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When There's This Much Money Involved, Feel Free to Scam

In the paper's recent "Politics Et Cetera" column, for instance, City News Publisher Steve Kelley asserts that "100% of the cops [in Fort Lauderdale] hate Naugle along with all 2,500 city employees," and he relates an anecdote about Naugle's spilling a drink during his flight to a League of Cities conference. (The mayor is, thus, clearly an alcoholic, right?) Kelley also reads between the lines of a Naugle press conference to conclude that the mayor supports the shooting of black people.

Naugle, who's been mayor for 16 years, shrugged off the attacks as politics as usual — until a city employee e-mailed him seeking nominations for community activists to be honored by City News. It was a sign, he says, that someone in City Hall was taking the newspaper seriously, rousing him to growl from his City Hall lair.

Kelley, Naugle says, is "one of the most dishonest people in the city. I know that he was dismissed from one neighborhood when they had missing funds from the newsletter." He says also that the spilled drink in question came from a fellow airline passenger, that he's not in favor of shooting black people, and that some local cops actually smile warmly at him. He added that Kelley has never called him for a comment.

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Potty mouth Michael Yormark
Potty mouth Michael Yormark

When Tailpipe reached Kelley the next day, the publisher could barely conceal his delight. "Mayor Naugle went apeshit," Kelley marveled. "He slandered me... and I might sue him for libel."

Naugle says he's ready to call Kelley's bluff. "It's difficult to sue someone for telling the truth, but he's welcome to try."

The mayor produced the minutes of a 2002 Victoria Park Civic Association meeting, noting that members found that Kelley, who was editing their newsletter, could not reconcile advertising revenue with deposits in the association's account. Kelley resigned as advertising manager shortly afterward. ("I don't have any comment on that," Kelley tells Tailpipe.)

Kelley says City News has a circulation of 50,000 (though the numbers are not confirmed by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which monitors newspaper figures). He says he gets no financial support from the cast of erstwhile politicians who form the paper's editorial board, such as former commissioner Tim Smith and former mayoral candidate Dan Lewis, both of whom are treated reverently in Kelley's pages.

But he concedes that the paper is floundering and that he's losing money. "I won't tell you how much," he says, "but I'm losing my shirt on it."

Resurrecting Blondie

When El-Ad Group bought a chunk of real estate on Fort Lauderdale Beach for $56.3 million in October 2005, beach bums were bummed. It looked as if their favorite watering holes, from Blondie's to the Elbo Room, were doomed to make way for (yet another) fancy condo/hotel.

Blondie's drained its kegs and shut its doors, but a few key players stood in the way of El-Ad's mission to buy up the entire block. According to a Sun-Sentinel story by Brittany Wallman last August, the Elbo Room's owners refused to budge, and a guy named Lior Avidor — a friend turned foe of El-Ad's — bought a chunk of land that El-Ad would need to put its big luxury puzzle together. El-Ad (which also owns the Plaza hotel) figured it would sit and play the waiting game until its opponents gave in.

But the other day, Tailpipe was psyched when he saw the doors to Blondie's wide open, the TV sets a-blarin', and the pinball games plink-plinking away — not to mention the usual suspects sitting at the bar. Word on the street is that the same guys who operate Spazio and Café del Mar are now operating Blondie's (now officially called Dirty Blonde's). Well... wouldn't that be... Avidor? None of the honchos from either side returned the 'Pipe's calls, so he was forced (forced!) to mosey in for a tall one and scope out the scene. Except for better, sharper flat-screen TVs, the place still has its old lovably divey vibe.

The old bartenders are trickling back in, and the regulars? "They're not trickling," the fair maiden who refilled the 'Pipe's pint glass says. "They're already here."

— As told to Edmund Newton

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