In the Clouds

FAU Tries to Get Real

Tailpipe has noticed that college campuses tend to drift into a kind of cerebral über world, where young men and women, intoxicated with the poems of Sylvia Plath or the principles of cantilevered bridges or managerial techniques in a pre-recessionary economy, suffer diminished skills at simple tasks. You've seen it. Suddenly people can't remember how to cross the street or unlock their apartment doors. It's a benign malady that unfortunately starts to affect college professors and administrators.

Tailpipe has also noticed that the malady becomes less benign when the real world intrudes in a brusque, jostling way.

Such was apparently the case last fall on the Boca Raton campus of Florida Atlantic University. At 1 p.m. on October 21, 2005, a female student was walking near the Glades Road entrance to campus when she was sexually assaulted by a suspect described as "a muscular black male in his 20s." FAU responded by issuing a police crime alert to the student body — two weeks later. (The university says that Hurricane Wilma, which landed a few days later, slowed their response.)

A small cadre of student feminists, dissatisfied with the school's lack of urgency, thought that a campus rape required a stronger response. To paraphrase Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon: When one of your campus colleagues gets raped, a woman should do something about it. But it's hard to get people worked up on this vast, windy campus with its sterile white buildings. The feminists organized a demonstration — and 15 people showed up. Naturally, the school administration didn't respond at all.

FAU senior Tara Laxer and women's studies graduate student Stephanie Kunkel plowed ahead. They launched a letter campaign asking the university to meet with them to discuss the rape. When the two finally did succeed in getting face time with university officials, their requests for campus improvements were met with refusal. "They basically said there was no funding," says Laxer. "But I found out that they received a million-dollar donation from their alumni center two days before meeting."

What did the feminists want? Better campus lighting. Of course, Tailpipe doesn't have to ply FAU's walkways at night, but the demand for lighting seemed irrelevant to a rape that occurred in broad daylight. Nevertheless, the university changed its tune, promising to create the new infrastructure that the women had asked for, pledging half a million bucks to improve lighting on campus.

As for the rape investigation itself, university spokeswoman Kristine McGrath insisted that FAU was doing all it needed to do. "This is obviously an isolated incident," she told the 'Pipe in January.

Yes, except that at 12:30 p.m. on February 26, 2006, another woman was raped at FAU, the circumstances of the assault suspiciously similar to the first. This time the crime alert was emailed to the student body two days after the fact. Things were looking up. The description of the rapist was similar to the first one — though it was so broadly drawn that it could probably apply to half the black men in Broward County.

FAU President Frank T. Brogan, a Jeb Bush appointee who lives in a 14,000-square-foot domed mansion in the middle of the campus, gave the student body a heads up: "It goes without saying that this week's reported sexual assault is an act we will not tolerate at our University." Way to go, Frank. You're doing a heckuva job.

The student activists are at last seeking other solutions. Forget the lights, they say now. "The lighting issue is really not the issue, because we know that the rapes happened during the day," Laxer says. Now, they're pushing for a student wellness center, to allow more rape victims to come forward — which, the 'Pipe says, is a fine way to comfort the victims but a backasswards way to prevent rapes.

Fortunately, the administration is putting on its thinking cap and considering creative approaches. In preparation for another meeting with Laxer and Kunkel on March 17, the administration bounced one no-nonsense rape-prevention idea off them: "They've proposed getting all the students mace," Laxer says. "I told them that no, that probably wasn't a good idea — you'd have thousands of students spraying each other."

Tailpipe wants to throw another idea into the mix. Take that $500,000 and hire some campus security. It's a time-honored approach.

Update

As New Times went to press Tuesday, Tailpipe learned of a breaking development in the FAU rape case: According to an e-mail from FAU President Brogan, sent at 5:30 p.m., the February 26 rape never happened. "It became clear to the investigators that the reported sexual assault never occurred," Brogan noted.

The Palm Beach Post reported that the alleged victim of the rape admitted to police that the intercourse was consensual, FAU Chief of Police Will Ferrell said.

Fort Goldendale

It's easy to become jaded when you live in paradise, and sometimes it takes an outsider to point out the qualities that Lauderdalians tend to miss. Granted, travel writing doesn't dwell on negativity, but a recent article by Pamela Crouch Thrasher in the New Orleans Times-Picayune is puffery at its finest. There's even a nugget of real news there: Many local residents are unaware that a traveling exhibit of ancient Egyptian artifacts single-handedly pulled our dull, unenlightened metropolis out of the Dark Ages.

"Prosperity reigns here year-round!" writes Thrasher, who obviously hasn't spent much time cruising the Sistrunk Corridor.

"The sun-drenched city promotes its growing sophistication and cultural explosion with brash self-confidence," she notes. "Growing," "explosion," and "brash" — sounds about right. Sophistication? That sometimes takes the form of a signature grilled BBQ salmon, glazed in a sauce of applewood smoked bacon, mangoes, star fruit, chipotle chiles, molasses, and fresh herbs.

"Stroll down Himmarshee and you can feel the energy. No surprise it's a mecca for young professionals." (In reality, when Tailpipe strolls down Himmarshee, all he can feel is warm Miller Lite sloshing in a plastic cup).

Thrasher even champions the rampant bulldozing of quaint mom-'n'-pop oceanfront motels to make room for new high-rises as progress at its best, "giving Fort Lauderdale a cachet it could only have dreamed of 20 years ago." Through her red-tinted PR goggles, Wayne Huizenga becomes one of the city's "major benefactors," nightlife is full of "grand opera and cabaret comedy," and in the near-empty Las Olas River House, "former Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino is the condo's most famous resident."

Tailpipe is going to be more than his usually sympathetic self and hand Thrasher a ready-made excuse: She's clearly suffering from Katrina-induced post-traumatic stress disorder.

Big in the Disk Market

Tailpipe says, when it come to slippery operators, it's hard to beat the porn merchants. Take Peter Pasch. He has certainly done his mother proud. Back in 1998, Blanche Pasch handed her son $50,000 for his 50th birthday to open his own sex video store. She convinced her son-in-law, Jack Titolo, who already ran three adult stores in Long Island, to help the dream come true for her middle-aged boy.

The two businesses they founded, Megasex Superstore in Fort Lauderdale and University Video in Lauderhill, were immediate financial successes, but the partnership was disastrous (see "Porn War," January 15, 2004). The brother-in-laws have battled over ownership in Broward Circuit Court for four years. Titolo, an intimidating 300-pounder, has marshaled every stalling tactic in the book to keep the case from coming before a jury. The latest setback? A day before the case was set to go before a jury early this month, Titolo's attorney retired.

But Pasch hasn't let legal problems interfere with Mama's dream. Though he's been cut out of the profits from Megasex and University Video, he's slowly rebuilt a competing mini-porn empire. First, there was Complete Adult Video on Broward Boulevard, which features a handy "preview room" where patrons occupy tiny viewing chambers and feed dollars into a video monitor.

Now he's taken the war to his enemy's turf. When a storefront across the street from University Video became available, Pasch leased the spot, calling it Contrast Video. (The store was formerly Contrast Furniture, so Pasch had only to modify the sign.)

But Pasch has gained a new enemy: the City of Lauderhill, which is trying to revoke his business license under an ordinance that severely restricts adult-oriented businesses. Although University Video was grandfathered under the old provision, the new ordinance limits a new business' inventory to no more than 10 percent adult-oriented items. The rest must be "in-kind," meaning similar.

Pasch stocked his store with more than 200,000 disks — only 22,000 of which are porn.

"Everything for sale here says disk," Pasch asserts. "There are karaoke disks. There are blank disks. There are adult disks. But they're all disks. A disk is a round, metallic object that holds information."

The city's Code Enforcement Board cried foul over the shrewd move, although porn stores in other Broward towns have used similar tactics. Hustler in Fort Lauderdale rounds out its inventory with a truckload of DVDs of the owner's biopic, The People vs. Larry Flynt. City officials wouldn't talk to Tailpipe about the meaning of disks or, for that matter, the meaning of porn.

But Lauderhill can expect a fierce fight from a mama's boy honed by four years of litigation. "I'm never going out of here," he says of the new store. He pauses. "It's a lot of fun, huh?

Gangsta Yanni

After allegedly calling his girlfriend a "cunt" and a "whore," packing her clothes in garbage bags, and kicking her ass all the way to the iron-gated curb of his Manalapan mansion, Yanni's gangsta cred crept up about ten notches. Cops were called, and the international beautiful-music icon spent a night in the local pokey before returning to his oceanfront enclave. Officials admit that the man known as John Yanni Christopher isn't affiliated with the Crips or the Bloods. In fact, Yanni claims allegiance to no "set" — he's a lone wolf.

"Gang activity isn't so noticeable in Manalapan," said a local officer, "but it's not unheard of. What is unusual is that Yanni is Greek, and we know of very, very few Greek street gangs. But you never know. It could be the start of something serious."

As news of Yanni's misogynistic behavior made the papers, some musicians who'd always considered the mustachioed keyboard magnate nothing but a schlockmeister had to reconsider that appraisal. In fact, as Tailpipe went to press, word surfaced that Yanni was teaming up with popular British dance act the Prodigy for a collaborative remake of that band's number-one 1997 hit, "Smack My Bitch Up."

The song will be re-created with a 72-piece orchestra and performed live at the Acropolis for a televised special.

"Turns out, Yanni ain't afraid t' slap a bitch, choke a bitch, whatevuh," said Prodigy member Liam Howlett. "He told that ho what time it was, yo, an' we respec' that."

In fact, Yanni now has a queue of hip-hop artists lining up to record songs with him — often songs that depict fairly harsh treatment of the distaff side. Eminem, Snoop Dogg, and Ludacris have all contacted Yanni's manager, expressing interest.

"My man finally learned it ain't 'bout nothing but bitches and hos," Snoop Dogg said. "He just needed to get that John Tesh bullshit out of his system first."

— As told to Edmund Newton

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