On the eve of the premiere for MTV's reality show Siesta Key, a local screening party was canceled in part due to death threats aimed at one of the stars.
Dr. Gary Kompothecras, a Sarasota chiropractor known for his medical referral service 1-800-Ask-Gary, confirmed to the Tampa Bay Times the party scheduled for Monday night at CineBistro in Sarasota was canceled because his son and series star, Alex Kompothecras, had received death threats, among other reasons.
"I wouldn't say that's the only reason," he said. "There are other reasons."
He declined to comment further before hanging up on a reporter.
Gary Kompothecras came up with the idea for the show, which was marketed as a mix between former MTV shows The Hills and Laguna Beach. It follows eight privileged friends through their adventures during a summer in Siesta Key with the younger Kompothecras at the center of the group.
"I think it's really going to put Siesta Key on the map," Alex Kompothecras said at a media event this month.
The watch party was to feature a walk on the red carpet and chat with the stars leading up to the show's premiere at 10 p.m.
The show has led to a backlash on social media, including from a Facebook page called "Boycott Siesta Key MTV" that had about 4,400 followers as of Sunday night. Several posts on the page say Alex Kompothecras is friends with at least one of the men shown in a recent viral video that shows a shark being dragged to death behind a boat.
A protest had been planned to coincide with the watch party. "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," according to the Facebook event page, which had about 130 Facebook users planning to attend.
FWC officials have not released the names of the men in the video, and to date no charges have been filed. But social media users have identified them to include Michael Wenzel, who was investigated in 2015 by state and federal officials after he posted photos of himself clutching pelicans and a gull, according to the Miami Herald. Columnist Carl Hiaasen also identified Wenzel this week in a Herald column about the shark-dragging incident.
Attempts from the Times to reach Wenzel were not successful.
Save the Tarpon, an Englewood-based nonprofit organization that advocates for ethical fishing practices, has been following Wenzel's conduct since 2015, after the group received a photo of Wenzel mishandling tarpon, said chairman Tom McLaughlin, a longtime commercial and charter boat captain.
While his organization is not behind the "Boycott" page, McLaughlin said the group's investigation has turned up several photos of Wenzel on Alex Kompothecras' boat. The reality TV star never turned up in the photos and videos of the particularly egregious stuff, he said.
"Most of that is on Michael's (Wenzel's) boat," he said.
When it comes to the motivation behind that type of behavior, McLaughlin pointed out a commonality between the men publicizing their escapades on social media and the new reality show.
"They're doing it for attention. They're doing it for shock value," he said. "It's how much attention can they get?"
Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or [email protected] Follow @kathrynvarn.