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Friday, February 26, 1999 Published at 12:01 GMT


Wave of protest over Baywatch move

Baywatch: Locals are split over whether it should move to Avalon

Plans to move the hit TV show Baywatch from Los Angeles to Australia have received a setback after furious protests from residents of a Sydney beach.

The BBC's Michael Peschardt: "Stars in tight red swimsuits don't impress the locals"
Baywatch filmed several episodes in Avalon Beach last year and planned a permanent move down under to inject new life into the show, which launched the career of Pamela Anderson.

But 1,700 angry locals - a fifth of the population - turned out at a public meeting to oppose the move, fearing everything from an invasion of California culture to environmental disaster.

[ image: Politicians are keen to lure Baywatch to their beach]
Politicians are keen to lure Baywatch to their beach
Locals were furious when they found access to the beach blocked while Baywatch filmed there last year. Security guards frogmarched a surfer off the beach and ordered skateboarders to keep quiet while they show's stars slept.

"After that, television stars just don't do it for me," said 17-year-old Ian Stone.

"We've just about lost all our koalas in the area already and Baywatch will only make matters worse," Mark Warren, a former world champion surfer, told the meeting at a local high school.

Another opponent, Alex McTaggart, said: "Just get out and never come back."

[ image: The show made a star of Pamela Anderson]
The show made a star of Pamela Anderson
This prompted the show's executive producer Greg Bonnan to say: "We're not going to go where we're not wanted.

"It's a matter of who wants us to spend a couple of hundred million dollars in six years, and who wants to export to the world the most important television programme."

More than two-thirds of those attending the meeting opposed the plans for Baywatch to use their local surf club, which producers have promised to refurbish with a state of the art gym and sauna.

[ image: David Hasselhoff: His career was boosted by Baywatch]
David Hasselhoff: His career was boosted by Baywatch
One resident was shouted down when she pleaded with her neighbours to give the show a "fair go" and stop complaining about American stars invading their town.

Local politicians are keen for Baywatch to come to the town, with New South Wales' prime minister Bob Carr ordering the state's film and TV office to help producers find alternative locations in the state if Avalon turns the show down.

"I want to see it anchored here in New South Wales with the rest of the Australian film industry," he said.

Already other towns are scrambling for Baywatch to move to their beaches. Politicians from Coffs Harbour, about 180 miles north of Sydney, arrived at the meeting with local fruit hoping to tempt producers to their town.

Although the show is still seen in over 140 countries worldwide, it lost many of its biggest names last year when five of its female stars - Donna D'Errico, Traci Bingham, Carmen Electra, Angelica Bridges and Marliece Andrada - were dropped from the show.

The local authority, Pittwater Council, will vote on the issue on 8 March.

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