Scraping Bottom

The Bush-Post feud goes back at least to December, when the guv shut the paper out of a year-end interview because its Tallahassee bureau chief had cursed at Bush spokeswoman Jill Bratina. For her part, Bratina says the errors won't heighten the feud. "We speak with any number of reporters on a daily basis, including the Post," she said. The governor doesn't always like their editorials, Bratina says, but that's the job.

Tom Giuffrida, the Post's publisher, says there's little the paper can do. The dispute really comes down to the fact that the Post has aggressively reported on school vouchers, Giuffrida says. "It's just something that happens in the business."

Hutless in West Palm?

Robin McKinzie Darville sings for sister Miriam Oliphant.
Sam Eifling
Robin McKinzie Darville sings for sister Miriam Oliphant.

West Palm Beach's Quonset hut studios, a Flamingo Park icon where artists and musicians practiced and performed for a decade, are about to disappear. Owner Alan Patrusevich seems to have lost his long fight with the city to keep the dilapidated World War II-era barracks on Kanuga Drive. City officials have ordered them to be demolished, likely within a week or so.

A cadre of city employees descended on the studios August 24 after a neighbor complained that as many as 30 artists regularly slept there. The huts' bohemian feel has long irked some neighbors.

Inspectors found signs that the huts have seen far better days. The electrical wiring was so bad that the city ordered the power turned off immediately. The structure has been patched with odd pieces of metal and wood that's now rotting. The city inspectors feared that a hurricane (or, Tailpipe suggests, a loud fart) could easily turn the studios into a very abstract pile of rubble. "At this point," says Neil Melick, the city's director of construction services, "these buildings are more of a risk to other properties than they are worth saving."

The city ordered the buildings demolished immediately, a decision Patrusevich will likely appeal -- and an appeal he'll probably lose.

Patrusevich, a Vietnam vet who makes a living by renting out space in the huts, still hopes he can save a section. The 80-foot-long front half of one of the barracks is still in good shape, he says.

But city codes would require him to bring that section up to current building standards. Patrusevich has allies in his fight. A few local lawyers, well-known artists, and renowned architect Michael Docsh are helping him try to negotiate a treaty with the city. But Patrusevich acknowledges that the huts are likely doomed. "It'd be a bitch to be homeless, out of business, and to owe the city for the pleasure to be demolished," Patrusevich says. "It's like paying for my own funeral."

Vamping for Votes

In the slim, shadeless strand of brick median separating westbound from eastbound lanes of Broward Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale, a 46-year-old woman in a white-on-pink T-shirt reading "Everybody Loves a Baby Girl" waggles her hips and jiggles her ample booty at the bawling traffic.

"Ah-lee-FAH-AHNT, Ah-lee-FAH-AHNT, Ah-lee-FAH-AHNT," Robin McKinzie Darville sings.

She twirls slowly, sweating, shimmying, waving a campaign sign for her big sister, Miriam Oliphant, the deposed supervisor of Broward's elections, who's running for the same position this fall. A couple of women in a silver Camry stop and catcall. "Hey!" she hollers, "watch me bust a move!" She hops in a circle on one foot. The women clap and snap photos with a cell phone. Horns honk. People laugh. Darville keeps shakin'.

"I didn't plan on it being a big joke," she says of her campaigning. "I thought people'd be throwing cans at me."

It's a grim, wearisome season, with hungry pols spreading the same bad air Tailpipe disperses. Give Darville credit. Watching a grown woman waggle in a public street is beautiful. Darville, who describes herself as "the black sheep of the family," took up the two-sided sign -- for Oliphant and their brother Robert McKinzie, a candidate for the District 7 County Commission seat -- because she wanted to chip in.

"They love me," Darville says of the drivers. "One woman said, 'I'm voting for her, just because of you. '"

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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