Calling all cars

Excited cops bust a stuffed Santa for ogling a mannequin

Patrick Bahr and David Michelini have spent a considerable amount of time this holiday season wondering what is wrong with people. Bahr and Michelini own and operate the Antique Bahr on lower Greenville Avenue, and they had a lot of spirit going into the Christmas season.

An apparent upswing in crime has made life in the neighborhood pretty scary, particularly when a nearby shop owner was beaten with a pipe and left for dead just five days before Christmas.

In the spirit of the season, Bahr and Michelini decided to give fellow shop-owners a reason to laugh. As it turned out, Bahr and Michelini got a lot more than laughs in exchange for their gift, but more of that in a moment. First, there are a couple of things that should be said about the two men.

Mainly, the two have an exceptional love for all that is unique, a characteristic that is essential to the business of collecting and selling antiques. The other thing is that they each have an off-beat sense of humor.

One of their favorite tricks is dressing up female mannequins and arranging them in various positions on the sidewalk in front of their store. Bahr and Michelini have a lot of fun with the girls, and the girls, in turn, have become the store's trademark.

One time, for instance, Bahr and Michelini tied the girls to an old Cadillac parked in front of the store with its hood popped open. The girls were attached to the car so that it appeared they were peering into an engine that wouldn't start.

"We've had a lot of old men stop and get out of their cars with jumper cables," Bahr says.

Standing behind a counter cluttered with candles, Bahr cackles as he describes the confounded looks on men's faces when the damsels in distress turned out to be cold, heartless mannequins.

"It's just an attention grabber," says Michelini, who adds that he's afraid people are losing their senses of humor. "Things have just gone backwards lately."

Things went especially backwards on Friday, December 27, at precisely 1:18 in the afternoon. At that moment, the Dallas police department received a 911 call from a person who refused to give his or her name. The caller reported that there was a naked woman standing in front of the Antique Bahr, which is located at the corner of Greenville Avenue and Lewis Street.

But there were a couple of problems with the caller's description. Namely, the woman wasn't a woman at all, and she was hardly naked. She was also not alone.

The woman was really a mannequin, a tall slender vision of beauty that Bahr and Michelini had dressed in a floor-length red gown and a green Vera Whistler original hat.

"She was in her holiday red and green, as a matter of fact," says Michelini, who is hugging a Santa Claus doll, its red suit and shiny black boots now covered with dust. "We thought it was very festive and holiday-like."

As part of the display, the stuffed Santa was placed in front of the model, his left hand mischievously holding open the mannequin's red gown. At three and a half feet tall, Santa's cotton beard was situated inches away from the model's anatomically incorrect, er, private area.

At precisely 1:29 p.m. that Friday, Bahr was seated alone behind the store counter when out on the street there arose such a clatter. And what to Bahr's wondering eyes should appear, but several Dallas officers dressed in full police gear.

"Storm troopers," Bahr says, describing the officers, who arrived in three squads, secured the building's front entrance, and then rushed into the store.

"I thought there was a madman on the loose or a bank robber," says Bahr, who adds that he could not believe what the officers told him next.

"'It's about these lewd and pornographic mannequins,'" Bahr says an officer told him. "Another came in and said, 'you are violating my First Amendment rights. I wouldn't bring my children in here. I wouldn't bring my wife in here.' I started to giggle. I thought it was a joke."

A joke it was not, and the giggling did not help matters.
Bahr says the officers started to call him things like "scum" and "gutter trash." After Bahr informed the officers that he was not going to take down the display, he says one officer told him that he and his colleagues would "find some way to take you down."

That's about when Michelini arrived at the scene.
"I was scared to death I was going to find Patrick shot or something," says Michelini, who convinced Bahr that it would be best to take the display inside.

By then two of the squads had cleared out, and no arrests were made. Bahr and Michelini closed the store, but they say they were afraid to go home because one officer parked behind the store and sat there for nearly two hours.

"I got so paranoid I wouldn't leave the store. I just sat in here in the dark. I wasn't going to leave until they left," says Bahr, who still does not know who the 911 caller is.

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