Lori Parrish is everywhere. The inimitable Broward County commissioner, a candidate for the $148,000-per-year property appraiser sinecure, has been mentioned eight times in the past two weeks in the Sun-Sentinel. A website, floridapropertytaxappeals.com, links to a glowing, 18-page biography complete with pics of the commish in pigtails. And her campaign signs are, well, all over the lawns of the powerful and wealthy.
This curious tube wondered how she can afford it. Then he smoked through her campaign documents. Lovely Lori had taken in $394,000 through July 1. That's much more than any other candidate -- as much as Sheriff Ken Jenne and bond underwriter/commissioner John Rodstrom combined. Who's helping out Lori? Convicted union boss Walter Browne gave $100 back in October; North Broward Hospital District bad boy Dorsey Miller shelled out $250 in June. Rick Case and H. Wayne Huizenga -- through a couple of their companies -- coughed up $1,000 each. There's a judge, Tom Lynch, and Dania Beach Mayor C.K. McElyea too. And there are hundreds of others.
But none of these guys has helped out Lori like Bob Bekoff, owner of the federally subsidized water taxi, which ferries thousands of tourists around town. He has hoisted her signs on boats that are seen every day by thousands. So we called him to probe the sensitive soul of the Lori supporter. His response doesn't reflect well on the candidate: "I wouldn't answer anything you have to say," he told the tube. "You are sewer gas."
Talk to him, Lori. He has no manners.
Sex, Lies, and Profits
Smutmaster Larry Flynt blew through town this week promoting his book Sex, Lies and Politics: The Naked Truth and the opening of his new Hustler store on East Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The hoopla is over, but the citizenry, there as much to ogle as to buy, has eagerly embraced his long-time motto, Relax, its only sex.
On any given night, Flynts upscale sex shops parking lot is crammed with women, couples, and the occasional single guy trying to make their way into the neon-towered entry. Theres not one employee who looks over age 22, and the soundtrack is Miami Beach bouncy. This aint your uncles porn shop.
Two-thirds of the joint is ribald toys, gifts, and clothing, and the rest is serious sex ware: DVDs, dildos, and vibrators. But the entire store is permeated with hundreds of DVDs and videos of the 1996 film The People vs. Larry Flynt. This is the stores clever ploy for dealing with a zoning requirement that less than half the stores inventory be sexually oriented.
One evening last week, three young Latinas, well-dressed in skirts and short-sleeved blouses, clowned around with long, purple boas in the negligee department. Then the most animated of the three gently cradled a three-foot-long, plush, pink penis like a newborn baby as a male customer nearby marveled at a case full of glass dildos.
These are just for show, right? he asked.
No, theyre usable, the clerk said. A lot of women like them because you can soak them in warm water or cold water.
Looks painful, the alarmed customer said. That one looks like... a screw.
A couple searched for a specific gadget, the name of which eluded them. Its one of those jelly things with a finger on the end, the woman explained to a helpful clerk. You know what its called? The clerk shook her head. Its pink, the customer said. She finally settled on the Flirtatious Dolphin, a battery-operated toy that, according to the description on the box, features a flickering lighted bottle nose.
You think thisll work? she queried her partner. He (doubtfully): You tell me.
Tailpipe yearned for a sepia-toned time when sex was secret and sinful.
Straw in the House
Looking for a signature on that 1983 Darryl Strawberry National League Rookie of the Year card? Or perhaps for those seven Sports Illustrated covers the Straw graced? You could do worse than hang around the New Times parking lot. Dehhhh-ruhhhhl was passing through last week when he stopped to help New Times marketing directors Jessica Jerrick and Wendy Knowles load boxes full of promotional tchotchkes onto a dolly, then truck them to the second-floor offices. "Chivalry is not dead," Jerrick said later.
Neither of the women recognized the trim, six-foot-five, former first overall draft pick, but they wanted to thank him anyhow, so they offered him movie promo swag: a T-shirt and a crappy backpack "for this girly-girly preteen movie called Sleepover," Jerrick said. "It doesn't get much worse." This for an eight-time All-Star who was baseball's top-paid player in 1991, back when $3.8 million a year was real money. Only then did they exchange introductions. "I was just mortified when he said his name," Jerrick said. "We just wanted to crawl in a hole and take back our movie promo items."
Legal, drug, and health problems beset Strawberry throughout his 17-year career with the Mets, Dodgers, Giants, and Yankees. He twice developed colon cancer, was arrested for soliciting a prostitute and a hit-and-run in Tampa, and spent time in cocaine rehab. Strawberry, who is involved in fundraising activities with the 7th Avenue Recovery Program in the New Times building, told the women he just moved to South Florida and is interested in volunteering for children's and charity organizations. One of the great athlete cautionary tales of the past 20 years is now local, and he's in a giving mood.
Over and Out
Politics really do make for some strange bedfellows. Take the case of Mel Martinez, former housing secretary under George W. Bush who resigned to run for Bob Graham's Senate seat. Martinez is in a crowded field of Republican candidates who are all eager to flaunt their conservative bona fides. When the Senate began debating a constitutional amendment earlier this summer to ban gay marriage, Martinez really started cooking with gas. Standing near the altar of the First Baptist Church of Orlando on July 11, Martinez promised to fight the "homosexual agenda" by supporting the constitutional ban.
Gay marriage? Ugh. "It's a direct threat to the institution; it's a direct threat to the values of society," he warned.
To get his message out, Martinez hired a willing and well-connected adviser to court the religious-right vote: John Dowless, former director of the Christian Coalition in Florida and now an Orlando-based political consultant. You may remember Dowless. He was one of the featured speakers at the "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference last fall at Coral Ridge Church in Fort Lauderdale. Organized by D. James Kennedy, the gathering was a gluttony of antigay rhetoric, with one speaker pronouncing that gays make God want to vomit.
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Dowless' job, then, is to help Martinez connect with the Florida conservatives who most hunger for his brand of demagoguery. As Dowless fulminated to the Palm Beach Post in June, "Same-sex marriage has reenergized religious conservatives."
Not surprisingly, Dowless' role in the Martinez campaign has miffed many gays and lesbians. Now, some gay activists have publicly outed Dowless as homosexual. The Washington Blade, the capital's gay newspaper, recently described Dowless as "gay and conflicted about how to reconcile his sexual orientation with his religion and his political beliefs." Dowless said as much this past April to several men, including a Washington Blade editor, while at Lava Lounge, a gay club in Orlando, according to the article.
When a Blade reporter subsequently contacted Dowless at his office, he declined to talk about his sexual orientation. "Oh come on, I'm not going to talk about that," he reportedly said. "I'm just not going to address that with you or anyone else. That's about me, not about the Martinez campaign." Dowless didn't return phone messages left by Tailpipe.
-- As told to Edmund Newton