Mutiny of the "Jeffsters"
Police Lt. Jeff Marano, the Police Benevolent Association secretary and Teflon-tough cop who has been sued five times for excessive use of force, may finally be losing his grip at the Hollywood Police Department. For more than a decade, Marano, operating like a departmental ward heeler, has been able to consolidate so much power within police ranks that he has successfully ousted two chiefs, Richard Witt and Rick Stone. The good lieutenant is the one who doles out off-duty security assignments, which can mean beaucoup bucks for cops looking to supplement their salaries.
But Marano's power is slowly fading, his critics say. On March 21, he and four other union members lobbied Hollywood City Manager Cameron D. Benson to fire current Chief James H. Scarberry. The power play was unsuccessful. Prior to a Police Benevolent Association meeting earlier this month, some officers distributed an unsigned letter throughout the department and the union claiming to represent "80 to 100 Hollywood PBA members who have voiced their recent dissatisfaction with the PBA."
The six-page letter blames Marano for, among other things, keeping PBA financial records secret, giving preferential treatment and work details to "Jeffsters" (officers loyal to Marano), and creating discord between the police union and City Hall. The letter also blames the PBA leadership for a series of damaging stories by New Times Staff Writer Trevor Aaronson, who has been investigating corruption and brutality at the third-largest law enforcement agency in Broward.
Primary among the officers' concerns, however, is the PBA's selection of Marano to lead the upcoming police contract negotiations with City Hall. They fear that Marano, who did not return calls for comment, will represent not the police union but his own inflated ego.
"As soon as Jeff Marano decides that you are no longer his friend, the relationship is over," the letter reads. "In reality, if you are on your fourth or fifth chief, shouldn't you take a long, hard look at yourself and do some self-analysis? You can't keep saying, 'It's them, not me!' But even Jeff's closest friends admit, 'He's out of control!'"
Tailpipe has just one question. If Marano is on his way out, how come nobody signed the letter?
"Do what he can't do, Dale!" came the cry from the journeyman slugger's corner. "Box!"
The only difficulty for Dale Brown in his May 20 bout for the vacant International Boxing Federation cruiserweight championship (175 to 200 pounds, a step below heavyweight) was that his opponent, O'Neil Bell, could box. By the time Brown's corner started shouting, Bell had already opened a veritable bullet hole between his opponent's eyebrows.
Bell was banging at the outside of Brown's left eye, on a cut that by the fourth round would tinge the 32-4-1 Canadian's chest, shoulders and face a gruesome shade of high pink.
Bell (24-3-1), a cagey Jamaican, took a unanimous decision in 12 rounds over the Canuck. The fight provided everything a boxing fan could ask for, even for the $150 some of the modest crowd of about 300 paid for entrance into the Seminole Hard Rock Casino ballroom, where the fight transpired under the watch of Tribal councilmen, dapper gamblers, and walls decorated with gold records (like David Bowie's "Let's Dance"). That the Sun-Sentinel devoted precisely three sentences to the fight in the months preceding, and ran only a wire story after it, suggests the local media are a step or two behind the times.
In the wake of its most important fight yet, though, Hollywood is on its way to becoming a premier boxing venue. Look for a rusty cylinder at ringside; Tailpipe will be the one with the black bowtie.
Warrior's Boxing, the Seminole-owned gym and promotion company that hosted the fight, has come a long way since staging small fights in casinos; ESPN2 broadcast last week's fight live, and Warrior's head Jesse Robinson -- decked out in a dark suit with a pink vest and bow tie -- was looking forward to the opening of the 5,600-seat Hard Rock Live arena at the casino this summer.
"It's only going to get better," he said, which goes without saying, given how easy it was to miss a title brawl between a Jamaican and a Canadian in Broward County.
Who's Spiking Who?
"See what a tough life I have?" Andre Fladell asked no one in particular. This was a rhetorical question, meaning he didn't expect anybody to answer. The only required response was to marvel at Fladell's enviable role on Delray Beach on April 19. Fladell, aged 50 plus, was aswim in professional cheerleaders.
Tailpipe could have mashed his modest, friendly face into the sand. Why didn't he think of this?
The event was the Battle on the Beach and was organized by Fladell, a chiropractor who moonlights as Palm Beach County's most connected and eccentric political adviser. The Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders and the Miami Dolphins girls were ostensibly playing beach volleyball. But, as the intoxicated smiles of males in the audience suggested, this was less about athletic competition than ogling girls in bikinis. Tanned, hair-swept-back, lithe female bodies. Aargh.
Fladell, who wandered the beach in a floppy Gilligan hat with his first name on the brim, baggy jean shorts, and a tank top that showed flashes of lobster-colored skin, put together the first Battle on the Beach last year. After finding out the Eagles cheerleaders were in town for a calendar photo shoot, he invited the Dolphinettes for a game. It was moderately successful, though no money was raised.
"Last year, they did beat us," Danielle O'Connel, a 26-year-old redheaded nursing student and Fins cheerleader, said before the game. "But this year, we are looking to win."
Clearly, few of the women had spent much time on the sport. After the umpteenth serve plowed into the net, Fladell dragged his heel across the sand, drawing a line a few feet in front of the back line. "Here you go," he said, handing the server the ball. "Serve from here." The blond gave him a smile that would have sent Donald Trump engagement-ring shopping.
If you care, the Eaglettes easily got the best of our hometown cheerleaders, spanking them twice at volleyball and during a relay race. Well, there was no actual spanking; there was a tug of war, but we won't even bother telling you, you sicko, who won that.
Fladell's hoping to expand the event next year and include more teams' cheerleaders. Someday it may actually raise money for some cause or something. For now, it's all about dozens of cheerleaders on the beach.
A real triumph, Fladell said, assessing the event. "Do you want to know something?" he asked rhetorically. "This is a good time in a positive environment." Tailpipe rolled moodily down the beach, leaking black smoke.
"Many old men get way more action than me, and they won't shut up about it," author Rodney Rothman writes in his recently published book, Early Bird. "Or they get no action, and think I'm a waste of a young penis."
Rothman is 31 years old. He lived for about six months -- much like a retiree -- in the Century Village condos in Boca Raton. His 241-page book about the experience is a fun read. Lots of self-deprecating comedic prose, playing his own doofiness against the quirks of his elderly neighbors.
Earlier this month, he gave a reading at the Boca Raton Borders bookstore. The septuagenarians began arriving a full 70 minutes early, suggesting that Rothman's wisecracks about 5 p.m. dinners weren't exaggerated. This was a real early-bird special.
What drew Tailpipe's cycloptic scrutiny was the fact that Rothman, a former head writer for David Letterman, was caught making up details for a 2000 New Yorker story, "My Fake Job." Might his fake retirement have been likewise embroidered? It's one of those mistakes that'll haunt a writer for the rest of his life.
In talking to people included in the book, the 'Pipe found a few scattered errors but nothing that could be deemed embellishment. Rothman quoted Jeffrey Lindskoog of the Palm Beach Sheriff's Department as saying that the volunteers of the Citizen's Observer Patrol "give generously to the Policeman's Benevolent Association because they really feel like they're a part of the department." Lindskoog told Tailpipe at Borders that he "would not have said that," because it was simply inaccurate.
In another part of the book, using pseudonyms, Rothman describes a canasta game he played with Hanna Hirsch and Bobby Masterman. Though Rothman says Masterman called herself "the slut of the tennis courts," it was actually Hirsch, say the pair, who attended the reading. They did, though, laugh their asses off as they read.
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Other subjects of the book contacted by Tailpipe said they didn't notice any liberties taken. "It was really quite accurate, which impressed me," said Bob Hover of Sarasota, with whom Rothman played softball.
In short, the book contains the kind of minor snafus novice nonfiction writers often make. Then again, as the New York Times wrote after finding no inaccuracies: "Rothman insists it is all real, though he said that certain names had been changed, and that some characters had died since his reporting, making his accounts of his time with them essentially unverifiable." So we take his word.
Rothman told the 'Pipe that he expected to receive scrutiny for Early Bird and handled himself accordingly (he thanks his fact checker in the acknowledgments). "It ain't fun, man," he said.
--As told to Edmund Newton