METAL When Keith Bennett moves a piano, it stays moved.
If you've lived in Boston for more than a few months, you've surely felt the pang of "Whoa" that runs up and down your spine the first time you see their trucks: huge black-and-gold behemoths stocked with intimidatingly jacked dudes all dressed in black, blazing down the street like Mongol hordes on the rampage.
I'm talking, of course, about Deathwish Piano Movers. If you have a problem, and that problem is, say, a really heavy piano, and no one else can help . . . they are the go-to crew. Thanks to a new Travel Channel reality show, appropriately called Deathwish Movers (debuting March 16 at 10 pm), this Boston institution will join Charlestown bank robbers and Lowell crackhead boxers as yet another of our cherished idiosyncrasies to be shared with the world.
Keith Bennett, as a longtime part of the DW crew, assures me that the badass swagger of the Deathwish cadre is real.
"I'm not gonna lie: being part of the brotherhood, driving around with the windows down, cranking metal in the truck, you feel like a rock star, you feel like a pirate. It's awesome."
Deathwish makes their bread and butter pulling off impossible feats of moving-truck derring-do, from extracting 100-year-old pianos from tiny apartments in narrow alleyways to moving multi-ton ice sculptures. And for all their toughness and machismo, it takes a very steady hand to pull off these intricate jobs.
"Originally," Keith says, "this was going to be a tech show, about guys doing logistically impossible things. I mean, that's kind of what the company was founded on in '71, Vietnam-vet engineers taking their experience with rope and pulley, block-and-tackle stuff in the jungles and applying it here." However, once producer Chris Stout met the DW crew, he knew he needed to take a different approach. "With us, this show had the potential to be more psychological drama, more comedy. I mean, we're these lunatic pirate geniuses who risk death daily!"
For Bennett, a long-haired tattooed dude with decades of experience in the trenches of Boston's hardcore/metal world (a veteran of Wrecking Crew, he currently fronts the bruiser crew Panzerbastard), it was a no-brainer that he would become the metal clown of the show. "My natural personality is like a court jester. So even if I play it up a bit on the show, anyone who knows me knows it's not fake. But at the same time, my big fear is that I don't want to become, like, Puck from The Real World. I mean, I don't want to wind up at some Marlborough car show next to David Hasselhoff, like, 'Meet that idiot guy from Deathwish next Sunday!' "
That's not likely to happen, though: the show itself is far more about the Wages of Fear–esque tension of the job itself than the reality-TV-manufactured catfighting.
"We're piano movers, in the end, not TV stars," says Bennett. "We're gonna keep doing this long after the cameras are gone. But at the same time," — and with this, Bennett beams with a devious grin — "we know we're gonna make good TV, because we're fucking psychos."