May 14, 201208:14 AM
The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

Understanding Shelby Stanga

Abby Miller Photograph

Please help me understand Shelby Stanga. I know this: He is one of the lumbermen featured in the History Channel’s reality show, “Axmen.” There are several axe swingers from across the country on the program. Stanga is the Louisiana guy who spends his time in a Tangipahoa parish swamp mostly pulling out sinker logs. He has a dog named Piss Willy who understands French but only in the dialect spoken by Stanga, Oh, yes, he’s a TV star, a big star.

I remember the History Channel back when I thought the “H” in its logo stood for Hitler. The Channnel’s programmers, however, have apparengtly found a formula of real people doing real things - "Ice Road Truckers," "Pawn Stars" - and it must be working.

I am especially aware of Stanga because in January 2011 one of our publications, Louisiana Life, ran an article about Stanga that was posted on this site, and we are still getting responses.

We try hard here to collect and provide lots of varied information to you folks, but so far, I suspect nothing that we can do creates the interest of Stanga, even if we would:

     • Reveal a cure for Cancer
     • Display Obama’s Kenyan birth certificate
     • Prove that there was no Saints Bounty program but that it was an Atlanta Falcons conspiracy
     • Write a biography, with pictures, of the Navy Seal who shot bin Laden

None of these things would cause the reaction that Stanga does. Not even does what's-his-name, the alligator hunter, get the same reaction.

So what’s the secret? Several of our responses say that Stanga should have his own show. Is it his style? His profession? His dog? I would like to know; so too, I reckon, would the programmers for the other cable channels.

Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival-Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via email at gdkrewe@aol.com or (504) 895-2266.

WATCH INFORMED SOURCES, FRIDAYS AT 7 P.M., REPEATED AT 11:30 P.M. WYES-TV, CH. 12

Reader Comments:
May 22, 2012 01:22 am
 Posted by  ChowGirl

Well, he is cute! I am a well-educated woman brought up among men who never had a chance for an education, and spent a lot of my time in the corner of my Daddy's barbershop. He fascinates me. I am old enough to be his mother, but her reminds me so much of Daddy, with his zest for life, love of dog, and just plain craziness. My Daddy was that way.


Maybe Shelby will end up being the poster boy for a lot of women who are looking for men who are true men and embodiment of their fathers.

On the other hand, maybe we just like him because he is cute and entertaining, and regular TV doesn't give us that these days.

May 23, 2012 02:44 pm
 Posted by  rocloco

Well I was hoping to get more insight into the man myself here, but I guess I'll share why I enjoy him so much and how I think he got to be how he is.

I expect his personality comes from the fact that the man cares so little of others opinion of him that he has allowed his persona to evolve into a very unique amalgam of all the influences in his life. The result is a half crazed, excitable, front loader driving, women's underwear lovin man's man that never grew up a day past 21. His character is open, free and unhinged from so many of our social norms - he's a delightful comedy! And not in a laughing at him way. I got so excited for him when he came across that Cuban mahogany from the bogalusa raft I almost cried. I hope he finds the rest of it. He deserves it.

May 25, 2012 02:19 am
 Posted by  johngw43

Actually, I clicked on this site to find info about the Bologulsia raft, since I'm sitting here tripping on shelby. And ain't seen hardly ANY info about the raft. Shelby strikes again., ha,ha.

May 28, 2012 06:20 pm
 Posted by  081150

Errol,

Are you serious about not understanding what it is about Shelby Stanga that creats the stir you describe? For me Shelby's draw is as obvious as needing to eat and I suspect that is also true for thousands of others who have seen Shelby in action on the Ax Men TV show.

I will explain it for you. Shelby is filmed at his camp site on the Tangipahoa river and at various locations in the swamp and surrounding lakes. He dresses as if he has no wardrobe other than a few pairs of pants and seemingly a single green sleevless shirt. Everything SAhelby owns which is seen on the show is old and or beat up including his taped up 44 magnum.

When he dives for logs he uses an old gasoline driven air pump which supplies air to him underwater. He has been seen shooting his 44 magnum more entuhsiastically than a celebrating arab tribesman. His since of humor is raw and untamed leading those who watch the show to believe he is of little education, lives solely off the land, and is the raw and untamed swamp man nearly everyone has heard of but rarly seen.

Simply said, people of all type are interested in unraveling the mystery surrounding the individual named Shelby Stanga.

What many do not know about Shelby is that he is a good natured person who has lived in the area near where he is filmed since he was 9 years old. I do have never met Shelby but have had some conversation with him through those around him. It is obvious Shelby is much brighter and knowledgeable than he is seen on the show. Had the History Channel producers chosen to portray him as a somewhat well off business man making a living in the swamps the show would not nearly have the appeal it does today.

Can you imagine watching the Beverly Hillbillies if the cast had all been educated, well dressed in modern fashions, and considered equals with the sharpest business and social minds of the period? It simply would not work.

Shelby Stanga is a TV success because he is presented under the radar.

Monty

May 28, 2012 06:35 pm
 Posted by  081150

To All:

My apologies for the typos and mispellings above, the text got away prior to being able to proof it due to a browser failure.

The rest of this story is that Shelby does not live at his river camp as a permanent residence. He has a home which is clean, nice, and he is surrounded by those he loves like most other American families.

The truth is Shelby Stanga, has an outgoing personality and knows how to put on a good show. He is not unlik many all of us personally know, a man who is rich in persona and humor. Anyone would not be far off the mark if they said Shelby understands the talent of TV acting. He is far from the very poor, wild, and completely uneducated person we might assume he is.

May 31, 2012 08:20 am
 Posted by  Hearsemen

What seems to be the truth about recent boating accide nt involveing Shelby ? Read numerous comment s on accident on the Louisana Sportsman web posts, if anyone does actually know...

Jun 5, 2012 09:00 am
 Posted by  Dogman

Shelby is the real deal. He is very much the wild and crazy person you see on the tube. He told me that they filmed him for 10 weeks last year, so there is plenty of material left on the editing room floor that never gets shown on the show. Be it from doing something insane, saving it for future use or the fact that you would need subtitles to understand what he is saying.

And to 081150 - I met Shelby earlier this year and spent a couple of days around the river where he lives. Shelby lives on a dilapidated houseboat on the Tangipahoa River at Lee's Landing. He survives on what he can catch or kill on the river and is penniless from doing the Ax-Men show. If you would have ever met the man, you would know this. He tells just about everyone he meets about how he has gone broke from doing the show and poor decisions when negotiating contracts. He says he has a manager, yet he lives in squalor wondering where he will make his next nickel. Almost all of his equipment is broken or semi-functional since filming last year. It seems that he has been taken advantage of by the History Channel and the mangement firm he has. Unless he is a great actor, he seems like a down on his luck river rat that these reality show production companies seek out and exploit for a huge profit. His contract is up for doing the Ax Men series and he said he won't be doing another season. He realizes that he has been taken advantage of and is tired and stressed over where it has left him. And we all think these reality stars were making a decent paycheck from doing these shows. You would think that the main star of a hit TV show would have the world at his feet, yet he is worse off than before the show.

Jun 21, 2012 05:52 am
 Posted by  bedicoan

to all, i have known Shelby for 40 yrs now.we lived just houses from each other, as a young man, he was very exploratory, he would make all sorts of things and try them out. shelby will try anything,thats just his nature, how you see him on TV is Shelby, i have never seen him any other way, he has always dressed the same, he dosent try to impress ppl,he is who you see, dowm home country boy, and yes he has a loving family, and he has a home on the land, but chooses to live on the river,where he has been most of his life,diving for sinker cypress.everyone that knows him personally,will always say that Shelby Stanga is one crazy dude. he has always been full of humor one of his sayings is " it is what it is, bubba." we enjoy him, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do!!! if he makes another season we'll b watching, if not, o'well!!!... good luck to you Shelby!!!

Jun 21, 2012 05:52 am
 Posted by  bedicoan

to all, i have known Shelby for 40 yrs now.we lived just houses from each other, as a young man, he was very exploratory, he would make all sorts of things and try them out. shelby will try anything,thats just his nature, how you see him on TV is Shelby, i have never seen him any other way, he has always dressed the same, he dosent try to impress ppl,he is who you see, dowm home country boy, and yes he has a loving family, and he has a home on the land, but chooses to live on the river,where he has been most of his life,diving for sinker cypress.everyone that knows him personally,will always say that Shelby Stanga is one crazy dude. he has always been full of humor one of his sayings is " it is what it is, bubba." we enjoy him, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do!!! if he makes another season we'll b watching, if not, o'well!!!... good luck to you Shelby!!!

Jun 26, 2012 11:37 pm
 Posted by  Sotherner

Shelby's formula is about American freedom, and a touch of that crazy which Southern country boys from the backwoods all have a little of.

Face it, couch potatoes, ball with chains officer workers, and city slickers sit in front of their TV sets to watch Shelby and dream. They wish they had real adventure in their lives like Shelby's, and the freedom from political correctness to deal with it like Shelby.

Shelby wills, and there is a way, figuring out new methods to get things done which is part of a country boy's heritage. Cain't get in the truck and drive to Lowe's every time something breaks or goes wrong, not in the swamp. Gotta' try and fix it the old fashioned way first. That's Shelby, and he ain't alone as one can see by the help he gets.

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The Editor's Room

Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde

about

Errol LabordeErrol Laborde holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of New Orleans and is the editor-in-chief of Renaissance Publishing. In that capacity he serves as editor/associate publisher of New Orleans Magazine and editor/publisher of Louisiana Life magazine.

Errol is also a producer and a regular panelist on Informed Sources, a weekly news discussion program broadcast on public television station WYES-TV, Channel 12. Errol is a three-time winner of the Alex Waller Award, the highest award given in print journalism by the Press Club of New Orleans. He also received the National and City Regional Magazine Association Award for Best Column for his New Orleans Magazine column, beating out 76 city magazines across the country. In 2013, Errol received the award for the "Best News Affiliated Blog," awarded by the Press Club of New Orleans.

Errol’s most recent books are Krewe: The Early Carnival from Comus to Zulu and Marched the Day God: A History of the Rex Organization. In his free time he enjoys playing tennis and traveling with his wife, Peggy, to anywhere they can get away to, but some of his favorite spots are the Caribbean and historic locations around Louisiana. You can reach Errol at (504) 830-7235 or errol@myneworleans.com.

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