Rolling with the repo man

TruTV spins a show around a Wendell towing crew

Staff writerOctober 19, 2009 

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    "All Worked Up" premieres at 9 p.m. today. On Time Warner Cable systems in the Triangle, truTV is channel 44.

— Ron Shirley is more than 6 feet tall and weighs about 285 pounds. He keeps his hair in a short, almost military style, but dyes the top blond.

He spouts country philosophy with a permanent grin, shares Jesus with anyone who will listen, repossesses property for a living and for fun, writes verse that he describes as "Poe-based poetry with a Freud-like mentality."

In other words, the guy is a walking reality show.

The folks at truTV picked up on this and have made Shirley and his wife, Amy, along with buddy Bobby Brantley, stars of the new show "All Worked Up." It premieres tonight at 9 p.m. with back-to-back episodes.

"All Worked Up" follows working folks who deal with stressed-out, unhappy customers. Along with the Shirleys, who own Lizard Lick Towing & Recovery in eastern Wake County, the show follows a process server in New York and a code enforcement officer in Florida, among others.

But judging from the opening credits, which feature an enraged man pointing a gun at the Lizard Lick crew, and a preview of the first episode, the Shirleys are the stars.

"We really fell in love with Lizard Lick," says Robyn Hutt, the truTV executive in charge of the show. The Shirleys are "dynamic and entertaining characters."

Ron, 37, got his start in the repo business working for his brother, who owns the car lot next door. Amy, 30, a retired power lifter, works in the office. Brantley, 40, started working at Lizard Lick after Ron towed his flatbed trailer from an illegal parking spot.

Angered, Brantley stormed into the office and demanded his property back, only to be told he owed $450. He smashed a flower vase and screamed "Put it on my tab!" before stomping off, only to return contrite. He ended up working off the debt. Now he helps with repo, specializing in heavy equipment.

The folks at Lizard Lick, named after the crossroads community where the business is based, have repossessed all kinds of things, including an airplane and above-ground swimming pool.

The Shirleys had originally prepared to participate in the ABC show "Wife Swap," but when that didn't work out, the producer gave their names to another production company, which led to "All Worked Up."

The Shirleys, it should be known, are not afraid of confronting angry customers. "People get very volatile," Amy says. "Man, those cornbread-country boys -- you take their tractor, and they go crazy."

Ron tells the story of the repo man who fell behind on his tow-truck payments. The lien holder asked Lizard Lick to repo the truck: in essence, repoing the repo man.

To bait the truck's owner, Ron Shirley and Brantley parked a pickup and ordered a tow. After the driver arrived, Ron watched him hook up the truck before jumping into the cab of the repo man's vehicle and driving away, leaving the man disgusted.

There was the time they repossessed a vehicle in Bunn during a children's birthday party. The adults, who had been drinking, became irate, ripping a cameraman out of the vehicle and roughing him up. "They stomped a mud hole in him and walked it dry," Ron says, laughing. The cameraman was OK.

Although it remains to be seen whether viewers will respond to the Shirleys, Ron and Amy have dreams of a reality-TV career beyond the six episodes of the show. "I'm hoping it opens three doors and seven windows," Ron says.

They are prepared for fans. Their Web site, www.lizardlicktowing.com, went up last week, selling everything from T-shirts to coffee mugs, shot glasses and magnets.

matt.ehlers@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4889

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