October marks the 90th birthday of this mélange of pavement and sawgrass we know variously as "The 954," "The Brow Cow" and "The Official Home of Spring Break 1986." Yes, it's a joyous month for our very own Broward County, which was scratched together from portions of Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties and named for the onetime arms smuggler and governor, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, whose efforts to drain the Everglades helped to render inhabitable this sun-bleached mud patch.
To celebrate the milestone, the County Commission has thrown parties more quaint than should be possible in a community of some 1.7 million people. It has also posted some startling facts from the first census in the county, taken in 1920, when the population was a mere 5,135 and less than eight square miles had been developed. Fort Lauderdale was the largest city, and as with the 2000 census, about 70 percent of the population was white. In trolling through the raw data, Tailpipe noticed some oddities that the County Commission missed including some striking similarities between today and the days of yore. In the Broward County of 1920:
17 percent of residents admitted to ever having read a book.
9 percent admitted to ever having used a turn signal.
26 percent regularly played poker on Seminole land.
32 percent were surveyed waiting in line to purchase part of a Young Circle high-rise cabin project.
64 percent giggled whenever 1920 Democratic presidential candidate James Middleton Cox's surname surfaced in conversation.
63.8 percent of those didn't know Cox could be spelled with an x.
48 percent of pedestrians on the street swore they needed a buck for the bus to Pompano could you help a fella out?
Forgive this cynical old cylinder if he gets edgy as Christmas approaches. The holiday just takes up so much space that, by around December 20, the 'Pipe finds it hard to breathe. Too much pine scent, wafting gingerbread, and Chanel #5 in the air. So Tailpipe feels compelled to fight any moves to extend the holiday forward. A strict rule around the home garage: no unsolicited Christmas-carol singing, showings of It's a Wonderful Life, or tinkling of little bells before Thanksgiving.
With that in mind, Tailpipe reports the following gross transgression: On October 17, at exactly 8:20 a.m., WLVE-FM (93.9) played a "smooth jazz" version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." The 'Pipe almost jumped out of his chrome coating.
Granted, this wasn't Bing Crosby floating on honied violins but Dave Koz, one of Kenny G's many soprano sax imitators. Still, it was two weeks before Halloween. This is unconscionable. Tailpipe will soon lead a mob of indignant listeners carrying torches and pitchforks in surrounding the Love 94 saccharine store in Fort Lauderdale and singing obscene protest songs.
He Brakes for Fish
With red tide creeping in on the Gulf Coast as well as new federal restrictions on catching open-sea sport fish like grouper, fishing fanatics are increasingly thwarted. The sport of philosophers and fools ain't what it used to be.
But Tailpipe will let you in on a little secret. The real action around South Florida these days isn't on the rocking deck of a hired sloop but in the hundreds of miles of canals that snake through the western part of Broward and Palm Beach counties. At least, that's what Bob Mossie tells the 'Pipe.
Mossie, a gruff, broad-shouldered man with a distant, appraising look in his eyes, says he satisfies his fishing jones and for Mossie, they are powerful in the backwaters.
Mossie lives in Parkland, but he's an executive at a large HMO in Miami. During the week, he doesn't have the time to make it to his favorite fishing spots around Lake Okeechobee, but he finds plenty of opportunities to go after his quarry on his hospital rounds and on his drive home along the Florida Turnpike.
"I'll be on my way home from Miami, and if I see a good spot in a canal, I'll just pull over," Mossie said. "I carry an arsenal of equipment in the trunk."
According to Ralph La Prairie of the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are plenty of largemouth and peacock bass, sunfish, blue gill, catfish, and tilapia to be had. He cited the canal that runs along Griffin Road as particularly hospitable to certain fish because its waters stay warm year round.
But doesn't this water have chemicals and street runoff in it?
"A lot of people would think that," La Prairie said, "but our water samples [from these canals] don't show any higher amount of heavy metals or chemicals than any other water body in the state."
Whatever the chemical makeup of the water, Mossie has caught some whoppers, including a nine-pound, two-ounce bass. Besides, Mossie is a catch-and-release fisherman. The sport is in outsmarting the fish, not in eating it.
"You'll see me on the side of the road fishing in a shirt and tie," he said. "I leave my blazer in the car." His problems are not with fish and game wardens but with Highway Patrol officers, who occasionally run him off.
There's an untapped wilderness out there. "Even in Miami, when running between our medical centers," Mossie says, "I'll stop and catch five- and six-pound peacocks [peacock bass] just by throwing a line off the bridge."
Talking about it, Mossie seems to swell and glow like an electric eel; he can barely contain his excitement. "Most of these places are completely untouched," he says.
PBA: We Won! PBA Members: Huh?
So how much money did the Broward Police Benevolent Association pay to settle a lawsuit filed by former Hollywood Police Chief Rick Stone?
Aside from Stone and the attorneys involved, only two people know the answer to that question: PBA President Dick Brickman and Secretary Jeff Marano, who run the organization like a Tammany Hall fiefdom, passing out jobs and favors to loyalists. And they ain't talking. Yet.
"We pay dues," groused one union member who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. "That's our money."
Stone filed a lawsuit in 2000 against the PBA, Brickman, and Marano after the influential police union succeeded in ousting him from office. Brought in to clean up the hiring scandal that developed during Chief Richard Witt's tenure the department had hired underqualified officers, including some with criminal records Stone was perceived by the rank and file as a hostile figure. At the height of discord between Stone and the police union, officers protested outside City Hall and allegedly sent a bereavement card to Stone before his cancer-stricken wife had passed away.
The lawsuit, which went to trial last week, spanned just two days in court before the PBA agreed to settle the case. Brickman played down the impact of the settlement.
"Stone got less than a handshake," Brickman tells the 'Pipe. "I don't think there are any doubts about the strength of PBA leadership, and I also think my membership will be happy with what we didn't have to pay." (Let's see. Would that be a number with six zeroes after it?)
Brickman declined to discuss specifics of the settlement, explaining that he would provide the information to his board of directors on November 8.
Despite having to settle the lawsuit against Stone, it seems unlikely that Brickman's and Marano's power inside the PBA will be diminished. Members have historically been afraid to speak out against the pair due to their control of off-duty work details and department loyalists known as "Jeffsters." In May, union members passed around a letter that criticized leadership and demanded that the accounting books be made open. Tellingly, no one signed the letter.
"We're cops," the union member says. "It's time for us to grow up and get some balls."
Letting reporters use your name might be a good start.
Hooters Don't Float
There are some spooky new developments at Fort Lauderdale's Riverfront, that megatourist complex on the New River. Around 8 p.m., when you'd expect dining to be at its apex, the second floor is about as well-lit as London during the Blitz. Of course, what else would you expect after three of the major restaurants suddenly and unceremoniously shuttered their doors recently? Hooters packed up its orange shorts and bouncy breasts and scrammed. Dan Marino's Town Tavern took the ball and went home. Martini Bar called it bottoms up.
Only Ugly Tuna remains up and running, and on this night, its patrons numbered barely enough for a good poker game.
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All four of these restaurants are operated by the same company, LTP Management. So why did the powers that be close three restaurants? Why choose to keep Ugly Tuna open? The 'Pipe probed a bit while sucking up a brew. "We're just good," the underworked bartender whooped with the confidence of someone whistling by a graveyard in the dark.
At least he had something to say about the restaurant closings, which is more than LTP could offer. After numerous messages left with Donna Harris, the firm's spokesperson, she eventually left a voice message: "Our only comment is that we have closed and that we are looking for additional locations in the Fort Lauderdale area." Riverfront's owners didn't even bother returning a call. But restaurateurs in the 7-year-old riverside entertainment complex have complained in recent years about high rents and slow business.
Tailpipe's goosepimply night wouldn't have been complete without a visit to the nearby Olé Olé Mexican Grille and Cantina, the only other restaurant left alive up there. It sat as empty as a politician's promise. As in the ballroom bar scene from The Shining, the bartender stood gazing out at the empty tables. A baseball game flickered on the TV above him. The 'Pipe felt a shudder in his tubing and fled down the stairs.
As told to Edmund Newton