November has been quite the month for millionaire businessman David H. Brooks. As founder and chief executive of DHB Industries, the 50-year-old Brooks has raked in $700 million in sales since 9/11, primarily from no-bid Defense Department contracts. DHB Industries, you may recall, is the parent company of Point Blank Body Armor in Pompano Beach. The largest supplier of body armor to the U.S. military, Point Blank has been plagued with allegations, including some from its own factory workers, that it produces and ships defective body armor to the men and women overseas (see "Vested Interests," September 29, Trevor Aaronson). In fact, in May, the U.S. military recalled 5,277 bullet-resistant vests made by Point Blank.
No big deal. Just some troops complaining that the vests were sloppily manufactured and that, in some cases, they couldn't stop a bullet.
And that was six months ago! When Brooks pops the cork on that Moët & Chandon on New Year's Eve, he'll likely look back to the stellar month that was November:
November 15: The Defense Department orders $30.1 million worth of new vests from Point Blank Body Armor. Of course, this is followed by a minor setback. On November 16, the U.S. government recalls 18,000 more vests made by Point Blank over the past five years, bringing the total number of recalled Point Blank vests to roughly 23,000. Military officials say the body armor, which is currently being used by troops in the field, did not meet manufacturing standards.
But who's looking back?
November 26: Brooks throws a $10 million party (no, you didn't misread that number) at the Rainbow Room in Manhattan for his 12-year-old daughter Elizabeth's bat mitzvah. This was no ordinary kids' party. Dubbing the affair "Mitzvahpalooza," the New York Daily News reported that the obscenely expensive kids' party featured performances by Aerosmith, Tom Petty, and 50 Cent. Elizabeth's guests reportedly left with $1,000 gift bags. 50 Cent, still on that mission to get rich or die tryin', cashed a $500,000 check to sing a special song for Elizabeth: "Go, shorty, it's your bat mitzvah/We gonna party like it's your bat mitzvah." (Tailpipe's pipette did not attend the rock-star gala. Her invitation was lost in the mail.)
November 30 (or thereabouts): Brooks consults with DHB attorneys about two lawsuits alleging investor fraud and insider trading.
Ha ha. Not to worry. As long as the Iraq War lasts (Did somebody say, "Stay the course"?), long-term prospects are good. Brooksie, you're doing a heckuva job.
When a Wolf Camera store in Fort Lauderdale was burgled of $38,000 worth of camcorders and lenses on the last Sunday in November, Tailpipe wondered: Thieves? Or merely Santa's elves? Those frantic few days after Thanksgiving are traditionally when bargain-hunters will trample grannies for 30 percent off a Chicken Dance Elmo, but no one has yet to discover a price better than free. The 'Pipe checked Plantation police records to see what else shoppers were helping themselves to at the Broward Mall. Coming soon to a stocking near you:
The wallet of Mori Shelley, stolen November 28 after she bought food at the Burger King at the mall. She valued the blue wallet, IDs, and cash at $267.
The sweaters of Maria Cruz, stolen from her while she shopped at Casual Corner November 25. Value: $38.95.
The $200 cell phone of Daniel Donohue, the $85 cell phone of Carmen Nadina, and, from the Nextel kiosk, the wallet of Jacob Roman, all of whom lost their loot between November 27 and November 29.
Various Dillard's clothes as allegedly selected by Ciata Markolor no, wait, scratch that. On the 29th, the 28-year-old was reportedly seen entering a dressing room with $490.99 worth of threads and a travel bag and exiting with only the bag. Guess what authorities said was inside it when security stopped her at the store's exit?
Then there was the bag of flora that Christopher Thompson turned in to the cops that weekend. Not at the mall this time but in his home. The 30-year-old Plantation resident was surprised on the 28th when a young man knocked on his door asking permission to retrieve a bag of plant material that he had thrown over the fence into Thompson's yard. The kid left after Thompson lectured him about the ills of illegal drugs. Thompson then noticed three boys hanging around outside. He phoned police, who interviewed the lads, then accepted from Thompson a plastic bag containing a "green, leafy substance."
Had to be mistletoe.
What are kids learning out there in Coral Springs? Stephanie Kraft, who represents the area on the Broward School Board, confesses she never understood what the big deal was about Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution.
"Personally, I don't understand how evolution works," Kraft told the Sun-Sentinel (whose reporter failed to ask her whether she thought the world is flat or whether the sun revolves around the Earth). "I don't understand how you went from one cell and then all of a sudden you got man."
All of a sudden? Well, it did supposedly take a couple of billion years going back to the time when the first living cells made their appearance on Earth. Kraft, who's suggesting that Broward schools give "intelligent design" equal billing with the Darwin stuff, might want to bone up on the subject. She's on the board that supposedly vets the district-approved science textbooks.
"I think [the evolution theory] makes as much sense as saying God created man," Kraft said (though by last Friday, she was energetically backing off her original comments). "I think there's no harm in exposing them to alternative approaches."
Tailpipe, who has inside information that humans were actually delivered to Earth a few thousand years ago by angels driving UPS trucks, says, sure, dude, keep the textbooks loose.
Treadmarks on Your Back
Not that the 'Pipe would ever suggest exploiting the misfortunes of hipper-than-thou Miami. But shouldn't Broward County tourism make some clear distinctions when they market Broward as a beach destination? How about inviting out-of-staters to vacation without being smooshed by sand-roving vehicles?
"Come without treadmarks leave without treadmarks!"
"Get the tan you want not numerous contusions and a painful broken pelvis!'
"Spread out a towel and relax... because our sunbathers are never, ever, ever crushed by tons of heavy equipment!"
Francine Mason, vice president of communications for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitor's Bureau, sounded doubtful when approached with the idea. Still, she took the time to listen.
"OK," she said laughing. "No!"
Mason measured her words carefully. "Our beaches are cleaner and safer than most beaches in the country," she said. Take that, South Beach. She added: "We don't trash our neighbors." Or our tourists.
Nemo Bless You
The choice seemed clear: watch helplessly as cute, cuddly aquatic critters slowly suffocated or give them a slim shot at survival. What would you do? Laura Nipe, spokeswoman for the Museum of Discovery and Science, says that when, in the wake of Wilma, a generator ran out of fuel and fish tanks stopped circulating oxygen, employees weren't about to sit around and watch the fish die. So two nurse sharks, a large grouper, and a trio of five-foot-long moray eels were hauled in buckets across the street and deposited into the New River. That's the brackish, unfit-for-human-contact New River.
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Nipe admits the creatures probably didn't have much of a chance in the muck, but releasing them was preferable to "watching them in distress."
Well, Tailpipe is happy to report that the finned menagerie made out just fine. Shortly after their arrival in the river, the gang headed downstream, where they were adopted by the staff of Shirttail Charlie's seafood restaurant, living under the dock on a diet of hush puppies and clam strips. From there, Tailpipe has heard, our fattened fishy friends took the Water Taxi down to the Intracoastal.
One of the eels reportedly tasted the ocean-tinged water. "It's salty!" she chirped, and all six little tails flapped and flipped toward freedom.
As told to Edmund Newton