Monday night’s red-carpet event at CineBistro at the Westfield Siesta Key mall for the premier showing of MTV’s new reality show “Siesta Key” was shut down Sunday amid speculation that it would have generated a protest from animal rights activists.
The controversy was fueled by connections between a cast member of the show and individuals accused of abusing a shark and posting videos of abuse that have gone viral on the internet.
“It’s been canceled,” Barbie Fraley, event organizer, said Sunday afternoon of the highly anticipated watch party for “Siesta Key,” which would have included a meet-and-greet of the cast of the show along with autographs and a question-and-answer period, all before the first episode of the show was to air around 10 p.m. on MTV.
“I can’t comment further,” Fraley added.
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A Siesta Key Animal Abuse Protest was in the works for Monday night based on a Facebook page with the same name. There was also a Boycott Siesta Key MTV protest group on Facebook.
“If CineBistro refuses to cancel the event, we will be there at 8:15 p.m. to greet the stars of the show as well as the producers from MTV,” the Facebook page for Siesta Key Animal Abuse warned.
“Unfortunately, over the past few days, the connection between the production and the ‘Siesta Key’ show and the horrific videos and photos of animal abuse have come to light,” the Siesta Key Animal Abuse protest page added.
WWSB in Sarasota reported Sunday that Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ son, Alex, a cast member on “Siesta Key,” was receiving death threats after social media had exploded with posts that said Alex Kompothecras was friends with a man who allegedly dragged a shark to death recently and filmed it.
Alex Kompothecras said recently on Instagram: “I had nothing to do with the shark video. Yes he’s a friend of mine, but no I don’t agree with what he did.”
“Considering how much internet hate the video has generated, it may generate some bad publicity for the show just days before it premieres at 10 p.m. on Monday, July 31,” Inside MTV stated on its website.
Media reports have identified two of the anglers in the shark-dragging incident as Michael Wenzel and Robert Lee “Bo” Benac, whose mother, Betsy, is chairwoman of the Manatee County Commission. Wenzel’s father, Robert, is the Manatee County planning section manager.
Fraley said she couldn’t say anything else. “You will have to call Gary Kompothecras,” Fraley said.
Dr. Kompothecras backed ‘Siesta Key’
“Siesta Key” originated from a pilot financially backed by the elder Kompothecras, a chiropractor known for being the creator of the 1-800-Ask-Gary referral service.
Contacted by phone by the Bradenton Herald, Gary Kompothecras didn’t wait around long enough to deny or confirm the death threat reports.
“I can’t talk about that,” Gary Kompothecras said before abruptly hanging up.
Demand for tickets was so high for the watch party that CineBistro added a second theater a week ago.