A Hollywood Horror Story
Le Tub used to be a delicious little hideaway on the Intracoastal across from Hollywood Beach, veiled from the street by a stand of leafy palms and used bathtubs. It's still with us, of course, but it hasn't been much of a hideaway since June, when GQ magazine proclaimed, somewhat morbidly, that you must try their hamburgers "before you die."
For two months now, the place has been a destination for Land Rover-driving condo vacationers in search of a "real" South Florida experience. "This used to be a fun place to work" says John, the very image of a trusted beachside bartender, with curly graying hair and the kinds of wrinkles on his face that come from squinting into the sun too long.
But the palmy, golden days disappeared last month like loose money on a sidewalk. It happened within days of the publication of what the staff has come to call "The Article."
"This used to be a place you'd come with a girl or some buddies to meet a girl," John says. "Now we got children in strollers. I used to be a bartender; now I'm a soda jerk."
With the cranky new demeanor of Le Tub's suddenly beleaguered staff, that sense of loss often sloshes over onto the customers too. The instant fame of the place, combined with its diminutive size, means that customers frequently wait an hour for a burger. The kitchen often runs out of food by the end of the night, and for a select few patrons, Le Tub has turned downright dangerous.
When Sandi Sanford and her friend Bianca Gonzales visited the place two weeks ago to celebrate Sandi's birthday, they never bargained on being used for target practice by a guy whom they say was a drunken, Australian-sounding waiter.
"He began flicking frozen shrimp at Bianca," Sandi said.
His first salvo hit Sandi's friend square in the eye. Stunned and momentarily blinded, Bianca reeled. The waiter responded by sending another prawn projectile their way. This one hit Bianca on the cheek.
According to the ladies, the waiter was reluctant to apologize but finally offered a grudging, "Sorry, I was aiming lower," and bought a round of beers.
The gesture was not enough to assuage the ladies. They confronted the cook, whom they contend was also the manager. Sandi recalls that when Bianca approached him, he wheeled on her and screamed, "What do you want, you fucking bitch!?! Somebody get this goddamn fucking bitch a beer and shut her up."
"I could see the veins popping out on his neck," said Sandi's friend, Jason Thomas, who accompanied the ladies.
So much for the joys of national acclaim.
Nobody at Le Tub wanted to comment on the shrimp-tossing fiasco except to say that they would never be mean to customers. "Rude, maybe," said one waitress, "but never mean."
As a long summer afternoon wound down recently, Le Tub was empty. It wasn't dinnertime yet. A Chet Baker number came on the juke, and behind the bar the Intracoastal was a reflected explosion of purple and gold sunset. John the bartender and a waitress danced a little to the tune while the cook kept time, rattling with the fry-o-later basket in the tiny, sweltering kitchen.
Then the song ended. "Got to get back to work," John said, nodding at a pudgy family with a scrubbed-clean look and designer swimwear. "The SUV caravan has just started."
When the big Abundant Living Ministries church began holding services on his block in Southwest Ranches a few years ago, Bill Greene got mad. Hated all those cars -- about 600 of 'em, three times a day every Sunday -- cruising past his home, slicing up his solitude. "You might as well be living in downtown Miami!" he says. "It's a goddamned mess!" So he begged the town council to let him and his neighbors hold a Sunday "block party" that starts just before mass (8 a.m.) and closes down right after church services end (5 p.m.). The town said yes, and now every Sunday morning, Greene and his neighbors rustle up an RV, a horse trailer, and some traffic cones, and they block off the entrance to Hancock Road, which provides access to the church.
"All they have to do is go around the block," snorts Greene, not mentioning the fact that blocks are awfully big out there in the country; one block adds an extra mile-and-a-half for folks traveling through town to their house of worship. Last Sunday afternoon, cars slowed to glare at the blockade partiers, a few even offering a distinctly un-Christian free finger or "fuck you!" to the barrier-keepers. Behind the barrier, the street was empty -- a lonely table with potato salad and bagels sitting in a shady front yard. No real reason for the obstruction, Greene concedes, but it sure serves its purpose -- aggravating the churchgoers.
Of course, now residents of Holatee Trail -- where the detour leads -- are regally pissed that they've inherited a non-stop parade of cars, so Greene figures his neighbors will jump on the blockade-party bandwagon too. Though the town gave him a permit valid through September for "temporary closure of vehicular access," he vows the road closures will continue as long as need be.
"We're gonna have more and more block parties," he says. "We know it's irritating them, and it's only going to get worse. We won't block them out entirely, but we're gonna make it a jigsaw puzzle for them to get to their church." Tailpipe just prays they don't start in with the stacks of burning tires.
Class A Phony
The 'Pipe is sad to report that it's business as usual at the VA Medical Center in West Palm Beach, the subject of a September 9, 2004, New Times exposé of nepotism, favoritism and fraud within the hospital's administration.
Take the case of Tom Renna, a 48-year-old VA employee who shuttles veterans to and from their appointments. In the fall of 2003, Renna, a lanky, long-faced fellow with receding hair and aw-shucks demeanor, applied for a supervisory position in his department. Management eventually awarded the job to a fellow driver, Ted Scott.
Renna, however, did a bit of snooping in public records and discovered that Scott only had a Class B driver's license, not the Class A -- that's for the big rigs -- required for the position. He raised a stink about it with hospital officials, but his complaints fell on deaf ears. Renna filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission over the promotion. When the issue of Scott's license came up during the EEOC investigation in September 2004, Scott provided his boss with a photocopy of a Class A license. But it was a fake, a fact that Renna proclaimed to anyone who would listen. Finally, in March of this year, Scott's supervisor, Wally Thompson, confronted his underling over the ongoing deceit. Scott admitted he'd lied.
Renna was dismayed to learn that Scott was only given a five-day suspension for falsifying records and lying to the EEOC, a federal agency. After spending $15,000 on legal fees and facing another $15,000 expenditure to proceed in court, Renna says, he settled the EEOC case. The terms remain confidential.
But Renna's been cajoling the VA Inspector General's Office at the hospital to look into the fraud. So far -- almost two years after the promotion -- that avenue has led nowhere. (Neither Thompson nor the inspector's office responded to phone messages.)
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"I'm not disgruntled; I'm disappointed," Renna says.
Ever since Lake Worth sculptor Norman Gitzen loaned his statue The Siren to the Village of Wellington in July for display at the Community Center, there's been a contingent wanting it removed. Gitzen's bronze statue of a mermaid features breasts he says are anatomically correct, considering she's 18 feet from head to tail. But the anti-boob contingent says it's obscene. Gitzen, a cabinetmaker from Lake Worth, agrees the statue is a bit busty, but he argues that many women have the same, um, problem. "Especially in South Florida," he adds.
-- As told to Edmund Newton