Best Of :: People & Places
In the 1950s, that famous buttoned-down, Eisenhower-era stiffness let loose in the phenomenon of the tiki bar. At the time, they were ubiquitous. All things Polynesian seemed foreign, so it was OK to delve into a world of rhythmic hips and almost fleshy tropical blossoms. Even in the backyard, tiki torches burned. Since 1956, Mai-Kai has been serving this Polynesian fantasy on a deluxe plate. While other spots on the tiki circuit slowly went under, this one persisted. Tiki culture lives on there underneath thatched roof huts, surrounded by lush tropical vegetation, with rain falling over the windows while you sit inside transported. The 51 tropical concoctions, with names like the Zombie, Black Magic, and the Jet Pilot, served by sarong-clad, as they say, maidens, helps set the mood. The stage shows are awesome. Pricey at about $45 a person for the whole shebang, but check out the special drink nights, and call for floor-show-only nights. If you´re there for drinks and they have room, you can sometimes be seated for the show for an extra $9.95.
Q: Do you watch reality-TV shows?
A: I live with someone who really likes them. We share the remote, so I've seen Survivor for a few seasons. I've seen some of Big Brother and Joe Millionaire. Then there's the reality-game show hybrids, like Blind Date. That's pretty funny. The one I can't stand is Fear Factor. It's not even a game of skill but of who can be the biggest moron -- like, I'll give you 100 bucks if you stick your hand in a hive of bees. Just a lowlife endurance contest. The smartest contestants are the ones who walk off and say, "You people are a bunch of idiots."
Q: Is there one that you especially like?
A: Amazing Race, where the contestants actually go around the world looking for clues. These people actually have to use some ingenuity. Part of it is staying under control and doing the best you can. I like seeing where they go. They're always on a train or something, and then, in American tourist fashion, they run up and grab their clue and they're off again. It's the only reality show I'd even entertain the idea of going on.
Q: Do you think reality TV is a good thing?
A: I guess it's a lot cheaper to produce. You don't have to pay actors or writers. Just film the stuff and pay editors. I'm not sure how real it is, though, when they shoot 90 hours of footage and cut it down to 22 or 23 minutes.
Q: Are there things in the shows that relate to your own world?
A: Well, most politicians aren't the types that would like that sort of attention. Then there's the handful that don't know the difference between good press and bad press. They'd eat slugs as long as Channel 4 was there to film it.
C'mon, we all want that 15 minutes of fame. Well, maybe we want it for a little longer than that, more like eight to ten hours of prime time on a reality-television show. And if you're wise enough to move here from the peasant-filled snowy lands of the north, you´re already ahead of the pack in preparing mentally and physically for the little screen. Welcome to our reality. First, there´s the weather. The summers are Amazon-hot, and the midday steam can stifle you like an anaconda wrapped around your chest. Think some puny tropical island that Survivor throws your way is any worse? Second, there are plenty of bugs and crawly things. Fear Factor routinely subjects its contestants to spiders, beetles, and other slithery creatures. A true South Floridian laughs at this sitcom. We encounter more hexapods, arachnids, and arthropods making breakfast and showering in the morning than Fear Factor competitors see in three seasons. Third: The Great Race? Interstate 95. ´Nuff said. And finally, the most burgeoning category in reality TV, coupling up, which can be seen on the likes of The Bachelor and Married by America. Living in an area that virtually invented spring break, we have the beachfront know-how and bars to hook up quickly, disingenuously, and deviously.
Hi, there. Come here often? Yeah, me too. My guess is that star-struck lovers like, um, us have been wandering into this planetarium since it was built in 1965. I must say, your eyes look lovely in the moonlight. Or should I say, the simulated moonlight? See that bright light right up there? Lean against me and look where I´m pointing. That´s not a star; it´s Venus. The ancients believed that Venus controlled the emotion of love. Maybe that´s because it seems to flicker bright, then dims a bit, then is bright again. Kind of like the roller coaster of love, hmmm? Ooh, look! A falling star! Make a wish! No, I can´t tell or it won´t come true. I´ll just say it involves a heavenly body. C´mon, let me show you the Zeiss M1015 star projector. It´s completely computer-automated. Hold my hand, ´cause it´s kinda dark in here, and I wouldn´t want us to get separated.
Monday night at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida is better than even Saturday night at the hottest bar. Host Laurie Weiner facilitates meetings of the Women´s Rap Group, where you not only get to meet and chat with a couple dozen women of all flavors but you´ll hear the gory details of the many relationships that got started in the windowless room. Many of the women delight in sighing and moaning about their new loves and share every detail from courting to very dramatic breakup. You can meet the woman of your dreams; get dating advice from the group; describe trials, tribulations, and great sex; ponder how to dump her when she gets crazy; and then regale the group with stories of her psychoses until you finally move on. In lesbian time, that process usually takes a couple of weeks. Until the Miami Sol folded after the 2002 season, Broward and Palm Beach dykes had to trek down to the AmericanAirlines Arena to watch women watching the basketball game, hoping to meet the loves of their lives strolling around during halftime. Now, it´s four bucks at the GLCC. Instead of a halftime show, the center´s infamous security guard shows up without fail ten minutes before the end of the meeting to participate in the sex talk that closes out every session. At the end of the night, women who make a connection can follow the rest of the crew to Stork´s Bakery and Coffee House for more personal conversation.
Our 2001 winner of the Best Independent Cinema has the most gay-themed films outside of a queer film festival, making it a great place for boys with brains or a penchant for art films to hook up. The kiosk to the left of the concession stand beats out even Holiday Park for cruising. The four-sided kiosk offers pencils and index cards for your opinions, and the theater gallantly allows even the bad reviews to remain. Each film gets its own side of the square. If you´re a snob, make fun of the spelling and grammar mistakes on the handwritten reviews and see who agrees with you. To find a shared sense of humor, see who laughs at the same comments you do. If he´s cute and you don´t care about anything else, just check out which film he´s interested in and follow him into the theater. Whether you´re shy or bold, the reviews give you a dozen easy ice breakers ranging from, ¨Have you seen that film yet?¨ to ¨I have all his other movies on DVD. Do you want to watch them at my place before or after we see this one?¨
Sunday Tea is a venerable tradition in the gay community: fresh from their post-Saturday-night-partying naps, hordes of good-looking people, mostly men -- but usually some women as well -- consume cocktails, live it up on the dance floor, and loll poolside with come-hither looks. Where the boys are, indeed. Most of the legendary South Florida venues for such frolicking (Tacky´s, the Marlin Beach Hotel, Club Caribbean) are long gone, but the tradition lives on in several incarnations, including the Sea Monster´s Tea at Sea Cruise. What better subtropical twist than to turn Sunday Tea into a cruise to nowhere? Beginning again in June, on the third Sunday of the month, the Monster primes cruisers with a free buffet and two-for-one drinks before dispatching them onto a yacht at 6 p.m. Next comes a two-hour Intracoastal excursion, complete with one free drink onboard, several cash bars, DJ music booming from a state-of-the-art sound system, and occasional contests (¨Best Tanline¨ was a recent category). All of this is hosted by dragster-about-town Rickie Lee. And it costs a mere $20. A bonus is that you get to make catty remarks about the estates of the rich and famous along the way, as well as a chance to look down upon all the little people in their little boats.
Whether you´re stuck in southbound I-95 gridlock or whizzing by on a Tri-Rail train, these twin neon beacons prove that racial harmony is attainable for South Florida; it just takes a large FPL bill.
You can take that ill-mannered wench from down the street raiding the fridge while watching the kids for only so long. Eventually, you have to break down and call the professionals. Sitters in a Second employs more than 100 baby sitters in Palm Beach County to keep track of the brats while you´re out on the town. The company screens potential sitters and checks references before it dispatches the people who will help you enjoy your first night on the town since God knows when. Sure, you´ll pay more for the pros: Sitters in a Second charges a membership fee of up to $200 per family and then as much as $16 an hour. The baby-sitter conglomerate, in its ninth year in business, mostly employs folks more than 18 years old and lays down some Ward Cleaver-style rules. Among them: Sitters are forbidden to bring over sweethearts, meaning you won´t have to worry about her (or him) locking braces with a boy/girlfriend on your couch.
Cheesy, cheap, sleazy, slutty, whorish. It would take a linguistic surgeon to discern the fine line among the terms. Still, you know cheap when you see it. At the Budget Inn on Federal Highway, they have two rooms of Austin Powers-like, circa ´70s, dirty, disco-queen fantasy. Slip into a pair of platform heels, slide into a vinyl mini, and don giant, tinted, rimless sunglasses, then rendezvous with your inner bad girl. For $99 a night on weeknights or around $125 on weekends, you can rent a room with a heart-shaped bed that has sides upholstered in red vinyl. There´s a red, heart-shaped Jacuzzi for two nearby and XXX movies on the television 24 hours a day. The whole room is lighted with warm, red, slut-seeking spotlights. It´ll make you feel cheap, guaranteed.
One of the best things about living in South Florida, if you can afford it, is having your own boat. Another of the best things is, well, having a good friend who owns a boat. But what about the in-betweeners, those with a few bucks -- if not enough for their own yachts, enough for some self-indulgence? That´s where the Anticipation IV (110 feet long) and Anticipation V (80 feet long) come in. Day trips run from noon to 4 p.m., and four-hour evening cruises can begin anytime after 6 p.m. There´s a dizzying array of combination packages to choose from: young adult and bar/bat mitzvah, corporate, and wedding packages, not to mention silver, gold, and platinum upgrades. All include an open bar, hors d´oeuvres, and dinner. For entertainment, there´s a DJ and an MC. Floral arrangements are included on all tables, and the pilot house is open for tours. Of course, you´ll pay dearly for such lavishness, but isn´t that the point? Top-of-the-line corporate and wedding packages start as low as $5,687 (a silver upgrade for 50 guests) and go as high as $13,249.50 (a platinum upgrade for 100 guests), while young adult and bar/bat mitzvah packages with upgrades range anywhere from $5,989.50 to $10,829.50, also depending upon the number of guests and the kind of upgrade. And what, you may well ask, does all this include? A $200 fuel charge, $250 dockage charge, 6 percent sales tax, and 20 percent service charge. If you want extra time on the water, it´s prorated by the hour, and you can throw in a second DJ for $200. Oh, and did we mention the $2,500 deposit required to reserve the charter, plus $2,000 as a damage deposit on some charters? Kinda makes the $3-per-car parking fee seem insignificant, doesn´t it?
The burgers are beef, but the hogs are beefier. On any given Friday night, this Fuddruckers´ parking lot swells with dozens of Harley-Davidsons, Triumphs, Indians, and just about every other chrome-plated two-wheeler you can imagine. For the boys and girls astride these growling, porcine behemoths, it´s a chance to show off and shoot the breeze. For the rest of us, the Friday-evening spectacle is a spicy condiment to a half-pounder.