing nation. It would have a palm-tree-lined patio, two swimming pools, four bars and the biggest flat-screen television in South Africa.
But something—or someone—was missing from the concept, says Andrew Sneyd, Budweiser’s global advertising director. What would keep the 32 diehard supporters from rioting over a handball or offside call? The cry for help went out on Craigslist one month before the June 11 kick-off: “Casting: big normal-looking funny Canadian men.” A Canuck would be responsible for keeping the peace, in a role we can all say cheers to—the house bartender.
Peacekeeping is a role Canadians take very seriously, of course. And a Canadian’s impartiality in this matter would be assured by the fact that Canada didn’t qualify for the World Cup (and hasn’t since 1986). A casting agency found Danilo, a 39-year-old veteran Toronto bartender, in Los Angeles, pursuing an acting career. On his way to Bud House, near Cape Town, Danilo had to give up two things—his lifelong support for the Italian team, and his last name. Budweiser won’t let it be used as part of the security for the cast.
“It’s the easiest gig I’ve ever had,” Danilo says from behind the bar. Budweiser is the only drink on the menu. The only question is: can or bottle? “I did show them something,” he says, opening the bar fridge and removing a glass. “Frosted glasses. Very Canadian. Everyone loved it.”
In Bud House, the contestants are always decked out in their team’s colours, no matter which match is on. There are egos, and three tickets to the final game, at stake. Two tickets will go to the contestants from the countries that play in the July 11 final. The third will go to the person who wins the most points during the show’s daily challenges, which include ostrich riding, quad biking and shark diving. (All of which can be seen at budhouse.com.)
Danilo’s primary responsibility is to help everyone get along. This means laying down the law when countries are misbehaving. “The bartender sees everything,” he says. On the first night, he spotted Lolade from Nigeria quietly change the channel when the Italian team was introduced. Ilaria, the Italian contestant, was confused—and then outraged. That kind of prank could get ugly in a game situation, Danilo says. This resulted in a new house rule—the remotes are taken away from the participants at game time. And when North Korea’s Daniel antagonized Greece’s Maria over her team’s 2-0 loss to South Korea, Danilo consoled her. That North Korean guy is a pill, he says—he may have to cut him off at some point.
When peace has been negotiated, the Canadian bartender is relieved from duty by his Russian or Irish counterpart. Away from the world stage, the perks of the job emerge. While the other guests sleep in dorm-style rooms, Danilo has his own private room. Inside, he turns on the TV, throws open the shutters that separate the bathroom and living room, and watches the action of a soccer game from the bathtub, drinking a Bud. Not that he would brag about his digs to the other countries. “That’s not nice,” he says.