Off Beat

The Art of the Deal

NEVER MIND THE statute of Mary Tyler Moore city officials are planning to install in downtown Minneapolis--Metro Transit is shelling out some real money for artwork to grace its new Hiawatha light-rail transit line. In early March the agency put out the call, offering 16 commissions worth a total of $1.4 million. At the Warehouse District station, for example, $130,000 is up for grabs. "The schematic design establishes an opportunity for a tall vertical work that serves as a landmark or a beacon," the request for proposals reads. "The alignment of the station would allow an elevated artwork to be viewed from as far away as the Hubert Humphrey Metrodome, which is nine blocks south." David Allen, who's in charge of coordinating public art for the project, says he sent out the invitation to 6,500 artists, about 4,000 of whom are based in Minnesota. "I suspect we'll receive several hundred applications," he says. The deadline for submissions is April 27. Is Allen expecting any proposals akin to the Mary Tyler Moore objet d'art? "In a word," he replies, "no."

Timmy, We Hardly Knew Ye

WEB WATCHERS WHO surfed to the St. Louis Park-based online humor site last week found a notice saying the whole ball of wax was for sale--on eBay. An April Fool's joke? "No, it's really up for sale," confirms co-creator Bill Corbett, explaining that he and his partners--Paul Chaplin, Kevin Murphy, Mike Nelson, and Patrick Brantseg--view the eBay gambit as "a sort of silly little gamble." Timmy, you may recall, was launched last spring after the tight-knit group decided to continue collaborating in the wake of the cancellation of their cult science-fiction show Mystery Science Theater 3000 (for more, see Meleah Maynard's "Big Hands, Warped Minds," in the May 10, 2000 issue of City Pages). But what was conceived as a fun sideline was taking up too much of everyone's time. Besides feeding the beast essays, reviews, poetry, games, and serial novels, there was the design and programming grunt work. Not to mention the operating expenses. "We knew we were never going to make a big profit," says Corbett, who's busy writing TV scripts and working on a book. "But some money would have been nice." A new owner would be responsible for relaunching the site, whose guts have already been taken down. Otherwise, says Corbett, a buyer could just keep it as a collectible item. In addition to the domain name and Timmy's trademarked logo, the high bidder would take possession of all the site's original artwork (including the skinny stick fella himself, in foam-core), written content, and unsold merchandise (T-shirts and coffee mugs bearing Timmy's likeness, etc.). The sellers do, however, stipulate that the "purchaser agrees not to substantially alter or edit the material to change its intent or purpose or represent it as anything but the work of the original authors." Says Corbett: "We don't want people rewriting our stuff or using Timmy in porn or anything like that." The rock-bottom asking price: $15,000--enough, Corbett says, to cover the group's debts, with a little left over. As of Friday there'd been no bites, but Corbett seemed pretty certain something would transpire before the bidding closed Monday: "We have lots of strange fans with money in high, geeky places, and there have been some hints that one of them may buy it if no one else does." When Monday rolled around and there had still been no bids on the site, Corbett and the group decided they would hang on to the material, hoping there might be a way they can use it some day. Until then, it's "Good-bye, Timmy!"