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The 10 scariest people in Charlotte 

Reality can be scarier than anything found in a George Romero movie. Just look at these folks: Charlotteans who, hardly the most frightful looking, can still strike fear into the hearts of their neighbors, voters and patrons. Whether sucker-punching co-workers, making-up fake e-mail addresses to spread acrimony, or dropping charges against habitual criminals, these people are quite possibly the scariest folks in Charlotte. And that's saying something. Lord knows, there's a ready supply of runner ups.

1. Kevin Starr

Back in 2007, one CL writer described Starr as Charlotte's answer to Andy Warhol. We're not exactly sure how that was meant -- sure, Starr, like Warhol, has his hand in many pots -- but the comparison was prescient by any standard. Starr is a polarizing figure, given to grandiosity and self-aggrandizement. But at least Warhol never cyberstalked anybody (that we know of).

Starr, né Herschel Crumbley, is an artist, hairstylist and, ahem, once-prolific Internet user who has a studio in the Plaza Central area behind Family Dollar. When nearby businesses decided to stage the Plaza Central Art Krawl, Starr got mad. Too commercial, not about art, etc., were a few of the reasons he cited for his opposition. Krawl organizers, however, contended he just wanted a bigger piece of the pie -- and a bigger place in the spotlight. Starr mounted a campaign -- online and off -- to discredit the event. Many Plaza Central businesses reported receiving hateful e-mails from Starr. He reportedly even sent pictures of human feces to elected officials.

Last December, CL published a story about the contention between Starr and Krawl organizers. A brief mention of Starr's plans to distribute, on the night of a Krawl, T-shirts emblazoned with the term "Art Nazi" appalled some local Jewish leaders, and Starr denied making the comment. Krawl organizer Tim Griffin said Starr drove by his house several times -- pointing his fingers in the shape of a gun and, in mid-June, throwing an egg from his car and striking Griffin in the eye. The egg attack earned him his first arrest; the cyberstalking and communicating threats arrests came within weeks.

In the end, Starr was accused of sending hundreds of harassing and damaging e-mails to business owners and other people involved in the Krawl, often assuming others' identities in order to spread falsehoods. After pleading guilty to cyberstalking, he was sentenced to probation with a few unconventional conditions, according to The Charlotte Observer: he was ordered to write "I will not interfere with the Plaza Central Art Krawl" 1,000 times; forbidden from touching a computer; and must agree to warrantless searches of his home for electronics.

The next Plaza Central Art Krawl (of which CL is now a sponsor) is Dec. 6.

2. Striped T-shirt guy

You've seen him before. Hell, this is Charlotte: Chances are you are him. You work hard; you play hard. And you use that expression without a hint of irony. If you have a favorite book, it's Rich Dad, Poor Dad. In line at the club, dressed up in your Abercrombie striped shirt, you're out with the boys and they're all dressed the exact same way. Were it not for the color of the stripes and the different brands of hair gel you all use, a girl could scarcely tell you apart. That's OK; the girls you're after are hard to tell apart themselves. I couldn't describe your ilk any better than this essay by Mike Polk, now compiled in Look at My Striped Shirt! Confessions of the People You Love to Hate:

"Look at my button down striped shirt! Fucking look at it! This shirt means one thing! I'm coming home with some pussy tonight! That's right! It's been a long week at the office and it's time to blow off a little steam! I am a Junior Vice President! I have business cards that say 'Junior Vice President' on them! They're glossy and magnificent! Here! Have one! Take it!"

There's probably a really nice guy inside you who calls his mom, separates his recyclables and maybe even cries a little at that commercial Sarah McLaughlin does for the ASPCA. But it's hard to penetrate the thick veneer of shallowness to see it.

3. Steve Smith

At least he's not Michael Vick. Or Rae Carruth. But Steve Smith is one scary dude, particularly if you're his teammate. The three-time Pro Bowl selection's temper tantrums have gotten him at least twice as much ink as he deserved, and his motivations have been scrutinized more than Wachovia's plummeting stock prices. At any rate, if his gig with the Panthers dries up, he may have a future in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. At least, his peers there will be ready -- and encouraged -- to take him on.

4. Torch from Purgatory

His tagline on MySpace says it all: "If you can't dazzle them with brilliance, riddle them with bullets." Torch, founder of SingleCell Productions and owner of Purgatory, Charlotte's famed S&M performance troupe, may seem an imposing figure, but in fact, he's a bit of a softie. Check out his goodbye notice announcing an end to Purgatory, observing that his "heart" for the show is gone, "Thank you all for taking the ride with me. It's been the most fulfilling yet heartbreaking time of my life." Alas, his goodbye is not all Nicholas Sparks schmaltz, "No tears please, this is not a funeral but a Viking pyre. When I go out I'm ending like I began, with blood, pain and flames."

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