Ear to the Ground

STAR WARRIOR PBS's Nature revs up its Hollywood engine May 19 when it airs "The Polar Bears of Churchill" with EWAN (Don't Call Me Obi-Wan) McGREGOR. It's the lastest installment in a series of celeb-hosted episodes—in recent years, producers have steered JULIA ROBERTS, ROBIN WILLIAMS, and MEG RYAN into the wilds. Though he doesn't wield a light saber, McGregor does tote a tranquilizer gun around Churchill, Manitoba, where in the fall, people and polar bears clash on a daily basis—albeit mostly at the town dump.

Illustration by David Miller

Illustration by David Miller

BOXERS OR BIKINI BRIEFS? What would make big-wave rider NOAH JOHNSON shave his legs, slip into a dark-blue bikini, glue a blond wig on his head, and paddle out in front of his peers at Oahu's Banzai Pipeline? Simple: Cash. In February, Universal Pictures recruited Johnson, 28, and several female surfers—including pro ROCHELLE BALLARD—to double for their star KATE BOSWORTH in Blue Crush, a teen surf flick due out in August. His modest bikini bottoms ("more like short shorts") kept him wedgie-free, and Johnson came away with one lasting insight about Gidgethood: "Shaving," he says, "is no fun."
HANG 007, BRAH Johnson isn't the only kahuna doing the stunt-double thing; this past winter, LAIRD HAMILTON carried a rubber machine gun down the face of Jaws, one of Hawaii's most massive waves, for the opening sequence of a new 007 film (working title Bond 20). The PIERCE BROSNAN vehicle is due out in November.

COLD WAR What's the price of polar diplomacy? If you're ARTUR "CHILLY" CHILINGAROV, it's $57,000. That's what the U.S. State Department billed the deputy chairman of the Russian parliament for having the National Guard airlift him from the South Pole earlier this year after his biplane froze up. Though Chilingarov, 62, initially refused to cough up the rescue fee, he eventually relented. Getting him to remove his Antonov-3 aircraft, still tied down at 90 south, is another matter. "Leave it at the Pole," he suggests, "as a museum for the Americans."
—Contributors: Monique Cole, Jason Daley, and Natasha Singer

Pending trips, projects, & causes

Leigh Donovan
Eight-time U.S. national mountain-biking champion
"I'm doing skills camps in Boulder City, Nevada, and coaching. I recently retired because of the stress of racing, but I will never leave the sport as long as I am welcome."

Stephan Venables
Renowned Himalayan alpinist

"In the next six months, I need to earn money! So I am working on a stunning new big-format book on Everest, to be published by the Royal Geographical Society for the 50th anniversary of Hillary and Norgay's ascent in 2003."

Captain Paul Watson
Founder, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

"Sea Shepherd ships will be waiting in the Galápagos and Cocos Islands Marine Reserves to pounce upon pirate fishing operations in these two World Heritage Sites. If they come, we will bust them."

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