Owner of `FAB 5' plate wants a better deal

He leased license tag to `Queer Eye' TV show, but he received just $100

April 02, 2004|By Robert Kahn | Robert Kahn,NEWSDAY

The upstate New Yorker who lent his "FAB 5" vanity plate to the producers of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would like a makeover of his original deal with the hit television series.

"When I see what a success the show is, I feel hoodwinked," says Frank Anthony Benicase, a 65-year-old IBM retiree in Kingston.

Behind Benicase's Queer Eye quibble is nothing more fabulous than the vanity registration on his 1996 maroon Buick Regal.

Twenty years ago, Benicase sought the letters FAB - his initials - for his license plate. But officials told him that four other New Yorkers already had plates beginning with FAB, so he settled for FAB 5.

Days before the debut of Queer Eye in July, Scout Productions, having already decided their crew of five gay makeover artists would be known as the Fab 5, called Benicase and asked to purchase the plate for on-the-road scenes featuring the gay urban professionals whose mission in life is to prettify slovenly straight men.

He refused to sell - "Hey, they're my initials" - but gave the producers permission to use a mock-up for $100, a figure he arrived at by calculating his cost to register the plate for two years. A contract arrived in Kingston the next day with a $100 bill. Benicase signed, pocketed his C-note and forgot the matter.

Then came the Queer Eye blitzkrieg.

Benicase's sister was in Times Square for a Broadway show last summer and saw FAB 5 splashed all over town. "They didn't give you anything for that?" she asked him.

Benicase called an attorney friend, believing he had only signed paperwork allowing one-time use of the plate. Ultimately, he decided not to pursue a claim, acknowledging that Scout has his name on a legitimate contract.

A Bravo network spokesman confirms that Benicase's contract allows use of the likeness for the run of an entire series and would not comment on the financial arrangement, saying the agreement was between Benicase and Scout Productions.

"How was I supposed to know it was going to be a hit show?" Benicase said. He said he and his pals laugh about the whole scenario now, but he does have one lingering frustration.

"When I'm driving, people speed up to the car to see who's in it, and they're always waving at me," he says. "Now everyone thinks I'm gay."

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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