What Would You Do?

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Montclair and I was out with my family. We left Next Door after having brunch and decided to walk off our meal. We had barely passed the restaurant (I remember stopping to help my daughter button her coat) when I noticed something playing out on the sidewalk a few feet ahead of us. There were three young men laughing and harassing an elderly woman. I could hear them taunting her.

The next thing I know, I was up in their face, telling them to stop, as was my husband. And when things escalated, in addition to calling the police, I also took a picture of the offenders, so if they got away, I could post it on Baristanet, because that’s what I would do.

What happens next (unless we end up on the cutting room floor) will be on an upcoming episode of What Would You Do? Yes, we were caught on camera by ABC’s John Quinones and his crew, who Baristaville readers will recall are no strangers to Montclair.

The three young men in the picture above aren’t punks you need to be on the lookout for — they are actors, as was the elderly woman. Still, we were pretty unnerved by the whole thing, until Quinones, with camera crew in tow, came walking toward us. His friendly face and easygoing manner (it helped him score the first Chilean miner interview) must be the reason folks don’t go crazy — as these real-life ethical encounters are definitely designed to push your buttons. What you do feel is relieved that what you just experienced didn’t actually happen. And also a little bit had, although I think my kids learned something important, even if it meant seeing their mom get pretty angry at some strangers on the street.

And it could have been worse — as some of the scenarios get pretty heated (like the anti-Semitic bakery employee who is really an actor — recognize the bakery? — or the baby left in the car on Church Street).

After we had been interviewed — my kids were amazing — and got home, I checked my email. Sure enough, a tipster had sent us the picture below, sharing they had seen Quinones and the crew. Because that’s what Baristaville does.

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  1. I hate these shows. Seriously. Lets provoke people and then pass judgment on them based on how they react. Can we ban them from Baristaville?

    I hate confrontation. Hate it and fear it. I have no idea how I would react. I like to think I would step in, but I’m just as likely to stand out of the way a bit and call the cops rather than intervene directly. And what would the cameras show? Me walking away without doing anything.

  2. Getting caught by Quinones – it’s one of my worst nightmares! I often wonder how people don’t have a heart attack on the spot when he appears out of the woodwork. Good thing you stepped in, and I look forward to seeing the episode.

  3. I know I would step in because I have. Admittedly, I temper my behavior depending on whether or not my kids are with me.

    However, I don’t think that we should pass judgement on people who don’t get actively and physically involved in confrontational situations. We all have different comfort levels. I do think that we all have a responsibility to at least address the person being harassed (Ma’am, are you alright? Would you like me to call someone?) or to call 911 or to let someone else (store clerk, for example) know what is happening. There are a lot of options.

  4. Another reason not to pass judgement on those that might not react is that they may see the situation for the set up that it is. I saw this show once, and felt that in most cases, the actors were just not convincing.

  5. And at what point, since this appears to be the third stunt pulled in the area by Quinones, do people just start assuming the over the top situation is not real and act accordingly?

  6. While not a fan of Texas generally I do admire their carry policy for hand guns. There would a a lot less foolishness if the punks knew their lives were actually in danger. Liberalism be damned – all it takes is one or two instances of sidewalk justice. OK – maybe just a kneecap or two – you know, a wakeup call.

  7. Wow…way to go LIZ and family!!!!!! I don’t care for the show because it makes me get all knotted up inside. The scenarios sometimes seem the over the top; plus, there is the whole editing thing so you don’t know how many people actually reacted etc. I’m sure they repeat the scenarios until they get the right amount of people who react and people who do nothing. That said Liz Barista family…Go Get Em!!!!!

  8. Good for you, Liz! (And may I say that, knowing you, I’m not surprised!)

    Also, I was surprised: I saw my Montclair friends Bruce and Deirdre (also do the right thing!) in the ‘baby’ segment!

  9. “While not a fan of Texas generally I do admire their carry policy for hand guns.”

    …reminds me of the Ron White line: “In Texas we have the death penalty and we USE it”

  10. ABC News FAILS at having any journalistic integrity. The entire news operation sacrifices its credibility when it puts on stunts like this. A reporter’s duty is to report what happens, not to create events.

    Seriously, I would like to see the budget for the news division that included payments to actors. Do they get residuals if this repeats?

    I would expect some of B’ville’s many professional journalists, and teachers of journalism to weigh in on this.

    Here are a couple of ideas to ponder: What if some outraged passer-by did real harm to one of the actors playing a punk? What if someone called the police and diverted real police resources away from a real crime or emergency? ABC news is really asking for trouble.

    Say what you will about Drudge or Fox News, but they have yet to sink this low.

    And one last question, is “The View” (I’ve never seen it) a production of the news or entertainment division? All I know is I don’t feel confident it would be appropriate for my children to watch.

  11. Oh come on people! Doesn’t anybody remember Candid Camera? Same thing, updated. Congratulations to Liz and her family for defending an elderly lady! Also, waltermitty, the police know the show is being filmed in advance and therefore won’t be pulled away from a real crime fighting or jeopardize the safety of the general public. ABC gets a permit to film in Montclair and the township and police are fully aware that calls reporting a given crime in a given area are bogus.

  12. Yes, I know all about Candid Camera, and Boiling Point and many shows like it. My point is that they were not put on by news organizations. I’ll say it again, a reporter’s job is to report what happens, not create incidents. ABC News seems too willing to compromise its journalistic standards and it does so at its peril and at risk to its credibility, which is really its most important asset.

    They are creating the potential for a confrontation that could get out of hand. Some passer-by could take matters into his own hands and do real harm to one of the actors. The police would then certainly need to be called, whether they know about the set-up in advance or not.

    Cary: How about Montclair consider that and not issue any more filming permits to this particular dog and pony show?

  13. Great stuff. Quinones oughta show some cojones & go film these stunts in Texas. Some cracker version of Bernie Goetz will pull one of those handguns & blow away an actor. Footage to die for. Presto, Quinones wins the ratings war in his time slot!

  14. I went through this recently, albeit in a different theatrical scenario, and absolutely hated it.

    Hated hated hated.

    I know hate’s a strong word, but I considered my experience with the ABC “News” crew to be wasteful and manipulative.

    I knew it was a set-up. Not because I’m sharper than the next person or anything, but simply because I had remembered reading about it when ABC did the same thing last year in Montclair.

    Anyway, I asked the “actress” if she was pretending but she denied. In my situation I was cajoled into reporting an emergency.
    Because I thought it was an emergency? No. Simply because I didnt want to be on the “What Would These Jerks Not Do” reel (put me on the shameless list). In short, I felt cajoled into it. And when they fessed up to the ruse I asked them to edit me out.

    I won’t judge anyone else’s take on this, teach his own, but my beef is with ABC. If someone flat out asks their actors if its for real, they should be required to affirm (and maybe take some more acting classes).

    As I walked away from the whole affair I imagined the budget for their day’s work instead being contributed to fight the cholera outbreak in Haiti (or anywhere else where it would be more useful for that matter). But that would be up to the producers, actors, and powers that be in ABC. And I’m not so sure they’d see the sense in that.

    So yes, I asked myself: What Would They Do?

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