What Happened To The Double Rainbow Guy?

Sometimes it's hard to see the world even when you're looking right at it, especially once you grow up. Perhaps in the unencumbered mind of a child, broccoli looks like a tiny tree, making their plate look like a sumptuous serving of a vaguely fart-scented forest. Once you internalize the idea that it's time to put away childish things and focus on the demands of adulthood, it's far harder to see the broccoli forest for the trees. But not everyone loses their youthful appreciation of the world.

Paul L. Vasquez took the time to marvel at the profound beauty of the world in front of him. In 2010, he shared that depth of wonder and appreciation with a viral YouTube video in which he effusively gushed over the sight of a double rainbow. At one point he remarked that it looked like it could become a triple rainbow. He laughed to the point of weeping and pondered aloud what it meant in the grand scheme of things.

Vasquez's heartfelt and wondrous reaction expanded his horizons when late-night host Jimmy Kimmel shared the video on Twitter after it was passed along by a friend. It went viral, racking up over 7 million views, and Kimmel further elevated Vasquez by bringing him on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He remained a viral sensation, delighting millions more web viewers. Sadly, in 2020, Vasquez made those same viewers cry by dying.

Paul Vasquez was a mountain man who went through a lot of careers

The world knew Paul Vasquez as "the Double Rainbow Guy," but his friends called him Bear. He embraced both names, though his social media handles used the latter; his YouTube account was @Hungrybear9562, later Yosemitebear62. That nickname and his large, full-bearded physique gave him the look of a mountain man, and that he was. As an adult, Vasquez lived near Yosemite National Park in a mobile home on his eight acres of land, and he told CNN in 2015 that he did stints in security and seasonal utility work for the National Park Service.

But those were only some of the jobs and adventures Vasquez held over the course of his life. Originally born in Los Angeles, he said he often explored the city alone via the free passes he got from his father, a bus driver. Before falling in with the NPS, he worked as a firefighter, a job that saw him leaping out of helicopters. Later came a 10-year stint as a truck driver. Perhaps oddest of all, Vasquez claimed to have been a cage fighter in 2005. It was a short-lived career; he retired after just one match, a match he lost to an opponent nearly seven feet tall.

Vasquez claimed to have made $40,000 from his viral status, but he never monetized his most famous video. "[Double Rainbow] is sacred," he told CNN.

He tried to cure epilepsy

Paul Vasquez led an unconventional lifestyle. He lived in a mobile home he kept on his eight acres of land, and he told CNN that he spent decades there all alone (at the time of his death, Vasquez was divorced and had two grown children). "When you live alone like this," he said, "you connect to nature on a deeper level," attributing some of his affinity to the famous double rainbow and his later fame to that connection. Vasquez said that going viral hadn't affected his life beyond the number of interviews he gave. His annual expenses were around $6,000, kept so low in part because most of his food came from his own labor; he had lots of fruit trees, raised his own chickens for eggs, and grew his own vegetables.

Thanks to a medical marijuana prescription, he also grew his own weed to manage chronic ankle pain. He wanted to expand his marijuana garden, which included 24 strains, by cultivating one that could be a cure for epilepsy; he pursued that goal from 2004 on. But lest you think that some of his reactions might have been chemically affected, Vasquez insisted that he was not high at the time that he shot the double rainbow video.

Somewhere over the rainbows

Paul Vasquez made his feelings about the double rainbow video clear to CNN in 2015. "I wanted to gift my most popular piece of work to humanity," he said. "It's like ... here's my heart. Here's my best thing that I ever made, and you can have it for free." Vasquez never licensed footage of the video, but he was happy to make appearances. Per The Modesto Bee, he was a guest on "Tosh.0," shot a Smartwater commercial with Jennifer Aniston (among many others), and was a nominee for Viral Video Star at the People's Choice Awards. And the video did have some additional life beyond Vasquez's posting it; The Gregory Brothers auto-tuned and remixed it.

Vasquez may have been a little touched by all this fame. Amid commercial shoots and negotiations for his own TV show, he likened himself to Noah and told CNN, "I'm supposed to unite humanity under the rainbow." But he retained a reputation for his positive attitude and kept up a spiritual outlook on nature. In 2020, Vasquez felt unwell and decided to get tested for COVID-19. "I'll get my results in two days," he wrote on Facebook, though he was confident he had other health issues. "Whatever happens I'm ready for it," he went on. "If it's the virus and it's my time to recycle I look forward to coming back to a new body and starting over, whatever happens I'm enjoying the ride." At the age of 57, Paul Vasquez died.