By DANIEL BARBARISI
The Providence Journal
January 14, 2006
Family has expertise in cooking, cleaning, computers, construction, auto maintenance and landscaping; all are friendly, educated, willing to work - housebroken, of course - and can start almost immediately.
Price: $1.5 million, payable 25 percent up-front, plus room and board, medical benefits, and moving expenses.
Got some spare change kicking around? This week, you can buy the Warwick, R.I., family of JoJo Gator, 40, and his fiancee's brother, Buddy Foster, 31, of Colorado, with just the click of a mouse on the Internet.
Starting Sunday, the family listed themselves for a five-year lease on the Internet site eBay, under the title "2 families for lease." That includes Gator, Gator's mother, Helen Rainone, his 16-year-old daughter Samantha, his fiancee Jackie Kidney, 35, and her children Matthew and Kimberly, 17 and 14, and Foster and his son Robby, 20.
"At first, I thought it was a joke," said Kimberly, upon learning that she might spend the rest of her high-school years home-schooled on a small tropical island.
"Everybody's got a different skill that would be perfect for a resort," Gator said from the parlor of his Warwick home, equipped with three computers to constantly check the incoming offers. "If nothing else, it would be a great experience for the kids."
The listing has been up for three days, has been viewed 700 times, and the family has received dozens of e-mails. They have two concrete leads they're checking out, Gator said - one from an unnamed celebrity who might want the family as his personal staff - and numerous questions.
eBay pulled the item from its site after a call from The Journal inquiring about the legality of the listing prompted them to examine it. Spokesman Hani Durzy said that the listing might run afoul of child-labor laws, which differ among states and U.S. territories.
"This listing was questionable in the sense of what child-labor laws are, based on the content of the listing, offering minors for long-term, undefined employment," Durzy said. "Our policy team determined that it was a violation of our prohibited services policy."
When he learned that the listing had been pulled, Gator said last night that they would replace the minors with "alternates," (other family members and friends) who are over 18, and would try to repost the listing. They said that if bought, the children would still accompany them but would not work. The listing was back up before the end of the day.
Gator said that he posted the unusual listing because he and his family wanted out of Rhode Island. They were tired of the high living costs, the brutal winters, and the strip-mall culture.
On a trip to Aruba last spring, Gator, born Joseph Rainone, realized that he wanted his family to live in the relaxed atmosphere of the Caribbean. He and Jackie began tossing around ideas about how to make it happen - and eventually settled on something that seemed farcical at first - selling the family. It sounds like a bad TV show.
But the more they thought about it, the more a lark turned into a plan.
Gator has been a music producer in Rhode Island and New York for more than 20 years, and said he went to his lawyer with his odd request, and asked him to draw up a contract.
"We're selling a service. It's a service-provider agreement. So it's like we're a subcontractor that they'd be contracting for 'x' amount of dollars for 'x' amount of years," he said.
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