$20 Million Monument Planned for RiverfrontIs Hannibal Looking For Richmond Home?The $1 Billion Coat RackThis Bud Bottle's For You - OnceHotline to Curb Pet Crimes $20 Million Monument Planned for Riverfront The architect and designer who built a better-looking toaster for Target will help brand Richmond as the birthplace of religious freedom. The Council for America's First Freedom has selected Michael Graves to design a $20 million landmark monument. The monument, predicted to be more than three stories high, is to be on an undisclosed James River island near downtown. "We're hoping that this monument will become that statement that represents religious liberty to all of us here, to the commonwealth, to the United States and beyond," says Carol O. Negus, the council's president. Richmond is unique in the role it played in enacting legal protection for religious liberty. On Jan. 16, 1786, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison led the Virginia legislature to pass the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The statute came to life in the Old Capitol, at 14th, Cary and Main streets. In an effort to more publicly celebrate that history, the council is undertaking two projects: It is building a new First Freedom Center, which will serve as an educational center and council headquarters, and it is building the First Freedom Monument. Graves will design the monument. The center is being designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates Inc. the designers of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., and Arlington's Newseum along with the team of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Graves, whom the council selected last week, was the architect for the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport in The Hague; the Humana Building in Louisville, Ky.; the Riverbend Music Center in Cincinnati; and Disney World's Swan and Dolphin hotels. Graves is perhaps most recognized for his line of offbeat appliances, unconventional telephones and quirky picture frames carried in Target department stores. As for his ideas about the Richmond monument, scheduled for completion in May 2006, the council is mum. "I can't tell you what the design is right now because it's going through some tweaking," Negus says. "But it will be timeless, it will be powerful, it will speak to the subject in a sense." Next: fund-raising. The council has hired Steven Briganti to figure out how it will collect the $20 million for the monument. Briganti, president of the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc., raised the money necessary to restore the Statue of Liberty. But Negus is more focused on the ultimate meaning of the monument: "I think the bottom line is, [the Virginia Statute] is a piece of history that is not that well-known, and it is probably one of the most profound gifts of Richmond and Virginia to our country." Jason Roop Is Hannibal Looking For Richmond Home? The delectable word on the street is that Sir Anthony Hopkins may be savoring a taste of Richmond. Insiders say the star who earlier this month left his handprints in the forecourt of Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood is searching for a Richmond address. Hopkins apparently has taken a liking to the city after filming two movies, "Hearts in Atlantis" and "Hannibal," the highly anticipated sequel to "Silence of the Lambs." A local Realtor says Hopkins may be looking for a renovation project. The movie star reportedly spent several hours touring a 1914 Greek- and Colonial-revival-style home complete with nine marble fireplaces and a dumb waiter - near Byrd Park. But it doesn't look like Hopkins is moving there: Another prospective owner just made an offer on the $800,000 mansion. It's rumored, too, that the knighted actor is impressed with the history and style of Monument Avenue and has been shown some properties there. "I don't know why a celebrity would want to live on such a conspicuous street," says the Realtor, who asked not to be identified. "Of course," the Realtor muses, "he is a classical actor and Monument is the classic address." But the real-estate agent who has been fingered as Hopkins' house-hunting accomplice Carolyn Meares with Richmond Relocation Services denies everything. "It's all a rumor," she insists. Plus, she adds, "He's out of the country filming in Prague." Perhaps Richmond can win the famous actor back for another look. After all, wouldn't it be delicious to have Hannibal Lecter as a neighbor? Brandon Walters The $1 Billion Coat Rack It was quite possibly the highest concentration of coat racks in the mid-Atlantic: 750 of them, trucked to D.C. from Richmond, New York and Philadelphia, with 34,000 coat hangers swinging into action. And in their midst, Richmonder Andy Hulcher. Hulcher is president of Your Event Services, the company selected to check the coats for the rich and famous and inebriated at five of the Inaugural balls held Jan. 20 for President George W. Bush. It took a tiny army to track the topcoats and minks of more than 30,000 VIPs and Republican partiers attending the five balls. Hulcher's brigade included 250 managers and coat-checkers, taken from Richmond to D.C. by six buses, two passenger vans and a minivan. It also takes technique, Hulcher explains: "It's what we call a front-back system." That means one set of coat-checkers hangs coats in front, while another set moves them into the back. Teamwork is vital. "I think it's just important to communicate with the staff," says Stephanie Kennedy, a Your Event Services personnel manager who experienced her first coat-checking at the balls. Some of those under the coats are famous: Deion Sanders, Travis Tritt, Drew Carey. "We did Muhammad Ali's coat on Thursday night," Kennedy says of the official Inaugural dinner. "It was so much fun," she gushes. "It was just really neat. The whole experience was just great." Granted, coat-checkers hardly get to taste champagne or touch the dance floor. "The coat check's not the most glamorous of the event," Kennedy says. "But you get to see a lot of people dressed up. There sure were a lot of minks." More than 8,000 minks, by Hulcher's calculations, out of the 22,000 coats checked. "We're estimating that we checked close to a billion dollars worth of coats," Hulcher says. And, he reports, there are no calamities. Indeed, a man whose wife was rushed from a ball because of a heart attack was able to retrieve his wife's coat in minutes. And only four coats were lost; all four were shipped back to their owners last week. Hulcher hopes he'll be back to the Inaugural balls in four years, regardless of who is elected, he says: "I'm pretty well connected to both parties." J.R. This Bud Bottle's For You - Once As statesmen bristle in General Assembly sessions over what to do with the growing tons of trash dumped into Virginia, some Richmond recyclers are bristling at homegrown litter. After April 1, Brown Distributing Co., the sole Richmond distributor of top-selling Budweiser and Bud Light, will no longer take back its refillable bottles. Empty cases of Bud bottles that once were stacked by customers and picked up by the company upon delivery of more beer will be added to the trash pile or recycling bin. The move has some local restaurant owners rankled. "I think it's terrible," says Mark Brandon, owner of Davis and Main restaurant and an avid, if not militant, recycler. "It's the height of corporate greed and narrow-mindedness." Ernest Von Ofhein, manager at Sidewalk Café in the Fan, says his restaurant will have to invent new ways to store its trash. "We used to send it all back in the boxes it came in," he says. That adds up: Sidewalk goes through 1,000 cases of Budweiser a year. "It's awful from an ecological standpoint," says Ofhein. "But the bottom line is we don't have the space for extra trash." Calls to Brown Distributing weren't returned. Ofhein says cutting costs is the reason he was given for the company's decision to stop picking up bottles and paying the $1.20-a-case back to the customer for the returned bottles. Pat Franklin with the Alexandria-based Container Recycling Institute predicts the effect the decision could have on the environment: "When beer is packaged in refillable bottles it eliminates the need to make new ones," she says, and notes that Virginia is well below the 45 percent national recycling average. "Each year we throw away 2 billion bottles and cans," she says. Many of the bottles that once were being refilled will make their way to landfills, she says. She says that in Sidewalk's case, 1,000 cases of beer a year, that could equal another 23,000 bottles in the landfills. To date, Virginia doesn't have a bottle bill giving a financial incentive to those who recycle. "Enormous savings can be realized when you reuse," Franklin says. "You wouldn't think of throwing your dishes away." - B.W. Hotline to Curb Pet Crimes Just as "America's Most Wanted" prompts viewers to call in with tips to criminals' whereabouts, a new city program is urging citizens to report crimes against animals. This week, the Richmond Animal Shelter launches Pet Watch, a program that aims to educate the public about what it can do to curb animal abuse. "It's a bad problem," says Lea Morris, an animal control officer with the Richmond Animal Shelter, who says he has seen far too many abused animals. "You'd think in 26 years it would have gotten better." Nine months ago Morris was hired as the humane investigator for the Richmond Animal Shelter after the city pound was forced to change because of charges that it was treating animals badly. Morris had worked for the Richmond SPCA for 25 years. Morris says when he found Twiggy, a shepherd and beagle mix, haggard and emaciated in a North Side neighborhood, it occurred to him that citizens could help him do his job more effectively. "We have neighborhood watch programs that deter crime, why not a pet-watch program that can deter animal cruelty?" he asks. The first component of Pet Watch is a 24-hour hotline (240-1040) that enables people to cite suspected neglect or abuse immediately and anonymously. "It takes people looking around and getting involved, and some people are afraid to call in if they have to give their name to report a neighbor," Morris says. Also, he says, citizens can alert the shelter to specific cases more quickly than routine neighborhood canvassing by the six animal control officers allows. The second part of the program involves training sessions that will be offered for people who want to learn about animal cruelty laws and what to look for. "A lot of people don't know what the laws are about animal cruelty," says Morris. Topping the list of what people should report: animals without shelter; animals on short chains or heavy chains; and animals that appear injured or emaciated. "These animals are in backyards everywhere," says Morris. "I want people to call if they know where they are." Morris adds: "I don't care if it's 2 o'clock in the afternoon or 2 o'clock in the morning, I'll be there." B.W.