Mariposa man, Internet's latest viral star for 'double rainbow' video, hires agent

July 14, 2010 

Paul Vasquez, aka Hungry Bear, takes a picture in front of a Yosemite waterfall.

MERCED SUN-STAR

In little more than a week, YouTube has changed Paul Vasquez's life. The 47-year-old Mariposa resident is the Internet's latest viral star. His 3½-minute video clip of a double rainbow on his property has had more than four million views and he's been participating in about three media interviews a day.

"It's been building like crazy. All this stuff is being thrown at me," he said. He has an agent and a manager, and he's getting ready for a trip to Los Angeles, where he's scheduled to appear on the Comedy Central program "Tosh.0." and the KROQ-FM morning radio show "Kevin and Bean." Vasquez's video shows a set of rainbows near his property just east of Mariposa.

But it's his reaction -- not the natural phenomenon -- that grabbed the attention of so many Internet users. In the clip, Vasquez switches between hysterical laughing, sobbing and an occasional yell.

An Auto-Tuned remix by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band The Gregory Brothers went on sale Tuesday night, and it's doing "quite well" according to band members Evan, Michael and Andrew Gregory. The brothers have agreed to donate half the proceeds from the song's iTunes sales to Vasquez.

"When the song came out, I really liked it," Vasquez said. "I thought it was pretty cool, but it also seemed at first like they kind of dissed me. I thought these guys were cashing in, but then I got an e-mail from somebody offering to split the money. I found out they had the right attitude the whole time. They came up with the idea without me asking them."

The Gregory Brothers are themselves Internet stars, known best for their series of comedic "Auto-Tune the News" YouTube videos that set digitally manipulated news clips to music. They found Vasquez's rainbow video when it still had just a few thousand views.

"I loved the video when I saw it, and I wanted to make a quick remix," Michael Gregory said. "I've done lots of remixes before, but this is the one I've done that most involved the direction the speaker himself has taken. I took into account the rhythm in which he was speaking, and his pitch, before I went about making the beat. I wanted to translate, as purely as I could, the experience that had taken place and make that into a song."

The remixed video has received more than two million views, and the brothers began getting flooded with requests to make the song available for download. They uploaded it for sale at iTunes, where it's available for 99 cents. Half the proceeds from the song's sales will be given to Vasquez, they said.

"He seemed really excited about it," Michael Gregory said. "He doesn't want to exploit this in the wrong way, and he thought having the song available for download would be a fair way to earn money."

The Gregory Brothers performed a "stripped-down" live version of the rainbow song at Saturday's VidCon, a gathering of online video enthusiasts in Los Angeles.

"Everybody had seen the original video and they were pumped about the song," Evan Gregory said. "There's a very high likelihood that the rainbow song will make more appearances in live shows."

Vasquez, who describes himself as "basically poor," says he's hoping the song's sales will help lift him out of poverty.

"I've been living on less than $5,000 a year for the last six years. I've been really poor. ... it was getting to the point where I needed tires; my car is old and I was having to limit the number of times I could go into town."

He started worrying about how he was going to pay his bills, so he went to a sweat lodge, an American Indian cultural ceremony, to get answers. That was six weeks ago, not long before talk show host Jimmy Kimmel linked his thousands of Twitter followers to Vasquez's video.

"I find that whenever I ask for something, it comes back so much bigger and better than I can imagine," Vasquez said. "God loves me."

YouTube allows users whose videos obtain a certain number of views to enter into a revenue-sharing agreement, but Vasquez doesn't want to exploit the event that he considers a sign from God. So he's been thinking hard about other offers that started rolling in after the rainbow video gained in popularity.

He was contacted on July 4 by Jeff Blalock of Heffenesence Productions. Vasquez has previously worked for Blalock as a photographer for a local car and music festival.

"He told me that I'm an Internet celebrity, and it was then that I knew it was real. It was like being recognized from a movie, when you hit the big time," Vasquez said. He hired Blalock as his manager.

Another man, who Vasquez describes as "money hungry," is acting as his agent.

"He understands that I won't compromise on things, and he respects that. I guess I need someone who is money hungry, because that'll never be me. I know that rainbow came to me from the creator," he added. "I'm willing to make money on me and my work, but the stuff the creator showed to me is not for sale."

Vasquez appeared on ABC News' "Good Morning America" over the weekend, in which he told host Bill Weir that he is a pot smoker -- with a medical marijuana card. He maintains, however, that he wasn't high on drugs when the video was shot.

"I was just on pure rainbow power," he told Weir. "I was by myself, and it was just the spirit of the universe influencing me."

He's also participated in interviews with Playboy Radio, MTV and a radio station in New Zealand.

Online editor Brandon Bowers can be reached at (209) 385-2464 0r bbowers@mercedsun-star.com.

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