Woot, There It Is

Plus: News Blackout; Skys the Limit

"Most of the things I want," Purcell reasons, "they sell out so quick." --Paul KixNews Blackout

No news is news, at least when WFAA-Channel 8 opts not to broadcast its regular 10 o'clock newscast. That was the case on November 11, when the local ABC affiliate ditched its "bread and butter," in the words of one exec at a competing station, for a half-hour tribute to military veterans, or what WFAA news officials refer to as a "single-topic newscast." The channel hasn't done that since May 1996, says vice president of news David Duitch. Back then the station filled the half-hour with a special report about heroin in local high schools.

Duitch says the move was "absolutely" a result of WFAA's decision not to air Saving Private Ryan, which ABC was offering to affiliates as part of its Veterans Day programming. The local channel was among more than 20 other affiliates across the country that, following substantial Federal Communications Commission fines over so-called explicit content, decided to sub Steven Spielberg's graphic Oscar-winning World War II movie during prime time for more family-friendly fare--in this case, the 1986 movie Hoosiers, which Channel 8 broadcast only 10 days earlier, all but guaranteeing low viewer turnout. Channel 8 aired its tribute to blunt the criticism of veterans who were unhappy over the decision to yank Private Ryan, which Duitch says it did because "presumably young folks are in the audience" at 7 p.m. and didn't think it "responsible" to broadcast that movie, which Spielberg and ABC would not allow to be edited. (Channel 8 did air the uncut movie in 2001 and 2002.) Duitch insists the station didn't receive a single letter or call from viewers wondering what happened to their regular newscast.

Matt Rutledge had an innovative idea for selling online: Just sell one thing at a time.
Matt Rutledge had an innovative idea for selling online: Just sell one thing at a time.

Execs at local competitors insist Channel 8 had other motives for not airing its regular newscast: to keep what was bound to be a low-rated broadcast from being counted in the ratings book during November sweeps. Duitch scoffs at the notion, of course, insisting that more than twice the people who saw Hoosierstuned in for the veterans tribute. "I'd like to find any other station that went up 50 percent from their lead-in," he says. "But it's so nice they're worried about us." --Robert Wilonsky

Sky's the Limit

Music and software composers aren't the only ones who draw knives when their creations are threatened by theft. Bar creators don't like it when you mess with their brainchildren either, especially when the bars are hip South Beach/L.A. joints enhanced with a little celebrity cachet.

Just ask Dallas restaurant and lounge sire Erol Staraveci of the Alfredo's Pizza & Pasta family. Last summer Staraveci transformed the torpid Milkbar on Lower Greenville Avenue into a Mediterranean tapas bar with a "Dallas-meets-South Beach" lounge called Sky Bar. This didn't sit too well with Ian Schrager, founder of New York's famed Studio 54 discothèque, and his firm 8440 LLC. Through 8440, Schrager licenses the trademarked Skybar lounge to Miami's South Beach Shore Club Hotel as well as the Mondrian Hotel in Hollywood. Court papers describe both Skybar lounges as "world-famous exclusive clubs that attract a hip and trendy crowd" and "an absolute legend among loungers" that "frequently host VIP events and cater to celebrities."

But what might have really gotten under Schrager's skin was Staraveci's chutzpah: In mid-September he hosted a Studio 54 party at his Skybar knockoff. A few days later Staraveci received a letter from Schrager's lawyers demanding he cease operating under the Sky Bar name. A trademark infringement suit followed a week later. "We had no prior knowledge that it was federally trademarked since it was so overused throughout the country," Staraveci insists. "It was an honest mistake."

Honest or not, Schrager and company are demanding not only that the Greenville Avenue bar change its name; they're insisting they pocket the bar's profits and three times actual damages plus punitive damages. "He wants to make us an example to the rest of the country," Staraveci laments. "He's a real asshole...he's just playing hardball." Hard or not, Staraveci has changed the name of what court papers call the "bogus Dallas SKY BAR." It's now called Syn Bar. Real sin must already be trademarked. --Mark Stuertz

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