Looking up and down the seemingly peaceful 1200 block of Milwaukee Street, longtime resident Darby McNeal observes that there's "inhibition all over the block."
That may be an understatement. After film crews from the miniseries version of The Shining descended on the block for a single day of shooting last month, angry residents complained to the city--and to the woman whose house was filmed--that their street was clogged with trailers, trucks, loud generators and rude crew members. The ill will spilled over to relations between neighbors, between the film crew and the neighborhood and between the mayor's office and the film crew.
Work on the six-hour ABC miniseries--which tells the story of a hotel caretaker who goes insane watching over an isolated mountain resort--lasted less than a day. But just as it does in a good Stephen King yarn, the tension continues to lurk.
Joe Lewis, stopping home for a quick lunch, says the day of shooting "momentarily polarized the neighborhood. Things have improved some between people who were put out and people who sympathized, but it's a delicate subject."
During the shoot, many people seemed excited to have a big film project on their block. Stephen King and star Steven Weber (who reprises Jack Nicholson's infamous turn) were on hand signing autographs. Lewis's wife had her copy of The Shining signed, and Claudia Ingraham, who lives at the end of the block, says her eleven-year-old daughter exchanged hellos with the master of macabre.
Such good spirits had a short shelf life; within days the complaints started pouring in. First there were several phone calls to the Mayor's Office of Art, Culture and Film, which serves as a liaison between the city and the production; then came a handful of calls to councilman Ed Thomas's office, in whose district the filming took place.
Then a letter signed by several neighbors was sent to Mimi and Tom Levandoski--whose house was used for the filming--asking that no filming ever take place on the block again. Then another letter, with thirteen signatures on it, in which homeowners complained that "neither they nor their property was treated in a respectful manner, and the time schedule of the actual filming was grossly misrepresented," landed in the mayor's film office.
This last letter was drafted by Daphne Morgan-Hurst, who lives next to the Levandoskis and had to endure the lawnmower-like drone of a generator outside her house. Morgan-Hurst didn't return calls for this story, but her page-and-a-half letter speaks for itself. In it, she complained that the film crew went beyond schedule (they wrapped shortly after their 11:30 promise but did not pack up and leave until after 1 a.m.); kids weren't allowed to play in their yards; crew members were too loud and trampled across lawns and left cigarette butts; and there wasn't adequate access for safety vehicles.
Lakeside Productions, which is producing the film, refuted the complaints point for point in a response written by location manager Sherry Erickson, whose job is to appease the locals. Erickson concluded that "other than the lateness, it was no more impact than a neighborhood block party."
Finally, a few weeks later, Levandoski sent her own letter to her neighbors in which she apologized for any inconvenience or hurt feelings but concluded, "To respond to a problem in a subversive and unkind manner is common to this world. We were just surprised to find it happening on the bucolic block of Milwaukee Street."
It does seem like a bucolic block, with its requisite nice homes, screened-in porches and green lawns. An American flag hangs from one porch. The neighbors know one another, too. They hold an annual block-long garage sale, progressive dinners on New Year's Eve and various potlucks and parties throughout the year.
But that togetherness has broken down. Many neighbors were more than mildly annoyed by things other than noise. For Judy Close, who signed the petition, it was that her car was towed--though she hastens to add that the production company called her at work about it and then paid the towing ticket. For another resident, who signed the petition "more in support of my neighbors," it was $250 in new seed she had put down on her lawn that was ruined because of crew people trampling about, plus $250 worth of sod she spent to replace it.
Claudia Ingraham admits she was less inconvenienced than her neighbors, but she's still upset that there was no compensation--she says she never got the "care package" of fruit and warm regards that Erickson says she sent to everyone on the block. Others feel the same way.
"The sense is they [the Levandoskis] were paid for their inconvenience but none of us were, so there's a little annoyance," says Ray O'Loughlin. "The point is they were doing it for a business proposition. It wasn't like a charity event."
But another resident says, "It's all a jealousy thing, because she [Mimi] was getting paid for it. If they had the chance to do it, it would've been fine."
Levandoski won't say how much she got paid--although some neighbors speculate it was several thousand dollars--but, she says, because of the ill will generated, "it was definitely not worth it."
Darby McNeal, who doesn't have much contact with her neighbors, says the problem is not the Levandoskis but "people who decide they don't like something and they try to stop it. People have a right to live, goddamn it."
So, is anybody happy here? Erickson says she's "disappointed" about the way the mayor's film office, which is run by former Emergency actor Ron Pinkard, dealt with the complaints on Milwaukee.
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"I just felt like he could have done a little more to calm them down and get all the facts and get my point of view," she says. "It came back to me that he had several conversations with people in the neighborhood before he'd ever given me a chance to defend myself. And that really hurt me."
"If she feels that way," Pinkard says, "I can't do anything about that. We looked at all the complaints, hopefully to the satisfaction of everyone."
There's been only one other complaint, by a woman living in the 1000 block of Humboldt, who groused about filming that took place in the 1100 block of the same street. "I called her as soon as Ron Pinkard paged me," Erickson says, "and she just went off on me. She said, 'We don't want filming in our neighborhood. We don't need it.' Hey, we weren't even filming in her neighborhood."
At any rate, Pinkard says, "those neighborhoods who have had an impact from The Shining will have a chance to rest, and we won't be going back into those neighborhoods anytime soon.