Perhaps you’re one of the millions who have seen the YouTube clip of an angry RV salesman ranting and raving while making a 1989 sales video (his cursing is now the stuff of viral video legend). Well, director Ben Steinbauer saw the footage and decided to actually track down the unintentional star, a man named Jack Rebney, whom Steinbauer finally found living in seclusion in the California wilderness, unaware of his Internet fame. Steinbauer’s new documentary, “Winnebago Man,” now at select New York theaters, traces his search for Rebney and chronicles his subject coming to terms with his Winnebago past.
So you were so taken with the Winnebago Man clip that you decided to do a film about him?
Yes, I was. Although that makes me sound like an Internet stalker or that I have way too much time on my hands, or both. Back in the day, we’d do tape trades and [this one] stopped everybody in their tracks. A couple of years later, when these video sites popped up, it started being quoted in TV shows and I thought it was possible that the man didn’t realize this was happening. Everything I found about him was more mysterious. Then I tracked him living as a hermit.
Was he everything you thought he’d be?
Well, I wasn’t prepared for how well-spoken he was. In hindsight, I realized that was short-sided. The reason he can swear so well [in the clip] is because he is so well-spoken and such a good communicator.
It is amazing.
In every instance, he uses a formal vernacular, even when he orders a sandwich.