Earlier this year, however, Quintero's lifestyle came to a skidding halt. He was arrested and accused of using a Swiss account to hide $4 million from U.S. tax officials. He pleaded guilty, served four months in federal prison, and paid more than $2 million in penalties. Quintero sold Villa Vecchia this past July for a below-market $13 million to a mysterious corporation called 4821 Pine Tree Drive LLC.

Records don't reveal who is behind the Delaware-based company. But that person continues to bring in the moviemakers. "They block my driveway, they wake us up at 7 in the morning," Levey complains. "These guys are constantly building sets, tearing sets down... If there were no laws here, I would just go over and smack some heads around."

Winick, from the Miami Beach Film Office, says the city investigates complaints and does its best to balance industry demands with neighborhood concerns. But the show must go on. "Like it or not, Miami Beach is a town where image is important. And this is an image-making industry. If they stop making images here, then we don't have anything to project to the outside world."

Buzz a few doors in Miami Beach's nicest neighborhoods and you're bound to hear complaints. One Palm Island resident called the cops when her neighbor was filming a loud Persian music video. And this past January, a neighbor ratted on Jason Louis Zabaleta for hosting an unauthorized music video shoot for Ukrainian pop star Kamaliya Zahoor. He has also been accused of writing bad checks, was recently ordered by a judge to pay $75,000 for outstanding loans, and is getting sued by the city for unpaid utility bills at his mansion on North Bay Road. (New Times could not reach Zabaleta.)

Less savory films, too, have flooded Miami Beach. Last year, local porn company Reality Kings was scolded for shooting a skin flick on Monument Island. Unauthorized pornos have bitterly divided über-exclusive Fisher Island. Winick says smut companies ignore the rules and never apply for permits. Or if they do, they don't admit to filming porn. Reality Kings manager Jeffrey Greenberg owns a $17 million manse near Friedman's home on North Bay Road where nine shoots were permitted in the past two years — supposedly for Burn Notice and fashion spreads. (Greenberg and his lawyer did not return calls from New Times.)

The true frontline of Miami Beach's film fight is San Marino Island, though. No less than six houses there have requested permits in the past year and a half. Niang, the French reality TV producer, lives at 14 West San Marino. The giant gray-and-white house is owned by Northern Irish retired racecar driver Eddie Irvine, who neighbors say once tried to arrange a Hummer driving course on the island before they objected.

Sassoum and Irvine aren't the only San Marino residents slapped on the wrist for breaking film rules. On May 10, Francisco and Alina Villasante were warned to stop filming without a permit after next-door neighbor Edna Buchanan complained.

"I thought they were shooting a porno next door," the legendary crime novelist says. "There were guys dressed as Batman and Robin next door, skipping around the pool singing in falsetto. They got a little frisky when they saw me watching. When they saw me taking a photo, they started simulating fellatio."

But if there is a single resident whom San Marino neighbors blame for the film crews, it's Marita Stavrou. A former actress and ex-wife of NBA star Reggie Miller, Stavrou is still a mainstay of Miami Beach society. Glossy magazines snap her with hip-hop moguls such as Russell Simmons and Jay-Z.

Stavrou bought the small house next to Buchanan's for $3.1 million in 2006, knocked it down, and submitted plans for a 6,600-square-foot spread. When Buchanan and other neighbors complained, Stavrou's lawyers stepped in.

After the mega-pad was built, Stavrou turned it into an ATM by constantly renting it out to ad agencies and TV producers. Indeed, several online listings appear to advertise the house as available for rent at a cool $60,000 a month.

Aside from breaking the law, the short-term renters are endangering the crumbling island, Buchanan says. "They block the streets and break underground pipes. They are ruining this fragile manmade neighborhood."

(When a New Times reporter buzzed Stavrou's front door to ask about shoots, she said, "Oh, I don't know anything about that." Asked if she would come outside to talk, she said she wasn't home, claiming the gate had called her phone.)

Cesar Valdesuso, a Cuban-born pulmonologist on the other side of Stavrou's place, echoes the complaints. "It's not a house at all, but a business. When she wanted to build it, we all asked her: 'Why do you need such a big house?' And now we understand," he says.

He lived in Los Angeles before moving to Miami Beach two decades ago but says that in all his years in L.A., the movie industry never disturbed him as it does now. The doctor stands in his backyard. His boat bobs gently on the evening ocean swell. To the west, the sun sets behind the skyline.

"This place is beautiful," he says. "That's why we moved here." Then he points to the empty lot next door, surrounded by a fence. "See? They've already started building a seawall. Soon they'll block the view of the sunset I've had for 20 years. And for what? So they can build another empty mansion to rent out to people from Hollywood."


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7 comments
miamisun2222
miamisun2222

Key Biscayne has a film permit ordinance.  Bottom line is these are residential neighborhoods - not film studios or commercial districts.  Building perrmits cost thousands of dollars and take all sorts of red-tape.  Yet studios show up and city staff are so eager to accommodate and give away the rights of the neighborhood to peace, quiet, and residential character.  So much for zoning. 

mywonderjam
mywonderjam

Oh the melancholy of the rich. Sigh, Sob Sob....

run.randrand
run.randrand

IN A BROKE CITY-WITH AN EVAPORATED TAX BASE, AND SLUM-LORD POPULATION--YOU WILL GET TAGGED AND TAXED-AND TAXED AGAIN--THEN GET A TRAFFIC LIGHT CAMERA TICKET!!!

Constanza Maute
Constanza Maute

It's insane: new regulations could strangle our industry

Juan R. Pollo
Juan R. Pollo

He was never in a concentration camp. Are you saying that all Jews that survived WW II are Holocaust survivors?

al004
al004

What Film Renaissance? Obviously this notion is one only believed in by people's whose only knowledge and experience with the film industry is buying movie tickets.  This problem has long been in the making, and the singular reason is the greed by a handful of folks in the film industry who believe that they have a special entitlement to do whatever they want because "it's the film business."

 

Back in the 80's when Vice first started filming, a lot of folks thought it was "cool" to have a film crew wake them up at 6 in the morning, park trucks on their swale and driveways, and generally create bedlam for a day or 2.

 

Those days are over, and unfortunately there are still folks in the industry who believe that they should continue to behave like that because it's easier for them to continue to use the same properties - as attractive as they might be - instead of going out and finding other locations..

 

I attended the first meeting, and made a suggestion that Miami Beach, like cities like New York, need to establish hot zones, where specific houses, businesses or even neighborhood that have been subjected to repeated, and often daily use, need to be put on this hot list that would mean that these locations couldn't be used for a period of time to let the neighbors cool down from the constant irritation of film crews in their neighborhoods.

 

The Mayor thought my idea was the best suggestion made, and I still think that this is one, although not the only, suggestion that might relieve the pressure that is caused by this continued use of a handfull of houses.

 

As to A-Rod's house specifically, the guy who represented him at the meeting, when a decision was made by the Mayor and Commissioners to continue to think this through, couldn't wait to tell everyone in the room that that meant that the A-Rod house was still available for filming, and for anyone who was interested to call him.

 

This was an asshole thing for this guy to have done, and it was roundly booed by many film folk in the room.

 

I've been in the film business for close to 30 years, and used houses on Miami Beach and all over the county, and after all that time, if I had a neighbor who thought that he could turn his house into a film studio, either to make money, or to try and get laid, I too would be pissed, and be chewing on the City Commission to put a stop to it!

 

Al Crespo

wordladydjg
wordladydjg

@al004 ... Exactly  Al.  Now translate that same dynamic to gov't surveillance and how they 'take over' a community. 

 
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