Skateboard champion becomes Opp student

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 29, 2003

The secret is out! The wheels were in motion Monday, but it wasn't until 5 p.m. Wednesday that Dillon Bullard knew where he was going to be spending the next three days.

Bullard is the Opp High School student who was chosen to participate in the ABC Family Channel's reality TV show "Switched." The show takes people from different areas or lifestyles and switches them, making each one take on the other's responsibilities and duties.

Dillon had been tagged to be on the show much earlier, but an injury sustained in an automobile wreck at Homecoming postponed his appearance. In fact, Bullard has been afraid that the show's producers would drop him off the list completely.

Not hardly. The producer, Mykelle Sabin arrived Monday night to get the action going on

the great switch. The camera crew arrived Tuesday, and by 5 p.m., Dillon knew he was heading out - to San Diego.

His replacement, he was told, was a person named "Andy."

Andy? Another high school kid, one from San Diego, perhaps, with similar interests in music, drama, dancing and cheerleading? Another senior who was also the editor of his yearbook and the president of the student council?

Ummm Š not exactly.

The "Andy" in this case was Andy MacDonald, the world's premier skateboarder, heir to the Tony Hawk crown, and holder of eight skateboarding gold medals. This Andy MacDonald has his own line of clothing, as well as his own video games.

He's also 25, married, and was somewhat startled to find himself heading back to high school.

"They didn't tell him until this (Thursday) morning," said Ruth Walker, principal at OHS. "He said 'They didn't tell me I was going to have to go back to school!'"

Few knew who the surprise celebrity "switcher" would be, including the student body. "The skateboarders recognized his name," said Walker. "He was very popular at break this morning."

The morning break was the first glimpse most of the student body got of MacDonald, who was following Bullard's college-prep tough load of classes, with physics first, followed by biology, where Bullard is a teaching assistant. At the break, however, the students gathered around.

"The shy kids were not shy today," said Walker with a laugh.

MacDonald, used to fame, seemed easy and even amused with the entourage of camera and sound men, producers and production assistants. At lunch time, and off this regimented schedule, he offered to show the students his stuff, giving an impromptu skateboard demonstration in the front of the school.

"He even jumped off the roof," said Walker. "Liked to have scared me to death. The students absolutely loved it."

MacDonald even took the time to show a fan a few moves, and he'll be working with some other young skateboarders during his stay for a demonstration Saturday.

Although MacDonald's schedule seems strict to the second, the crew and students have had to allow for many and sudden changes as the filming progresses. Because the film crew work under union guidelines, their work time has to be monitored carefully. MacDonald was to appear in the Opp Christmas Parade Thursday night, and because of that, the crew took a longer lunch than expected and the skateboard star missed his time in the yearbook office - time he knew nothing about.

"We were disappointed," said Rhonda Boland, the yearbook sponsor. "The yearbook staff was really looking forward to it."

She said she had been told MacDonald would participate in the yearbook planning on Friday, and laughed about the idea of giving him a detention slip for missing the class.

"Dillon wouldn't have gotten away with it," she said.

After lunch, and before his last school activity of the day, MacDonald lounged in the main lobby during one of those "hurry up and wait" fugue states of television production.

"What's next?" he asked one of the production crew.

"You'll see," she chirped, then laughed. "Are you getting used to hearing that ? You'll see?"

"I have no idea what's going on now," said MacDonald. "They keep me in the dark."

Keeping MacDonald - and lots of other people - in the dark is what makes the show work. Bullard's life has been revealed piecemeal to MacDonald as the day has progressed, from his first peek into Bullard's backpack (and a chewed-up pen) to finding out - eventually - that he has to be the OHS mascot at the basketball games at Pleasant Home School Friday night.

"I went into the classroom to tell him that he was the student body council president," said Walker. "He had to call a meeting on the spur of the moment."

It was late afternoon

before he found out he was also a member of the cheerleading squad. He still doesn't know about the mascot Š

"I want to break out that text messenger thing and see what Dillon's up to…" MacDonald joked. "Let's see, it's about noon there…"

The electronic

text messenger is the only way he has communicated with his switching partner, and that was only once, when he messaged Bullard with "Let's Switch." The two are not only not allowed to contact each other, they can't call home for any reason.

"Dillon's cell phone was confiscated," said Walker.

In the meantime, the production crew, fresh from Los Angeles, is trying to settle into small town life.

"I think they were a little stunned," said Walker.

According to one crew member, Jenny Priebe, the crew has gone to one other small town in Idaho that has only 600 residents. She herself has had fun.

"I had a teacher yell at me when I was in the hall," she said. "She asked me if I was a student."

While going back to high school may seem like a tough job, Bullard's is tougher. In just three days, he's supposed to learn how to skateboard - like Andy MacDonald. Not only that, but he'll be staying at MacDonald's house - with MacDonald's wife.

"He'll be living in a large home in San Diego," said Walker. "It's called the 'Fun House.'"

Whether or not Bullard can master the board will be seen Saturday.

"There were lots of changes to Saturday's schedule," said Walker, who said conflicting flight schedules and appointments were to blame. The plan now is to hold the "reunion" of MacDonald and Bullard in downtown Opp, from 9:45 to 12:30. They will get to compare notes, and share interviews, but they will also get to demonstrate some of the things they have learned.

Walker said there will be a parade Saturday, featuring local talent, from the marching band to singers, and Mayor Jerry Boothe will declare it "Dillon Bullard Day" and welcome Bullard home.

"They will converse," said Walker. "Then there will be an exhibition down Main Street."

Besides Bullard and MacDonald, the exhibition will feature local skateboarders.

"He (MacDonald) is going to teach them," said Walker.

Although the filming of the show has caused a little disruption, Walker said most of the students have been very excited and have followed the producers directions to "act naturally" in front of the camera.

"They've interviewed a lot of them," she said.

How many of the interviews make it past the cutting room floor remains to be seen. According to Walker, the producers plan to air this episode sometime during the winter sweeps week, although no definite date has been set.