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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Chronicling the lives of a mayor, mermaids
Soon, a courtroom might not be the only place to catch a Weeki Wachee drama. Now a reality show production company is sniffing around.
By MARY SPICUZZA
Published May 3, 2005
WEEKI WACHEE - The crew at Weeki Wachee Springs has had its share of drama over the past couple of years.
The city and tourist attraction are battling in court with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, commonly called Swiftmud.
The state auditor general is questioning the viability of the tiny, nine-person city.
Now, the City of Mermaids may have its own "docu-soap."
Producers from Size 12 Productions, a reality television production company based in Southern California, recently spent a week filming a pilot program for a "day-to-day drama" that would chronicle the operations of the historic attraction and its struggle for survival.
"In our business, you can be too underexposed but not overexposed," Weeki Wachee marketing and promotion manager John Athanason said Monday. "We're going to be all over American television. There's so much going on that we welcome all of this."
The Weeki Wachee reality television series is in the development stage, meaning producers Hank Capshaw and C. Russell Muth are showing footage to various networks to gauge interest in the project.
Current plans include producing 13 episodes following former mermaid-turned-mayor Robyn Anderson and the other eight city inhabitants.
"This is a story that needs to be told," Capshaw said in a news release. "And we are excited about the opportunity to bring it to the attention of an international audience."
And Athanason is more than happy to help.
The crew had broad access into the lives of Weeki Wachee inhabitants and the inner workings of the city, meaning footage includes everything from daily routines to Weeki Wachee's "battle to stay afloat," he said.
"Size 12 produces documentary style reality programming focusing on emotions, humor, family dynamics and the pathos of everyday lives," the press release reads. The company focuses on "creating a compelling narrative" from a first-person point of view.
There is plenty of fodder for drama at Weeki Wachee.
In court, Weeki Wachee and Swiftmud are facing off over the "donation" of the theme park to the city, as well as late-night dredging that was done without permits. In a preliminary audit report released recently, the state auditor general raised concerns about the city's financial viability.
The producers have plenty of experience with reality TV drama. They have worked on programs such as American Chopper , American Hot Rod , American Casino , Arrest & Trial , Big Brother and Unsolved Mysteries .
Weeki Wachee crew members said they welcome the attention.
"We're very excited about this," Athanason said. "It's great publicity for us."