Shoptalk

The Saw Is Family
‘Tree Bandits’ Hack Billboards Free in L.A.

“Who will survive, and what will be left of them?” That was the question The Texas Chain Saw Massacre encouraged moviegoers to ask back in 1974.

But Los Angeles is now asking similar questions about the trees that grow near its billboards.

In recent months, so-called “tree bandits” wielding chain saws have been spotted illegally pruning limbs around the city that obscure billboard signs. Witnesses say teams of two or three men will spring out of unmarked trucks, shear off the offending branches in a matter of minutes and slip quietly away.

Steve Martin, city councilman for West Hollywood, which has been hit hard, says there have been about 50 such incidents in the last few months. All of them, he says, have occurred in front of boards owned by Regency Outdoor Advertising of L.A. Regency president Brian Kennedy denied any knowledge of the trimming and declined to discuss the situation further with Shoptalk.

As it stands, West Hollywood is offering a $500 reward for the arrest and conviction of these infamous “Bandit Tree Trimmers.” To drive the point home, officials are distributing a Wild West-type wanted poster, complete with a photo of a severed tree limb. In words Leatherface and his gang would appreciate, the ads charge the vandals with “crimes against nature.”

Spike: She’s Gotta Have Him
Director Flees From Janet ‘Jaguar’ Jackson

Just before Janet Jackson’s Jaguar-sponsored “All for You World Tour 2001” concert at Madison Square Garden last week, journalists gathered for a screening of the first TV spot for the Jaguar X-Type. The ad, directed by Spike Lee, features a man who places an order for an X-Type in London with engineers who deliver it personally to the man’s home in Harlem.

Lee was on hand for questions, but seemed more excited to be at his first Janet Jackson concert.
“I love Janet,” he said.
“I love the whole family.”

He did seem a bit jittery at the show, though, when Jackson, wearing a skin-tight jumpsuit and predatory expression, scanned the crowd for a guy to pull onstage. When her gaze lingered in Lee’s direction, he bolted from the front row to the relative obscurity of the sixth, much to the amusement of ushers and a potbellied fellow who laughed delightedly to find Spike beside him.

After Jackson selected her twentysomething “victim,” a relieved-looking Lee, dressed in a crisp, beige searsucker suit and white hat, ambled back to the front. He stomped, clapped and roared with approval along with the rest of the Garden as Jackson simulated acts on the fan, now strapped to a gurney, that made Shoptalk blush.

Foul Ball
Needlepoint may not be a contact sport, but pity the marketer who dares to cross its devoted practitioners.

The Louisville Slugger Museum in Louisville, Ky., knows that by now. It houses a prized collection of baseball bats, and thought it might be funny to advertise on a local billboard with the line “More old bats than a needlepoint convention.” What it overlooked was that the Embroiderers’ Guild of America is also headquartered in town.

“I personally don’t like the reference of needlepoint convention attendees being referred to as ‘old bats,’ ” Bonnie Key, the guild’s office manager, told the AP. “I’m sure they saw humor in that, but I know our membership would not.” Not only are the guild’s members not bats, Key says, many of them aren’t particularly old, either. “Our membership is from probably 6 years old up to 100 years old,” she says.

Chagrined, the museum painted over the offending phrase, leaving just the words “old bats” and an image of a century-old bat. “We really didn’t want to offend anyone,” says executive director Bill Williams. “We just learned our lesson, that there are a lot of needlepointers out there.”

Williams should’ve known better: His wife works in an embroidery shop. “She let me know she didn’t think it was funny,” he says.