It was a scene straight out of Dog Day Afternoon: A desperate lunatic, who for years has filled the windows of his Vieux Nice shoe store with slogans insulting the Mayor, calls the Mayor’s office and yells ominously, “…You’ve WON!” He then barricades himself in his shoe store with several cans of gasoline, intending to blow himself up …and the building with him.
The freaked out employees call the police, and sirens blare as the SWAT team arrives in force. Twenty police in full bomb-squad gear surround the building and cordon off the area, while the elite snipers in black take position. The chief negotiator tries to make contact, but the raving, pacing madman just yanks the ringing phone off the wall and smashes it, yelling, “…Leave me in PEACE!”
Next his cellphone rings and this time he answers, but before he can yell, he realizes it’s Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who, known for his silver tongue, amazingly talks the crazed would-be human torch down from the brink, all the while racing to the scene. Once there, the police warn Estrosi not to go in alone, but Estrosi orders the police to lower their guns and goes in anyway, saying, “I take the responibility!”
After 45 minutes, the unfortunate unlocks the grille and emerges from his store arm in arm with “his Mayor” as he now calls him, and willingly allows himself to be tranquilized by his waiting doctor and taken to the hospital.
The next day, a transformed Eric Melloul was looking forward to the future and assured the Nice-Matin that he is not mentally ill or on meds. He said that Christian Estrosi spoke to him “super bien” and Melloul was so impressed by the Mayor that he apologised for the 5 years of venimous anti-Estrosi slogans in his shop windows and promised to take them down the next day. Melloul explained that his anger started with the tramway construction work outside his store, which he felt that he was not adequetly compensated for, and that now his shoe store only makes 50€ a day (hmmm… could the storefront being filled with crazed rants have had anything to do with that?) He was behind on his rent and about to lose his lease …and all he really wanted was to open a restaurant. His new buddy Estrosi promised to approve his Change of Use Permit, so look for the discount shoe store to become Lou Cabanon Nissart, coming soon… Just don’t order the crepes flambé.
Click here for a photo slide show
Photo credit: Nice-Matin, Francois Vignola