The crowds gathered at high noon in anticipation of the promised showdown. For nine months, Beverly Hills art dealer David Spellerberg, 41, had kept his 1954 Silver Wraith Rolls-Royce curbside in front of his Rodeo Drive gallery to attract business, pointedly ignoring a one-hour parking restriction. Two weeks ago, armed with a judge’s ruling that Spellerberg was a “public nuisance,” local lawmen were ready to jail him if he refused to move the $200,000 car. But while a police helicopter hovered over the Drive, a stately fleet of four gleaming Rolls-Royces suddenly purred into view. On cue, a chauffeur eased the 1954 Silver Wraith out of the parking space and a 1939 Wraith, with Spellerberg at the wheel, took its place. Gleefully emerging from the vintage vehicle in top hat and tails, Spellerberg raised his cane and announced, “I reclaim this meter for the cars of glitter and glamour and the preservation of Rodeo Drive.”
Spellerberg, whose art gallery features bronze figurines of bucking broncos and spear-wielding Indian chiefs, revels in his reputation as the Rolls renegade of Beverly Hills. But other merchants on posh Rodeo Drive, where rent for a small boutique runs upwards of $15,000 a month, have been irritated by his conspicuous presence. Soon after Spellerberg took over the parking space last February, supplying his chauffeur with rolls of quarters to feed the meter, his neighbors began to grouse. They complained that the Rolls attracted camera-toting tourists who upset their upscale regular clientele. Beverly Hills police began to routinely ticket the Rolls, sometimes as often as six times a day.
Even though Spellerberg claims to have paid $13,000 in fines, Beverly Hills assigned five attorneys to his case and won a preliminary court injunction ordering him not to park his Rolls in front of his gallery for more than one hour at a time. Undeterred, Spellerberg hired additional chauffeurs to rotate his five Rolls-Royces in an hourly parking shuffle. For now, Beverly Hills appears to have been outmaneuvered. “Everyone wants to fight city hall,” says Spellerberg, “and this is my time.”