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08/20/2010

The F-bomb-laced path less traveled

What were you doing during the summer of 1988?

Motor home pitchman Jack Rebney was having an expletive-laced meltdown in Iowa.

Years later, his fly-swatting, F-bomb-laced tirade surfaced as one of the Internet's first viral videos.

University of Texas at Austin film professor Ben Steinbauer was fascinated by the very funny -- as in someone slips on a banana peel funny -- burst of wacky outbursts of outrage.  But he wondered about something else.

Whatever happened to this guy; the middle-aged bundle of frustration named Jack Rebney?

The documentary "Winnebago Man," directed, co-written and co-produced by Steinbauer, takes the audience along on a cold path to find what turns out to be a self-professed hermit living in the hills of Northern California.

"Winnebago Man" doesn't aim to bring down institutions that have done wrong by the little guy, as Oscar-winning documentarian Michael Moore ("Bowling for Columbine") likes to do. 

This one's all about a little guy; an angry little guy who retreated from society.  Now in his mid-70s, Rebney has mellowed only slightly.  He's quite willing to stand in front of his local Walmart and rant against the politicians that have and are, as my own father used to say, "sending this country to hell in a hand basket."

Steinbauer makes his feature film debut with "Winnebago Man."  Soft-spoken and perhaps a little shy, he may be missing some revelations by letting Rebney call all the shots.

We all have a story to tell, however.  And Rebney's reclusive life as a reluctant, but lately compliant (you'll see how in the documentary) "angry man" is fascinating, if not terribly revealing.

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