Mariposan says his YouTube video stirred a media frenzy

07/15/2010 11:39 PM

07/16/2010 1:37 PM

MERCED — 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 4 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 version of the video 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 of 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 also are Internet stars, best known 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 2 million views, and the brothers began getting flooded with requests to make the song available for download.

"He seemed really excited about it," Michael Gregory said of Vasquez receiving half of the iTunes proceeds. "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 self-described "basically poor" Vasquez hopes 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," he said. "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 he considers a sign from God. So he's been thinking hard about other offers that started rolling in after the rainbow video gained popularity.

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.

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