HBO's preposition proposition

2B

June 04, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Handbags and the City, a designer purse store in Baltimore's Harbor East, is changing its name under threat of legal action from the HBO-show-turned-movie. In a few weeks, it will become Handbags in the City.

Not since the art school formerly known as the Maryland Institute, College of Art morphed into Maryland Institute College of Art has so much Sturm und Drang wrought such a subtle name change.

George Sakellaris opened his shop about two years ago near Whole Foods, selling the sort of pricey bags that might inspire Carrie , Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda to open same.

The HBO copyright squad came calling about a year later, claiming that the name and typeface were too close to the show's. (Like the HBO hit, the store spells its name all in caps, with "and" and "the" stacked atop each other in smaller uppercase type.)

"I never had anything in the store pertaining to the show," he said. "They can't win because they can't trademark 'and the City' and they can't trademark Times Roman. But what they can do is aggravate you because they have more money than God."

HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson said he could not discuss the particulars of the case. He offered this much: "When HBO sees a business infringing too closely on the trademark, we take steps to prevent that from happening."

Sakellaris said he and HBO reached a compromise that also managed to answer that old Schoolhouse Rock question, "Conjunction Junction, what's your function?": Getting entertainment lawyers off your back. They agreed to swap "and" for "in" back in December.

Can't tell it by the sign out front, which still reads "and." The new one, which Sakellaris said HBO is paying for, goes up in about three weeks, when the store moves to a bigger space around the corner, right by the theater playing you-know-what.

Come and get him; he's on wheels

HBO is not through with Charm City. Now it's going after Segs in the City.

Bill Main got his first letter from an HBO lawyer April 1, telling him to change the name of his five-year-old Segway tour company, which operates in Baltimore, Annapolis, Washington and Gettysburg.

"I said, 'This is an April Fool's joke. Someone's having a lend of us.' " (He's British.)

More letters and e-mails followed. The most recent arrived Monday from Sharon Ceresnie, a Chicago-based lawyer for HBO. She directed me to HBO's Cusson, whose response to all things trademark-related can be read above.

Main makes no bones about playing off the Sex and the City name, but argues he has every right to do so. Well, pretty much. He did take the series' theme music off his site. But so far, he's not budging on the name, typeface or the use of a girly-girly color that HBO seems to think it owns.

"I can show them 100 colors of pink," Main said. "Which one are they suggesting we don't use? All of them?"

Now we're sure it's Zellweger in the city

First official Renee Zellweger sighting: Monday, outside Sassanova, a Harbor East shoe shop that had its grand opening that very morning.

Zellweger is in town to film My One and Only.

Co-owner Marion Warner noticed a woman in Spandex leggings, loose T-shirt and dark shades lingering outside.

"She was really, really skinny. So skinny that it was, like, 'Is this a celebrity?' I mean, she looked minuscule."

Ogling the Guiseppe Zanottis? Or just waiting for the store to empty so she could shoe shop without fear of being recognized?

Probably the latter. Zellweger seemed to get scared off when some woman - probably all juiced up from Sex and the City - ran inside, cutting right in front of the star.

Somebody's keen for no-frills espresso

Second official Zellweger sighting: Inside the Starbucks around the corner from Sassanova, minutes later Monday morning.

Double espresso, no lid. And latte, no foam.

One was for Zellweger, the other for an unidentified woman with her. Team Starbucks thinks Zellweger had the espresso, since it was she who gave the lid back to barista Arturo Ozaeta. Don't look for the lid on eBay, since Ozaeta told staffers he's keeping it.

Barista Sarah Pfeil was impressed with Zellweger's lid-shunning because espresso should be downed within seconds. Seems to know her Joe.

Hey, big spenders, we're not impressed

If you've had enough of celebrity gossip and Harbor East, read no more.

The guys from the MTV reality show Making the Band 4, in town last week to perform at Pier 6 Pavilion, don't have any fans at James Joyce Irish Pub and Restaurant. They had dinner and drinks for about an hour Friday, and let's just say they're lousy tippers.

"One of our waitresses looked after them," a manager told me. "On a $200 [check], they gave her zero. Service was good. We weren't too impressed with that."

And that was after the manager agreed to sign a waiver to allow the group to film in the restaurant. Wonder if MTV will show the part where they stiff the wait staff.

Andrea Manning, a publicist for the show, said, "Oh, no."

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