Thursday, October 13, 2005

MTV Threatens to Cancel Key West Series

The court case between MTV Real World producers and a Key West tourism millionaire is underway in county court. Ed Swift is seeking an injuction to stop filming of the show. If he succeeds, MTV producers threaten to leave Key West entirely, according to this morning's local paper. This is not the first MTV show to be filmed in Key West. In the past, MTV has filmed its Beach House and Road Rules episodes on the island, and this has resulted in a lot of publicity for Key West. And in the business of tourism, good publicity yields more visitors.
One might think that the free publicity that the popular show is likely to give Ed Swift's tourism businesses, including the Conch Tour Trains and Trolley tours, is well worth the alleged nuicance of a 6-month taping next to his posh Florida Keys home. Plus, many people who live in the neighborhoods that his tours creep through every day all day, have made similar complaints. Nope, he's playing hardball, and in his complaint requests:
  • A. Defendants, their agents and employees be temporarily enjoined from using Subject Property to film "The Real World" television series.
  • B. Plaintiffs be awarded all costs, expenses, and attorney's fees incurred in this action; and
  • C. Plaintiffs be awarded such other relief as this Court may find just and proper.

In court documents for the Swift on file, one nearby house complained that the production's lights are so bright, her 3 macaws (parrots) who live in her glassed-in porch "did not know when to roost". How much pain and suffering for that alone? I mean, caged birds unable to live naturally!?

Other complaints include:

  • the increase in boat traffic
  • a waverunner tour operation now making the waterfront homes a stop on their trip
  • boaters not adhering to the "No Wake" zone and causing resident's boats to "bang against the seawall"
  • waters are now unsafe for swimming due to the added boat traffic.

From the local paper Key West Citizen, written by their excellent reporter Timothy O'Hara,

"Nancy Swift testified about the amount of light coming from the home, a
helicopter taking video images of the home and the increase in the number of
vehicles and boats that come through the neighborhood. Swift also told the judge
that they were unable to have a "sweet 16" birthday party for their daughter at
their home. They did not want their daughter and their friends hanging around
the MTV house, because it was occupied by strangers, she said.
Bunim-Murray attorneys reminded the judge that the Swifts are partial owners of Historic Tours of America, which operates Conch Tour Train and Old Town Trolley tours that travel through residential downtown Key West.
Nancy Swift testified that the family does not live in Old Town because they wanted to live in a neighborhood that didn't have tour operators and other commercial activity.
"I wanted to bring up children in a family neighborhood," Nancy Swift said.
Bohrer referred to her attitude as one of "not in my backyard," as he asked
the judge to dismiss the case early Wednesday. The Swifts have no problem
subjecting the rest of the community to thousands of people tourists driving
through their neighborhoods, Bohrer said.
Monroe Circuit Judge Mark Jones refused to dismiss the case, meaning the defendants had to put on their side of the case.
Two producers and the director of photography testified Wednesday
about why the outside lights are kept on all night. They also measured the light
near the property line abutting the Swift home and results determined the light
in that area was minimal, they said. "

This all comes at a strange time for Key West and it's biggest businessman. A recent court case has leveled a $13.5 million judgement against the city, largely the result of Ed Swift's monopoly of land-based-vehicle tours and Key West creation and protection of that monopoly. Angry city officials have been calling for an end to the sweetheart deal between the city and the Historic Tours of America/Conch Tour Train/Trolley. Is Swift just trying to slap back at the city? Is it a big payoff he seeks from MTV? Most of all, is he really that ignorant in the irony of his complaint "not in my backyard", when that's how he makes a living: running a commercial operation in residential neighborhoods?

Next post, I'll fill you in on MTV's defense.

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Anonymous said...

ugh, their mom

s said...

These Swifts should swiftly be kicked out of Key West. I'm not visiting this place now. not in my life.