Best Of :: People & Places
Since tasting outrage at his first glimpse of that circus otherwise known as the Hollywood City Commission some three decades ago, Brewer has led a plucky group of activists who keep an eye on the often questionable dealings at Hollywood City Hall. Some politicians brush aside Brewer, a Tennessee native with a deep Southern drawl and a sweep of white hair. But those who do live to regret it. Long-time commissioner Cathy Anderson reportedly called for a city manager's dismissal under orders from Brewer and has been known to ask reporters, "Is Pete mad at me?" Brewer may have only a high-school education, but the retired donut company executive has a knowledge of finances and city government to rival any city official -- and often sniffs out scandals before city officials do, thanks to his faithful coterie of city hall sources. Brewer is a taxpayer's best friend and is amicable with journalists. A message left on a reporter's answering machine led to a front-page story in a daily newspaper about how the city accidentally sold its 100-foot police radio tower to a Miami man. He also uncovered a disability double-dip that cost the city millions, a pension scandal in which 35-year-old employees were retiring, and is now trying to interest Gov. Jeb Bush in investigating what he calls a $10 million water-and-sewer shortfall. Brewer might have lost his first city commission election last month, but that's OK with us. He can accomplish far more on the outside.
Owned by relatives of famed Philly mobster Raymond "Long John" Martorano, this pricey ristorante serves up some fine pasta. Just ask our finest suspected local mobsters. Wiseguys like "Sideburns" Cerrella, Vinnie "The Fish" Romano, and Jimmy Tortoriello have all frequented the place, according to intelligence reports from organized-crime detectives. We wondered why the Sinatra tunes were played at high volume; could it be to drown out the questionable conversations taking place among men wearing silk shirts? We might have chosen the Bobby Rubino's rib restaurants for this category, if only because they have a higher Mafia pedigree than Martorano's. Rubino's is owned by the progeny of former godfather Paul Castellano (who was whacked by Gotti) and Broward's most colorful capo, Ettore Zappi. But Martorano's has more class than Rubino's, and if you're lucky, you might catch some of the cast members of the HBO show The Sopranos while you're there. They popped in for a meal in February, proving once again that art does imitate life.
Buffalo Tiger's is a little shack by the side of the Tamiami Trail on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation. They give a fine airboat ride, complete with fancy maneuvering and a stop at an abandoned Miccosukee village on an island. The real thrill, however, comes when you're waiting for the ride. Stand by the dock, make some guttural grunting noises (or have someone more experienced make them for you), and it won't be long until "Tony" swims up to the dock and floats there, half submerged, waiting to be fed. He likes bread. Big chunks. We couldn't quite tell how big Tony is, though we'd say ten feet is a solid guess. If you kneel on the dock, you'll be only a foot above those jaws, probably the closest you can come to a feeding gator without losing a limb. Or an appendage, if you're a chief.
Once we discovered this concert venue, we vowed never to go to one of those megastadiums where you need binoculars to see the act -- on the screen! With just 4000 seats, this theater provides an intimate setting in which all ticket holders can actually see the performer. We think there isn't a bad seat in the house. Why pay to see performers if you can't see them, we wonder? The place has history, too -- it's where Frank Sinatra made his first Broward appearance in 1977. True, you won't be able to see Elton John, Ricky Martin, or the Rolling Stones here, but you can catch a large selection of performers, including the Pretenders, Smashing Pumpkins, George Carlin, and Elvis Costello.
Paul Reid is The Palm Beach Post's big hitter -- and deservedly so. He does what he wants and does it well. We still recall a Reid piece on cockfighting from a couple years back that was as beautifully raw as a peck to the eye. His prose is elegant, concise, witty -- in short, everything lacking from most daily newspaper stories. Reid spends a lot of time doing restaurant reviews nowadays, which is fine. Dining at tony restaurants on your employer's dime is no doubt a plum assignment. But lucky for us Reid still finds time to bear witness to other strange avenues of life in South Florida and beyond, from a millenium discourse with legendary sports broadcaster Curt Gowdy to a historical meditation on tobacco and the United States. Take this lead-in to a Reid piece on digital manipulation of photographs: "Once upon a simpler time, Henry VIII fell in love when he beheld a portrait in oil of his betrothed, Anne of Cleves. Alas, when Anne showed up for the wedding, Henry -- who had never met her -- took one look and underwent an immediate and total change of heart. Anne was ugly. Henry was royally ticked off. Anne was sent packing and her embellished portrait consigned to the royal attic. She was pretty as a picture, but pictures can lie." Now that's one story on this seemingly staid subject that we read to the end.
Whyte got the shaft (pun intended) when sheriff's deputies busted her and others doing their thing at Athena's Forum, a swingers' club, in January 1999. Whyte claimed all along that she was engaged in nothing more lewd than a little suggestive dancing with her fiancé. Two undercover cops lounging clothing-free in a nearby hot tub, however, claim they saw some fondling going on. Oh my! So they later called in their jackbooted backups, who proceeded to round up all patrons suspected of doing the nasty in a private club. Gracious! The entire lascivious pack was sent off to the hoosegow, and Broward became a little less of a Gomorrah, at least for a few hours, after which the fornicators presumably made bail and jumped right back into a writhing pile of flesh. Shocking! Not to be outdone by the prudes at the Sheriff's Office, the school board made it a top priority to fire Whyte -- or at least to humiliate her -- for the crime of having a life outside the classroom. She did them one better and quit earlier this year. You go, girl.
If a good newscast is aired in a sensation-drenched market and nobody watches, did it really happen? While you're pondering that one, tune in to WAMI at 10 p.m. on a weeknight for The Times. Though often uneven, The Times never suffers from a lack of ambition. Better yet, the show displays that rarest of TV-news qualities: a sense of humor. Although anchor Ben Mankiewicz gives viewers the stern anchor eye when a story calls for it and can talk policy with the best of them, his bemused smile and self-deprecating attitude are truly refreshing. The great thing about Mankiewicz is that you're never quite sure if he's being serious or if he's sending up the whole TV-news genre in a sort of meta-newscast that's half Peter Jennings, half Dennis Miller. Definitely the kind of guy we'd like to have a few beers with.