Best Political Battle 1999 | John Rodstrom vs. Scott Cowan | People & Places | South Florida
This political caged grudge-match got heated in 1997 when Rodstrom started raising hell about the county's purchase of Port Everglades land from developer Michael Swerdlow for three times the appraised value. That scuffle was ugly and salacious, but the conflict between the two commissioners really got interesting this past year when Rodstrom urged political unknown Kristin Jacobs to challenge Sylvia Poitier, a commissioner and long-time Cowan ally. Rodstrom, for all intents and purposes, ran Jacobs' campaign, and Cowan ran Poitier's attempt to keep her seat. The two puppet masters were, of course, really fighting each other, and the balance of power in Broward County was at stake. Jacobs pulled the upset, giving Rodstrom the upper hand on the commission and forcing Cowan into an unaccustomed second-fiddle role. The two men talk about mending fences, but that's merely PR. The fight has just begun.

Forget about guns, drugs, or teenage pregnancy. The Sunrise City Commission tackles the truly ravenous manifestations of urban blight -- like neon. Exposed neon, to be specific. (Whatever that means.) The insufferably self-righteous sign ordinance that put the knife to neon last year also prohibits lettering larger than four inches high and restricts signs to one-tenth the size of window space. Never mind that just about every business in town is in violation of these rules. City Manager Pat Salerno, sent out to defend the inane law before a rapacious commission-meeting crowd, only made matters worse by castigating business owners. "This is blight, and this is visual blight and it's the type of blight the commission has been working to rectify for ten years," he told the crowd. So, we ask, what's next on Sunrise's agenda -- a ban on Christmas lights?
Fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos are putting together a late drive that could tie the game and shatter the Dolphins' playoff hopes. Enter Sam Madison. The second-year cornerback picks off an errant John Elway pass and returns it 35 yards to the Denver six-yard line. Ball game. The Dolphins never look back, winning their most impressive victory of the season. Elway ended up completing just 13 of 36 passes, a stink bomb of a performance caused by the Dolphins secondary. Madison and fellow cornerback Terrell Buckley were unbeatable, shadowing the Bronco receivers like flies on a horse's hindquarters, just as they did to opposing teams all season. T-Buck and Madison finished the season tied for second in the AFC for interceptions, with eight each, transforming the Dolphins' once-unseemly secondary into something to be feared. The Pro Bowl people may have dissed them, but we give the duo props. Madison gets the nod, though, because we like his loquacious tongue. "They have to get him out of the pocket because he's too short to see over the defensive line," he said of Bills' quarterback Doug Flutie before the Dolphins' playoff triumph over Buffalo. "We're going to be ready for that and get him on the ground and shove some Flutie Flakes down his throat."

Best Proof That Broward/Palm Beach Is The Center Of The Universe

Rick Sanchez

You will learn at least one fact from watching any WSVN-TV (Channel 7) newscast: Anchorman Rick Sanchez is the most important person in the world. Why shouldn't he be? Recall the days of Operation Desert Storm, when Rick knelt like Mohammed on the floor of the TV studio, sputtering and pointing at a giant map of the Middle East. Remember him, dire and dour, through Hurricane Andrew, scaring everyone even sillier with his oracular belches. Yes, the unsophisticated may regard Rick as nothing more than a bombastic butterball, but close observers know the truth: This Pembroke Pines resident is a genius of Wagnerian proportions, the progenitor of a whole new art form -- avant-garde performance journalism. He is the most important person in the world, and we, by extension, inhabit the center of the universe. We are not worthy.

Roughly a quarter-century ago, Burt Reynolds posed nude in Cosmopolitan magazine, and driving the streets of South Florida has never been the same. Don Bailey, an obscure carpet-store owner at the time, was impressed by the fact that Burt's bare bod caused the magazine to sell out in record time. So in an effort to drum up business, Bailey got in his skivvies, laid down on one of his carpets, put on a suggestive smile, and posed while his brother painted. The end product has been immortalized on signs throughout South Florida, most visibly on Broward Boulevard. Bailey, who is now 65 years old but was just 40 when he struck his pose, tells us that the sign immediately had people "swarming" into his stores. It's certainly eye-catching. The gut reaction is confusion, as in, "What the hell is that?" Don's frank sexuality is unsettling to some. And the fact that his painted image slightly resembles a pasty version of Hugh Beaumont from Leave It to Beaver makes it no less, well, creepy. But let's face it: If that were a woman lying there, nobody'd think twice. Like Burt's centerfold, Don has broken into uncharted sexual territory, and it's just as strange today as it was 25 years ago.

Finally a reason to turn on AM radio again. Neil Rogers, the self-proclaimed fat fag, has no peer as far as we're concerned. His timing couldn't have been better for returning to the airwaves after a seven-month hiatus resulting from his nasty spat with WIOD-AM (610). Armed with a new million-dollar contract, Rogers took up his 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot on WQAM just in time for sexual hysteria to explode in Washington. And he never missed an opportunity to launch a funny, or at times profane, insult. Rogers spent the year gleefully attacking the Republican Party, branding Henry Hyde and Kenneth Starr "nazis" more often than he hit the button for his trademark "No!" sound bite. Rogers is also a welcome wilderness voice in relentlessly ripping Wayne Huizenga. The fact that WQAM broadcasts the play-by-play for the Huizenga-owned Dolphins and Panthers merely eggs him on.
When acclaimed South Florida architect Dan C. Duckham took on the project in the early '90s, the Kenann Building was in shameful disrepair. The big, round tower -- built in the early '60s and known to locals as "the spaceship building" -- had long been neglected, and except for the inexplicably well-preserved tropical mural on the huge panel jutting from its east side, the structure seemed a lost cause. Duckham gutted the building and then set about restoring it to its former glory, working from original architect Lou Wolf's plans and adding touches of his own, such as the steel piping on the roof and sides of the cylinder. Later, when the owner decided to add a restaurant/dance club to the side of the building's lower floors, Duckham was again brought in to ensure that the addition stayed true to the Kenann's distinctive character. As the restaurant, Hot Chocolates, has settled in over the past year or so, the renovation is more or less complete, although Duckham is still waiting for the plants he installed near the top of the building to spill over the edge as planned. Otherwise the details are all but perfect, from the gleaming metallic tiles and mirrored surfaces to the neon tubing along the rim to the circles and curves that repeat again and again in this wonderfully whimsical building.

The mosaic ribbon of mugs, saucers, ceramic suns, and glints of mirror that wraps around the front wall is the first hint that Tropi Rock is a world away from the neighboring cookie-cutter motels on the blocks extending west from Fort Lauderdale beach. The exterior of each room is painted with a colorful window border and an animal scene above the door, and the interiors are outfitted with modern Mexican or rustic Caribbean furniture and artwork set against sherbet-color walls. Manager Markus Schaerf says his father, an interior designer and former Latin music producer, describes the two-year-old resort motel's decorating theme as "Latin fusion." The Tropi Rock asserts its individuality in every nook: a sun deck with crocheted hammocks; a fountain with large, broken pottery at its bottom; a small orange bar embedded with photographs, postcards, a Pulp Fiction CD cover, and a condom wrapper; and several party areas outfitted with barbecue grills and other eclectic accouterments. In addition to two tennis courts, a shuffleboard court, and Ping-Pong table outside, Tropi Rock has a basement -- a rarity in South Florida -- with a fitness room, game room, and laundry facilities. Even the concrete border of the pool is painted charcoal, rather than left plain. Now that's attention to detail.

This is not a road AAA wants you to know about. Nor does it appear on most maps. But there it is in all its potholed glory, a hidden gift from the South Florida Water Management District that has long been a favorite of bird buffs, hunters, canal fishermen, and drug smugglers looking for an out-of-the-way landing strip. A Jeep or truck is preferred but not required. Head west from Fort Lauderdale on I-595 and turn north on U.S. Highway 27. Stock up on strawberry Yoo-Hoo and pork rinds (or the drinks and snacks of your choice) at the Sawgrass Recreation Park. Then proceed to the Palm Beach County line and pull a U-turn where the sign says "Holey Land/ Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas." From here head west again on a road that stays paved for the first five miles and turns to gravel for the next ten. When a big pump station appears, you have reached the Miami Canal, a hydrologist's wet dream that runs from the Magic City to Lake Okeechobee. Stick to the road on the east side of the canal and shoot north for the next 30 miles, enjoying sawgrass and sugar cane vistas, big clouds and multitudinous bird life. When at last you arrive in Lake Harbor, drive up on the levee and look out over Florida's inland ocean. Do not, like some careless reporters, forget to top off your gas tank before leaving civilization.
In a state stuffed with butterfly jungles, alligator wrestling, acrobatic dolphins, and human mermaids, the Swap Shop stands alone as the Florida theme park par excellence. That's because it doesn't have a theme, aside from the unvarnished worship of commerce. Looking for a preowned set of metric socket wrenches? It's there, next to that copy of Jaws II published in Mandarin. There's fresh produce, cheap perfume, a free circus complete with elephants, and by night the biggest drive-in movie theater left on planet Earth, 13 screens in all. Call it tacky, call it tawdry, but 12 million people a year think it's nifty.

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