Tailpipe

Hustle and Fame

Show Me the $271.98!

Tailpipe loves football more than anything except maybe motor oil. He's Ameeerican,ya know. So you can imagine how much smoke the 'Pipe spewed last week when, less than 24 hours after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Dan Marino appeared on the cable channel QVC wearing his new yellow jacket.

And what was the NFL's greatest quarterback doing? Hawking autographed, framed posters of him and fellow inductee Steve Young -- oh, um, maybe Young was the best. After all, he won a Super Bowl, right here in South Florida.

Anyway, the posters were going for $271.98 apiece -- or three easy payments of $90.66! QVC had gone to Canton, Ohio, to set up a remote studio just for Marino's sales pitch.

During the show, a woman called in to thank Marino for his community involvement. "I'm no angel," he replied with a smirk. "But I try."

Tailpipe was amazed. Marino volunteering for community activities? Where does the retired QB get the time?

He's a world-class, never-saw-a-buck-I-wouldn't-take advertising pitchman. For the past few years, he's hawked cars for H. Wayne Huizenga's Maroone and AutoNation dealerships, diamonds for Levinson Jewelers, and condos for Las Olas River House, where Dan owns a $1.3 million penthouse. Marino is also the faceman for Sleep Innovations' Marino Recovery System, a line of mattresses available at Linens 'n Things.

Cars, diamonds, condos, beds, and QVC -- who says Marino isn't driven by a sense of social duty? The 'Pipe can't wait until next year, when Marino is finally inducted into the Old-Athletes-Padding-Their-Pensions-on-Late-Night-TV Hall of Fame. The class of 2006 also includes Pete Rose for his work with Maaco Auto Collision Repair and Rafael Palmeiro for Viagra.

Dirty Money

Florida gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallaghermade headlines when he announced that he was returning $3,000 donated to his recently launched campaign by Boca Raton millionaire businessman Marc Bell.

Gallagher, a Republican, claimed that the contributions didn't jibe with his "family values" image. You see, Bell isn't just any businessman. He's the new publisher of Penthouse magazine, reputed chronicler of the world's shapeliest boobs and cuddliest butts. Since there's a $500 state cap on campaign contributions, the soft-porn mogul used a variety of corporations, including Penthouse Media Group and Penthouse Images Acquisitions, to write $500 checks.

But when it comes to money and sex, Tailpipe has discovered that the Republican Party's squeamishness often smells worse than this rusty tube's mid-August emissions. Turns out that GOP candidates haven't been shy about taking moolah from Bell in the past. Records show that he's donated to, among others, President George W. Bush and Florida Sen. Mel Martinez.

In October 2004 -- the same month that Bell became head of Penthouse magazine -- the Republican National Committee happily accepted a $25,000 check from the nudie-mag publisher.

RNC spokeswoman Tara Wall declined to comment to Tailpipe on whether she thinks current PenthousePet of the Month Gina Austin (measurements: 34-25-35) is hotter than Playboy's Playmate of the Month, Vanessa Hoelsher (36D-25- 36).

Two Sides of Giving

In the past year, Pembroke Pines Mayor Frank Ortis has used leftover campaign contributions for all kinds of nice stuff. He's donated $500 to the Miramar-Pembroke Chamber of Commerce and American Cancer Society, $150 to the Academy of the Arts, and another $100 to the local Police Athletic League. He even bought ads for everyone from the Kiwanis Club to the Special Olympics.

Yes, Ortis likes to spread his supporters' cash around. But who said that good deeds go unrewarded?

Bidding with money from campaign donations at a charity auction last March, Ortis won a weeklong vacation at a home on the beach in sunny North Carolina. The good news for the charity: $1,700 big ones from Ortis' campaign contributors. The good news for Ortis: He gets a weeklong vacation.

Ortis was aghast that the 'Pipe would find fault with his backhanded giving. "My lawyer said that such expenditures were allowed," he said.

Ortis opened his contributors' pocketbooks once again in April, when he used the campaign war chest for a $500 foursome of golf at a charity tournament. The $500 went to Flanagan High, and Ortis and his buddies got to play through.

Turns out Ortis' lawyer was right. According to Florida law, this kind of "charity" is legal. Money that a victorious candidate receives in donations during an election can be spent a few different ways, like paper clips, staples, paying your secretary, or charitable donations. The law says absolutely nothing about getting stuff in return for those donations.

"If he did in fact get a benefit from that," says Mary Cooneyof the Broward County Elections Office, "the law doesn't address it."

Putting Down a Revolt

Miami Herald Executive Editor Tom Fiedler replied thusly to Bob Norman’s August 11 column, “Knight Riddance.” The memo appeared on “Readme,” the newspaper’s internal bulletin board, last week. It refers to Knight Ridder CEO Tony Ridder, recently fired columnist Jim DeFede (a New Times alum hired by Fiedler, then fired), and Publisher Jesus Diaz: “Folks, “Normally I would regard responding to a New Times article as being as dumb as standing between a dog and a hydrant.

“But because a link to NT writer Bob Norman’s fantasy has been posted on Readme, I feel compelled to respond to his conspiracy theory that Jim’s firing was the culmination of a two-plus-year-long vendetta plotted by Tony Ridder and carried out by me under his direct orders.

“The far-less-interesting fact is that, although Tony Ridder and others at KR were briefed that evening on all the events at The Herald — as would be appropriate — Tony Ridder was not just explicit in telling me and Jesus during a conference call that the decision was to be made “by Miami,” he was emphatic. He arranged to set me up in a private office where I could be linked by phone and computer to The Herald’s system. Except for the initial briefing and discussion early in the evening, he had no further conversations that night with me or, to my knowledge, with Jesus. The decision by me, supported by Jesus, to dismiss Jim came three hours later.

“Although this may be hard for those at New Times to believe, Tony Ridder is not only not fixated on Jim’s status, he has never appeared to me to have been bothered by anything Jim has written in the past, before or after he joined The Herald.

“Norman’s grandiose notion that Tony Ridder ordered me to execute his long-festering plot to fire Jim — knowing full well that I was the guy who hired him in the first place — is nuts. “But I hope you already knew that.”

The Pipe wants to know: (1) Where’s the outright denial? And (2) when does the Herald revolt end?

--As told to Edmund Newton

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