Step Away from the Vehicle, Sir
The music was superb at Langerado Music Festival this year, and the mood was mellow — once you got in.
Last week on the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation, 17 miles north of Alligator Alley, you had to run a gauntlet of beefy security workers to enter the festival.
Tailpipe doesn't favor unfettered drug use at outdoor festivals any more than broken bottles or guns. Still, the methods that apparently were used at Langerado to try to block drugs and other contraband weren't just ineffective, as shown by the ganja aromas on the grounds and the folks peddling 'shrooms there. They were also allegedly as twisted as a bad acid trip.
Security workers randomly selected cars to toss, festivalgoers complained. The guards threatened freewheeling music fans with arrest. They even seized barbecue implements. OK, and some drugs, too.
Langerado organizers say they arranged for two private firms to handle festival security, one from Atlanta and the other from Miami, although they declined to name the firms. Any searches were conducted under the supervision of Seminole police, they added.
Despite such reassurances, one 32-year-old attendee — we'll call him Chris — says he believes there was some serious funny business going on at Big Cypress. Chris arrived Saturday morning in an SUV and was selected for a search. A security worker confiscated a pot pipe as Chris watched, he says; then the worker slipped the pipe into his own pocket.
He didn't like the look of the security workers. "These guys were real rednecky," he says. "They acted like the kind of guys who'd start drinking cheap beer at nine o'clock in the morning."
Concerned that the security staff were "robbing everybody's pot," Chris refused to hand over his bag for inspection. Also, he had illegal substances in his bag — nothing major, he says, but illegal nonetheless.
A Seminole police officer told him that if he ditched his stash in the woods, he could go into the festival, he says. While he was busy in the woods, the rest of his group passed through the gates; when Chris returned to the gates, clean, the same Seminole officer told him he couldn't go in. The officer suggested that Chris walk to the nearest gas station, which was way down the road. From there Chris managed to flag down some hippies in a van who drove him to Fort Lauderdale in return for a $90 contribution to their gas tank.
He says you won't catch him near Langerado again.
Were the Langerado security workers really filling their pockets?
No way, says Langerado security chief John Langenstein. Any illegal substance that was confiscated by Langerado security workers "was turned over to Seminole police."
Langerado co-founder Mark Brown says he doubts that festival security workers stole or hoarded drugs. In fact, they were commendable, doing their best to find banned items. After all, he says, "there are rules."
And Chris? "Sorry," Brown says, "that person was doing something illegal."
Baker Strikes Back
After nearly four years in prison for grabbing the hand of a sheriff's deputy who was about to deal him a knuckle sandwich (assault on a police officer, they call that), Donald Baker is out. And looking to get his.
Tailpipe has been following Baker's case for more than three years now, ever since he learned how the 52-year-old electrician got busted on a Hollywood street corner for allegedly drinking in public, then got involved in a jailhouse altercation with a couple of deputies. The main piece of evidence used against him was a jury-rigged videotape that purportedly showed Baker assaulting an officer in a police lock-up. There were mysterious lapses and leaps on that tape, disguising the fact, Baker said, that it was he who was being assaulted by a deputy.
Despite the faulty tape, Judge Michael Gates sentenced Baker to five years in prison, saying, in effect, sure, go ahead and appeal — but go to jail first.
Now the 55-year-old Baker, with a lot of help from his stepfather, John McNamara, a retired paralegal, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, naming everyone involved in his case, including the City of Hollywood, Officers Francis Hoeflinger and John Graham, and Broward County. Baker is seeking $10 million in damages.
In a Denny's off State Road 7, not far from where this all began, McNamara and Baker, who was released in November, sipped coffee recently and discussed Baker's suit. McNamara wore faded slacks and a lavender shirt — his suit-serving outfit for the past few days, he said. By day, McNamara is now a drawbridge tender; by night, he's Erin Brockovich, except not as pretty and not a woman.
McNamara and Baker concur that they're not so much angered as astonished by Baker's case, including a series of softball continuances that Judge Gates gave prosecutors in pursuit of Baker, as well as Baker's public defender failing to present evidence that the videotape of the fight had been doctored.
Baker becomes animated as he reviews his travails. He's working now, but he's still having problems with the law. Since his release he's been arrested again by Hollywood police, a couple of times, he says, for minor stuff. It ain't over.
"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.
Bensen decided it wasn't worth the hassle to stand up to studio goons, even though it was in defense of what he deemed "a harmless, normal activity in a public venue." But the next time something like this happens it could be a different story, he says; he hopes then he'll be "committed enough to push for an arrest."
Mayhem in da House
The DVD opens with a disclaimer: "These people are Hood Professionals, do not attempt these things at home or in your hood. Your ass might get shot."
Da Hood Gone Wild — Volume One is an hour's worth of frenzied, after-hours street brawls, beatings, and booty shaking. The scenes were mostly shot in Clearwater, with about 20 percent coming from hoods in West Palm Beach and Miami, though its creators won't say where specifically.
The street vignettes are dark, jumpy, and generally brutal: A hair-pulling fight between two women, one of whom does battle from behind the steering wheel of a parked car. A white bicyclist sucker-punched in an attack that ends with his assailants throwing his bike on top of him. Dueling pit bulls. Men with firearms in menacing skull masks. The scenes are interspersed with dancing girls in various states of undress.
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"Kill Bill," the president of Da Hood Gone Wild, Inc., says he was inspired in part by Joe Francis, of Girls Gone Wild infamy. "I saw an interview with him," says Bill. "Guy's a dirtball, but I was impressed. I took a lot of notes."
Bill and his brother-in-law, who are white, handle production and distribution; they've also sought to protect their identities. Their two partners, Allan Burney and Cortez Hearns, who are black, did most of the videography and also appear in the DVD.
Da Hood Gone Wild — Volume Two is due next month. Burney, however, won't have much post-production involvement; he was arrested and charged with attempted first-degree murder this past October and remains in jail.
The discs — along with T-shirts and, soon, hats — are only available at dahoodgonewild.com, where they sell for $17.99. "We attempted to retail [at stores] in the hoods, but they do things funny there," says Bill. "You go back and you find that your DVDs are gone, and someone new is in charge. We lost 30 or 40 DVDs that way."