The much-ballyhooed video that was secretly shot in the swingers' club Trapeze II was more disappointing than the digitally remastered orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Three judges watched a matinee screening of the local skin flick at the Broward County Courthouse last Friday. The video was exhibit "X" at a hearing on whether to dismiss charges that resulted from police raids on Trapeze II and Athena's Forum earlier this year.
Stone-faced jurists, prosecutors, and defense attorneys (seven were present) gathered around the bench to bear witness to the ungodly fornication (some of it allegedly between married couples!). But after eight minutes, Judge Fred Berman called for the video to be halted. What, Judge Berman wanted to know from prosecutors, was the probative value of the tape? "So far I wasn't able to see anything," he noted.
The tape was fast-forwarded to the juicy parts, but the judges did not appear particularly titillated. A special screening was later held for interested parties (namely the media), and now we know why the judges were not impressed. The black-and-white video is more nausea-inducing than The Blair Witch Project. There is not much to witness except flashing lights, a bad soundtrack (was that the Bee Gees?), and a few amorphous shapes that may or may not be bodies.
After several ponderous minutes, we did discern what appeared to be a man waving a pair of boxer shorts above his head. Then, finally -- everyone present agreed -- we witnessed, on the screen, fornication. Good old-fashioned, missionary-style sex. And, yes, we were offended. We just hope they weren't married.
As county commissioners look for fat to trim from Broward's proposed $1.9 billion budget, there's one marbled slab of pork they should consider. The budget includes a $250,000 grant to the Florida Alliance, whose purpose is to block construction of petroleum pipelines to southeast Florida. All oil products arrive here on oil tankers, which unload at Port Everglades, and the county wants to keep it that way. So it's given the alliance more than $2 million since 1983 to keep pipelines out.
Problem is, no pipeline has been proposed since the mid-'80s, and none is currently being considered, says Anne Longman, a Tallahassee attorney who represents the major pipeline companies. Still, Mary Anne Gray, the new president of the alliance, says there is "always a threat of a pipeline being built" and that one company has proposed running a pipeline down Florida's east coast. But she won't reveal the company's name.
The main beneficiary of the proposed grant is Hvide Marine, which filed for bankruptcy last week. The firm would lose oil tanker and tugboat business if a pipeline were built. Hvide's new CEO, Jean Fitzgerald, is the long-time head of the alliance and still sits on the group's board. Fitzgerald and others associated with Hvide gave at least $14,000 to the current county commissioners for their most recent election campaigns. Fitzgerald's wife is the long-time secretary of commissioner Scott Cowan. "Why doesn't the county just transfer the money directly to Hvide?" quips Longman, who believes Hvide is soaking taxpayers to combat a nonexistent threat.
This past spring Kristin Jacobs, the newest and most reform-minded commissioner, told New Times she'd support funding the alliance only if there were a real threat of a pipeline being built. Now she's not so vocal. She failed to return repeated calls for comment on the issue.
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