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Rocking the Boat

Since the release of the movie Titanic, teenage girls in Halifax, Nova Scotia, have turned the grave of one J. Dawson into a shrine. If you haven't seen the film, Jack Dawson is the name of the character played by heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. No wonder the girls are draping the headstone with flowers.

But the real-life J. Dawson was a ship engineer who went down with the "unsinkable" boat, the White Star Line luxury liner that sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912. DiCaprio's Jack is a completely fictional character, a lowly steerage passenger aboard the R.M.S. Titanic in filmmaker James Cameron's epic.

"Even though it's not the same person, it's good, because one of the things I try to stress is giving credit to the unsung heroes," claims Titanic historian B.J. Brower.

Until recently, Brower was somewhat unsung, but riding the wave of Titanic mania, he's increased the number of bookings for his theatrical lecture, Titanic... A Legacy Remains. Dressed as a first-class passenger from the era, Brower forgoes Hollywood glitz and uses gripping factual accounts to talk crowds through the fateful trip.

"The reason the lights and power stayed on [so long] was due to these 35 men, these engineers like Dawson who stayed at their posts until the ship broke up," says Brower, age 23. "And none of them survived."

How does he know all of these details? The Coral Springs resident, a member of the Titanic Historical Society, has been studying the sinking since the age of five, when his grandfather took him to see Raise the Titanic! Brower says the new film is mostly on target historically, but he's made note of a few factual oversights.

For example, third-class passengers wouldn't have been left below deck to drown behind a locked gate, as the movie suggests. In fact, third-class steward F. Dent Ray testified that those gates were opened and that some passengers, who couldn't understand English, didn't heed his warnings to get out. They simply smiled and returned to their cabins.

-- John Ferri

Titanic... A Legacy Remains will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 9 at the Graves Museum of Archaeology and Natural History, 481 S. Federal Hwy., Dania, 954-925-7770; admission is $4 to $6. Brower will also perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 15 at Borders, 700 University Dr., Coral Springs, 954-340-3307; admission is free. And dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m., before his 8:15 p.m. show April 21 at the Royal Palm Dinner Theater, 315 SE Mizner Park Blvd., Boca Raton, 800-841-6765; tickets for that performance cost $29.95.

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John Ferri

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