Best Local Insult 1999 | "She's So Boca!" | People & Places | South Florida
She's in her thirties and shops like a demon. She's either married and living on her wealthy husband's income, or she's hunting like mad for a guy who's loaded. Her hair and nails are always done; she won't even go to the beach unless her makeup is just so. She only wears designer rags. Max's Grille is her favorite hangout. She drips disdain for those who aren't as perfectly coiffed and situated in life. In other words she's nouveau riche and materialistic -- perhaps a transplant from Long Island. Her attitude is reflected in Boca Raton's manicured look -- avenues immaculately framed by royal palms, shops, office buildings, even Publix dressed up in tasteful pastels. Plenty of good things can be said about the city, but there's no harm in pointing out the flaws of some of its, shall we say, less than savory characters. And, besides, we didn't make up the insult. Honest.

He's gone now, but in his lifetime John D. MacDonald penned 73 novels, including 21 thrillers featuring tough-guy sleuth Travis McGee, Fort Lauderdale's greatest fictional citizen. McGee lived on a 52-foot houseboat at slip F-18, Bahia Mar Marina, and to this day scores of literary pilgrims from around the world show up to pay quiet homage at the site, marked with a small bronze plaque not far from Fort Lauderdale beach. The slip is perennially empty, offering the possibility that the ageless McGee is off on a fishing jaunt in the Keys. May his spirit never die.
Kristin Jacobs, a suburban housewife, is an unlikely revolutionary. But in Broward County, that's exactly what she is. Jacobs, almost literally on a shoestring, unseated Sylvia Poitier, who had the backing and money of the most powerful and wealthy people in the county. And when Jacobs won, she turned the powers that be upside down, breaking up Commissioner Scott Cowan's decade-old majority vote. Jacobs now says she'll stop the ghastly westward push of development into the Everglades. It's a far cry from her neighborhood-activist days, when she was extremely effective in getting speed bumps put on residential roads to slow down speeders. After taking office last November, she blocked the contract of a county lobbyist who also represents U.S. Sugar, a company that's been criticized for harming the Everglades. It was a good start; now we just need to make sure she keeps delivering on her promises.
Say what you will about West Palm Beach's Mayor Nancy Graham. She's a tad cold. She's unresponsive to her constituents. She's out of town a lot, visiting foreign dignitaries and discovering the virtues of Italian architecture. And she's hardly the most photogenic of Palm Beach County politicians -- that honor goes to the stunning Palm Beach County Commissioner Karen Marcus. But take a look at Graham's city. Within the last decade, she's been instrumental in transforming downtown West Palm Beach from a crime-ridden, drug-infested neighborhood where nobody wanted to shop, much less sit down for a cup of coffee, into a family-friendly strip of bars and restaurants, coffeehouses, and weekly outdoor music festivals. With West Palm's latest improvement project, CityPlace, under way, the best is yet to come. But, alas, Graham decided not to run for reelection, and she'll soon be leaving office. Her vision and influence, though, will surely outlive her career in city politics. Unless, of course, the economy goes sour.
Remember William Martin, the guy with the Palm Beach mansion and the Rolls-Royce and the beautiful daughters? The guy who told everybody he was a Harvard-educated psychiatrist who once worked for the CIA? The guy who married a succession of society ladies and told his daughters their mother died in a car crash? The guy who, for almost two decades had been living a great, big, complicated lie? For sheer audacity we think Martin, whose real name is Stephen Fagan, deserves this award. After all, his tidy little scandal shook hallowed, oh-so-proper Palm Beach, a place that had been itching for a good scandal. Fagan, who was extradited back to Boston last spring to stand trial on charges he kidnapped his daughters from the mother they believed dead, brought the national spotlight back to the underbelly of Palm Beach. Once again the world came to see that nothing is as it seems behind the island's squared shrubs and brick walls.

The fountain honoring Huizenga is happening for two reasons: The trash-and-car king has thrown some of his vast wealth (Forbes estimates it at $1.6 billion) into Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Lauderdale's Downtown Development Authority (DDA) doesn't want the green stuff to stop coming. Huizenga has given millions to charities, including the new homeless shelter, the Boys & Girls Clubs, and the Broward Center For the Performing Arts, and he certainly has the pockets to give more. So what do you give the man who has everything? A piece of immortality -- an honor that the DDA no doubt believes will produce a fountain of cash in return.
It was half past ten on that dark night in September, and most of Broward County was hunkered behind locked doors, awaiting the expected onslaught of Hurricane Georges. As the winds brought the first sheets of rain ashore, a skinny, raggedy figure stood alone on the median of Broward Boulevard. He was dressed in a jacket and ball cap, and in his hand was a newspaper. "How ya doin' there. Paper for ya?" he greeted the driver of the only car in sight. "What paper?" the driver wanted to know. "Today's paper," the man replied, grinning wryly through the rain. "Late edition." As if it mattered; as always, the man was already sliding the paper onto the dashboard. "Hey, wait, I don't have any change on me," the driver countered. "And what the hell are you doing here anyway? There's a hurricane coming." The man stepped back: "Don't worry 'bout it. Got papers to sell, ya know. Take care of me next time." Thus Richard Ferris, nighttime news-hawker of Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway, concluded another successful sale.

Sweaty and sunburned from jostling with the trendoids and tourists on East Las Olas Boulevard? Then duck into the doorway between Indigo and Golden Lyon marked "Riverside Hotel." Walk down the dark hallway, past the pay phones and gift shop, and through the glass double doors. Select your choice of daily newspaper from the rack on your right: the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and of course the Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel. Now plop yourself down in one of the comfortable flower-print chairs. Soak up the air conditioning and quiet. Laugh at the fireplace adorning each end of the room. Much better.
Your first inclination will be to pick some private, out-of-the-way spot. Forget it! Hell hath no fury like a lover dumped, and what you're gonna want are lots of witnesses around in case things get bloody. Sawgrass Mills has a fine security force and 100,000 shoppers on any given day. Therefore, park your car near the Pink Flamingo entrance, tuck yourself behind a table at the center of 15 restaurants and 270 stores, order a sober glass of carrot juice and speak calmly: "Chris, I think we need to talk."

Good ol' Edgar. He's always there for us, perched on a railing. He's just one of the 43 species that inhabit the aviary for injured birds at Flamingo Gardens. When it first opened, in 1991, Edgar was the first tenant; now he's the welcoming party. But you have to get the conversation going. Michael Ruggieri, director of animals, says that fish crows like Edgar are born mimics. Repeat something a few times, and they'll respond. We've heard Edgar utter "hi," but he also says "hello," "what ya' doin'" and "good morning." His fellow tenants, which include 14 species of wading birds, have it pretty good: They live rent-free in a place divided into five South Florida ecosystems, and their healthy offspring are taught to hunt, then let loose in the wild. Visitors have it good, too. Aside from the aviary, Flamingo Gardens offers gardens, a mini zoo, and fruit, including the tangelo, a hybrid of tangerine and grapefruit invented by Floyd Wray, who started the operation with his wife, Jane, in 1925. When Jane passed away, her will set aside 60 acres for preservation, and the not-for-profit Flamingo Gardens has remained faithful, hosting 30,000 schoolkids and 100,000 visitors every year. That's a lot of hellos, but Edgar's happy to oblige.

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