Hassles in the Glades

"If they knew I was here, they'd come and arrest me," he says.

Wine Bar Wine Bar

Back in 1999, when Rich Duncan bought an old two-story office building on Harrison Street in desolate downtown Hollywood, nobody at City Hall offered to reward his investment with grant money. Instead, the city dictated to Duncan what type of business it wanted from him — not an office complex, as he had planned, but a nightclub. Rather than fight the city, Duncan obliged, spending over a half-million of his own money to spruce up the building. Ever since, his Harrison Street Wine Bar has been a swinging joint in an otherwise ghostly section of downtown.

Considering the high-profile closure down the block of Michael's Kitchen, which failed despite having been staked to a $150,000 city grant, as well as the lower-profile closures of sundry other downtown businesses, it would seem high time that Hollywood showed magnanimity toward the survivors. Like Duncan and his wife Mary.

But when it comes to Hollywood public policy, you hurl logic out the window.

Last year, while former mayor Mara Guilianti still chaired the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, it gave restaurateur Fulvio Sardelli a $25,000 grant to open a wine bar — in the building right next door to Harrison Street Wine Bar. Vino opened for business in January.

Duncan is livid. At last week's CRA meeting, he let 'em have it. "This is how you compensate an investor in the city?" he asked. "By giving money to his direct competitor?"

Not that Vino is a serious threat to the Harrison Street Wine Bar. Duncan's customers are loyal, he says. Besides, he's hopeful that the new, Giulianti-less commission is wiser than the old one. But it's still so aggravating that he sees double every day when he comes to work.

"Smart business people look at this and they say it's stupid," he says. "Even the bums — and there are a lot of them in downtown Hollywood — walk past and say, 'Wine bar... wine bar? Huh?'"

Muscle for Owen

Last Wednesday, Hollywood resident Paul Bensen was taking his daily walk on the beach, when he stumbled across a film crew in front of Nick's restaurant. Happy day! A shoot for Marley & Me, the movie about a family and their dog, written by former Sun-Sentinel reporter John Grogan, and starring Owen Wilson and Jennifer Aniston.

Bensen stood behind the yellow caution tape that police had set up and whipped his camera out of his pocket to snap the scene. A member of the film crew quickly tried to put the kibosh on his excitement: No pictures allowed, the crew worker announced.

Bensen, who has read the Bill of Rights and takes it seriously, was skeptical that a movie crew "really had the authority to restrict photography in a public venue."

Then a Hollywood cop told him to beat it.

In response, Bensen dared to raise the issue of "civil liberties and such," he says, but the cop stood his ground — or stood the ground of movie studio Fox 2000, as Bensen saw it.

Something similar happened to Tailpipe, who was on the scene too. After getting booted off the beach by a production assistant, 'Pipe gathered with some gawkers on the front deck of Diane's Motel, next door to Nick's. He snapped one little shot, of Owen Wilson's back. Next thing he knew, he was asked to leave the premises by a security guard.

Rachel Setton, who has run the hotel for 30 years, was kind enough to say the 'Pipe could stay and watch — but no pictures. She was getting paid a fee by the film crew. She said two burly security dudes were up on the roof, scoping for paparazzi, one of whom they'd already tossed out. They even had a guard dog up there, she said.

All for what? So that Owen Wilson didn't — God forbid — have his picture taken sitting at a table on the beach? The 'Pipe has little sympathy for folks who want to be on the silver screen, then whine about being recognized. Nor does he think taxpayer-paid cops should take orders from filmmakers.

Hollywood spokesperson Raelin Storey says the Marley peeps paid a $100 permit fee to the city, and paid eight off-duty police officers $35 an hour to work the extra detail. (One of them, a supervisor, got $37.50.)

The city was happy to please the film production crew, especially "considering the kind of economic impact this kind of production can have in South Florida," Storey says. If someone were to inadvertently wander on to the set, getting caught on camera taking pictures in the background, "it would seem a little unnatural and screw up their whole movie."

But if the person was standing outside of the cordoned-off area, like Bensen says he was? "Absolutely they would, and do, have the right on public property to take pictures," Storey said. The officers would be reminded of that, she added. Alas, Marley & Me has no pending permits to film in Hollywood again. But the folks from Diane's Motel say USA Network has rented out the place to film scenes for the TV show Burn Unit in April.

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