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SHOOTING STARS: Snakes alive! Animal Planet does ‘Venom in Vegas’

  Donald Schultz is no Indiana Jones. The intrepid Indy (as all “Raiders of the Lost Ark” fans will recall) has a definite aversion to snakes.
  Not so for Animal Planet “Wild Recon” star Donald Schultz, who’s spending 10 days on the Strip — literally — with dozens of slithery reptilian companions.
  It’s a working vacation, as Schultz and the snakes team up for “Venom in Vegas,” a two-hour “Wild Recon” special that was scheduled to start shooting Sunday in a 16-by-20-foot glass enclosure outside O’Sheas Casino.
  It’s hardly a luxury suite, but it serves Schultz’s purposes: to research deadly snakes and call attention to the plight of people who must live with them.
  “Five million people get bitten by snakes” annually, Schultz notes — and the ones who die live “in developing countries,” with limited access to medical care. “The problem can be fixed.”
  Besides, “snakes don’t want to kill people,” he insists, hoping that his snake commune will show that “you can be close to snakes without deadly encounters.” (No doubt he hopes so.)
  When Schultz checked into his glass Strip suite, located between O’Sheas and Margaritaville, there already were 50 snakes inside.     Plans call for five additional snakes to join the party every day.
  The first part of the two-hour special was filmed in Central Africa, where it took 10 days to gather many of the featured snakes, Schultz says.
  Some locals will be getting into the act as well: the Mojave rattler, which has a deadlier venom than many rattlesnakes, “more akin to the black mamba,” according to Schultz. And the black mamba, he says, “is the scariest,” in part because it has the deadliest venom.
  During his days on location, Schultz will be milking venom from the snakes, to be shipped around the world for venom research.
  “Yes, it’s crazy, it’s for publicity,” Schultz says of the 10-day stunt, “but the message is what this is about.”
  Stay tuned to next week’s Shooting Stars for more about Schultz’s snaky sojourn.
  Fight on: Las Vegas continues its reign as the fight capital of the world with another season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which begins its 11th go-round this weekend in Las Vegas.
  “There’s not a lot of shows that make it through this far,” notes Brian Diamond, senior vice president of sports and specials for Spike TV, the show’s cable home. “It just keeps going from strength to strength.”
  This season’s unsigned mixed martial arts fighters, all middleweights, were still being cast last week, with 28 fighters under consideration for 14 slots.
  It’s much like jury selection, Diamond acknowledges.
  “History has told us, until they’re all there, they’re not all there,” he comments, citing the show’s second season, when “two guys who couldn’t take being around the cameras” eventually “quit the show.”
  That’s unlikely to happen now — especially not with Season 11’s returning coaches: Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz. (Liddell coached during “Ultimate Fighter’s” first season; Ortiz coached during the third season.) And, of course, Liddell has defeated Ortiz twice in UFC bouts.
  “The story between those two guys is tremendous,” Diamond comments. Once friends, they’re now “more or less adversaries” — and their relationship should add to the 11th-season tension.
  “Each year, we get a new set of characters,” he notes, “with a serious emphasis on character — because they are.”
  The 12-episode “Ultimate Fighter” will shoot here for the next five or six weeks; the show returns to Spike in March.
  What’s ‘Next’: The FX cable channel’s “DVD on TV” will be showing “Next” — one of Nicolas Cage’s numerous made-in-Vegas movies — on Feb. 2. That explains why hosts Dave Holmes and Jennifer Lothrop are scheduled to be in Las Vegas today, shooting “host wraps” to be featured during the “Next” telecast. Fremont Street Experience is one of the planned locations — which makes perfect sense, considering it’s one of the places the futuristic thriller filmed during its 2006 shoot.
  ‘Tools’ time: With the International Builders’ Show in town, so is the DIY cable channel’s “Cool Tools.”
  Two camera crews will be shooting Tuesday through Thursday at the Las Vegas Convention Center; one will follow “Cool Tools” host Chris Grundy and the other will trail guest host Matt Blashaw while they check out the latest building innovations for separate segments, to be featured during the show’s regular half-hour telecasts, plus a one-hour special.
  Still rolling: History’s reality hit “Pawn Stars” continues production at Gold and Silver Pawn Shop, with the Harrison family (patriarch Richard, son Rick and Rick’s son Corey) continuing in the production spotlight.
  And CBS’ “Let’s Make a Deal” resumes its usual Thursday-through-Sunday schedule at the Tropicana Pavilion, with 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. audience calls. Free tickets are available through Jan. 31, either by calling (888) 706-8767 or going online to http://www.cbs.com/daytime/lets_make_a_deal/tickets.
 

 

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