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The Classic Amphitheatre may have hosted its last show 

Street Talk

The Show Likely Will Not Go OnCarreras House Squabble Settled?Kaine: Give West Grace Plan a Chance'Sex and the City' Star Shines for LINCBottom Gives a Hoot About ABCStar Says Carytown Is No Rodeo DriveThe Show Likely Will Not Go On

Unless a concert backer steps forward with a plan to save it, the Classic Ampitheatre at Strawberry Hill held its last show Sunday.

The state fair's closing-night appearance of 98 Degrees was the last scheduled performance at the 10,000-seat venue. Now the Classic Amphitheatre — purchased with the rest of the Strawberry Hill properties in late August by neighboring Richmond International Raceway — appears headed for the scrap heap.

RIR Vice President Wayne Sawyer says a decision on what to do with the outdoor concert facility will be made early next year. "Right now, unless somebody has a strong case, my inclination is that it would go," he says. RIR would consider maintaining the facility "if somebody can show me how to make money with it."

"Anybody who books concerts should feel free to talk to the Sawyers," says Strawberry Hill spokesman Jay Lugar. He adds that Cellar Door Productions, which for more than a decade booked well-attended shows at the amphitheater, appeared to lose interest in recent years in favor of its self-owned venues in Tidewater and Northern Virginia. Other bookers were invited to pitch shows to take up the slack here, but few did, Lugar says.

Cellar Door officials could not be reached for comment. The firm sponsored the only concert, Hootie and the Blowfish, held at the Classic Amphitheatre this summer.

Former Cellar Door managers Bill Reid and Rick Mersel have formed their own booking company in Virginia Beach, Rising Tide Productions, and say simple market dynamics are behind the waning of the Classic Amphitheatre.

Mersel says Cellar Door's self-owned venues are inherently more profitable and that the proliferation of lesser-drawing bands and smaller sites is putting the squeeze on middle-tier concert halls such as the Classic Amphitheatre.

"What's happening in music is the same thing that's happening with the fragmentation of the media and the ascent of the Internet," he says. "There are just very few bands who can fill 10,000 seats, especially in markets like Richmond, and the ones that can are playing bigger halls."

— Rob Morano

Carreras House Squabble Settled?

The end of a more than two-year controversy over the paint job on a Monument Avenue-area house appears imminent. And like most compromises in cases of individual versus community rights, no one is happy.

The 402 N. Allen Ave. home of Bill and Rejena Carreras, of local jewelry-store fame, has delighted some passersby but infuriated some neighbors with its ever-changing and unconventional paint work. Since they bought it in the mid '70s, this old house has been everything from yellow and turquoise to hot pink and blue to variations on its current theme of bright white with pale pink and green trim.

It's driven preservationists and the property-value conscious alike nuts. But in 1990 the house was assumed into the Monument Avenue Old and Historic Zoning Overlay District, which requires permits for property alterations. Nearby homeowners thought they'd seen the last of Rejena's fanciful facades.

Not so. In July 1997 the house was painted yet again — without a city certificate of appropriateness, causing an uproar among neighbors and prompting notification of a violation from the city.

That's when the Commission of Architectural Review's process churned to life, moving in fits and starts from paint-scheme applications to denials and appeals to reapplications, until a kind of compromise was reached in April 1998. The Carrerases got a year to make the agree-upon changes. They didn't.

By this August, the commission had no hair left to pull out. Prosecution was threatened and a Sept. 15 deadline set for the work to get done. Apparently, this deadline was met.

At the commission's Sept. 28 meeting, Senior Planner John Albers reported the house seems to be in compliance; a final, formal ruling is still to come. But neither he nor commission members are pleased; nor are neighbors; nor is Rejena Carreras, whose artistic sensibilities (master's degree from VCU; school of the arts advisory committee; 1998 Woman of the Year for the arts from the YWCA; host of five house and garden tours) chafe beneath the seeming sovereignty of a "beige world."

"I'm not content," she says in her carefree voice. "I would say some people just need to get a life. I have bigger fish to fry."

Like finishing interior decorations which, she adds, are "much more unconventional."

— Rob Morano

Kaine: Give West Grace Plan a Chance

Despite last month's planning commission denial, Mayor Tim Kaine and Acting Director of Public Works Diane Linderman still want to try a controversial project for funneling westbound, mostly afternoon commuter traffic off Grace Street.

Officials will present the proposed diverter project for a public hearing and City Council vote Oct. 11. The plan calls for a right-angle-shaped median to force westbound Grace Street traffic right, onto Ryland Street near Broad. "I think we ought to definitely give it a try," Kaine says of the curb-height, brick-paved structure. Linderman adds diverters appear to be working well on East and West Seminary avenues in North Side.

The project is backed by the West Grace Street Association, which originally proposed full-blown medians to divert two-lane traffic at Davis and Allen avenues. The association's immediate past president, Roy Burgess, says the diverter is needed to discourage evening commuters from speeding west on Grace and endangering residents' children, quality of life and property values.

But Fan District Association President Paul Feine thinks the plan could backfire and merely shift traffic problems to parallel avenues and overburden Broad itself: "If you take a balloon and squeeze it in the middle, it gets larger at the ends."

Kaine, who represents the district, is politically torn between West Grace Street residents and the FDA's more numerous but, on this issue, less emphatic members. He emphasizes the diverter isn't what Grace Street residents originally wanted, and adds, "you can predict all you want" about what the result will be, but only trying the diverter for "four to five months" will tell the tale.

Now that's walking the center line.

— R.M.

'Sex and the City' Star Shines for LINC

As newspaper columnist Carrie Bradshaw on HBO's "Sex and the City," she may not seem to ponder much more than Mr. Big, but actress Sarah Jessica Parker has her mind set on more serious pursuits. One of them will bring her to Richmond later this fall.

The actress will help her long-time friend Phyllis Katz with a fund-raiser to help local cancer patients.

Katz, a local attorney and two-time cancer survivor, heads the Legal Information Network for Cancer (LINC), an organization of volunteers that helps cancer patients get the health care they need and the means to pay for it. The group, established in 1996, was the first of its kind in the nation.

The Dec. 4 event is the first public fund-raiser for the group that has helped more than 200 Richmond cancer patients. Three events hosted by Parker are slated for the daylong benefit: a fashion show at Hecht's at Regency Square; a more intimate cocktail party with Parker at a private home early that evening; and a big dance party at Tredegar Iron Works.

"We're trying to make the best use of a day of Sarah's time," says Lucy Newman, LINC's coordinator for the benefit that aims to raise upwards of $60,000. "We want to use her leverage; she's at a peak in her career." Katz and Newman hope to play off Parker's cachet and the popularity of her character, whose sexual exploits (and those of her friends) are quickly seeping into the American pop consciousness. "We're thinking of having a Mr. Big contest," laughs Katz.

But Katz's tone turns serious when talking about LINC. "We need support. I called Sarah and asked if she could help. She said, 'Absolutely. You tell me where and when.'"

— Brandon Walters

Bottom Gives a Hoot About ABC

Just who were those chicks dressed in white short-shorts and halter tops skipping through Shockoe Bottom last month?

If it weren't for the walkie talkies and headphones, they could have passed as scantily clad hipsters on their way to Fahrenheit or Have a Nice Day Cafe.

But Calypso Cafe? Isn't that yesterday's news?

It was, until recently. The defunct club on the corner of 18th Street and East Franklin was known for its upstairs deck and its neon "Loretta" sign.

After a very short stint as The Bait Shack, the club reopened one weekend last month. But its reincarnation had the life span of a fruit fly.

"Basically, they closed before they opened," says ABC agent Dan Durrette who oversees ABC licensing for new Shockoe Bottom businesses. "The two young ladies were interested in buying it, but they were doing things they shouldn't have been doing."

Durrette identified one of the women as Lisa Edge, who works at a South Side dentist's office by day and occasionally works at Hooters at night. Edge could not be reached for comment.

According to several Shockoe Bottom restaurant owners, a contingent of Hooters girls rallied together and agreed to work for Calypso's grand opening. "They came in and got one-dollar bills from us," says Melissa Payne, general manager of None Such Place restaurant. "They were running around passing out fliers." But when Calypso packed to capacity, police officers took notice, and not just because of the outfits.

Durrette says police removed liquor bottles from the bar because the bottles did not bear the proper business code numbers. Now the corner bar is closed again, though for a time, None Such's Payne says, the short-lived antics of the Hooters girls "really livened up the block."

— Brandon Walters

Star Says Carytown Is No Rodeo Drive

Just why doesn't Richmond have a Neiman Marcus? Or at least a Gap in Carytown?

That's what actress Diahann Carroll and a friend wanted to know on their trip to Richmond's allegedly hip urban shopping district.

The two were spied recently at Annette Dean, the exclusive women's shop located behind Acacia restaurant. "I knew who she was immediately," says a store saleswoman who asked not to be identified, "but I didn't let her know I knew who she was."

Although she did make a purchase, Carroll — who was in Richmond for the filming of "The Memoirs of Sally Hemings" — and her friend weren't particularly taken with Carytown's charm. "They were talking about California," says the saleswoman, "and how, here, shops were difficult to get to and there were no major stores."

The saleswoman says it was Carroll's friend who did most of the complaining. "Diahann was very attractive and actually very pleasant," she says of the Tony Award- and Golden Globe Award-winning actress. She says, too, that one person recognized the popular nightclub performer and star of the groundbreaking late '60s TV show "Julia" and approached her as she left the store. "But none of the younger ones knew who she was." Not to worry. She could always recapture the young audience's eye by doing a Gap commercial.

— Brandon Walters
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