Who is Elliott Neese?
Born sometime in 1986, in Alaska, USA, Elliott Neese is a crab fisherman and former cast member of “Deadliest Catch”. The antagonistic media personality made his TV debut in 2011, and appeared in a total of 60 episodes of the reality TV series over the next few years. Despite the occasional on-screen spat, to this day there seems to be no bad blood between Elliott and his former colleagues, such as Jake Anderson, Mike Rowe and Keith Colburn.
Other affiliated projects Elliott has been part of include “After the Catch”, “Deadliest Catch: Greenhorns”, and “Deadliest Catch: The Bait”, along with a few behind the scenes episodes. Sadly, more is known about his personal dramas than his early years: there is little to no public information available regarding his family, childhood or educational studies.
However, Elliott has given the odd interview; he shared that the most frightening moment of his life was when a greenhorn (otherwise known as a rookie crew member) that he was working with broke his neck, back, and teeth when a 50-foot wave washed over their vessel. He also touched briefly on his role as the show’s bad guy, saying: “I don’t appease the camera, and maybe that doesn’t always come off right. But remember, reality TV isn’t real. It’s entertainment, that’s it.”
Elliott’s mysterious father worked as a crab fisherman in the 1970s and ‘80s, and at 18 years old, Elliott himself began working on a vessel named Ocean Cape. Some of the Alaskan’s first memories are of crab boats, so it seems natural that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and willingly take on one of the world’s riskiest professions.
Of course, crab fishing is an arduous and time-consuming job meaning that Elliott can only see his two children – a son born in 2007 and daughter in 2009 – a handful of days a year, or a couple of weeks if he’s lucky. Valerie Gunderson, the mother of Elliott’s children, filed for a temporary restraining order against the TV star in 2012, claiming that he’d been drinking, harassing her via phone calls and messages, and possibly abusing drugs.
According to court documents obtained by TMZ, Elliott called Valerie up to 54 times in one evening. He also told Valerie’s mother that if he couldn’t have her [Valerie], nobody could; unsurprisingly, Elliott was temporarily banned from getting in touch with his old flame. Valerie also alleged that Elliott attacked her in 2006, and smashed her belongings during a heated argument four years later.
The reasons behind his disturbing behavior remain unclear, but it’s believed that Elliott couldn’t cope with Valerie moving on in life when their relationship broke down. He would later date an attractive blonde named Airy Fridenbergs, but it’s unknown if they remain together as of 2022; they aren’t believe to share children.
In 2015, Elliott shocked fans by leaving his fishing vessel Saga in hands of his first mate Jeff Folk. As it happens, the troubled crab fisherman had entered a two-month rehab program to try and tackle his crippling drug addiction. Mere months before the incident, he’d shared his hopes of paying off his vessel, travelling the world with his family, and even writing a book in the future. Fans were understandably heartbroken at the sudden turn of events, and wished him luck on his journey.
In early 2017, Elliott celebrated 90 days of sobriety, having relapsed a few months before. A daily workout regime and healthier diet had him looking much better, as he gained 20lbs, and “Deadliest Catch” viewers were hoping to see him return to the show. Decker Watson, the series’ executive producer, wrote in the same year: “I stand by you 100 percent Elliott… I tried like hell to get you on [season] 13 and you know how that turned out. Maybe Season 14. Keep going El!”
For now, Elliott has managed to stay out of rehab, and is back to doing what he loves most as a crab fisherman. He seems to have no interest in returning to TV, and is quietly enjoying his family and job without the cameras and tight filming schedules.
Premiering on Discovery Channel in April 2005, “Deadliest Catch” is a gripping reality series, filmed in the Aleutian Island of Alaska, that follows crab fishermen during the Alaskan king crab and snow king fishing seasons of October and January every year; season 18 aired in April 2022. The show is broadcast around the world, and is particularly successful thanks to the down-to-earth nature of its cast members.
Gale-force winds, high waves, and other extreme weather conditions place the lives of fishermen and camera crews at risk. They are also faced with a tense work environment, and on occasions spend almost the whole year away from their families. Some of the captains and greenhorns of the fleet are related, such as the Colburn and Hansen brothers, and many of them entered the industry because their fathers also worked as crab fishermen.
As Alaskan crab fishing is one of the world’s most perilous professions, the US Coast Guard (USCG) always provides rescue squads on call, who have stepped in and saved the day on countless occasions. During the show’s first few seasons between 2005 and 2008, three fishing vessels were lost – the Ocean Challenger, Big Valley, and Katmai – and the rescue squads saved dozens of lives from being lost out on the Bering Sea.
Due to complicated and risky filming conditions, “Deadliest Catch” has narrators instead of on-camera hosts. Mike Rowe and Bill Petrie narrate the North America and UK broadcasts respectively, connecting and explaining each storyline. To make things easier for viewers, there is also a mock-up radar screen that shows where each ship is positioned, and makes the switch from one vessel to another almost seamless.
“After the Catch” is a behind-the-scenes miniseries, in which the captains of the vessels participate in a roundtable discussion about the season’s best and worst moments. The show was incorporated into the “Deadliest Catch” franchise from season three onwards; as the show is rated TV-14 in the US, pixelization and blurring is often used to block out the commonplace profanities, injuries and crude finger gestures, common on board in such a stressful work environment.
The star vessels of the show are the Northwestern and Wizard which have been present in the series almost uninterruptedly since 2005. Although other fishing vessels and their crew members have appeared in various seasons, the Colburns and Hansens have left a lasting impression on viewers, and become household names for loyal viewers of “Deadliest Catch”.
Boasting hundreds of thousands of followers, Keith Colburn – captain of the Wizard – has become famous in the crab fishing world. The key crew members of the Wizard include Monte Colburn, his brother Tyler and Todd Gateman, and first mate Gary Soper. Keith was born in California in March 1963 and shares two children with his wife Florence, whom he married sometime in the late 1980s or early 1990s.
Keith began fishing at the young age of 22. With his best friend Kurt Frankenberg, the adventurous Californian flew out to Kodiak, Alaska, with little more than a tent and $50. He would join the crew of the Alaska Trader as a greenhorn, starting from the bottom and hoping to gain invaluable experience.
— Capt Keith Colburn (@crabwizard) October 16, 2022
In 1988, Keith became a full share deckhand on the Wizard. Over the next four years he would earn his 1600 ton inspected Masters and Mates licenses, effectively climbing up the ranks from deckhand to pilot. His trustiest mentor, John Jorgensen, taught him everything he knows, and often told Keith to trust his instincts instead of doing what everyone else did. The Jorgensens, considered pioneer commercial fishermen, are enormously respected in the industry.
Keith and the Wizard have faced some trying times together, especially in 2002, when the bold captain ventured out 200 miles further North than any other fishing vessel, but riding his luck, the Californian and his crew caught a staggering 540,000 lbs of snow crab – over 400,000 lbs more than the average catch that year. Repeating his strategy two years later, Keith caught 400,000 lbs once again, more than the second-best and average catch combined.
The captain of the Wizard has been part of practically every “Deadliest Catch” spin-off, including TV movies and documentaries, but that doesn’t mean he’s not open to expanding his brand wherever he can. From public speaking to a line of dry rubs and sauces, there’s nothing Keith won’t try at least once, if it means potentially making more money.
“Captain Keith’s Catch”, Keith’s sauce line, proved itself to be surprisingly popular. As it happens, Keith’s first job was as a saucier in a French restaurant when he was aged 14. Eventually, he would become sous-chef, then executive chef, working in various establishments before trying his luck at crab fishing.
As for the Hansens of the F/V Northwestern, Captain Sig and his brother Norman are formidable figures in their own right. The latter is the ship’s deckhand and engineer, whereas Mandy, Sig’s daughter, is a captain-in-training, and her husband Clark is a greenhorn. Sig and Norman’s descendants include many tenacious Norwegian fishermen, and they themselves grew up in the environment.
Engineers of the grueling opilio crab fishing trade, Sig and Norman’s grandfather and great-grandfather figured out how to earn money all year round from crab fishing, instead of a mere few months a year. At the age of 14, Sig joined his father’s boat, and made it his full-time job after graduating from high school. After his 22nd birthday, he became a relief skipper and spent 10 months a year in Alaska. Some of his tasks were doing short-haul stints on other boats, and relieving the Northwestern’s captains.
Two years later, Sig would begin running the Northwestern full-time. To date, the fishing vessel boasts no deaths at sea, and a lower serious injury rate compared to other vessels, making for an impeccable safety record. In 2005 and 2006, the Northwestern was in first place in the show’s final derby seasons, catching the highest amount of both opilio and king crab.
Not one to be outdone, Sig has his own successful brand which includes books and TV interviews. He co-wrote the New York Times bestseller, “North by Western: A Seafaring Family on Deadly Alaskan Waters”, in 2010, and even hoped to participate in other reality shows such as “Dancing with the Stars”, after a successful interview on Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show”.
In September 200, Sig shocked fans by announcing his departure from “Deadliest Catch”. It’s believed that his contract negotiations didn’t go the way he would hope, leading to him stepping away from the show in a fit of pique. However, just a month later, he agreed to return to the show for its seventh season. Other TV gigs include his participation in “The Celebrity Apprentice”, and voiceover work on the animated children’s film “Cars 2”.
As is to be expected in such a fast-paced work environment, many cast members of “Deadliest Catch” have passed away since it first aired in 2005. The death of Captain Phil Harris from a massive stroke, aged 53, was particularly heartbreaking, and is remembered by cast members and viewers over a decade on. The death of the Cornelia Marie’s former captain, Tony Lara, eerily echoes Phil’s – Tony suffered a massive heart attack in his sleep, and died of a stroke aged 50.
Meanwhile, mysterious circumstances surround the deaths of Justin Tennison and Blake Painter, who were aged 33 and 38 when they passed away. Days after returning from sea, Justin died alone in an Alaskan hotel room, due to sleep apnea complications, whereas Blake – the former captain of the Maverick – is said to have accidentally overdosed, and being found dead at home; it’s interesting to note that no official cause of death was announced regarding Blake’s demise.
In December 2020, the cast of “Deadliest Catch” once again lost one of their own, with the death of Nick McGlashan, who passed away of a drug overdose at the untimely age of 33. Captain Bill Wilchrowski was one of the first people to hear of his friend’s death and took the news especially hard.
A tribute episode was dedicated to Nick, who was born in Tennessee, and is survived by his two young children. Nick’s family and every cast member who appeared in the season participated in the farewell to the deck boss; flare guns were fired off in his memory, and his hook was thrown into the ocean one last time.
However tragic, Nick’s passing didn’t come as a shock to everyone. He skipped filming for the show’s 13th season after checking into rehab, and battled heroin, alcohol, and meth addictions over the course of his brief life. It remains unclear if Nick was with the mother of his children at the time of his death.