By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Wayne Radomski sells confidence. A robust composite of Gordon Gekko and Dom DeLuise, he sits behind a sturdy marble desk the size of a pickup truck's bed. His office on Oakland Park Boulevard, one mile west of I-95, is decorated with Greek statues, greenery, and gold light fixtures. His rapid-fire speech is laced with authority and resonance.
Like his workplace, Radomski's business, the National Academy of Professional Arts, is a peculiar mix. A trade school that offers courses in theater and bartending, it is appropriately housed on the top floor of a strip mall where you can have anything done, from your taxes to your nails. Radomski, who dresses as impeccably as a Wall Street banker, explains the odd pairing of disciplines by saying he teaches skills that apply to both. "Self-esteem is really where the issue is," he says, drowning out the soft classical music that pours from a speaker behind him. "If there's low self-esteem, then a person obviously doesn't want to go out and work, because they've been badgered by their last job or badgered by a relationship. We go into these spaces with them so they can come out and feel good about themselves."
When students complete either of his programs, Radomski insists, they are able to enter the workforce as if they had prior experience. "When a person gets out of my bartending school, they feel as if they've been behind the bar for two years," he continues. "When they come out of my theater [school], they are professional actors who can work in the industry."
While Radomski's sales pitch has drawn scores of pupils over the years, he's also had more than his share of financial difficulties. And now several of his former students have come forward with accusations of mismanagement and fraud. Chief among their claims is that, when it came to matters of money, Radomski was a liar. Four students interviewed by New Times say he violated the terms of tuition contracts they signed when they enrolled. Others contend he refused to give refunds after temporarily shutting down and did not pay several employees.
Radomski argues the students and their cohorts are mistaken. The school closed only a few weeks for Christmas break. And when it comes to complaints from the students and a teacher named Ronald Wertheim, Radomski's face contorts. "They were... part of a whole class I threw out January 7," he comments. "They went to the home of one of their teachers outside of class to study, rather than pay their tuition."
Then there's the matter of bankruptcy. Radomski first denied seeking Chapter 7 protection this past December, then declined to comment further. But federal records tell another story. The Radomski Management Corp., which lists the school's address as its own and Radomski as its agent, filed for bankruptcy in federal court in Fort Lauderdale this past December 16. It owed $271,996.68 to 105 creditors from New York to California. The case is now closed.
Radomski may have settled some or most of this debt, but he clearly left some people in the lurch. Students allege, and the documents seem to confirm, that Radomski simply stopped holding classes for two months, then reopened in the same location. The only difference was that the business name had changed from the Radomski Management Corp. to the National Career Development Corp.
Moreover, Radomski's description of his background raises as many questions as his business dealings. Born and raised in White Plains, New York, he says he graduated from the Academy of Theatrical Arts in New York. There is no listing in the telephone directory for the school, so this could not be confirmed. (The academy was mentioned in press clips during the 1980s.) In 1983, he claims, he opened the first accredited bartending school in the nation in Washington, D.C., which later provided all the bartending services at three presidential inaugurations. "We did both of Reagan's inaugurations and Bush's with a company called Rockwell's Catering out of D.C., which is probably the most famous catering company for the White House." Problem is there's no listing for Rockwell's in the nation's capital. White House records show the company was employed during the Reagan years, but it is unclear at what events, spokeswoman Erika Bacheller explains.
Then in the early 1990s, Radomski says he moved to South Florida. He opened his first acting/bartending school at 2700 Oakland Park Blvd. in 1998. "I did my homework and found out there were no licensed acting schools in the whole state of Florida. And there's all kinds of work in Miami. There's all kinds of work in Fort Lauderdale." The school grew, he says, to the point where it had 12 teachers and 32 students.
Tuition costs are unclear. Radomski says they vary. The disgruntled students contend they paid from $1500 to $2500 per semester. These days, Radomski comments, his is one of the few clean, professionally licensed acting schools in South Florida. "Pick up the Sunday Heraldand you'll see 10 to 15 illegal ads in there for schools luring people in that don't know any better," he says. "They're running scams, and they're all over the place. I've earned myself a nickname at the [Florida] Department of Education: Mr. Clean. That's because I run such a clean program." A spokesperson at the Florida Department of Education did not return calls from New Times seeking comment.