By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Keegan Hamilton and Francisco Alvarado
By Jake Rossen
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Chris Joseph
By Michael E. Miller
Egad, it's happening again. Tailpipe feels an evil current drawing him back... back to Lost River Lake.
There's Dr. Hoak, the bristly mad scientist, and his lethal little meat-eaters. The government abandoned his project, of course, the controversial Operation Razorteeth. Hoak's baby. Pulled the funds back. Tried to call Hoak off. It was a little too crude for the Pentagon boys, all that blood in the water and the skeletons picked clean. But Hoak wasn't about to quit. No, he loved his hyperactive fish with their undershot jaws and teeth in jagged rows, like the tips of stilettos. They were the doc's creations, a whole school of them lovingly bred in his own lab, and he wasn't going to kill them off for anybody.
Ay, the horror.
Now it's Fort Lauderdale Beach. Could Operation Razorteeth have somehow been resurrected right there? Could there be a Broward reenactment of that 1978 classic Piranha?
It happened a few weeks ago. Melanye Clark and Rena Ramsaw were at their favorite beach, near Las Olas, standing in the water on a hot Saturday afternoon. True story. Clark, 38, says they were about three feet deep in the water, talking to some people.
"Some guy close to shore yelled 'Fish!' " Clark says. "I looked up, and there were all of these fish coming toward us. There had to be like 15 of them."
The fish were silvery with a bluish tint, each better than a foot long, and they were coming fast, Clark says.
It was frightening. They were suddenly swarming around the two women like leaves in a tornado, darting and diving, stirring the water.
"They were rubbing against me, swimming between my legs. People were hitting the water to try to get the fish away from me. My girlfriend [Ramsaw] jumped into a man's arms, but I ran for shore. I was running, and they were following, rubbing against me."
A man she didn't know tried to help her, pushing the fish away with his hands.
Finally, she got to the beach. The Good Samaritan looked her over and said, "You got bit."
"There they were. Teethmarks around an arch on my belly. Little pinholes and blood. It was like a movie."
The two women, both of whom work for Aetna Insurance, retreated to a nearby pizza parlor. "The owner said he had never heard of anything like that," says Clark, who thinks the fish were bluefish. "There was a man there who teaches scuba diving, and he said he had never heard of anything like that either."
Lee Schlesinger, spokesman for the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, said, no, the world is not going mad, like a Hitchcock movie (The Birds anyone?). There's nothing to be concerned about at all. "You have to understand that, if you're interested in experiencing nature, you're going to be in a natural habitat," he told the 'Pipe. "When you're in the ocean, there are critters out there."
He said he himself had experienced direct encounters with fish at the Miami and Fort Lauderdale beaches. "I've been nibbled before."
Schlesinger was noncommittal. "Maybe the lady was wearing a ring or something shiny that fish might think was a food source."
In fact, Clark says, she had been wearing a belly-button ring. A piece of silver with a small diamond.
"I figure now, the way sun hit the diamond and the silver, it probably sparked the fish to bite me," Clark says. The Aetna disability case manager, who's from Columbus, Ohio, says she loves the beach. But since the attack, she's been cautious. "I'm really careful to see if there's anything out there, however small."
Schlesinger offers more reassurances. "Fish are curious animals," he says. "Throw something shiny in the water and it'll attract them."
This battered car part's not so sure. What else is a state official going to say, eh? Go on, go back in the water. There's nothing to worry about. (Yeah, Tailpipe saw that movie Jaws.) But what about that distinguished-looking gentleman with the prominent jaw and a shock of gray hair standing quietly at the water's edge? Looks like that actor, what's-his-name. Kevin McCarthy. To Tailpipe, he looks a lot like Dr. Hoak. Same distracted gaze. What's going to happen next time the fish attack? Tell us that, Mr. State Official.
Last time Tailpipe saw Dwyane Wade was in April, at the grand opening of his eponymous bar, D. Wade's Sports Grill, on North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. Or, the 'Pipe should say, he saw the tour bus in which Wade hid out in the parking lot before making his photo-op entrance. By the time Wade stepped out (into a limousine, which circled the block before dropping the Miami Heat hero on a red carpet), Tailpipe had long since gone home to bed. A lot of other people apparently felt that way too. Not just that night but over the next three months, before the bar (which had all the charm of a Mexicali gut-bucket tequilazo-and-cerveza joint) went out of business.
It was déjà vu last Saturday. The golden son, high point man on the U.S.A. Olympic "Redeem Team," was being welcomed by one and all at Nikki Marina on A1A in Hollywood. The 'Pipe, with a couple of pages of questions for his hero (like, "What's the weirdest thing you ate in China?" and "Why not hold this thing in one of your now-empty D. Wade dives?"), wouldn't have missed it for the world.