Manos prepared to launch SFR with an elaborate gala and charity auction, and he moved hurriedly to line up vendors and partners for the event. "He established himself pretty quick once he'd gotten in through someone's contacts," says Darren McCulley, the bodyguard Manos hired. "He doesn't push. He lets people get involved just enough," McCulley says. "Once he got in two or three deep into someone's contacts, it was like he's in."

Evan Batt with Russian Standard Vodka, the liquor brand that often sponsored Manos' parties, says he did well with Manos' first events, even if he didn't buy everything Manos promised about the global potential of his business. "It was unbelievable, his dedication to his fantasy. He clearly knew what he was doing," Batt says. And for those who were taken in by Manos, Batt says, "This guy was so non-Dallas, they thought it was going to be big and wanted to latch on, and couldn't see through his phoniness."

The night's theme on the October 30 "Monte Carlo de Casino" gala was a reboot of the theme party in Atlanta. Actor Billy Zane was there to speak about the charity tie-ins, and Manos enlisted the long-legged Croatian-born model Jasmina Hdagha to interview arrivals on the red carpet at the Ashton.

Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases after jumping his parole, but he could never keep a low profile. Opposite: During Pop Life’s 2008 red-carpet premiere in New York City, Manos may have revealed more about himself than he intended, saying in an interview that his show “follows my life, which is inspired by real events.”
Brett Vander
Michael Manos hid behind a series of aliases after jumping his parole, but he could never keep a low profile. Opposite: During Pop Life’s 2008 red-carpet premiere in New York City, Manos may have revealed more about himself than he intended, saying in an interview that his show “follows my life, which is inspired by real events.”

The Monte Carlo party was a fundraiser for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Children's Medical Center and Vogel Alcove, a homeless children's non-profit. Manos told Children's they'd get $75,000 from the event, says development director Lori Waggoner, but the night's total was $4,045 from the charity auction. Make-A-Wish took in about $3,000 from three auction items, says Vice President of Development and Services Billie Milner—a fourth auction item, she says, "was not legitimate," and they returned the money. Vogel Alcove collected $2,000 in direct donations that night, plus a $1,000 check that was to cover their cut of the bar tab.

The Monte Carlo party set off a flurry of other parties in rapid succession. Manos threw three parties from November 19 to 21, including a fundraiser at the Ilume, a charity dinner at Bella and a party at Petropolitan. "You can't have a damn red carpet event every Friday night," McGinty—who provided the red carpet for the Monte Carlo party—recalls telling Manos. "It has to have some luster. What makes it special if you have one every night?"

Manos was a workaholic and expected his staff to keep up. SFR's three employees worked long hours in a cramped Oak Lawn office, editing video and toiling away at what he tried to convince them would become the SFR media empire.

His video producer for SFR Television, Elizabeth Thome, recalls she wasn't enthusiastic about the product she first encountered. "The Web sites, they all looked like crap. It was just shit put together," she says. SFR's board of directors included one "R. Murdoch," and SFR's corporate headquarters, according to its Web site, was at a Rome address near the Spanish Steps. "His first magazine was crap," Thome says. "The pictures are pixilated. I mean, he spelled Miley Cyrus' name wrong."

If Manos needed a copy editor, he needed a business partner even more. He found Doug Hezlep, his ex-john from D.C., on Facebook, and after recounting his path to success—and sharing a photo of himself alongside Jane Fonda—Manos enlisted Hezlep's help with SFR.

Hezlep lived with his parents in Southern California, and had settled into a sales job he didn't like. So he couldn't say no when Manos offered him the editor's job at SFR, especially when Manos set him up with his own apartment at the Ilume, in Oak Lawn. Hezlep says he and Manos had planned to file together their partnership's assumed-name certificate at the county clerk's office, but Manos no-showed and asked Hezlep to sign the paperwork, which he did. "I'm really surprised that I was not able to find some of this stuff to be odd, to the point that it raised red flags," Hezlep says.

Manos began to use Bella as his go-to venue, teaming up with owners Petrie and Porcaro to start an event-planning business. "This guy came in for a consulting gig one day, sat in the corner booth and just really never left," recalls Will Larsen, a short-order cook in Bella's kitchen at the time. Under its former executive chef, Christopher Short, Bella had drawn critical praise, but since Short's departure, Bella was part nightclub and part Italian restaurant, a place in search of an identity. Manos stepped in to help the restaurant reinvent itself, including remodeling the floors and walls. (Petrie maintains Manos did no remodeling work.)

As he prepared to debut the new restaurant along with his new show, Bella Boyz, Manos and Thome's relationship grew strained. "He yelled at me all the time, he never appreciated all I did for him," she says. Thome remembers venting to her friend Josh Ek—who'd done contract work for Manos—"'Who the hell is he? Where did he come from? How come he has no friends?' I just started going off, and Josh was like, 'Well, do you want me to dig anything up on him?' And I was like, 'Yeah, actually I do.'"

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10 comments
Henry Vinson
Henry Vinson

I know Michael Manos well and he leaves a path of destruction. He always destroys everyone around him and he quietly disappears as a thief in the night.

marie
marie

I met that criminal when he was in Sing Sing twice a parole violator. Everything that comes out of that criminals mouth is a lie.

Dave
Dave

"Dallas?" celebrities, society, "bella Boyz hottest new reality show?" is this some kind of a joke. What next "the real Housewives of Collin County?' I can't stop laughing.

Joe
Joe

Haha, I wonder who the dumbass was that let him into inner circles.

Mark R.
Mark R.

I met Tony and "Peach" the same night of the NY's party. Nice guys, sorry to see they were taken. My brush with fame, I guess :) Good Job, Observer folks!!!

Ginny
Ginny

Sounds like his name should be Seneca Smith! Thnat is the biggest con artist I have ever run into- lies to make you think he is someone that he is not, always changing his name, steals stuff and sells it to others (like cars) and needs to be in prison.If you run into someone like 6'5 who says his dad is in charge of Virgin records or something else big and rich, you may want to think of this article and BE CAREFUL!!!

chevytexas
chevytexas

Hm, "defrauded the gay community"? I hardly think that statement flies. "Defrauded a few self-deluded queens" doesn't make a community; chumps come in every category. Dallas isn't much different from Atlanta in recognizing a scam, but allowing it to proceed for the sense of theater. This guy's story is interesting for an article, not much of a bump in the scale of fraud. Doesn't anyone remember the Meaders' anymore? Shades of the Potashniks.

Ben Had'ee
Ben Had'ee

Had a relative show up at that Bella party and they called me going off about what a special event it was..I could smell the scam from their description of everything and when I saw pictures of this cartoon character working the "red carpet" omg I cracked up laughing. In a way these kind of characters are good for cities...they remind us all of how thin the line is between the real thing and make believe. How could anyone take his "scene" seriously...if they did..maybe they need to analyze why. This smacks of Bruno'esq antics where the fool may be making a bigger fool out of it's victims.

Hall
Hall

This happens every year or two in Dallas. Last one I remember was the 'Rockefeller' child, virtually identical facts. Come on, anybody with half a brain knew when they met him, heard all the plans, this was a con. A high-rise leased without a credit check? Nobody sat him down, "Who the Hell are you?" (I can understand a Reagan administration official being too stupid, that's another story.) It was fun, entertaining, in the grand scheme of things, really didn't cost all that much.

Skipper
Skipper

BC Dallas is a suckers town. There are several "high flyers" in Ft. Worth too. All the ladies of court like be entertained by the flamboyant jesters and will get burned if they get too close to their flaming batons.

 
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