Best Of :: People & Places
Out in the open, on the dais, is Stacy Ritter, a powerful Broward county commissioner. Slithering behind the scenes is her husband, Russ Klenet, a well-heeled lobbyist who is most famous for selling the commission a lousy touch-screen voting system that wasted millions of taxpayers' dollars. Together they are pretty darn powerful. And awfully damn corrupt. Ritter voted for Vista Health to receive the county's health insurance contract. At the same time, Klenet's firm was working for Vista. While Ritter publicly favored the county's airport manager, URS, Klenet counted them as a former client and internal company records showed he continued to assist the company in its lobbying efforts even after his wife was elected. It's so romantic, really, the way they take care of each other at their respective workplaces. It may not be a priceless marriage, but it's worth something.
The Palm Beach Post has kicked some major ass this year, taking down a cadre of corrupt local officials, covering the hell out of the Dunbar Village rape, and producing an admirable series of investigative reports. (While we're at it, let's give a shoutout to the staff photographers, who have done some mind-blowing work.) But as we slog through the fact-heavy, front-page pieces that we know we ought to read (like the complex tale of Palm Beach Aggregates), we're jonesing to get to Page Two — Jose (pronounced Jo-zay) Lambiet's column. Is it gossip disguised as news? Or news disguised as gossip? One could easily mistake Lambiet's breezy writing for the paparazzi-style reporting that is causing the downfall of the collective American intellect. That's if it weren't so well-researched. At night, Lambiet charms his way through Palm Beach mansions and celebrity fundraisers; by the next morning, he's in the courthouse getting the dish on the Next Big Divorce. Sure, he gave us dirt on Rush Limbaugh's 30-something girlfriend and Greg Norman's hookup with Chris Evert, but his stories often go beyond that. Lambiet illuminated how disgraced commissioner Al Lamberti's wife was affected by her husband's scandal, and he kept tabs on rumored-to-be-gay Governor Charlie Crist's dalliance with a local lady. Lambiet tracked the voting problems of Ann Coulter ("The blond Democrat slayer," he called her) and took a Marlins player to task for hunting animals from a helicopter. His scoops often end up repeated in New York papers and national magazines. Because A-listers flirt with Palm Beach. And Jose owns it.
Around the New Times office, she's known as "The Wife of the Pulp." But just because she's married to New Times' own muckraking columnist Bob Norman doesn't mean we should keep Brittany Wallman from claiming a title she's due. Take it from writers who constantly try to get a crumb of fresh news out of Fort Lauderdale bigwigs: it rarely happens. Brittany, it seems, has already banged out every story worth breaking. As City Commissioner Christine Teel once said when begged for news tips or brewing scandals, "Brittany's got us pretty well covered. She doesn't miss much." Take for example last year's big local brouhaha: Mayor Jim Naugle's anti-gay stance that made national news. His comments about needing to buy $100,000 public toilets to curb homosexual sex were so subtle they probably wouldn't have been noticed except by someone who'd been the mayor's watchdog for years. Wallman's biography on the Sun-Sentinel's parenting blog, to which she also contributes, says the reporter "covers Fort Lauderdale City Hall, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household." When Wallman's 5-year-old daughter Lily expressed shock that animals had died during an oil spill, Wallman asked her, "If you're so sad about animals dying, then why do you eat hamburgers and hotdogs?'' That's what we like — a reporter who lets no quote go unchallenged. No matter who you are, Lily.
Folks in the radio biz have been waiting – maybe that's begging – for SoFla radio stalwart Neil Rogers to retire for years. Some of them are jealous, no doubt; even more are flagrantly insane. Some wise listeners, however, are simply holding for the day when Rogers' man-at-arms, Jorge Rodriguez, will take over the show and ascend to the throne atop the airwaves. While Rodriguez may not have always been the best sidekick, over the past year ol' Jorge has solidified into a personality we'd love to listen to for a couple hours each day. Imagine Rodriguez as a character from a Kevin Smith movie: A true student of pop culture, sort of geeky but with just the right amount of grounding in reality, delivering slightly off-kilter rants about his take on religion and '80s freestyle music or just eulogizing the death of a proper Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich. In other words, Jorge allows us the space to vent about the sort of mundane, workaday topics and mere-existence philosophy that fills life in this gonzo patch of swamp we call South Florida. And while it doesn't look like Jorge will be sticking around WQAM after Uncle Neil moves out, we can only hope he lands his own show somewhere on the dial soon after.
The white, arciform lines and teal glass move up from the beach like a giant, 24-story wave summoned by Neptune himself. Designed by the Miami-based architectural firm Arquitectonica, the St. Regis is marked by tiered walls of opulent windows looking out over the 29,000-square-foot pool deck, past A1A to the sea. While the shape of the building mimics the waves, the interior calls to mind the heyday of ostentatious ocean liners, with Italian marble floors, mahogany desks, oak walls, and leather accents put together by the interior design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. The building is the epitome of the new, luxurious Fort Lauderdale, bringing the opera crowd (or anyone willing to shell out $500-plus per night) to what was once the most hedonistic part of the beach. St. Regis spares no technological advance from the wi-fi-equipped cabanas to the state-of-the-art health club to the wireless, hand-held devices carried by all the on-site butlers. And a skywalk connects the pool deck to the beach, so guests won't have to brush against the disgusting common folk. True, regular people can't afford to stay here, but we can still stare at the beautiful building for free.
This award is unabashedly being driven by our economy. With gas prices at ridiculous levels, the days of the $20-$25 car wash aren't feasible for a lot of families anymore. If you have a multi-car household, it's even less realistic. If you've still got an automobile that needs to be cleaned, check out Carwash Lube on East Oakland Park Boulevard, where you can get an oil change (up to five quarts) plus a car wash for $20. Most oil changes alone cost more than that, and a detailed car wash can top that price at a lot of places. At Carwash Lube, technicians check all your fluid levels, change filters, put air in your tires, while washing your car for you, vacuuming it out, and toweling it down — all for 20 bucks. That's hard to beat.