Ramblin' Robert Wexler
NPR's "Marketplace" recently blasted Sen. John Breaux (D-Louisiana)for accepting the most free travel out of 582 federal legislators over the past four years, and it posted the complete rankings on its website, www.marketplace.publicradio.org. Lo and behold, number two is our own Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Delray Beach). The congressman has gotten $155,137 in travel contributions from corporations, universities, and other outside interests such as lobbyists, only a shade less than Breaux.
A less suspicious automotive part might note that Wexler is, after all, on the House International Relations Committee. But the committee's average ranking is only 212. Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings of Miramar, who's on the House Terrorism Subcommittee, ranked 530.
Before the Iraq War, Wexler visited countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Jordan. Since the March 2003 invasion, he has hit Germany, Austria, and Taiwan, among others.
Tailpipe raised Eric Johnson, Wexler's chief of staff, in D.C. Perusing the NPR database, Johnson showed the tact and consideration that have made politicians beloved everywhere: "It says Breaux is the 'King of Travel,'" Johnson observed. "Does that make us the queen? I thought Mark Foley was." Take that, girlie man!
Then Wexler's boy pointed out that traveling on the lobbyists' tab saves taxpayer money. Wexler's jet-setting supremacy, Johnson suggested, was the equivalent of one of those gaudy service medals on a general's chest. "Quite frankly, Congressman Wexler thinks that all members of Congress should travel more," Johnson said. "I think President Bush is someone who didn't travel too much before he came into office, and we've seen what kind of bungling he's done in foreign policy."
Maybe the president can, like Wexler, do a junket or two on the tab of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council of Foreign Economic Relations Board. No strings. Honest.
Whomp on Wannstedt
This tube pities Dave Wannstedt. He took the Dolphins coaching job from the legendary Don Shula. He shouldn't just be tossed out like Dan Marino's old socks. No matter how badly his team stinks up the gridiron. But ju-u-u-ust in case, the Tailpiperino provides you with a Wannstedt-o-meter (right), so that you can keep track of when he's likely to get the boot, ax, bomb, or guillotine.
Avoiding the Friction
To stay on top of important cultural trends, Tailpipe attended the opening of Scores in Fort Lauderdale last week. The "upscale" strip club -- where gentlemen and ladies supposedly have civilized conversations over sips of champagne -- was poppin'. There were more naked women in the place than the dressing room of Radio City Music Hall on a Rockettes night, with hostesses in tear-away gowns plying the room, ready to strip at the flash of a sawbuck. At least 40 of them had been imported for the occasion from New York City and another 60 or so signed on from the local ranks, according to April from Dallas (no last names, please). They seemed to enter the place in waves, prancing across a stage and into the pit of bar tables, where giddy men awaited them.
Scores has learned a lesson from family-friendly Las Vegas. In the back of the club, there's a steak house called Tusk Restaurant, which operates separately. Scores CEO Dave Carter says he hopes to make the place the "venue of choice for businessmen, conventioneers, sports personalities."
The 'Pipe doesn't know much about the sin business, but the Scores ladies do seem a cut above those pushy strippers in "downscale" dives. They'll take no for an answer. Noraya from Brazil explained the routine. "We could dance," she said hopefully. Tailpipe looked around for a dance floor. Where? "Right here," she said. "Or in the friction room. There, it's closer." Tailpipe noticed that, around the club, nude women were moving rhythmically in front of male customers, most of whom sat with glazed, distant looks in their eyes. Tailpipe politely declined, but a guy named Kelly accepted the offer. Noraya stepped out of her dress and backed into Kelly, who leaned back in his chair, blissfully goggle-eyed. Then he pushed his face into Noraya's back and groped her hips and thighs.
Dude, you heard about the friction room?
"Not doin' anything there that I want to do," said a strangely sated Kelly.
No Hes for the Shes?
If you haven't picked up October's issue of She magazine, you may already be too late. "They tend to be gone within a week," says Tina Sordellini, managing editor of the glossy, Fort Lauderdale-based lesbian publication. With a monthly circulation of 15,000 serving Fort Lauderdale, South Beach, Key West, Hollywood, and, recently, points beyond, She, which is distributed at bookstores and restaurants for free, has made a national impact. "We started as a local South Florida magazine," says Sordellini, "and now you can find She mag in every major lesbian market." Bravo and VH1 have both noted the magazine's progress since its 1999 launch. Today, She is defined by fashion sense, self-empowerment columnists, and plenty of celebrity interviews.
It ain't your grandma's lesbian magazine, Sordellini says. Don't expect Holly Near CD reviews or oatmeal cookie recipes. Young, fresh, and color are the adjectives she uses to describe She. Sort of like Cosmo with a twist. Check out September's issue (online at www.shemag.com), which features a Q&A with Margaret Cho. In a South Florida twist, almost half of the magazine's content is in Spanish.
Executive Editor Sandee Birdsong didn't respond to several interview requests, possibly because she also works as a chef at the chichi Miami Beach hangout Tantra, Sordellini explained. Tailpipe wanted to ask Birdsong about her August column, in which she pointed out that "men have become comfortable and women are driven by competition." Then she mused about "the female future" which -- can you dig it? -- doesn't necessarily include men. At all. "In theory," she wrote, "scientists believe two female eggs can be joined in the act of procreation, therefore eliminating the male role."
Tailpipe first heard about this in an old Star Trek episode. That one ended badly, didn't it? Something about Capt. Kirk in a boiling quicksand pit, the 'Pipe thinks.
On October 1, the FBI arrested 46-year-old former Browardite Dane Swindell in Memphis, Tennessee, for allegedly sending 25 envelopes filled with white powder to public officials around Broward County, including Sheriff Ken Jenne and Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle. When agents arrived at Swindell's doorstep, he admitted sending the letters. They were filled with harmless flour. Still, Swindell is staring down a federal indictment for "using a hoax weapon of mass destruction." He faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Federal prosecutors might want to take Swindell's unique world view into account. This rusty cylinder had a nice, long phone conversation with Swindell two months ago.
"Jim Naugle and Ken Jenne are running a top-secret program from the Fort Lauderdale city jail," Swindell insisted. He and other gay men had been implanted with microscopic mind-control devices intended to force them to infiltrate drug rings throughout Broward County. However, numerous CAT scans failed to detect the device lodged behind his ear. It was a huge conspiracy: drug lords, rogue cops, dead bodies, and dirty money flowing into the coffers of public officials.
"But, wait, wait," the 'Pipe asked Swindell. "The Fort Lauderdale city jail is closed. It's empty, man."
"It's closed?" Swindell asked, honestly surprised.
"Well, uh," Swindell said, pausing as he began to make the extraordinary leap in logic performed only by the most ardent conspiracy theorists. "Of course it's closed. They closed it to make way for their mind-control program."
The Price of Patriotism
It's not easy being Uncle Sam. This was especially true at last week's Sen. John Edwards speech in West Palm Beach, where professional clown Jack "Banjo" Williams from Delray Beach took a good hour of abuse before finding himself in a very lucky spot.
Before the start of the speech, 70-year-old Williams worked the crowd in a star-spangled outfit that made him look like a patriotic Raggedy Andy with a top hat. Williams, a retired social worker, pulled an American flag from his clenched fist for a bit of magic. "This flag right here doesn't belong to the Republicans," he said. But the trick drew the ire of an Edwards camp volunteer. All signs and flags are outlawed at the event, Banjo was frostily informed. Williams went on to work the crowd with card tricks.
The clown bit helped him beat depression, he said, and he hasn't had a drop of liquor in six years. (No surprise there. Tailpipe always figured Uncle Sam as a secret boozer.) Another volunteer tapped on Williams' shoulder. "Sir, can you take off your hat? You're blocking the view," the woman said grumpily, pointing to the rows of retirees in folding chairs.
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Williams tried to blend into the lunchtime crowd waiting for a tardy Edwards. But another operative soon beckoned him to the back of the room. Apparently, Uncle Sam, at about six feet, was too tall. "I'm going to have to ask Uncle Sam to come back here so elderly people have a view."
The unfazed Williams worked the crowd in the back of the room until he saw an opening. With volunteers distracted by a fainting audience member, Williams sneaked toward the stage. A chair in the front row was miraculously unoccupied (maybe the fainting man had been sitting there). Minutes later, as Edwards entered the event, Williams shook his hand.
"It's a good day to be a clown," Williams said after the stump speech. "My endorphins are through the roof."
-- As told to Edmund Newton