One of the zaniest, most influential horror films of all time has been disinterred and lovingly necromanced back to undeadness by Claudia and Larry Brahms, owners of Miami's very-much-alive MTI Home Video. Save for its brief theatrical release in 1970, I Drink Your Blood has never before been viewable in its most bloodiest 90-minute uncut version. The Brahms family, who launched the company two decades ago at the height of the aerobics-video craze and now distribute about 50 feature films a year (often in collaboration with gore-friendly imprint Fangoria), figured now was as good a time as any to foist a movie about rabid hippies upon an unsuspecting public.
I Drink Your Blood superficially concerns what happens when a rural enclave of Appalachian Americans confronts a band of tie-dye-wearing, Crowley-spouting, LSD-taking, hydrophobia-infected Satanic flower children led by a character named Horace Bones (the actor apparently not realizing that his actual name, Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, was much cooler). Beyond the dismembering and foaming at the mouth which pretty immediately ensues, though, IDYB boasts some innovative production qualities, including a luminous, grainy, color-saturated film stock, the use of disquieting droning noises instead of stock scary music, and imaginative deployment of rodents.
Inspired by the Joan Didion Imagery
Members of the Coconut Grove Rotary Club were treated to a book-signing-cum-circus act last week, when man's man Bob Wallace showed up with a Florida panther and an African serval in tow. The photographer, author, scientist, pilot, judo instructor, and deep-sea diver has written and shot photos for National Geographic, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, among other magazines. At the age of 71, the former Cousteau compatriot still has the military bearing acquired during his Army career, and an archive of macho stories about oxygen lines malfunctioning at 300 feet below the surface and ultralights tipping 300 feet in the air.
So what was badass Bob presenting to the Rotarians? A children's book of course. It seems Wallace was so taken by a motherless deer found in the Everglades that he adopted the fawn, bottle-fed it, and raised it with the canine influence of a couple of friendly black labs. So Wallace has written The Adventures of Ichi the Baby Deer. For a guy like Wallace, though, even a book for the kids needs a hint of peril, as evidenced by the passage wherein the author relates the true story of a friend bitten by a rattlesnake. The page is decorated with a life-size image of the viper and exclaims in bold print: "Skeet was losing his fight for life!" Not to fear, though -- Skeet makes it.
More Film News
While gaining attention for his role as a founder of the Florida Room Film Festival, Juan Carlos Zaldívar has run into difficulties getting his own movie, Soldiers Pay, into theaters. Zaldívar, of Miami, directed the documentary about Iraq with Hollywood philosopher David O. Russell, of I Heart Huckabees fame. Originally scheduled to accompany the theatrical re-release of Russell's Three Kings, Zaldívar's project was dumped by distributor Warner Bros. because of its overt political content.
Fortunately for Zaldívar and Russell, Cinema Libre, a small production company with titles such as Uncovered: The War in Iraq in its catalogue picked up their documentary. Soldiers Pay will now be shown on a double bill with Uncovered. Unfortunately, Uncovered has already closed in Miami, so Cinema Libre has a new plan. Zaldívar explains, "Unfortunately we missed all of the marketing for the film because it was already out when this happened. It's been really difficult because there hasn't been any branding of the film. So we're just depending on reporters that we meet."
Cinema Libre has put together a trilogy of political documentaries including Unconstitutional (about the Patriot Act) with Soldiers Pay as the opener. So the film will finally be seen at a special screening at Miami Beach Cinematheque on November 1 -- the day before the election.
Who's Fighting Now?
Miami real estate investor and nightclub owner Aramis Lorie insists he maintains a personal nonaggression pact when it comes to dealing with irate customers at his happening restaurant-lounge The District.
"Ask people who know me and they will tell you I never cause problems," Lorie says. "I'm the most peaceful guy. I don't have time to get into fights or confrontations with people."
But Hollywood marketing executive Louis Pelaez alleges Lorie was ready to rock him with a right hook during a disagreement that took place this past September 17. Pelaez attended an art exhibit and auction at a nearby gallery to benefit Charlee Homes for Children, then trekked over to the after-party at The District for a nightcap. Pelaez and his date had just ordered drinks when, the 39-year-old claims, Lorie invaded his personal space. "The place wasn't even crowded," Pelaez complained to The Bitch, "but this guy was on me. He was so close that my elbow hit him when I tried to move out of the way."
Pelaez says despite moving to the other end of the bar, Lorie crowded in a second time. "I could literally feel his body rubbing up against my buttocks," Pelaez intones in a Bronxy drawl. "He asks me: 'Who the fuck are you?' And then he informs me that he's the 'fucking owner.' He grabs my hand and squeezes it so hard that the plastic cup I'm holding crushes in my hand, spilling my drink all over me."
Lorie, who is a dapper but compact fellow, can't fathom how anyone would think he could challenge the imposing Pelaez, a tall and broad bodybuilder.
"The guy is three times my size and he is gifted with muscles," Lorie scoffed, adding that Pelaez was the aggressor. "When he elbowed me, he yelled, öYou are invading my fucking space' at me," Lorie recalls. "So I told him I was the owner, that I thought he had too much to drink, and I asked him to leave. I grabbed his cup to set it down on the bar and called security to escort him and his date out," Lorie said. "But he kept belittling me and threatening that he was going to ruin me."
Outside, Pelaez said he filed a complaint with a pair of off-duty police officers guarding the door across 40th Street at Grass, the impossible-to-enter Design District fortress. The officers questioned Lorie about the incident. "I found it offensive that the cops just took his word and wrote up an incident report," Lorie said. "They also told me that this wouldn't happen if I hired off-duty cops for security."
Miss MTV Regrets
Though MTV hasn't called yet about a special Made episode starring The Bitch ("I Want to Be a Reclusive German Expressionist Film Director"), the network is at least pretty good about sending her lots and lots of press releases. Still, it was surprising recently to get a missive titled "RECALL RECALL RECALL," an attempt to get recipients to ignore or pretend they hadn't seen an earlier release about the hiring of Jacqueline Cantore as vice president for MTV Latin America, based at the channel's Miami Beach headquarters.
Turns out it wasn't the content of the release about Cantore the network marketing folks didn't want noticed, it was the enclosed photo of the Brazilian programming scheduler. As you can see yourself, though, there's nothing wrong with the image. Sure, Cantore seems to be in character for a Square Pegs/Betty La Fea costume party, but aside from the specs held together by lug nuts from a Boeing aircraft, she's a cute girl.
BellSouth, What Is the Frequency?
Debbie Perkins just wanted to pay less for her local phone service when she signed up as a customer of U.S. Telecom Inc., a Miami company that offers less expensive rates than dominant local phone service provider BellSouth. Instead Perkins learned that Ma Bell still reigns supreme in the world of analogue communication.
On August 27, Perkins, of Coral Gables, picked up her receiver and was greeted with an ominous recording stating that her phone line was "being checked for trouble." She could not receive any incoming calls. She reached U.S. Telecom via her cell phone to ask what the heck was going on. A U.S. Telecom customer service representative, Perkins says, informed her BellSouth had frozen U.S. Telecom's phone lines, but that the problem would soon be resolved. Three days later, Perkins says, "I had a new recording that said I had to call DSLi, another local phone company, to get my service restored." But DSLi could not reconnect because the lines were still on lockdown. By now Perkins was ready to reach out and bitch-slap someone. So she called BellSouth. Perkins recalls: "I asked if I could have my service restored through them. But the only way I could keep my current phone number was to pay another $40, which I wasn't about to do."
Finally Perkins went to the Florida Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates utility companies. The PSC explained that U.S. Telecom had turned over its local customer list to DSLi, and that DSLi was now responsible for reconnecting her phone line. On September 20, DSLi finally restored Perkins's phone service. "I came home and my answering machine light was blinking!" a jovial Perkins exclaimed.
BellSouth spokeswoman Marta Casas-Celaya says the company has filed a complaint with the PSC to terminate its service agreement with U.S. Telecom. "We notified them that we were going to disconnect their customers because of nonpayment."
U.S. Telecom president Luis Coello acknowledged his company has a billing dispute with BellSouth, but that instead of working it out, the state's dominant phone carrier decided to play hardball. "There are seven million phone lines in Florida and only 500,000 are in the hands of privately held local phone companies," Coello says. "It is no secret that BellSouth wants to maintain its monopoly and will go to war with us and other local carriers."
About this time last year, authorities in Surfside were slapping hundred-dollar fines on people for feeding stray cats; private lawyers who work for the town were paid thousands of dollars to prosecute the animal lovers. Now investigative hounds from the FBI are reported to be sniffing around the town, lured by allegations of another feeding regimen, one that may have fattened the town's lawyers as well as several current and former town officials.
In a Miami-Dade courtroom last week the man who defended the cat-feeders, attorney Alan Soven, told Judge Lawrence Schwartz a little bit about the federal criminal investigation. Soven represents the owners of six residential properties who owe the town several million dollars in fines for violating various ordinances aimed at keeping Surfside serene and scenic. (Soven is appealing rulings by the town's hearing officer, Carolyn Howard, a private lawyer Surfside hired in 1999 to handle its code enforcement cases.)
In a bizarre motion, Soven alleged that former town manager Ed Rodriguez, who resigned suddenly in July; Stephen Cypen and Steven Ginsburg, two private attorneys who work for the town; and others, engaged in a "conspiracy scheme" to use code violations to force out the owners of the six houses and take possession of the properties. "Steven Ginsburg is now under criminal investigation by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida," the motion states. Because the probe is somehow related to the present case, the judge should remove Ginsburg from it, the motion argues.
The outlandish accusations had prompted Ginsburg to show up in court with two colleagues from his firm, Adorno & Yoss -- Elizabeth Schwabedissen and Jack Reiter -- as well as Cypen. They were not pleased.
Judge Schwartz was also annoyed. Just how did Soven come to know about this supposed federal investigation? he demanded to know. Soven explained that he knew about it because FBI agents had interviewed several of his clients. Further he told the judge that Ginsburg had received a FISA letter. FISA -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- gives the federal government "far-reaching authority to subpoena bank records in this country, as well as overseas," Soven noted.
Judge Schwartz confessed that he was "flabbergasted" by Soven's motion, but agreed to put Ginsburg under oath. "I have not received a FISA letter," Ginsburg told the judge. "I spoke to George Yoss, the managing partner of our firm. The firm has not, to his knowledge, received a letter either." He added that he was unaware of any investigation involving him.
Then the judge put Cypen under oath. "Are you aware of any investigation currently being conducted by any branch of the federal government involving you specifically as an individual, you specifically as an attorney for the Town of Surfside, or the law firm Cypen & Cypen?" the judge asked.
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"No," Cypen replied.
The lawyer added, however, that he did know of one FISA letter received in Surfside. "I have been made aware that the chief of police, who was the acting town manager for 30 days, received a FISA letter," Cypen told the judge.
That was news to Surfside police chief Larry Boemler, who told The Bitch two days later he had not received such a letter. "This is one of the cleanest towns you can imagine," Boemler assured us. He declined further comment.
Judge Schwartz eventually denied Soven's motion to remove Ginsburg from the code enforcement case, because the FBI would neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation. "I've never been contacted by any authority," Ginsburg grumbled. "If I were, I would give them my full cooperation. Everything we've done is public record. The Town of Surfside has nothing to hide."