Gene Simmons of KISS might be a rock star, but he is not a real star in the rock world.
Those would be the men and women who put their lives on the line each day, removing hazardous rocks that threaten U.S. roadways and trails.
Their job is to keep motorists and hikers safe from slides and falling rocks, unlike Simmons whose only brush with danger is falling off his platform boots on stage.
The National Geographic Channel will launch a reality series, starting at 10 p.m. Tuesday, about all the unsung rock slide heroes who put their lives on the line each time they go to work.
Tuesday's segment was filmed in Washington and upstate New York.
The series, aptly titled Rock Stars, is co-produced by Tracy Thomas, a 1987 graduate of Kennewick High School. Her parents are Bill and Alta Thomas of Kennewick.
Thomas is no stranger to the world of entertainment. After earning a fine arts degree in stage management, she headed to Ashland, Ore., where she spent the next few years working in the costume department at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
In 1996, she was offered a job with a circus in Tokyo, handling all sorts of theater duties including costume design. From there, she headed back to the states, where she took on more daunting tasks in the entertainment field.
"I realized that while my first love would always be theater and live performance, there were other ways to touch people on a more massive scale," Thomas told the Herald via email this week. "Hence, I moved to Los Angeles."
She landed her first job in the film industry within three days of her arrival.
"I started at the bottom of the ladder as a production assistant and was able to use the skills I learned managing live theater to move up quickly to production management, which is handling the day-to-day details of filming," Thomas said.
She helped produce several commercials, a few TV shows and a couple of movies, one of which earned an Emmy nomination for the Discovery Channel show, The Flight that Fought Back in 2005.
That year, she married Carl Beyer, also a film producer.
She attributes her success in the film world to a savviness for detail, financial juggling skills, organizational expertise and experience working with cable networks. They led to her recruitment for Rock Stars.
"I was extremely fortunate to be asked to help produce Rock Stars with Justin Ward, who also directed it, Hugh Arian and Erik Swanson of Echo Entertainment," she said. "Justin originally came up with the idea for the reality series while living in Maui and passing by workers removing dangerous overhangs of rock.
"He decided to stop and talk to the crew about their job and learned that while many people and motorists have no idea these crews exist, their job is crucial to the safety of the general public," she added.
The film crew went through rigorous training to film the segment, Thomas said.
"Not only did my crew need to be the best run-and-gun type of filmmakers, but they also had to undergo extensive rock climbing, rope access training and testing before being allowed to film the (rock stars)," she said.
"For every shot of the crew dropping rock, a cameraman was right there alongside," she continued. "In some situations, it was too dangerous to have our crew in the vicinity, so we used small cameras called Go Pros, which can be mounted to just about anything and provided us many dynamic shots."
A remote-controlled helicopter outfitted with a camera also was used for close-up and sweeping shots that are impossible to film with a normal helicopter, she added.