Keepin' the Rabble Out

The Sun-Sentinel goes off the record for trains and buses

What in God's name are the top dogs at the Sun-Sentinel thinking?

It's a newspaper, right? It's supposed to advocate open discussion of ideas, no? And it sure as hell should be impartial. At least, that's what this grimy old 'Pipe thinks.

But that doesn't seem to be the case. A letter signed by editorial writer Tim Dodson indicates that the boys at New River Center fail to understand their roles. The March 16 missive sent to Palm Beach County Commissioner Jeff Koons indicates that a half dozen top local transportation officials, including Richard Kaplan, Mike Masanov, and Katy Sorenson, will attend an "OFF-THE-RECORD" meeting to discuss how to win more money from the feds. Dodson capitalized the letters.

Ol' Brown Eyes can still do it, bambino.
Ol' Brown Eyes can still do it, bambino.

"Off the record is how you get a free flow of ideas," says Dodson, who contends the confab was the idea of Publisher Bob Gremillion.

Not only is it unclear whether the meeting is legal under Florida's Government-in the-Sunshine law, but the whole idea stinks. Comments Steve Doig, a former Miami Herald editor and director of the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University: "Off the record is problematic. So is facilitating a meeting like this. How can someone working for a newspaper advocate a meeting that is closed to the very press that is supposed to be covering it?"

Adds Mike Foley, former managing editor of the St. Petersburg Times and now a University of Florida professor: "For a newspaper to host an off-the-record meeting creates an incredible perception problem. How will they be able to scream foul when someone else holds a closed-door meeting?"


Crosby taught Tailpipe how to make his old baritone purr and rumble, and Sinatra trained him to bend notes like a trombone stepping off a curb. But if this well-tuned tube ever wanted to sing in the plaintive, high-pitched Neapolitan style (not on the stage but in the shower, of course), he'd go straight to Jimmy Roselli. The much-neglected Jimmy Roselli. Ol' Brown Eyes himself showed up the other day at the Florida Atlantic University auditorium for his first concert in the state in 50 years.

There was Roselli in his dressing room, 20 minutes before curtain, tux-clad, nursing a glass of chamomile tea and honey, talking about his stunted career. The 78-year-old crooner coulda been a hit-parade contender. He could have transcended his current niche status as an over-the-hill Italian-American heartthrob. Roselli could have become another household name, like his boyhood rival Frank Sinatra, had Ol' Blue Eyes himself not put a headlock on Roselli's career.

"He put the kibosh on me," he says, flashing his polished ivory choppers.

Roselli tells the story with practiced indignation. He and Frankie used to live down the street from each other in Hoboken, New Jersey. One of Jimmy's biggest fans was Sinatra's mother, Dolly. One day, she sent a couple of "half-assed wise guys" to ask him to sing for her, Roselli says. Insulted that she wouldn't ask him herself, Roselli impetuously told them, sure, he'd sing -- for $25,000. Big mistake.

"Well, she got furious," Roselli says, "and she went back to Frank."

All of a sudden, airplay on the big radio stations dried up for Roselli, particularly on the New York pop giant WNEW, which in the 1950s served as a kind of Sinatra flagship. "[Sinatra] didn't want them playing Jimmy Roselli, but I told him every time I met him to go and fuck himself," he growls. Nobody from the Sinatra estate called back for comment.

Roselli never got much national exposure. Only a tight, older group from the New York tristate area follows him still. Finding him on the radio today is as difficult as ever. In South Florida, WJNA-AM (640) would seem to be a natural home for him, but Music Director Paul Dunn contends that Roselli, as a "straight-ahead high-note singer," doesn't have the swingin' hipness that makes Sinatra their most-played artist.

Horse doobies, Roselli's fans scoff. "Those dirty bastards will never play Jimmy Roselli," says Ron Lawrence, a Fort Lauderdale liquor salesman who copped third-row seats for the concert. "From his grave, Frank still has the power to stop Jimmy."

Roselli hadn't played the Miami area since Eisenhower was president. In Boca the other night, he slew. With a 34-piece orchestra churning away, his rendition of the Sinatra standby "My Way" sounded like Caruso stumbling into a martini bar. As he slid into his signature hit "When Your Old Wedding Ring Was New," women began dabbing their eyes with handkerchiefs.

Up near the rafters, some little old ladies kept hassling him to "sing some Itaaaaaalian, Jimmy!"

Here's where Roselli always left Sinatra in the dust. "Frank couldn't sing his ass in Italian," Roselli told Tailpipe. "Everything he did in Italian had to end with an 'o.' It was a fuckin' disgrace."


Tailpipe knows a few things about passing gas. That's why this cylinder is spitting fumes over a state bill that would create a new type of health-care professional: anesthesia assistants. These workers are supposed to perform the same complicated tasks now being done by nurse anesthetists.

The big difference: Nurse anesthetists must have bachelor's degrees in nursing and several years of intensive-care experience before they are even allowed to enter a rigorous three-year master's program in anesthesia. These new anesthesia assistants, meanwhile, need only study the subject two years in graduate school. They can have a bachelor's in, say, literature.

It's a scary proposition. Delivering anesthesia is one of the most dangerous parts of any medical operation. Hallandale Beach nurse anesthetist Suzanne Oliver puts it succinctly: "If a patient doesn't wake up, it doesn't matter how successful the surgery is."

So why would state legislators want to let some Barnes & Noble clerk with a literature degree put patients to sleep? Just follow the money. It's a plum for Florida's anesthesiologists. No more need for those pesky, well-trained, $90-per-hour nurse anesthetists. And, heck, the docs can bill the insurance company the same amount -- even if the guy delivering anesthesia knows more about the Bronte sisters than the respiratory system.

And, of course, more money for rich doctors means more money for Republican legislators. Sen. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Rep. Bruce Kyle of Fort Myers aren't averse to taking anesthesiologist largess. Last year, both Republicans received campaign contributions of $500, the legal limit, from the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists' Political Action Committee. In what Tailpipe can only assume is a coincidence, Fasano and Kyle sponsored the bills allowing anesthesia assistants in the Senate and House, respectively.

In 2003, the Florida Society of Anesthesiologists' PAC contributed $27,250; $19,000 alone went to the state Republican Party. Since the 1998 election cycle, the PAC has contributed $108,000 to mostly Republican candidates. And that figure doesn't include individual donations made by the state's doctors and anesthesia groups. During that same period, the PAC representing the state's nurse anesthetists contributed a meager $29,447, which was split almost evenly between Republican and Democratic legislators.

"This bill was greased from the beginning," Oliver says.


They killed a pig the other day. Punched its lights out. The pig and its kin had lived for 51 years by the side of the road in unincorporated Broward County. Every year, the ever-encroaching sprawl of State Road 7 crept closer, until, the other day, it caught up with the Georgia Pig Barbecue mascot.

Broward County zoning officials made the landmark barbecue joint take down its porcine cutie-pie. That's right, the big, red, neon pig playing a fiddle is gone. "The man" has been after the Georgia Pig for years, owner JoAnn Anderson says. "Pole signs" have fallen from favor with the county, though towering over Anderson's store is a 40-foot billboard, as pleasing to the eye as a rhino's backside.

Anderson gives a dispirited shrug. "It's not worth it to have to put 'em up just to take 'em down," she says. "You can't fight city hall, it seems like."


If your March Madness brackets were rubble after the tournament's first weekend, take heart: At least your lint-brained picks weren't delivered to doorsteps across South Florida.

Of all the local newspaper scribes who weighed in with pretournament predictions, the worst was Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald, who shanked three of his four upset specials and predicted a Final Four -- Mississippi State, Pittsburgh, Stanford, and Gonzaga -- that produced only one team, Pitt, of the Sweet Sixteen.

"They're terrible picks," acknowledged Spencer, who covers the Marlins but, as a Lexington, Kentucky, native, fancies himself a hardwood swami. "What happened was, Mike Redmond, a catcher for the Marlins, went [to Gonzaga], and he touted me on Gonzaga, and it really screwed me up. So I'm blaming him."

Spencer is philosophical. "I had a bad year picking things. During the (baseball) playoffs, I picked the Giants to win in four, then the Cubs to win in six, so I lost both of those; those were in the paper. We got to New York and David Samson, the president of the Marlins, asked me who my pick was. I told him, 'Yankees in seven.' He goes, 'Yes!'"

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