The Ludicrous 12 of 2004

Sure, it was the year of Bush/Kerry. But here are South Florida's really big stories.

There was Iraq, of course. The mess hall bombing in Mosul, the battle of Fallujah, the Rumsfeld unthinking rejoinder about driving through hostile terrain without armored vehicles. And the presidential election. Who could ever forget that? But news is also what happens in the swirls and eddies at the edges of the mainstream. It's there, in the weirdness and the crazy stumbles, in the unpredictable energy bursts from places like Broward and Palm Beach counties. There were hundreds of such outbursts in 2004. New Times kept track of them, hunting down the good ones with the avidity of a beach scavenger digging 50-cent pieces and wedding bands out of the sand in Fort Lauderdale. This is our list of the most significant insignificant news stories of 2004.

Rush Help

It's time to ask: How high is Rush Limbaugh? We know from medical records seized by the State Attorney's Office that Limbaugh popped more than 2,000 pain pills in a five-month span in 2003. And sure, he must have been stoned out of his gourd to say that racist thing about Donovan McNabb (that the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback gets undue props because "the media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well"). But how wasted was he in May, when the big man (who still hasn't been charged with anything in connection with his addiction to pills) took a helping hand from the ACLU? The civil rights organization wrote to the judge in Limbaugh's drug case, backing up his assertion that prosecutors shouldn't be snooping in his medical files. Everybody's favorite right-wing blowhard not only accepted the help but later told Time magazine that he's always been a supporter of the ACLU. That, our friends, is one sweet buzz.

Raining Cars

On a crisp, clear morning last January, 67-year-old Ruth Goebellost control of her Chevrolet Suburban and, in spectacular fashion, burst through the fifth floor wall of a downtown parking garage. The silver behemoth flipped over in midair and landed on its roof, instantly killing Goebel, an architect who had emigrated from Cuba. City officials had known for two years, it was later revealed, that the garage's walls were defective and weak. Nothing to fret about, though: Within a few days, some plywood and barriers were placed in front of the fresh hole in the wall, and the garage, a cash cow for the city, was declared safe. Eleven months later, as if to prove that lightning can strike twice, a Miami man performed the same stunt in a South Miami garage. Cops say Nicanor Jose Saleta, 26, revved his '93 Mercury Cougar up to 60 mph or better and smashed through a wall on the sixth floor of the Sunset Place garage. Suicidally distraught over marital problems, he sailed 100 feet through the air, and landed right-side-up on top of some other cars. Saleta, who had taken the precaution of fastening his seat belt, wasn't injured.

Screwed

How far is the fall to rock bottom when you're in the gutter trade to begin with? Consider Al Goldstein's year. The 68-year-old smutmeister and founder of the now-defunct Screw sex magazine went into bankruptcy last year; in June, he was forced to sell his Pompano Beach mansion -- and remove his infamous 11-foot statue of a raised middle finger. Jobless, he ended up living in a Manhattan homeless shelter in July. He was fired from the city's well-known Second Avenue Deli after a brief stint as a greeter. Then, four days after Thanksgiving, a security guard busted Goldstein, who's a grandfather, for shoplifting as he walked out of a Midtown Barnes & Noble... with three health-related books.

Sex Heil

Well, kiddies, it turns out your favorite smut starlet has a criminal past and über-racist running buddies! Yes, Wendy Iwanow (Bianca Trump to porn aficionados), formerly of West Palm Beach, dodged a bullet in February when prosecutors couldn't nail her on forgery charges. The practicing tattoo artist had been arrested at Spokane International Airport on November 6, 2003, on a 12-year-old warrant. Her traveling companion that day was none other than Richard Butler, the Paleolithic founder of the Aryan Nation. Butler was called home to the gates of Hades on September 8 of this year, when he died peacefully in his sleep at age 86. None too soon, as far as some in the white supremacist world were concerned. Imagine, our Richie, hanging out with a self-styled "Latin Princess," who had publicly had sex with men of color. Ouch. The travails of keeping it all untangled in this increasingly mongrelized world of ours!

Grilled Dolphin

Just a season removed from winning ten games, the 2004 Miami Dolphins were almost certainly the worst in the franchise's 39 years. What could cripple a team so swiftly? Oh, just one of the most bizarre off-seasons in recent sports history. As soon as the Dolphins missed the playoffs, owner H. Wayne Huizenga stripped Coach Dave Wannstedt of personnel power. On January 12, the owner installed Dan Marino as a senior vice president of football operations. Three weeks later, Marino ditched. Then new personnel man Rick Spielman signed quarterback A.J. Feeley, who had started zero games in 2003; a right tackle who failed his physical; and a troubled star receiver, David Boston, who blew out his knee before playing a single down. There were the offseason police hassles (linebacker Eddie Moore for assault, cornerback Will Poole for DUI, tight end Randy McMichael for domestic violence) and star linebacker Junior Seau assuring everyone he wasn't "a faggot" after accepting the team's leadership award. When Ricky Williams announced his retirement to avoid drug tests -- well, Fins fans could hardly blame a fellow for fleeing. And that was before the team traded its best player, Adewale Ogunleye, to the Bears.

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