Enter the Dragon Man

In the end, the board voted 6-2 against the project. "I don't want to toot my own horn," Sazera said later, "but I think there's enough development. There's a lesson here -- I thought the board would protect the neighborhood, but it's not. Pretty soon, they won't need a historical board, because it'll all be new townhomes. If I wanted to live in Weston, I would have bought a house in Weston!"

Sazera's not dancing in front of any "Mission Accomplished" signs yet; Carbonell can still seek to overturn the board's decision. "But I'm not going to stop fighting," she says. "I'm going to make it very uncomfortable for them." You gotta love an idealist seething with righteous indignation.


Fannon is as mellow as a Key West sunset.
Colby Katz
Fannon is as mellow as a Key West sunset.

Screech, Bang, Ka-ching

Tailpipe's all in favor of dressing in tacky clothes, drinking lots of hard liquor, and throwing around money like rice at a wedding. But did the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino traffic have to throw up so many obstacles to its grand opening the other day? Just getting to the front door put Tailpipe through the sort of bumper-to-bumper mess that makes you realize the value of your bumper. In the 15 minutes it took to crawl the three-quarters of a mile between Griffin Road and the State Road 7 entrance to the new monolith, Tailpipe swerved around one two-car mashup, then passed an accident that had coughed a Taurus fender onto the sidewalk like a huge watermelon rind. No time for patience here! There's money to be lost!

The hoi polloi were piled against the ropes near the casino entrance while tribal officials and civic honchos took turns giving one another self-congratulatory pats on the bottom. Around noon, after an hour of waiting, a 24-year-old woman with a belly like a beach ball managed to wriggle to the front of the line, duck the ropes, and take a precious seat in a row of chairs. Meanwhile, casino employees clad in black, realizing the potential Pamplonian stampede they faced, began clearing space for the blockaded hordes. One worker whose nametag read "Sophia" approached the young woman from behind.

"Can I take these chairs?" she asked. "So people don't knock you over?"

The young woman -- who provided her name to Tailpipe as Shana (long pause) Smith of Miramar -- stood and aimed her imposing tummy at Sophia.

"Oh!" the chair mover said. "I'm sorry!"

"Change your mind?" said Smith, who is eight months pregnant. She wore a red-and-white-checked maternity dress and puffy white sneakers. "My friends said I was crazy coming down here," she said after taking a different seat. "I love to play cards."

Around 12:15, someone made the humane decision to step aside, and the gamblers walked with surprising calm to thousands of not-quite slot machines and began divesting themselves of their earnings. The wait for commemorative pins was 60-people deep. The fervor nearly dwarfed the surreality of the evening's chi-chi, invitation-only, poolside party, which featured multiple stilted Elvis and Kiss impersonators, with imitation Marilyn Manson rockers hoisted on chains to drum sets 15 feet above the sidewalk. If you listened closely enough, above the din of the beautiful people gorging on jumbo shrimp and lighting one anothers' cigars, you could hear the sound of a giant cash register ka-CHINGing inside the lilac-lit casino.

Smith played poker until 4 a.m. and left with half of the $200 she brought to play.

"Down a hundred for being inside a casino for 17 hours isn't bad," she said afterward. "I'm sure my baby wasn't happy with me. But the chairs are so comfortable."


Horse Cents

Jose and Rita Santos and their four kids, ages 6 to 16, live in a quiet, $350,000 house in a secluded section of Hollywood. Many of the neighbors don't know they have probably America's premier jockey living nearby. And the family likes it that way. "I've been here for a long time," Rita says. "It's very peaceful, and I just don't want to be bothered."

So the family was particularly embarrassed last year when the Miami Herald printed a story by Frank Carlson and Clark Spencer alleging that Santos had cheated to win the Kentucky Derby. Now, Rita says, "We just want to put it behind us."

Unfortunately, a $48 million libel lawsuit filed by the family and Sackatoga Stables, 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide's collective owners, on May 4 in Kentucky is likely to do just the opposite. The suit, which is dated exactly one year after the photograph at the center of the controversy was published, is sure to cost the Herald some money.

The newspaper made a mistake -- a bad one -- by falsely alleging that Santos acknowledged using something called a "cue ring" to make his horse, Funny Cide, move faster. Fact is, he never said any such thing. And he won fair and square. The Herald did a follow-up story and a correction (six months after the incident) to try to cover itself.

But hey, both Executive Editor Tom Fiedler and then-Managing Editor Mark Seibel were out of town (and weren't consulted) when the story was published. Carlson, who allegedly misled his editors about his information, still works for the paper on a freelance basis.

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