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| Culture |

The Naked Carpet King Gets a Spray-Paint Facelift

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South Florida's elite graffiti crew MSG might have lost one of its most prolific taggers, as reported here last week, but it looks like the remaining artistes are picking up the slack. And while Riptide, for legal reasons, remains firmly against vandalizing other people's property, this still wins our heart as the best defacement we've seen in a long time. As touted on his crew's own website, MSGCartel.com, local graffiti legend Crome recently performed a big-schnoz customization of Miami's creepiest landmark: the Don Bailey Carpets advertisement along I-95 displaying the business's pale namesake in a nude recline.

We called the carpet king Bailey himself for his take on the graffiti -- but first, for our own edification, some sort of explanation of the advertisement that's put us off our croissant on many a morning commute.

Fans of obscure beefcake know his nude pose was once topical: When he first had it painted 38 years ago, Bailey was inspired by Burt Reynolds' April 1972 Cosmopolitan spread in which the Smokey and the Bandit star forever tainted a bearskin rug. At that time, Bailey says, he had just recently quit a janitorial job to invest $5,000 in savings into his start-up carpet business in a warehouse on the then-desolate block of 8300 Biscayne Boulevard. "I saw how Reynolds got so much publicity when he was the first man to ever pose nude in a major magazine," recalls the old-school entrepreneur. "I immediately told an artist to paint me a 20 [foot]-by-40 [foot] mural of me in the same pose. Business was slow, with maybe two women a day coming in to look at carpet. The day after the mural went up, we started getting 15 to 25 people a day."

Bailey's business quickly outgrew the warehouse, and he gives all credit for his current wealth to his pink, mostly hairless body. In the late '80s, a Miramar commissioner tried to force the carpet tycoon to have clothes painted on the mural, but now it seems Miamians have accepted daily doses of Bailey's naked body as a price they pay for living in paradise: He will soon post several identical murals on billboards along I-95.

So what does Bailey think of Crome's, um, tribute? Although Bailey says he has plans to remove the graffiti, the publicity hound is loving the renewed attention the sign is getting from commuters. "I think the new face looks better than mine," he quips. "It would be nice if the vandals would stop doing [graffiti], but they're kids -- let's hope they're kids. It's important to them. I don't like it, but I understand it."

FYI, Don: Crome is in his 30s.

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