Peddling the Park

You can beat City Hall. Just make friends with the mayor.

"This could be called Dorkfest," one woman mumbled.

Not so fast, onion breath.

The tour turned out to be better than the usual cock-and-bull you get from tourist cruises, in part because cohost Stuart McIver, a SoFla historian and author of Death in the Everglades, has facts. McIver looked Mark Twain-ish in bolo tie and white hair and whiskers. Passing Bahia Mar, a marina along the west side of Lauderdale's barrier island, McIver noted it as the location of Broward County's last legal hanging in 1927. The hangee, Jimmy Alderman, a pirate and rumrunner in the 1920s, had been found guilty of killing two Coast Guard members. Although the trial was in Miami, the law required the execution to be held in the county where the crime was committed. It fell to Broward County officials to do the dirty work, and the commissioners avoided the nasty task for weeks by not gathering a quorum. Finally, McIver recounted, the Coast Guard took Alderman to its base on Bahia Mar and brought in the only person with experience in hanging: the one-legged sheriff from Palm Beach County.

Laurence McNamara basks in the park's gravelly beauty.
Colby Katz
Laurence McNamara basks in the park's gravelly beauty.

Cruise cohostess Christine Kling, whose book Surface Tension is set in a town that's an awful lot like Fort Lauderdale, offered more upbeat sightings. Bahia Mar is also the fictional setting for one of the most popular detectives in mystery, the late John D. MacDonald's dashing detective character, Travis McGee, who moored his houseboat, the Busted Flush, at Slip

F-18 in Bahia Mar.

"That slip used to be fictional, but there were so many requests to see it by tourists that the state made it a literary landmark," explained Kling (who can still cadge free drinks from the Downtowner Saloon, near the Andrews Avenue Bridge, because one of her own characters hung out there). Kling advised mystery fans not to bother looking for the plaque. "It was taken down two years ago for polishing," she scoffed. "It must be mighty shiny by now."

McGee, that philosopher, late-night drinker, sucker for the well-stacked dame -- now, there was a guy who knew the dark side of Fort Lauderdale. Too bad the scribe who invented him is no longer around to open those creaky doors.

Reality isn't easy to track down. Back on December 6, 2002, someone submitted paperwork to run for president under the name Reality. Filing a one-page form at the Florida Division of Elections, Reality became a write-in candidate for this year's election.

Every presidential election year, a handful of unknowns files under the Florida write-in law. It costs nothing to hand in the paperwork, which then requires poll workers to tally any votes written in for that candidate. Reality, who's one of five of this ilk, appears to have an early lead.

Who, this curious conduit wonders, could match Reality? Fantasy? Surreality? Too late. The deadline has passed.

On the form filed with the state, Reality lists an address in Boynton Beach. Tailpipe traced him back to the Sand & Sea Village trailer park just off Gateway Boulevard, where he owns a white single-wide with bottle-green trim. The candidate went by Randy Stewart Samuels, before he legally changed his name in May 2002. Alas, Reality is a hermit of a candidate and didn't return phone calls. "We don't want any," a man said recently through the sliver of a window on the front door. "Go away."

A neighbor, who asked not to be named, said Reality isn't a bad neighbor, but he wasn't sure how he'd do as a president. "He's all right, I guess," the neighbor commented, "as long as he takes his medication. If he doesn't, well, it gets bad."

Politics, it seems, might not be ready for Reality.

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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