By Francisco Alvarado
By Trevor Bach
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
Star knows his business, all right. He can dip deep into history to talk about "the height of sausage-making in Vienna." That's the real Vienna, boys and girls, over in a place called Austria. He knows about the evolution of the American hot dog, from its first appearance in the '30s outside the Chicago World's Fair to its current staple as a B-list fast food item. He expounds on the hot dog vendor as American icon ("the little guy who started small and created a business for his family") and the allure of the Chicago-style dogs. This last would be (no better way of expressing it, folks): "A flavorful bun, a nice juicy dog, barley in the bun, some of the beer flavor, the fullness, that crunchiness of the pickle and the sweetness of the relish and the spiciness of the peppers! Whoa that's what this is really about!"
Star guesses that he has eaten 10,000 franks since he opened 28 years ago. Perhaps more impressive, he claims to have missed only three days of work. He has no plans to retire. "I'm more afraid of notworking than working," he says.
How much of a big deal is Star's Hall of Fame induction? Well, vendors have to be in business for a minimum of 20 years to be considered for the Hall, and so far, only 26 other establishments share the honor. Perhaps most telling, though: Of five other local hot dog places we called for comment on their colleague's accomplishment, four of those numbers were disconnected.
Ixnay With Xmas
Tailpipe likes to keep track of Boca Ratonians the way Margaret Mead used to keep track of tribal Samoans. Observe them in their tiki huts. Sample their cuisine. Make note of their sexual habits. Attend their Toastmasters meetings, particularly around Christmas time.
Everybody wants to be able to make a pleasing toast during the holiday. Peace, goodwill, and praise the Dow Jones Industrial Average. It's no surprise, then, that Olympic Heights High School classroom 2113 has lately been brimming with members and guests of the West Boca Toastmasters one of 11,000 Toastmasters International clubs in the world. The clubs of which there are three just in Boca are supposed to give people a place to enhance their public speaking skills, leadership skills, and confidence while getting to know plenty of folks from other cultures.
There's a special gleam in the eyes of a Toastmaster, the 'Pipe has to concede. Every toast is celebratory. Every remark is greeted with thunderous applause.
At a recent meeting, the topic was, "What does Santa Claus mean to you?" This battered cylinder, with words like trite and played out echoing in his mind, ducked for cover, chastising himself for his own bile.
A man named Richard Oliner took his place in front of the lectern.
"Santa Claus?" he asked, repeating the question in a classic Toastmaster stall. "What else could Santa Claus mean to a little Jewish boy from New Jersey? Santa Claus to me is the spirit of Christmas. He's the big, jolly guy in the red suit."
Oliner seemed to be digging a hole for himself.
"We've lost the actual meaning of Christmas," he said, battling for clarity. "But Santa Claus will live forever." Hmmm. "Bring on the presents," Oliner concluded. So Boca, the 'Pipe thought.
Somewhere in the audience, Debbie Sandburg was begging to differ. As the 'Pipe learned two weeks later, she was quietly planning some remarks of her own, which she would deliver to the increasingly festive Boca crowd. At the next meeting, Sandberg approached the lectern in a red dress with white polka dots, ready to give one of the meeting's three prepared speeches.
"I have several words to tell you about Christmas," she began. She paused for effect. "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire," she said, eyes and arms wide. "Jack Frost nipping at your nose. Yuletide carols being sung by a choir," she actually sang out, then hugged her red sweater close. "And folks dressed up like Eskimos!"
A daring gambit. Quoting extensively from Saint Nat King Cole. Audience members wrinkled their noses, wondering where they had heard these words before.
Sandberg, it turned out, grew up in Chicago chopping her own Christmas trees, baking cookies, and warming herself by a fire.
"When I came to South Florida, I didn't have all that," she said. She could imitate it, even going so far as to turn the air conditioning on in her house so she could build a fire in her fireplace. But there was always a missing ingredient. No one ever wished her happy holidays.
Tailpipe offered heartfelt holiday wishes. Then he took the gift and deposited it under a tree somewhere, knowing the way a child who has eaten too many candy canes knows that, thank God, it was time to shut the holidays down for another year.
As told to Edmund Newton