City gives up on collecting $55,000 film bill

Baltimore & Region


The city of Baltimore wants to forget about John Waters' film Pecker - or at least $55,000 of it.

Without discussion yesterday, the city's Board of Estimates threw out a years-old uncollected invoice racked up by Iceman Films Inc., the company that produced the 1998 movie.

In all, Iceman owed $55,393 for street closures, bagged meters, permits and other city efforts, said Hannah Byron of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts.

Waters, whose offbeat films have helped define Baltimore, said the debt was not his. He wrote and directed the movie, he said, but had no hand in its production. The bills, he said, were managed by Iceman.

"My credit is perfect," Waters told a reporter. "You can ask anybody who's ever dealt with me. ... I never heard of this until years afterward."

Byron and an official with the city law department collections division confirmed that the production company - which has since gone out of business - was to blame. Because the company no longer exists, the city deems the bill uncollectible

A call placed to the company's last known attorney was not returned Wednesday. The original invoice was issued Dec. 6, 1999.

Pecker takes its title from the nickname of its main character, a Baltimore photographer who makes a splash in New York's art scene. The movie was filmed mainly around Hampden and, experts said, parallels some of Waters' experiences.

"One of the great things about John Waters as a filmmaker is he sees everything through very unique eyes, and I think Pecker is no different," said Jed Dietz, director of the Maryland Film Festival. "John's movies evoke strong feelings."

That might be true, but the item attracted no attention from the board, which includes some of the toughest critics around - Mayor Martin O'Malley and City Council President Sheila Dixon. Dixon said she has never seen the movie, but appreciates the economic impact of a film shot in Baltimore.

"It really puts us on the map to show that we are a city of innovation and creativity," she said.

Waters said he never worked again with the producers of Pecker. After all, even his fictional, gonzo-style filmmaker Cecil B. Demented might have blushed at leaving the city on the hook for 50 grand.

"I have not spoken with them a lot since then," Waters said. "Let's just say it didn't end so well."

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