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
Indeed Radomski's love of drama runs deep, says 30-year-old Claudio Berki, who attended the National Academy of Professional Arts from September to December in 1999. He argues Maestro Radomski's life has become one majestic stage performance. Berki chose the school because Radomski offered flexible tuition payments at a relatively inexpensive price. So he slapped down a $1000 deposit. "When I met him, I got a bad vibe from him right away. I thought he was a total bullshit artist. An actor. But I joined anyway because I didn't have a lot of money and I had been looking for an acting class."
Berki contends his first semester was unproductive. Classes were disorganized, lacking in structure, and teachers were frequent no-shows. When he tried to reclaim $600 he paid toward future tuition at the beginning of December, he says Radomski was evasive. "For over a month, he kept giving me the runaround. He even said to me at one point, "If I wanna screw you, I'll screw you.' He promises dreams to young actors, and it's all just bullshit. He preys on young people that he knows he can scam," Berki says.
Daniel Sangiacomo, a 32-year-old Uruguayan native who also attended the school from September to December of 1999, feels cheated too. He says he was lured by Radomski's passion. "The hardest thing to take about my experience with the academy is that [Radomski] painted such a beautiful picture of it and it was all just lies." What the maestro promised, among other things, Sangiacomo relates, was a professional environment conducive to learning. Instead he provided a constant state of tumult. "Every day there was an average of four to five people coming in and interrupting class looking for Mr. Radomski. And they were always loud and angry."
Several teachers complained they weren't being paid. Wertheim says he regularly pleaded for his pay. "After three weeks I quit because [Radomski] kept telling me I'd get my check tomorrow and I never did." And Sangiacomo says within his first couple weeks at the school, a teacher named John Fionte quit, letting everyone know that, one month into the school year, Radomski had yet to pay him. Fionte could not be reached for comment, but someone using his name posted a comment on the Sun-Sentinel Website this past November: "As I am still owed a substantial amount of money, I have joined the sadder but wiser group of ex-employees of the academy."
As time went on, Sangiacomo contends he was subject to more deceit. "I signed a contract which was supposed to include a free bartending course, and just before it was to start, he made me pay another $500 for it. He said he never told me it was free. I was suspicious, but I really wanted to continue the acting, so I paid it."
Greg Allen, a Fort Lauderdale resident who attended the school for just two weeks, says he too glimpsed trickery. But he believed in the acting school enough to look beyond it. "I thought the whole bartending/acting idea was excellent," Allen enthuses. "He really sold me on how wonderful the school was. I met one of the teachers, and I was impressed.... But it turned out to be a horror story." Allen says he and Radomski agreed he would pay $1000, then teach bartending classes to offset his $450 monthly tuition bill for acting lessons. By the end of the first month, Radomski welshed on the deal, he says, even though he had signed a contract. "He denied his own signature," Allen laughs. "The man should be a lawyer."
Frank Viñas, a 25-year-old student from the Dominican Republic, tells a story echoed by the others. When he came back from Christmas break in early January, the school's doors were locked, and no one was around. He heard nothing for several weeks, until a bankruptcy notice arrived in the mail. It listed him as a creditor and Radomski as the debtor. "I was just completely shocked. Here I had only been to two weeks of classes, and I was out $1500." Viñas says he pursued Radomski vigorously in an attempt to get his money back, constantly calling and visiting the school. But after several months of making no headway, he surrendered. "I finally decided that I don't need a person like that in my life," Viñas comments. "A person that does these horrible things to good, honest people striving for a career. I figure I just bought him out of my life for $1500."
Eleven creditors listed in Radomski's bankruptcy filing didn't respond to calls from New Times. But one did. Back in December the maestro owed New Times $314, according to the filing. But this newspaper has continued running his ads on a pay-as-you-go basis. The reason, according to publisher Jill Muller: Radomski paid in cash. "If we can make a client that has bad debt pay us for future ads in cash," she says, "we will accept their advertising."