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Mounted to the wall by the foyer is another of Heene's inventions — the Bear Scratch. The surface of this three-foot-long pole mimics the rough bark of a tree, and people can rub their backs against it, bear style. "You never see a bear walk out in the woods, break off a branch, and scratch his back," Richard whines in another highly entertaining promo video. "No! He uses the entire tree!" The scratcher is only $19.99 at bearscratch.com. Because he realized the device comes in handy for exercising, he created a companion "Bearobics" video.
Richard pulls out a hand-cranked machine built to shake nearly empty jars of ketchup and peanut butter, thus allowing extraction of the last, hard-to-reach contents. The average ketchup bottle gets thrown away with 11 servings left in it, he says. "Think of the money that could be saved!" At yourshakedown.com, he demonstrates it in a video while wearing his bathrobe. "Restaurants are going to love" this machine, Richard says. He's selling it for $179.99.
Heene says he has also invented a new type of shirt ("but I can't really talk about that right now"), a fast way to lay tile flooring, a method of carrying things that makes it feel as though the weight has been halved, and a magnetic motor. "Someone should invest in me," he says. "I have hundreds of ideas."
Oh, and there's one other notable video in the Richard Heene oeuvre — it includes a song called "Aluminum Man" that he made with his friend, the singer Smokey Miles (who also performs as Count Smokula, a 496-year-old, fez-wearing vampire). In the video, Richard is wrapped in a superhero costume made entirely of tin foil, jumping on his truck transformer, and hiding behind trees. Miles sings, "Aluminum man/Aluminum man/Lives in an aluminum can/Cooks his eggs in an aluminum frying pan/He's got the best world-saving plan."
There's no accompanying product to sell with this one. Richard explains, "People knew we lived in the neighborhood, and they were very curious to see anything I'm doing — 'What's he building now?' People would drive by with cameras." To freak out nosy passersby, he would sometimes put on an Iron Man mask he'd made for the kids. "I thought, 'Maybe this will add a little humor to the whole element and people will leave me alone and stop calling me the other thing.'"
Once he's off probation, will the Heenes do a reality show if offered? "If I'm making a million dollars selling the Shakedown," Richard speculates, "and I'm offered $50,000 for a reality show, why would I bother?"
Not long after the flying saucer incident, the kids were pulled out of public school. Richard says he got mad when Ryo's teacher had students write down three reasons they deserved presents from Santa Claus. "What if you're Jewish?" he asks.
The Heenes don't celebrate Christmas, Richard explains, partly because it's too commercialized and also because he can't bear to kill a perfectly good tree. The boys shrug and say they don't mind.
Mayumi teaches the kids in the mornings. They have to meet Florida standards and pass the FCAT to proceed to the next grade, but lessons are unconventional. For reading lessons, for instance, they study comic books. Bradford also likes the Goosebumps series. Ryo just finished reading Dune.
Richard says he loves that now, "our boys don't have as many no's throughout the day. I want them to have a lot of yeses."
Afternoons are largely reserved for music. After seeing his mom jam on Wife Swap, Bradford got a guitar from his grandma. The family found a bass for Falcon and a $100 drum kit for Ryo.
The trio learned to play their instruments by watching instructional videos on YouTube. Richard now coaches them as they rehearse. In a regular session, Richard might segue into a silly performance voice. "All right, ladies! I'm Nick Cannon from America's Got Talent."
The boys do breathing exercises and then rehearse their songs while a video camera rolls. Afterward, they sit on the couch, each with a yellow legal notepad, to do a critique. If a neighbor kid is over, he's given a pad too. In chicken scratch, the boys may note that a song is off-key or that Falcon doesn't look energetic enough, just like a football team reviewing game tape.
Richard says he encouraged the kids to write stories and then poetry. When they went to write their first lyrics, he told them to describe something they believed in. Hence "World of Warcraft."
Other tunes include "Again," which, according to their website, is about Bradford getting kissed by two girls, and "Candy Cane," about "a hot chick dressed in a sexy Mrs. Santa Claus outfit." "Latte Vampiress" references "an annoying girl who used to get us in trouble. We think it's because she drank too much coffee."
The website announces, "You've seen them on Wife Swap," but makes no reference to any balloons. The boys began playing publicly when they asked the owners of Euphoria Emporium, a local coffee shop/hookah bar, if they could use the location to shoot a video for "Latte Vampiress," and it was suggested they play during live music night.