Jan 27, 2011

Piano mystery solved: Movie prop burned, put in Biscayne Bay after party

Like many grand ideas, this one started out when many were drunk
And that's how a burned baby grand piano found its way onto a mud flat in Biscayne Bay and, ultimately, worldwide fame.
The solution to the mystery involves a guy with a bagpipe, a rollicking New Year's Eve party and a teenager looking to make a splash on his college admissions. Oh, and flammable liquid applied to a movie prop that was stored in Grandma's garage for four years.
``We were peer-pressured into burning it,'' said 16-year-old Nicholas Harrington, a MAST Academy junior hoping to study art or engineering at Manhattan's Cooper Union college.
The saga of the baby grand sitting peacefully atop the highest point of a tiny Biscayne Bay sandbar a few hundred yards east of Miami Shores actually began four years ago. That's when, after being used as a prop in a movie no one seems to remember, it went into storage in the garage of the mother of Burn Notice production designer J. Mark Harrington.
It got dusty, its keys began to stick, the finish didn't shine anymore.

Then Nicholas had an idea: As a promotional video to get into college, he would make a video on the nondescript sandbar using the piano, bagpipes from a neighbor, and a small submersible sub used for studies at MAST. So the family moved the piano the few blocks from Grandma's place to their home.
``We were thinking of a big production, a music video epic,'' Nicholas said.
Never made it, though. That's because this past New Year's Eve, as a crowd of about 100 gathered at the Harrington home in Miami Shores, the chants to burn the piano got louder and louder.
The crowd was obliged: The heavy piano was lowered by davits into a canal next to the Harrington home, and set ablaze. The next day, after cooler heads prevailed, the piano was gently lifted onto the family's 22-foot open fisherman. Then Harrington, his two sons and a neighbor set out for the sandbar -- where they set the piano ablaze, again.
Onlookers from the nearby Quayside condominium in North Miami-Dade spent days wondering what the new object was that sat just off shore. Until last week, when Suzanne Beard took her boat over for a look, and snapped dozens of photos.
``There was a big buzz in the neighborhood,'' Beard said. ``So we took the boat out and took a ton of pictures.''
Last week, National Geographic posted her pictures on its website. This week The Miami Herald ran a story. In the past few days, as the story went viral, many claimed credit for the stunt -- including well-known prankster William Yeager, who years ago painted himself black and convinced many in the media he was Jimi Hendrix's long-lost son.
Then, in a perfect coda, the Harringtons came forward.
Nicholas Harrington said he's ``super happy'' for the piano. His mom, who asked that The Miami Herald not use her name, was a little saddened.
``I loved it being a mystery,'' she said. ``The allure was much more powerful than anything else.''

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