Undercurrents

"Fuck Off New Times."
The headline in the June 4 edition of HOTspots! magazine is not only succinct, it perfectly sets up the name-calling that follows. In two different columns, the gay magazine, which tends to write positive things about its advertisers, went negative and unleashed a barrage of adolescent smears, calling us a "trailer trash tabloid" and accusing our "high school" writer of, oh my, "trying to win a Pulitzer."

It seems our article on risky homosexual sex in backroom bars ("Sexual Roulette," May 27) had reactionaries reaching for their revolvers. While a number of readers have been complimentary, the piece brought irate phone calls and hate mail (mostly anonymous) from fanatics in both the straight and gay communities.

One e-mail author assumed our writer Jay Cheshes is a member of the conservative Coral Ridge Ministries or the Christian Coalition, while another reader wrote that he believed the writer to be a disenfranchised member of the gay leather community.

Sources reported that some patrons of the bars mentioned in the piece were on a witch-hunt for the men identified in the article as "John" and "Bob," while others were actually threatening violence to our writer. As for the bars, a source tells us the back rooms on a recent night were lit up, and the partitions slicing them into shadowy alcoves for sex had been removed. The makeovers in the bars may have been wise. Shortly after publication we got a call from the Fort Lauderdale Police vice squad. "This stuff is illegal, and we plan to put a stop to it," said Detective Barry Margolis. And then he asked, "When's a good time to see sex going on?" Probably not right now, Barry.

We also saw revamped ads in the latest issues of Scoop and HOTspots! The Ramrod bar pulled together a full-page tribute to our article. The ad features a bare-assed man straddling a motorcycle beside the words "Home of the allegedly infamous 'bend me over and f**k me motorcycle!'"

If a city wrongfully tears down a private citizen's house, one might hope it would accept blame and pay back the owner. Not the City of Fort Lauderdale, which back in 1995 destroyed an unfinished Las Olas Isles house with no legal right to do so. Instead of righting its wrong, the city tried to twist the law to skirt its responsibility -- and taxpayers are still paying the price.

Building officials were reacting to complaints from neighbors when they made the disastrous decision to level Frank Ptito's house, so he sued. The city's hired attorney, Robert Schwartz, refused to accept a reasonable settlement offer of $550,000 from Ptito's attorney, Robin Campbell. Accountability? Absolutely not. Instead Schwartz fought Ptito on a legal technicality.

In May 1998 a judge ruled against the city, which meant a hit of more than $1 million to taxpayers. Rather than accept defeat, Schwartz appealed, a move we pointed out last year was sure to cost the city even more money. Sure enough, the appeals court last week ruled against the city and tacked on another year's worth of interest, making it a $1.2 million bill to taxpayers -- which doesn't include Campbell's new legal fees or the city's own costs, which likely are six figures.

Campbell tells us that Schwartz has promised to take the case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court. Schwartz says he hasn't decided yet. We propose another idea: Let's appeal Schwartz's legal fees.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

Got a tip? Call 954-233-1581, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail undercurrents@newtimesbpb.com.

 
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