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Good Ol’ Slick is now living in Miami. That’s right, he fired up his flame-decaled muscle cars and high-tailed it out of town, leaving behind a vapor trail of burned rubber and burned customers, never to be seen in these parts again.
You remember Slick, don’t you? He was the con artist formerly known as Christian Humphrey. Slick was said to be so good at fixing and restoring classic automobiles that he was known as the “car whisperer.″ You could blindfold him, rev up the engine and he could immediately tell you the year, make and model just by the purr.
Humphrey, along with his wife Jane Hunter, was the owner of Slick’s Garage in Palmetto, and it was quite the place. Cool cars were everywhere, in addition to other throwback stuff like pinball machines, vintage posters and old records. Slick’s Garage always looked like an episode of Happy Days and it fit right in with the quirkiness of the block, what with it being next door to a hardware store that had a barber shop inside, too.
Slick hit the big-time in 2014 when he became one of the stars of a Discovery Channel show called “Highway to Sell.″ Basically people brought Slick old cars and he fixed them up with his business partner. They then put the cars up for auction, trying to make a profit for the owners. It was a different concept. And it wasn’t bad.
Critics seemed to like the show, and it was certainly good for Palmetto. Shots of the area popped into episodes and Slick was sometimes filmed eating at local establishments. But it didn’t take long for “Highway to Sell″ to become “Highway to Hell,″ leaving the city with a vacant garage that’s become something of an eyesore.
After the show’s first and only season the Palmetto Police Department forwarded at least 15 complaints to the State Attorney’s Office. Included were allegations of fraud from customers who claimed Slick did not complete work on their cars as promised, though no charges were filed.
At one point the state shut down the garage for non-payment of a license renewal and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office once oversaw a locksmith who entered the property to retrieve two Cadillacs belonging to an unsatisfied customer.
By the summer of 2015 Slick had peeled out of Palmetto and opened a new garage in Miami. His Palmetto garage was foreclosed upon, and is now nothing more than a vacant building and empty parking lot.
The story of Slick is a reminder that the area has not had a good track record when it comes to reality shows. Though “Highway to Sell″ was decent television — at least for the first few weeks, until the premise grew stale and predictable — the aftermath was a mess. And prior to that show, you may recall, was a reality farce shown on TLC called “Breaking Amish.″
The series, which aired in 2013, was about a group of Amish kids who broke away from their strait-laced past to live a wild life among the plain people in Sarasota.
Not only was the series painful to watch and one of the worst things ever shown on television — there was a staged fight after every other commercial, it seemed — the Amish and Mennonite people of Pinecraft did not want filming to take place in their community and nearly every business owner voiced their objections to the series producers.
Pinecraft residents said people on the show were forced to tell untruths and were not allowed to quit because they were under contract. Not only that, but residents said the stars of the show were encouraged to start fights and stir up trouble — anything for ratings.
It was so bad that business owners would ban camera crews from their stores and shops only to see people secretly filming with camcorders.
Recently, MTV announced that a new reality show called “Siesta Key″ will premiere on July 19. The show’s premise is about students who return to Sarasota after their freshman year of college and spend their summer on Siesta Beach.
Hopefully the series is a rousing success and not the unwatchable trash that was “Breaking Amish″ or the fog of black exhaust Slick left behind when he peeled out of Palmetto and left many of his customers gagging on the fumes.