Fame Game

The Deadliest Catch guys started out battling for crab, but now they’re battling for Facebook fans and sponsorship deals.

Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand of Deadliest Catch
Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand of Deadliest Catch

So that was weird.Deadliest Catch, the Discovery Channel series that began as a bunch of dudes in mullets chasing crabs (which is also more or less the story of my hometown), has become an international basic cable mega-hit. And the men behind the hockey hair — captains Sig Hansen and the brothers Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand — have become truck-stop heartthrobs and cyber-hyper-celebrities. Tickets to their show at the INB range from $20 to $75 — within spitting distance of prices commanded by KISS.

The men used to measure success in gross-tonnage of shellfish. Now it’s all about social networking, endorsement deals and opera-house revenue. Clams, son. Here’s the scorecard:


The Hillstrands: John (personal) John (fan page) Andy (fan page) = pushing 54,000 friends/followers
pushing 473,000
Edge: HANSEN >>>


@captjohnathan: Suburbia: where they tear out the trees and then name the streets after them.

@capt_andy: No better place for me to be than next to the guy blowing shit up! [regarding being seated next to Toby Keith’s pyrotechnics crew]

@northwesternsig: Watching the Royal Wedding. My wife and I wish them the Best!!!



Hansen swears (in a lengthy, didactic web ad) by Fleet Broadband satellite something or other. The thing that keeps his iPhone signal at five bars while his crew is battling hypothermia. Niche stuff.

The Hillstrands have done a series of commercials for Geico. In one, they spend a day at the spa. In another the Geico Caveman is their personal chef. Don’t disturb him while he’s garnishing.

Their boat, the Time Bandit, has its own vodka.



@captjohnathan: DC Marathon tommorrow

@TobyKeithMusic: with Capt Andy/ Deadliest Catch on the bus @Meadowbrook Fri. there MAY have been some bday @WildShotMezcal consumed

@northwesternsig: Watch dancing with the stars tonight. My wife and I are there now to see the show!!



How do you remain true to the buttoned-down life of a crab-boat captain when the bright lights of Hollywood come a-callin’?

Hansen kept the dusty blonde mullet — even plastered it on the side of his fish sticks (see below). His Facebook photo boasts as much hair as face. COULD (STILL) BE MISTAKEN FOR: mid-’90s Gary Busey with a less-lazy eye.

The Hillstrands didn’t stray far — Andy’s compact stature and sideburn-less coif have always made him look a like a beat cop — but Jonathan cut his black mop of a mullet short and trimmed his bushy goatee into a handlebar. COULD BE MISTAKEN FOR: your average NASCAR fan.

Edge: HANSEN >>>


God forbid, right? But seriously, the trend winds in Hollywood are as hazardous on reality-show stars as Bering Sea squalls are on greenhorns. Luckily, the captains are diversifying:

Hansen played a crab boat in Cars 2, the worst film Pixar has ever made. He also has a full line of frozen breaded fish products, including cod, pollock and “Captain Sig Hidden Treasures,” which we assume is squid organ meat or something. Only available at Walmart, natch. POISED TO BECOME: The Kenny Rogers of Seafood

The Hillstrands have just broadcast the spin-off program “Alaskan Monster Hunt.” It was supposed to be a series called Hillstranded but ended up being a one-off special. We’re holding out hope, though: We’d watch them hunt for chupacabras and the Jersey Devil any day. POISED TO BECOME: The Milli Vanilli of cryptids

Edge: HANSEN >>>


It’s kinda lame to declare a tie, but Hansen’s 1) hella more famous and 2) hella more boring, so there you have it.

An Evening with Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers • Sun. July 24, 7 pm • INB • 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • 325-SEAT • ticketswest.com

Alice in Wonderland @ Spokane Children's Theatre

Fridays-Sundays. Continues through June 5
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About The Author

Luke Baumgarten

Luke Baumgarten is commentary contributor and former culture editor of the Inlander. He is a creative strategist at Seven2 and co-founder of Terrain.