Editor's Note: The Charleston City Paper sent Jonathan Sanchez, the reporter who broke the 2005 Piccolo Flea Circus story wide open, to meet the owners of Dee's Nuts, a novelty nut company that claims to filter its product through the breasts of beautiful women. The interview counted eight mentions of the word "boobs," three of "well-endowed," and one of "web of lies."
It's a Thursday night, and Dee's Nuts Girl Danielle Ridgeway is standing in Burns Alley Bar, wearing jean shorts, a bikini top, and the Double Dee 600 Mobile Filtration Unit.
Worn like a backpack, the DD600 is topped with a red funnel, leading to a blue irrigation piping that splits product left and right, connecting to two dryer-vent hoses covered in yellow and red fabric. It looks as though Ridgeway was being choked by a robot and broke free by ripping off its arms.
As Dave Alexander, 32, cofounder of the Sullivan's Island-based Dee's Nuts, pours shell-on peanuts through the unit, his partner Will McGehee, 30, explains.
"You see, the nuts come in through the top, are split around her there, and then come out through her boobs at the bottom," McGehee says. "The whole thing was the brainchild of a late-night Lowe's run. The guy thought we were making a bong."
There's a clog and Ridgeway has to bounce up and down to shake it free, apparently an unintended design feature.
When the movie is made about the origins of Dee's Nuts, a seminal early scene will have to be in slow-motion.
"It was New Year's Eve (2003)," McGehee says. "We were all three sheets ... and this nut comes flying across the room, lands between my wife Shannon's boobs. So I pull it out and eat it, tell everyone how much better it tasted."
Alexander, a buddy of McGehees's from Wake Forest and a freelance graphic designer, was at the party. Three months later he sent around a link to a joke website about a cleavage-filtered nut company. When the site started getting hits outside their circle and purchase requests started coming in, McGehee and Alexander went into business, using their wives as filters for the first couple years.
"But after a while," McGehee says, "they were like, either take this and do something with it or stop pouring nuts between our bosoms."
Alexander and McGehee put an ad in the City Paper for filters/spokesmodels, ("$50/hr, must be comfortable in tanktops and bikinis"). They found Ridgeway and a flight attendant named Dawn Nelson, and rented a catering kitchen in West Ashley. A USDA official came and approved their filtering and packaging system. Yes, the official was a man.
A random photo off the internet was altered to create the afroed "Dee Williams" -- the company's Aunt Jemima or Otis Spunkmeyer — named after an Uncle Remus-like figure from McGehee's boyhood on a pecan farm in Georgia. Besides shell-on goobers (the original flying nut), the company sells cashews ("those are killing us," Alexander says), honey-roasted peanuts, pecans, pistachios, almonds, mixed nuts, and others, from $3.95 to $8.95 a bag.
Sales on www.deessaltynuts.com were $10,000 last year. The bags make for popular stocking stuffers, and this Christmas the company's first retail kiosks are popping up in area bars.
The filtering has gone from dumping beer mug-fulls to the new mobile system, but like the boys in Weird Science, McGehee and Alexander are dreaming bigger.
"We were going to call this unit the Double Dee 6000, but where do you go from there?" McGehee says. "What we're hoping is for one day to have a huge megafilter in our packaging kitchen, and that'll be the 6000."
At which point you have to ask...
"We said from the get-go, if we're going to do this thing, we're going to do it for real," McGehee says.
"A lot of the people we were hoping to get as customers would be our friends, and we're not going to lie to our good friends" Alexander added.
"Otherwise, one lie builds on another," McGehee says, "and you're all caught up in this web of lies. Where does it end?"
McGehee explained how the nuts are quickly poured through the breasts onto cookie sheets and bagged later, because: "For fifty dollars an hour, Danielle's not staying around for the bagging."
And although the nuts coming out of the DD600 at Burns Alley seemed to be on more of a fly-by than a filtering run (though either way surely experiencing a brush with greatness) Ridgeway said she does suffer chafing, alleviated by the anointment of peanut oil. Comments like these, along with the proprietors' earnest entreaties of legitimacy, led this reporter to believe each nut is actually cleavage-filtered.
Of course, if that means two young married guys with day jobs and babies are spending Sunday nights in a catering kitchen, pouring shell-on nuts through the breasts of a 21-year-old girl, maybe it would be better if it were just a marketing gimmick.
Still, it would be nice to believe something on the internet.
Anyway, nice guys though. Cute girl. Good times.