Top Turkeys of 2012: The South Florida Personalities We Love to Hate
Thanks to our neighbors, who are absolutely the best at doing destructive, disastrous, and just plain stupid things, Floridians have become the butt of the country's jokes. Lady who tried to ride a manatee? Yep, right here. Lifeguard fired for saving a life? Mm-hmm, that was us. The state that kept counting ballots right on through election night, long after even Mitt Romney had conceded? Sigh. Must we always stand out like a bumbling drunk at a silent auction?
Recent news events set the mood for our list of South Florida's top turkeys of 2012: a few scoundrels who are straight-up bad and others who might be evil if they were just a little more relevant. But what the hey — without all this gobbling, our state would be as bare as a Thanksgiving table without a bird. We're fairly certain none of these turkeys will be getting a presidential pardon.
Long before Florida couldn't figure out whom it had voted for, it was already changing the course of this year's election. On a fundraising swing through the state in May, Mitt Romney visited the Boca Raton home of Marc Leder, a private-equity manager, and said what he probably always thinks — that 47 percent of Americans are worthless, incurable mooches. But one of the attendees was secretly videotaping his remarks. Weeks later, Jimmy Carter's grandson, trawling the internet for ammo against Romney in the waning days of the presidential race, found the video and passed it on to Mother Jones writer David Corn. The revelation didn't just shed light on Mitt's unguarded arrogance; it also put Leder in the spotlight. According to the New York Post, when Leder isn't driving fast-casual restaurant investments like the now-bankrupt Friendly's into the ground, he's, um, hosting sex parties. One male guest described a "chubby white meathead" copulating with a "tanned" woman on patio furniture "in front of astonished guests." That might read like a Zagat review of a Larry Flynt venture, but it's just another party hosted by the man who provided the stage for Romney to embarrass himself at dinner. How did Leder recompense Sir Mittington for his suffering? He hosted another fundraiser later, of course — this time on the mole-free isle of Palm Beach.
In early October, Creed frontman and Boca resident Stapp, famous for his vaguely Christian lyrics sung in a faux-Pearl Jam mess of strained sincerity, appeared on Fox News to announce an arms-wide-open endorsement of Mitt Romney. Stapp voted for Obama in 2008, but what a difference four years makes: "I'm just disappointed and had very high expectations," said Stapp. His spurning of Obama wasn't exactly a miracle for the Romney campaign, though: Stapp has had very public problems with drug abuse and drunk driving, was once accused of beating his wife (the charges were later dropped), and upset legions of Marlins fans in 2006 by attempting to write a theme song for the team, "Marlins Will Soar" (the song ruined baseball, Deadspin lamented). Come to think of it, though, Romney should have just used Stapp's old Creed lyrics as his concession speech. Behold: "The peace is dead in my soul/I have blamed the reasons for/My intentions poor/Yes, I'm the one who/The only one who/Would carry on this far."
Everything looked great for the start of the 2012 Miami Marlins season. There was a brand-new $600-million ballpark in Little Havana serving lovely pork sandwiches, a new logo and name, several key trades, and the acquisition of Ozzie Guillen as manager. Expectations were so great that the team had a Showtime reality series lined up to chronicle the Marlins' return to greatness. Yet something was amiss from the moment team owner Jeffrey Loria (a hubristic art dealer who once wrote a book about the philosophy of Charlie Brown) awkwardly puttered across the field on opening day seated in a golf cart next to a severely disabled Muhammad Ali. As cheers faded away to cringes, the cart crawled along the turf and a stupidly grinning Loria looked like he was going to hug the life right out of poor old Ali. This might have been an omen. Eventually, the team was bad enough for the TV show to be a flop, and not even Ozzie saying he loved Fidel Castro could save it from cancellation. But Guillen's unguarded babbling did make him an easy scapegoat for Loria, who canned him at the end of this year's shitty season with three years left on his contract. That was followed by a blockbuster doozy of a move this month: trading away three of the team's remaining stars to Canada, making the last-place Marlins the most penny-pinching team in the league next year, with an estimated opening-day payroll of $34 million (the lowest this year was $53 million). Asked for some kind of explanation of his cheapskate behavior, Loria said to reporters, "Figure it out." What a dick.
This striking, blond-haired turkey knew how to get what she wanted through her seat on the Broward School Board. She unilaterally pushed for the "Beachside Boondoggle," an unnecessary and expensive Montessori school in her home district of Hollywood that cost $25 million and required the board to seize and destroy 54 homes and part of a park. A statewide grand-jury investigation into School Board corruption slammed her for this pet project, but the investigation's more damning findings involved illicit affairs. Gottlieb's trysts with two Citigroup bankers, complete with suggestive emails about wine and bonbons, would have been a lot sexier if millions in Broward School Board money weren't involved. At a 2007 steak-and-lobster dinner hosted by Citi, which bids on jobs to finance the School Board's construction bonds, Gottlieb met finance manager Rick Patterson. She began a whirlwind affair behind the back of her husband, who was running for a Broward judgeship, and the public, which had watched her vote on Citi deals. When her campaign manager told her this was a terrible idea, she started seeing Patterson's colleague, Michael Baldwin. They continued the relationship, meeting in such romantic enclaves as the Hampton Inn in Tamarac, until Baldwin learned of the investigation. The grand jury's findings were released this fall. They chided Gottlieb for having continued to vote on Citigroup-related matters without disclosing a conflict of interest but concluded that she didn't break any laws.
This dashing air-conditioning heir built the International Polo Club Palm Beach, pouring millions into the sport of smacking things with a mallet while astride a very large pony. After a night of partying in February 2010, Goodman sped through a stop sign and crashed his Bentley into a Hyundai owned by 23-year-old Scott Wilson. While Wilson drowned, trapped in his car in a canal, Goodman hid in a barn and dithered about calling the police. The Palm Beach sheriff took three months to investigate, and Goodman chilled out at luxe hotels in Miami before finally being arrested in May. But even famous lawyer Roy Black couldn't get a jury to believe that the Bentley malfunctioned and Goodman got drunk after the accident; Goodman was found guilty of DUI manslaughter, failure to render aid, and vehicular homicide and sentenced to 16 years in prison. But he decided to pay for a lengthy appeals process and, like any savvy investor, shielded part of his money from civil damages by adopting his 42-year-old girlfriend. While he waited for his case to wind through the courts, a judge allowed him out on bond, letting him hang around his home with an ankle monitor rather than be stuck eating baloney sandwiches in the big house with the riffraff. But that's not the most infuriating thing about his case. Homeboy was not content to stay on his 80-acre estate, and cops say he used a mirror to tamper with his ankle bracelet. Finally Goodman went back to jail, where he was awaiting a hearing on November 26.
Lois Frankel, the former mayor of West Palm Beach, was all set to challenge Rep. Lt. Col. Allen West for his seat in the U.S. House this year. But nutso West fled the district and moved his residence up north to a more Republican electorate, while former Senate hopeful Adam Hasner stepped in to challenge true-blue Democrat Frankel. Hasner's no Allen West, but he's been known to drip his tea bags all over the place: The former Florida House majority leader has warned Broward Republicans of impending sharia law, pledged to turn Medicare into a voucher system, and sometimes donned red, white, and blue boots made from elephant skin. He also launched a series of audacious attack ads against Frankel. The crown jewel in his negative campaign was an ad blaming Frankel for spending more than $13,000 in taxpayer money on a marble shower in a private bathroom with her own toilet. PolitiFact Florida rated this claim half-true, finding that the West Palm mayor's office does include a bathroom with a marble shower but that it was part of a multimillion-dollar rehab of City Hall that was voted through by the City Commission. But the accusation was as memorable as Hasner's flag-colored boots, especially when the camera zoomed out on the narrator, sitting on a toilet. "When you gotta go, you gotta go," she said, after flushing. "But that's just ridiculous." Yes, it is. Both Hasner and West lost their congressional races.
While we're tempted to put Buffett on this list just for plaguing our entire adult lives with songs like "Cheeseburger in Paradise," it's his relentless commodification of our subtropical climes that is threatening to make a big ol' mess down Hollywood way. Buffett built his first Margaritaville store in Key West in 1985, and he's now the third-richest singer in the world despite never winning a single Grammy. He slapped his Land Shark beer name on the Dolphins stadium for a while, in a deal that also brought us the ubiquitous "fins to the left, fins to the right" song (what is it with these turkeys making terrible sports music?). Now he's licensed the Margaritaville name to a $126 million stalled behemoth of a project in Hollywood: a hotel with seven restaurants, bars, shops, and a wave pool. Developer Lon Tabatchnik has been stringing along the City Commission looking for financiers; a plot to lure Chinese investors in return for American citizenship didn't work out, so now he's gotten a tentative financing deal with Starwood Capital. Like a stiff frozen daiquiri, Buffett's name has numbed us to what the project really is: a massive, ugly boondoggle that will forever corporatize Hollywood Beach.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.