Thursday, June 1, 2000
The Fox network, which brought prime-time entertainment to a new low with "Who Wants to Marry A Millionaire?" is trying to recover its sense of decency. Fox executives recently turned down two "reality" specials that were produced for the network: "World''s Nastiest Neighbors" and "Cheating Spouses."
Fortunately, UPN was waiting in the wings. The maverick network wasn''t going to let two perfectly good shockumentaries go to waste. Like a buzzard circling a rotting carcass, UPN snapped up the specials and plans to air them in the fall. UPN execs say they''re thrilled to get the audience that Fox is renouncing.
Maybe the real reason Fox was reluctant to air "World''s Nastiest Neighbors" is that the show isn''t as real as it claims to be.
The one-hour special purports to air authentic camcorder footage of neighbors turning on one another in the worst ways. But the most detestable neighbors of all turned out to be not neighbors, but actors.
When a family moved into a quiet cul-de-sac in a neighborhood outside Boise, Idaho last year, residents were soon unnerved by the newcomers'' behavior. The new neighbors set up a giant trampoline in front of the house, installed 52 pink flamingos (which seems modest by our standards), held mud-wrestling matches in the front yard and used a giant bullhorn to invite the neighborhood over to party.
Disgruntled residents finally called the police, who raided the house and discovered, not nasty neighbors, but a TV crew posing as neighbors who were secretly filming the reactions of real neighbors with miniature hidden cameras.
"They were talking to our children, and saying things like ''Cute little honey pies,''" recalled (genuine) neighbor Marge Penfold. "Anytime that you came out in the front cul-de-sac, they were in your face."
Police arrested one of the phony neighbors and charged him with disturbing the peace. Apparently, reality does bite.
A Bid Too Far
It''s time to clean out the attic and find the chest where Uncle Jethro stashed his vintage Ansel Adams prints. Denise Bethel, director of the photographs department of the New York auction house Sotheby''s, is coming to the Monterey Bay area to look for work for possible inclusion in the October photographs sale in New York.
Our local Sotheby''s consultant, Robin Venuti, does the advance work for Bethel. "My job," explains Venuti, "is to scout out and look for collections, so that people will call me and say I have a ''whatever'' and then they make appointments for her to look at the work directly."
Venuti says the Carmel region continues to yield up fascinating photographic treasures. "This area is so photographically rich, historically," she says. "In terms of the history of the medium there''s always great material."
Venuti recalls a Carmel resident who owned a book of Ansel Adams photographs of Taos, New Mexico given to her by the photographer many years ago. The book had just been sitting around the house gathering dust, and not being particularly attached to it, she contacted Sotheby''s. Venuti says the woman was amazed when Sotheby''s estimated the book''s worth at $10-15,000. When the volume went up for sale, it fetched $26,000.
"To them it''s just stuff, but in fact, in the larger international market it has extreme value," says Venuti.
Denise Bethel will be here between June 7 and 11. To set up an appointment, call Robin Venuti, 372-7515.
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