• Neil Darish moved to McCarthy in the late 1980s and wanted to revive the town
• He bought many properties in the town, including a hotel, to turn it into a tourist spot
• Neil is openly gay and had a failed relationship in McCarthy
• He is still living in McCarthy and co-runs a hotel
• Other cast members are living their old life, with a few having to rebuild after devastating events
From 2014 to 2017, Neil Garish was one of the driving forces behind the widely popular Discovery Channel series “Edge of Alaska”. During the show’s three-year run, we followed Neil as he tried to rebuild the city of McCarthy, and turn it into a tourist mecca. Even while “Edge of Alaska” was still airing, the controversial businessman preferred to stay out of the public eye. In this video, we will take look at who Neil is, and what he’s been up to these days.
Who is Neil Darish? Wiki Bio
Neil Darish had been a McCarthy resident for years before “Edge of Alaska” started filming, having moved there from Arizona in the late 1980s. He grew interested in relocating there after talking to one of his friends who grew up in McCarthy. Neil ended up buying a property from him, and soon made plans to revive the tiny ghost town in the middle of nowhere.
It seems that Neil didn’t choose McCarthy for no reason; it was an almost abandoned town that was once popular for its gold reserves, but when the reserves were depleted, the tiny town on the edge of Alaska saw most of its population leave. The only residents living there now are the hard-core adventurers and homesteaders who want to spend their life away from the city noise.
In one of his interviews, Neil revealed that he loves both the town’s history and the wilderness that surrounds it. Growing up, he spent a lot of time with his father, who worked with antiques, so seeing a town seemingly frozen in time fascinated Neil.
However, Neil’s attempts to modernize the area brought considerable disruption to the way of life. The businessman started making plans for the town, and bought a large number of properties there, including the local hotel, in hopes of turning McCarthy into a tourist spot.
Speaking of “Edge of Alaska”, during the reality TV boom that was happening in the 49th state following the success of “Deadliest Catch” in 2013, one of the Discovery Channel producers heard of the town and contacted Darish about doing a new series there. Over the course of the show, Darish had many disputes with local residents, particularly with Jeremy and Allison Keller, a pair of homesteaders who moved to Alaska before the show. The viewers were largely divided between supporters of Neil and the Kellers and other residents, but in real life, there seems to be a lot of mutual respect between the two sides. After all, they’re all trying to do the right thing, both in their own way.
‘When I talk to people in a wilderness or a remote setting, they don’t want anyone else there. (…) It’s a typical sentiment. I don’t like that sentiment. I don’t agree with that sentiment, and there were probably a number of people that come in, in the summer, and their heart is there, and they’re way more upset than the people that you see on the show that live there year round, because the people that live there year round, they realize that it’s a logistics struggle to get supplies and all that, and it’s a resource struggle. How do we make it all happen? And they recognize that tourism is a part of what this place needs in order to sustain itself’, Neil said about the residents’ attitude towards tourism.
Although he was mostly portrayed as a ‘bad guy’ on the “Edge of Alaska”, Neil stays true to his principles. As an unofficial mayor of the town, he still wants to continue modernizing McCarthy. ‘The change I’m doing is not ruining the town, and it’s not just gentrification either. It’s about being respectful to the authentic.’, he says.
Neil Darish is here and ready to answer your questions! Post all of the Edge of Alaska questions you've been dying to know below in the comments.
Posted by Edge of Alaska on Friday, October 2, 2015
One thing that the show glossed over regarding Neil, is his love life. Although it was never mentioned on the show, Neil is actually openly gay. Speaking of his experience in McCarthy, he reveals that he never felt ostracized for his sexuality, despite living in a small, secluded community. ‘We aren’t redneck, Republican, gun toting anarchists, because we live in an outlaw town. We live in a place where we can take care of our own. So [McCarthy] doesn’t attract people who are intolerant, it attracts people who are self-reliant enough that they can be tolerant’, Darish said in his interview with “Queerty” magazine.
Neil further revealed that he moved to Alaska with his first boyfriend, shortly after coming out. The two built a lodge together, which was documented in the book “The Road To McCarthy”. Unfortunately, their relationship didn’t survive, and Neil stayed in McCarthy on his own.
Why was “Edge of Alaska” canceled?
In 2017, it was revealed that the series’ fourth season would be its final. In it, Neil seemingly gives up on the idea of transforming McCarthy, and starts looking into selling most of his properties there to the highest bidder. Prior to that, Neil did lots of upgrading and repairing which caused even more drama with other residents. In the end, Neil sold nearly everything he owned in the town for $3.7 million.
We still don’t know the exact reason why Discovery Channel canceled “Edge of Alaska”. The most likely conclusion is that the show had simply run its course, as there wasn’t a lot more to show once Neil sold most of his properties. Further, a lot of McCarthy residents were unhappy with how they were portrayed in the show, and also didn’t appreciate the influx of tourists brought on by Discovery. Apparently, when the filming started in 2014, they didn’t even know what the series was supposed to be. They were told that the crew was working on a documentary, without knowing that they were going to take part in an edited reality TV show.
Even Neil, the person who brought Discovery Channel on, was unhappy with his portrayal, which showed him in a somewhat negative light, as a disruptor of the peaceful life in McCarthy. Quite ironic, considering the outside attention the series brought to the town.
What is he doing today?
Despite him selling off most of his properties, Neil Darish is still living and doing business in McCarthy, co-running Ma Johnson’s Hotel, located near Wrangell St-Elias National Park and Preserve. Even more than 20 years after it was opened, the business is still going strong. The hotel has accommodated more than 200,000 guests, and is one of the biggest sources of revenue for McCarthy. It’s been featured in numerous magazines, and has rave reviews online.
However, not everything has been going so well for Neil since “Edge of Alaska” ended. In 2021, the company behind a proposed local gold and copper mine, Northern Dynasty Minerals, was faced with a lawsuit because they failed to provide sufficient information about a project they were doing. The location for a mine they were looking to build was right near the headwaters of the world’s biggest sockeye salmon fishery.
It's wine-time in the Wrangells. Innkeeper Neil Darish of the McCarthy Lodge is throwing quite a party on Sept. 7. https://t.co/VleBJjXNPc pic.twitter.com/PssiK2TRTS
— Scott McMurren (@alaskatravelgrm) August 14, 2019
Neil was one of their largest shareholders at the time, but agreed to be included in the lawsuit against them. He’d bought their stock for $2.33 in July 2017, but was forced to sell for only $0.33, causing him a big financial loss.
On the flip side, in June 2022, Darish completed another dream project of his, the fully renovated Kate Kennedy’s House in McCarthy, which he has been working on for the past 20 years. Kate Kenney was a renowned businesswoman, and a famous madame who lived in the town from about 1900 to the 1940s. According to Neil, the house dates back to 1920, and was actually ordered from a Sears catalog.
‘In the 1920′s it wasn’t Amazon, it was Sears, and the Sears catalog would be delivered to you,’ he explains. ‘…you could pretty much order like it was Amazon. Course it took more than two days.’
Kennedy left the town once the nearby Kennecott mine closed, leaving her house behind. It was one of the first houses in the area to have running water and electricity powered by a generator. Today, it finds new life as a luxury suite offering the guest an authentic 1920s experience for over $1,200 a night.
Where are other cast members now?
After “Edge of Alaska” ended in 2018, the other cast members returned to their old ways of living, unbothered by the media’s attention. Jeremy Keller and his family are still living at their homestead located 12 miles from McCarthy. He’s now into mushing, and has participated in the 2020 annual Trail Dog Sled Race with his older son Bjorn.
Bjorn is also competing alone in the Junior Iditarod, while younger son Liam is also training, but is yet to compete. Meanwhile, Allison Keller has taken up studies of energy medicine, hoping to launch a career in the field. She used to run a personal blog called “The Homestead Chronicles”, in which she shared stories from her family’s daily life. Unfortunately, it went private recently, due to the high cost of keeping the website online.
Tim Mischel, who had to withdraw from the show in 2015 following a heart attack, has now fully recovered and returned to McCarthy. Another cast member who had endured a devastating event during filming was Jason Lobo. In 2017, he lost his home, dog and nearly all of his material possessions in a fire. One of his friends set up a GoFundMe campaign for Jason, which helped him get back on his feet. He’s rebuilt his house, and got his life back to normal.
Homesteader Jenny Rosenbaum has continued her off-the-grid lifestyle with her boyfriend Caleb and son Jasper. She’s also been working as a women’s rights advocate, promoting her work on social media. Furthermore, in January2022, Jenny opened the first retail cannabis shop in McCarthy.
Speaking of entrepreneurship, another cast member, Mark Walsh, is still in the small cabin rental business. He married his long-term girlfriend, Livvivi Lantry in 2018, and who now runs the rental business with him.
How real is “Edge of Alaska”?
Just like many other reality TV series, “Edge of Alaska” is also partially scripted, and doesn’t fully depict real events. This was even noted by Neil Darish, who has said that he knew the producers are going to manipulate the viewers to some extent. Neil still struggles with his negative portrayal, but realizes that some level of dramatization is required on reality TV, to keep the audience engaged.
As an example of what’s not real on the show, one observant fan uploaded a YouTube video in which he reacts to an obviously edited scene. At the beginning of the video, we can see a crew of people building a wooden cabin. While they were installing a roof beam, it fell down, smashing a ladder. However, moments later, we see the same ladder fully intact, which indicates that the producers filmed this particular scene in at least two takes. It’s likely that the rest of the show is filmed this way too.
Aside from scripted scenes, the show has also lied to the viewers on some occasions. The most obvious example is Jenny Rosenbaum, who was introduced as an adventurer who moved to Alaska alone right after matriculating high school. While Jenny is a tough individual, her personal life is far different than what we are led to believe. Her social media reveals that she’s in fact not alone, but lives with her boyfriend and son. She was also married prior to moving to McCarthy, and attended the University of Texas, which directly contradicts the story about her going to Alaska when 18 years old.
Another controversial aspect of the show are the large tax credits that the state of Alaska offered to the production company. This isn’t the case with only “Edge of Alaska”; in fact, nearly all television shows filmed in the state are offered the same deal. Lawmakers justify this decision by claiming that the practice promotes the state and encourages people to visit. On the other hand, many Alaskans have criticized this plan, saying that the money that went into these TV shows could’ve been used in better ways. As of 2022, it’s estimated that the state of Alaska spends up to $200 million a year on the movie and TV subsidy program.