Jury duty at the Civil Courts Building: same sit, different day; plus, other St. Louis follies and foibles

For some, what they brought to read might have served as clues to what they would have done as jurors. One wore a full-length black leather overcoat and read Anne Rice's The Vampire Armand. Would he be good for the prosecution? And what about the woman reading Danielle Steel's Mirror Image? Would she be sympathetic to the defense? And what of the jurors engrossed in The Guiding Light soap opera? Gullible, perhaps?

All that was certain in the city's new digs for jurors was that the seats are nicer, there are more TVs and you don't have to wait for the dank elevators to trudge up to the eighth floor anymore. If only we could renovate what's outside the building -- maybe it wouldn't be so busy inside.

SUPER BROTHA LIKE NO OTHA: "You are the minister of hype," Tom Bellows, a local producer, said to Darnell Singleton Thursday night as the two exchanged laughs and hugs behind the last row at the Esquire's main theater. Another man, his graying hair in cornrows, told Singleton: "Saw you on Channel 5 last night. Looked up and saw you. Thought you had you a job." Singleton, whose movie "Super Brotha" premiered at the Esquire, laughed at the jibes. The night was going well, and perhaps he was indeed the minister of hype. A plug in the P-D by Greg Freeman and interviews on the news on KSDK-TV and KMOV-TV, as well as an appearance on KSDK's Show Me St. Louis, had all paid off: Nearly 700 people showed up to watch an unreviewed, locally made movie that took five years and about $20,000 to make.

As for the premiere, Singleton feared that only about 300 people would show up. That more than twice that number actually paid the $6 admission meant he would at least break even for the rental of the theater and other premiere expenses. "Here's my movie showing at the Esquire, and there was a line all the way down the street," says Singleton, who is originally from University City. "People were there to watch my film. That blew my mind. What a cool community. I know a lot of people came out strictly because they wanted to support a local filmmaker. That's what was so cool about it."

As to whether the toil was worth it, Singleton says the whole moviemaking experience was "priceless to me. I got some really good relationships, lifelong relationships with people out of making this film. I met so many cool people while making this film." So however quickly "Super Brotha" fades to black, he plans to make a sequel, "Super Brotha Squared," and a romantic comedy, "Last of the Big-Time Lovers."

As for "Super Brotha," let's just say this: What can you say about a movie that starts off with its main character in bed, raising his leg and farting? You can say the movie doesn't have a misleading beginning: It was slapstick. It wasThe Three Stooges without the subtlety. The best thing you can say about it was that it was done at all. Now that Singleton has the marketing down pat and he knows he can finish a movie, all that remains is for him to do it better next time.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM: Last week's mention of the Rev. Lawrence Biondi, S.J.'s sending out a fundraising letter from his hospital bed after knee-replacement surgery triggered a caustic call from a former St. Louis University Hospital nurse. Turns out the nurse also had received the letter, the one in which Biondi waxes eloquent about how much the university means to the community. The caller was miffed because Biondi's bionic knee was implanted at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., not at SLU's medical complex on Grand Avenue. Uh, make that Tenet Healthcare's medical complex, though physicians at the hospital remain affiliated with the university. Though the Mayo Clinic surgeon is a SLU graduate, Biondi could have found that in Dr. Robert Burdge, chairman of orthopedic surgery at SLU. Maybe Biondi didn't want to put himself in the care of any former university employees still riled about his sale of the hospital to the for-profit Tenet and the reduced tuition-remission benefit.

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