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Fishing for a Walk-On Part or a Date

October 20, 2000|Steve Chawkins

The movie "Swordfish" has started filming in downtown Ventura, much to the chagrin of several Main Street merchants. The businesspeople include a number of antique dealers, who claim the hubbub will turn away prospective customers and cost them a ton of money.

I fully sympathize. No movie should be filmed at the expense of local businesses, even if lots of people show up to gawk at John Travolta and Halle Berry. Cynics have charged that the merchants' lawsuit against the film's producers is--I believe the polite term is "a shakedown"--but they're being unfair. While several hundred crew members, onlookers and extras have been drawn to downtown Ventura--which is several hundred more than on a typical weekday--few of them will stagger away with antique armoires on their backs.

So I feel for the businesses. But at least Warner Bros. came up with enough cash to satisfy most of downtown's 110 retailers; what about the many individuals who don't run businesses, but are equally inconvenienced, deprived, degraded and stripped of their rights? What about, for example, me?

My attempts to negotiate with Warner Bros. have gone nowhere. Regretfully, I must report that they have left me no choice but to sue. I didn't want to play tough, but if there's one thing I've learned from the movies, it's that sometimes a guy has to stand up and do the right thing.

Superior Court for the State

of California

For the County of Ventura




WARNER BROS., a division

of Warner Entertainment Co.


Causes of Action:

1. Warner Bros., hereinafter known as the Defendants, did cause streets or portions of streets to be blocked to traffic in downtown Ventura.

2. Defendants did knowingly bring to town individuals employed by or associated with the entertainment industry, a criminal enterprise known to promote underage smoking, premarital sex, violence in schools and on the streets, and "The Flintstones," "Viva Rock Vegas." (See Lieberman, et. al. vs. Bogeyman, et. al.)

3. Defendants did offer compensation, however inadequate, to business owners, but not to persons who are exquisitely sensitive to disruptions in their daily routine, and, who, incidentally, can really use the money.

4. Defendants, through their construction activity, delayed by anywhere from several seconds to many seconds the Plaintiff's lawful pursuit of goods and services on Main Street, impeding pedestrian progress toward many businesses, including, although it's of absolutely no interest or urgency to Plaintiff, the city's only adult bookstore.

5. Defendants placed or caused to be placed false fronts on a number of downtown stores, which in a couple of cases were much classier than the original facades, cruelly raising Plaintiff's hopes about the post-"Swordfish" appearance of said stores.

6. Defendants willfully hired John Travolta, who, even though he's lost some pounds lately, caused Plaintiff to think in a melancholy fashion about what middle age can do to ex-disco dancers, not to mention the rest of us.

7. As a result, Plaintiff was plunged into a state of mild anxiety, for which he required several over-the-counter medications, which were delivered with olives, for which he does not particularly care.

8. Defendants' plans to smash Main Street storefronts with Humvee vehicles, while hilarious entertainment, will encourage impressionable young people to do the same. This has caused Plaintiff to fret. If Plaintiff had funds to build underground bunker, he would be safe from Humvee-crazed teenagers and his wife could watch the ancient "Saturday Night Fever" video in absolute, subterranean safety, but he doesn't have the funds. This has catapulted Plaintiff into major depression

WHEREAS, Defendants have persisted in the filming of "Swordfish," and denied entreaties to reconsider, Plaintiff asks the court pro se, ad hoc, and soup de jour, to order that:

1. Defendants cease and desist instantly.

2. Defendants render to Plaintiff a cashier's check for $10 million.

3. Absent remedies 1 and 2, isn't there a tiny walk-on part in "Swordfish" for a reporter-type? I'd get such a kick out of it. And, I know it's corny, but how about a couple of autographs--not for me, of course, but for a sick kid I know, in a hospital somewhere.

And Halle, I don't have to tell you how much I love your work. I'm sorry I've had to file this suit, which unfortunately has the potential to destroy your career--but I wouldn't be surprised if lunch with a certain someone could make it disappear.


Steve Chawkins can be reached at 653-7561 or at

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