Best Near-Death Experience 2005 | Aaron Carter's Turnpike Inferno | Besttropical | South Florida

Citizens, beware! Even teenie-pop hack fame cannot protect you from the dangers of Florida's Turnpike! Witness the fate of young Aaron Carter, the auteur/snot behind such schoolyard hits as "That's How I Beat Shaq" and "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)." The 17-year-old was piloting his Escalade to Orlando shortly after midnight on January 8 when a mattress reportedly blew off the back of a delivery truck near Sample Road, became lodged under Carter's Caddy, and ignited a fire that engulfed the vehicle. Carter and a companion escaped the blaze unhurt. According to some random teen-heartthrob websites, this is not Carter's first experience in tight spots: He simultaneously dated former Nickelodeon jailbait Hillary Duff and barely legal bombshell Lindsay Lohan, infuriating both of them. Also, he was once sucked into quicksand up to his waist before his family pulled him out. The Reaper grows frustrated.

Hey there, hipster, did you just wake up? No? It sure looks like it, what with that scraggly, disheveled hairstyle. It's hard to imagine that you actually spent half an hour trying to look like you didn't spend half an hour on your hair. Oh, but that's the latest craze around here. The Jackson Pollack of hairdos, bedhead once was the style of the emo crowd. But now everyone has it, even punk rockers (Billy Joe, what happened?). The funny thing is that, like its trailer park predecessor -- the infamous mullet -- bedhead is something you can sport without thinking too much about it. But unlike the now-popular parody culture surrounding the mullet, bedhead has yet to be defined, categorized, and mocked like the mullet, which has garnered its own websites and even calendars. Of course, that won't happen to the bedhead for another ten years or so. Just wait till VH1 airs I Love the '00s. Oh what fun we're having now.

First, a disclosure. This Sentinel writer is married to a New Times writer, who shall remain unnamed but who had nothing, nada, zip to do with this. Hell, her choice of spouse means this lady had to go above and beyond for this honor. But the fact is, she rocks. Sure, Sally Kestin is a crack investigator, but she won in 2003, and you can't keep giving the same person the prize. And Michael Mayo's recent stuff on Sheriff Ken Jenne's ethical lapses has been nothing short of a knockout punch. But we like our reporting municipal, tough, and unrelenting. During difficult times in the city, as the budget deficit has soared and city managers have sunk to new lows, Wallman has plunked out hard-as-nails daily copy that has exposed Broward's county seat as a mangled, mismanaged mess. Our favorite example of her reporting was a January story about City Commissioner Dean Trantalis violating code standards and getting away with it. The lead sentence: "The city is enforcing its code rules with unprecedented vigor, but not in the case of the vice mayor." Go get 'em, Brittany. But don't try to compete with your hubby.

He could win this honor simply for one of the ballsier obituary leads you're likely to see in a daily newspaper: "Deid sah Milk Yelnats." That's "Stanley Klim has died," backward, beginning a farewell to a hilarious bartender who liked to reverse his name. It highlights Spangler's ability to produce stories for the newspaper that (blessedly) do not sound like newspaper stories. Spangler stories do not assume the reader is in a hurry to turn the page. Spangler stories do not waste time pleading to be considered relevant. Instead, Spangler stories tell genuine stories and often suggest he has joined the lineage of Herald writers who strike hard with that critical first sentence. Examples: "God is too wise to make mistakes and too just to do wrong, the minister said, but Shantel Christina Johnson was lying in a pink coffin in front of him when he said it." Another: "Randy got lucky around midnight, in a giant Dumpster behind a sporting goods store near South Miami, with his girlfriend watching." Or even: "The killer has considered the possibility that God hates him. In this last year, the killer's brother choked to death on his own vomit. The killer's first and best-loved dog was run over. The killer's wife left him. 'I love you, but I'm not in love with you,' she said." After a stint covering North Miami Beach, Spangler has for the past two years cranked out hundreds of tales about bowling nights and spring break and waterless urinals for a running column called South Florida, U.S.A., a hell of a territory to cover. It's the sort of gig editors bestow only upon writers capable of understatement, and it is in understatement that Spangler shines most brightly. So let's leave it at: The dude flat writes.

Many old-timers in the newspaper business will some day find themselves in the back corner of the features department typing up TV listings. But in the cutthroat world of newspapering, Mary McLachlin is much more than a survivor. She spent 17 years as the Palm Beach Post's number-one reporter before retiring in February. Since the paper started keeping its articles in an electronic library in December 1994, McLachlin has written 938 articles, and of those, about a third landed on page 1A. Even as she prepared to pack it up, she covered hurricanes, Scripps, and Rush Limbaugh's drug case and even penned a dogged series of articles exposing health problems at the county jail. "She has been the go-to person in our newsroom," Post Editor John Bartosek says. McLachlin had a natural attention to detail, Bartosek says, often describing not just the facts but the way people spoke, dressed, walked, and otherwise were. In one of her last articles, McLachlin landed a scoop on a story that exposed the half-million-dollar buyout of a shamed blood bank official. It was a nice crowning to a class career.

Obits offer the dual ghoulish fascination of rubbernecking and peering ahead into your own future. Will you be the great-grandfather who expires at age 92 surrounded by loved ones? The gone-too-soon 60-year-old whose heart explodes as he walks out of his favorite deli? Or the 24-year-old hit by a train? The page normalizes death and dying by treating them like stock quotes or a Marlins box score. But even in the practiced death mill that is South Florida, there had to be some scattered cringes when this item appeared tucked on the obituary page earlier this year: "DeJoseph, Theresa, 75 of Plantation, FL died on January 19, 2005. $595 Cremation, Coral Springs." The cost of the final trip is always free, but at what price the ashes to ashes? About as much as a new flat screen TV, roughly.

While it feels strange to bestow a 'zine award upon glossier-than-thou Closer, it's indicative of the fact that those hand-typed, mimeographed, fly-by-night 'zines are pretty much gone for good. They have the Internet on computers now, you know, and that's where most 'zines exist these days. Sure, you half-expect a big honkin' whiff of expensive perfume to accost you when you open one up, and the dichotomy between upwardly mobile haute couture ads and far-left-wing editorials is a tad off-putting. But this pint-sized mag, which is available free at trendy locales and is published by West Palm Beach nightclub owner (and enemy of the mayor) Rodney Mayo, still tackles issues like terrorism, gun control, election fraud, and racism. One piece we particularly liked last year was Gabe Laszlo's feature about 2004 being the year in which George Orwell's prophecies truly blossomed. Those other glossy, fashion-spread magazines don't touch stuff like this. Closer's design is cutting-edge, its music coverage is generally spot-on, the models wearing the fancy threads are pretty fun to look at, and the whole enterprise is certainly a lot more "alternative" than a weekly competitor we could name. Plus, you have to give Closer props for hanging around so long. We even heard they named a movie after it!

NBC 6 reporter Patricia Andreu's background is as diverse and interesting as South Florida's. Born to Cuban parents in London, she studied politics in France before coming to Washington, D.C., to serve as an associate producer for CNN. She traveled the globe covering stories, including the 1992 coup in Haiti and the 1991 Middle East peace conference. In 1995, NBC 6 lured her to South Florida. Since then, Andreu has made a name for herself as an aggressive reporter with an appreciation for South Florida's diversity and complexity. Andreu won an Emmy Award for her series "Habla English?" and an Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation of personal injury fraud. Most recently, Andreu (with the help of investigator/producer Scott Zamost) exposed long delays associated with the 911 emergency line operated by the Broward Sheriff's Office. If more TV reporters were like Andreu, South Florida viewers would be seeing less blood and guts on TV news and instead hearing more about problems with the law and government agencies -- you know, uh, real journalism.

We could go cheap here and talk about Yarbough's being the Foxy Brown of local TV news. But we won't sink to that level. TV news is a serious business, and Yarbough is a serious journalist. Last fall, for instance, she was a "celebrity judge" of a reality show called America's Most Eligible. There, she bore the critically important responsibility of determining whether any of the contestants was "the next big thing." And she is one heck of a news personality, highly professional and smooth as silk. She's the finest anchor out there, and even at 39 years old, she's still soothing to the eyes. But the window is beginning to close, people. At this late date, she's the little-watched 5 p.m. anchor (and she also does the 10 p.m. news for NBC's sister network, the WB, on Channel 39). Somebody has got to wake up and see that Yarbough deserves the 6 and 11 slots. She's prime-time, baby. The judgment is in: Yarbough is the next big thing.

It's hard to say that this Broward County commissioner has gone bad because that would mean he suddenly changed. But Eggelletion has been just plain bad for many years. He still deserves this distinction because this past annum has been an especially horrendous one for the man called Joe. Let's see, he's been exposed as a paid shill for developers. The Florida Ethics Commission sustained a complaint against him for improperly lobbying for a garbage company. Lauderdale Lakes, the base and birthplace of his political power, basically came to hate his guts after he hurt the city's attempt to annex several neighborhoods. A paternity suit was filed against him by a woman who claims he had a sexual relationship with her when she was a teenaged high school student and he was her teacher at Dillard High School. And other out-of-wedlock children are being discovered to have been sired by the commissioner (that's why we call him the Egg Man). So he's an unethical, profiteering, disloyal, sleazy, predatory poon hound. He might just become our next president.

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