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Local man's trash is Hollywood South treasure

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - A movie's appeal is often about transporting people to another time and place. Nicondra Norwood introduces us to a local man whose lifelong hobby has turned one man's trash into Hollywood South treasure.

Lawrence Barattini's heart burns with a need to make masterpieces. A jeweler by trade, he has an eye for bringing bits and pieces to life.

"I don't look at it as a money thing for anybody, it's more of a passion," said Barattini's cousin, Sal Maggiore, who works with him at Side Show Props.

But while Barattini loves his work with fine jewels and vintage watches, but his real passion is working with discarded items.

"Instead of using precious metals and diamonds, it's creating stuff with junk," he said.

A Slidell warehouse is Barattini's real playground.

"I think I watched too much Fred Sanford growing up," Barattini said.

"We've always fixed stuff, collected stuff," Maggiore said.

"I remember having a bicycle and tying stuff to it that somebody was throwing out and dragging it to my parents' house," Barattini said. "They would say, 'what are you doing?'"

"Then, as we got older, we started doing it more," said Maggiore. 

"I find stuff and then build stuff out of it," Barattini said. "Instead of going to the store, I'd rather find something and reuse it and rebuild it."

That fascination started as a hobby, and grew into a business - show business.

"I would have never thought that the movie industry would seek me out and start coming," Barattini said.

It all leads back to one pivotal jewelry sale. Barattini had  made an engagement ring for a prop master and told him about the acres of stuff he'd collected over the years.

"Once he came and looked at it, he was like, ‘Man do you know what you have here? We look for all this. It takes man hours all day to look for this stuff, and you have it all in one spot.'"

The calls started coming in slowly for a piece here and there.

"Flags of our Father," Barattini remembered. "It was a military movie, and I rented some old bicycles and military items and stuff like that."

The calls became more frequent, and now his finds have shown up in several very popular movies and television shows.

Remember the ship's rigging in 12 Years a Slave? The voodoo lounge of American Horror Story? And keep an eye out - you just might notice some of the gear from the prop house in the upcoming Planet of the Apes.

"It's all painted to look like heavy steel," Barattini said. "It's fiberglass or wood and painted to look like the metal. So it looks heavy, but it's easy to move."

If you're looking to set the scene for an old school soda fountain, the living room before television, or maybe a studio for a live radio broadcast, you could find the pieces you need right in Barattini's warehouse.

"You name it, it's probably here," Maggiore said. "Once he got involved with movies and, you know, he could make a little bit of money and do good things for the community. And recycle. We try to recycle a lot."

The group is turning this found crate into a ticket booth for a circus vignette. The flats and sets are reclaimed wood. 

"They tore down a house on Canal Boulevard," Barattini said. "We got all this weather board. This is a 1940s gas station built out of all recycled lumber."

Barattini's wife says his love for the old and unusual even helped ignite their love for each other.

"We met each other at the Abita Springs Whole Town garage sale," she said. "I bought something from him, and I was just intrigued by him."

She always knew the thousands of odds and ends were part of the deal.

"Absolutely!" she said. "I knew that was an integral part of Lawrence Barattini."

So Alice Barattini joins in whenever she can.

"I would call myself the worker bee," she said. "And I am more than happy to do whatever he needs me to do."

For Alice, it's an adventure.

"It is because you really don't know where it is going to lead you," she said. "You think you are going down one path, and all of a sudden you get sidetracked and you are on a tangent and you're going somewhere else - and that's kind of neat."

"Well, at first they all thought I was crazy," Barattini said. "They all thought I was a junk collector. But now they are starting to see all that collecting of all that stuff is starting to pay off."

Barattini just started setting up the Slidell facility where Side Show Props is now located. He's hoping to make it easier for set designers to pick out what they need or even film lower-budget projects right there on property.

Hollywood is proving that Larry Barattini's trash is definitely their treasure.

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