Best Proof That Broward/Palm Beach Is The Center Of The Universe 1999 | Rick Sanchez | People & Places | South Florida

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.
When reading the dailies, we rarely go to the jump page. That's because we get the basics -- the who, what, when, and where -- in the first 'graph or two. The rest is dueling talking heads. But some daily reporters are talented enough to slip their "voices" into an edited story. When Stacey Singer writes, we go to the jump. She's no beat reporter; she covers everything from boiler-room scams to Christmas tree purchases to recalls of baby products. She caught our eye a year ago when she wrote about her experiences as a temporary crew member aboard the Endeavour, a replica of an 18th-century Australian ship, which stopped in West Palm Beach. Six months later she was sloshing through Hurricane Georges' floodwaters along the Gulf Coast, surveying a four-state landscape, providing details on the damage done to homes, businesses, animals, and people's lives. "Under spitting afternoon skies," she wrote, "Gail Harvey, 59, took a fishing boat back and forth to her house to retrieve valuables, including the woodcarvings her deceased father had made." Details make the difference in reporting, and those a reporter chooses say something about who she is. The woodcarvings stuck with us, as do many of the tidbits of info and the imagery (such as winds twisting "gas station roofs as if they were tinfoil") Singer provides. Her eye for detail makes her not just a good reporter, but a fine writer too.
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.

Thank God for local news anchors. When the world is cold and alien, they brighten us up with an artificial smile and a sterile quip, carefully stripped of any edge or actual humor. WFOR-TV (Channel 4)'s Angela Rae is our best friend. WSVN-TV (Channel 7)'s Rick Sanchez is our idealized version of a real man -- big and, uh, shameless. Tim Malloy is -- wait a second. Malloy's definitely not our best friend. He's not big either. He's a little wooden, even kind of geeky. Deadpan stare, steady delivery. His "happy talk" isn't all that happy. He doesn't jump out of his seat when a story breaks. Malloy doesn't want us to like him; he just wants to tell us the news. He doesn't try to hype a story or dose it with some sort of forced humanity; and that's precisely why we believe him. The man has credibility because he knows that news, like revenge, is best served cold.
Keith Douglas
The Sunrise Musical Theatre is more spacious, the Carefree in West Palm Beach more intimate, and, for that matter, West Palm's Kravis Center has comparable facilities. So what makes the Broward Center so special? Location, location, location. No other South Florida venue has a site as well integrated into its surroundings as this two-theater complex perched on the north bank of the New River near Sailboat Bend, with views magnificent enough to make Fort Lauderdale seem impressively urban. The building and grounds are snazzily designed, and the facilities -- the 2700-seat Au-Rene Theater and the cozy, 590-seat Amaturo Theater -- are versatile enough to handle all sorts of concerts and theatrical productions -- from Steve and Eydie to David Copperfield to Rent. Within minutes a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk will take you to the bustling new Las Olas Riverfront center, with its restaurants, bars, shops, and movie megaplex, or you could opt for the row of smaller, funkier restaurants that are contributing to the rejuvenation of SW Second Street. And if you're fortunate or flashy enough to be arriving by water, you can dock your boat on the river and head up the hill to the Broward Center.

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