Romero Britto’s March 2009 mugshot.
In the early hours of Thursday March 26th as most of Miami’s arts community slept sound in their beds a black 2001 Bentley careered erratically down Washington avenue, swerving in and out of lanes. At the wheel, Brazilian pseudo-artist Romero Britto, an incomprehensibly popular figure head of South Florida’s artistic veneer – a commercial eddy of culture for those who want to be seen to appreciate art (or at the very least invest financially in it), but wouldn’t touch its intellectual heart with a barge pole.
Britto’s work, the artistic equivalent of musak, has made him a household name, at least in Miami, and like other breeds of celebrity it seems that artists too have a weakness for indulgence. To paraphrase comments left on the report of his arrest by Miami New Times’ blog Riptide 2.0: Romero is a tragic binge drinker and a danger to himself and society. Presumably someone with enough money as he has can afford a driver or at the very least to take a cab.
Romero Britto and Michael Jackson. Image courtesy of www.michaeljackson.hu
The extent of his insobriety was evidenced in the report filed by arresting officer P. Soccarras who stated that Britto’s vehicle “crossed into the left lane [of traffic] on three separate occasions” and that he “almost struck another vehicle.” Personal descriptions included “a flushed face, bloodshot watery eyes” and having “a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath.” The on-scene breathalyzer tests recorded .161 and .158, twice the legal limit of .08. This information was confirmed by Jenny Velazquez of the Miami Beach Police Department. Furthermore the suspect failed a sobriety test whilst attempting to walk on smooth, flat ground.
“I feel very embarrassed about the whole thing; l think drinking is not good,” said Britto. “I had a few drinks, and that’s what happened.”
Around 2pm today rabidly right wing radio personality and inadvertent comedian Rush Limbaugh reported that Britto has reached a plea deal in his case. The plea deal, announced today, states that Britto will lose his license for six months, perform 100 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine. Limbaugh, who is famous for supporting his feverish opinions with wildly tenuous analogies, uncharacteristically reported the simple facts of Britto’s sentencing. Taking into account his devoted audience, however, one can presume that the mere fact of his attention to this story means that just under half of America feel passionately that Britto’s circumstance somehow has something to do with race in politics, liberal tax dollar wastage or Obama’s indecision over Guantanamo Bay.
Rush Limbaugh. Image courtesy of ZoBox Politix.
Perhaps Limbaugh, if he had a point, would have said something like this: “If the amount of tax payers money gobbled up by this behemoth of an artist and his so called art and wasted by his crew of lobbyists wasn’t enough it seems that the funds, practically stolen from ignorant toads through the sale of his Picasso-esq detritus, have not only contributed negatively to America’s crime statistics, but have placed an extra burden on our already heavily laden economy by enabling him to drive expensive cars whilst drunk, get caught and necessitate the dragging of his sorry, pompous ass through the American courts.”
This fake quote was compiled in part from a variety of comments posted in response to accounts of Britto’s arrest in March, however, if Limbaugh had actually said this then despite being hardened Limbaugh skeptics we might have been tempted to agree. Perhaps one reason why on this occasion Limbaugh refrained from his usual rant is because he himself is a product of rehabilitation from a prescription drug addiction. Tenacity it seems is not without its demons.
So for the rest of 2010 we can all rest a little easier knowing that the scourge of Britto is banned, if not from making (or rather shopping out) crappy art work, then at least from driving. And according to CBS 4 News, once he is finally allowed back behind the wheel, his cars will be outfitted for a further six months with a special tube-like device that will prevent ignition if it detects alcohol on his breath[.]
For a heart felt apology from Britto for letting down his adoring fans please go here.
This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.