Rising Action was homeless not long ago, mounting its productions in front of the big screen at the woefully ill-equipped Cinema Paradiso. It wasn't an arrangement that could last, and it didn't. For three seasons, Rising Action has made its home in a charming space at the edge of Wilton Manors; it's a place full of blond wood and cheer. It's a simple space but charmingly appointed: Cool art-for-sale hangs on one wall, and somebody in the rear is always serving up mimosas or wine. The real draw of the place, though, is the vibe: Something in the air seems to naturally invite conversation, and before every show, the audience is full of people chatting theater with perfect strangers. It's a good, communal, unpretentious kind of thing, and all theaters would benefit from having a bit of it.
William "Cobra" Staubs has a bouncer's build, with a ponytail, snakeskin cowboy boots, and a gold chain around his neck. His hands are enormous catcher's mitts, and he carries a towel to wipe the sweat from his face. "I'm a hillbilly," he admits. "You got to be crazy to do this shit." The Fort Lauderdale-based private eye should know. He made headlines for secretly trailing Tony Masilotti, looking for a whiff of the corrupt land deals that eventually sent the former Palm Beach County commissioner to prison. He chased down a fugitive drug dealer who was making bombs and hiding out near military bases. And he nearly sabotaged his career by searching for Haleigh Cummings, a 5-year-old who disappeared from her North Florida trailer home more than a year ago. After three decades in the business, it's tough to say just how successful Cobra has been. But one thing is certain, says his friend Jeff Poole, a Broward County sheriff's deputy: "He's after you, you're almost guaranteed to get caught."
Beverly Gallagher began her career in politics as the big-time PTA mom, that most wholesome if at times terribly annoying position. Then she was swooped up by lobbyists Neil Sterling and Barbara Miller, who took her under their wings and helped her win election to the Broward County School Board. Perhaps her fate was sealed right then and there. Sterling helped get her a job at the Community Blood Center even as she was steering projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars to his construction clients. Then she fell into an FBI sting and, in an image that will haunt (and entertain) Broward for years, she took illicit cash from an agent at a restaurant and stuffed it into her doggy bag. She ultimately pleaded guilty and will be going to federal prison for a few years. You can bet that Gallagher didn't join the PTA with the goal of one day taking bribes over lunch, but that's the way it worked out. And unfortunately for us, it says more about the culture of corruption at the School Board than it does about Gallagher herself.
If you embark on a journey through Deerfield Beach's political jungle, you will arrive eventually at what appears a savage habitation, where the corpses of the city's past political rulers hang from trees like trophies. This is, a domain ruled by a man whose myth strikes dread into the hearts of his enemies. They never see Chaz Stevens, but he sees them. His methods may sometimes be unsound — Stevens taunts his political targets for months, even years, before going in for the kill. But there's no doubting his effectiveness. In 2008, Stevens alerted prosecutors to corruption by Mayor Al Capellini and Commissioner Steve Gonot, both of whom were subsequently indicted and forced to resign. Both now face felony trials. In that endeavor, Stevens relied on Bob Norman's reporting in New Times, but this past year, Stevens has earned a much larger portion of the muckraking credit, having investigated a slew of nonprofit agencies that were loosely linked to Commissioner Sylvia Poitier, the former Broward County commissioner with a political career that spans three decades. Stevens has always had contempt for Poitier, whose photograph he once posted next to a shot of Jabba the Hut, noting the resemblance. But Stevens' investigation into Poitier's business dealings played a prominent role in convincing city commissioners that City Manager Mike Mahaney was not monitoring city spending as closely as he should have. In January, Mahaney was dismissed. Then an investigation by the new city manager, Burgess Hanson, into the city's Community Housing Division led straight to Poitier.
South Florida is the Wild, Wild West — in the East. You can't turn around without bumping into a crooked cop, a corrupt minister, an embezzler, or a child molester. Probably, that's because the daily newspapers have decided to essentially cease covering politics and crime in favor of school bake sales and spelling bees. Or maybe it's because we're in a region dominated by transients, with no interest in nor spiritual ties to our subtropical paradise. Regardless, nobody much cares about the doings of the region's pols, profiteers, and power junkies. And what's in it for you? In Florida, more than any other state in this great nation, you can get away with anything.
The Voysey Inheritance is set in an upper-class English household in the waning years of the 19th Century, and costume designer Albert Arroyo captured the visual essence of the era in style — for all dozen of Voysey's lead characters. Especially noteworthy was his work with actresses Lourelene Snedeker, Katherine Amadeo, Kathryn Lee Johnston, and Marta Reiman, who, in this male-dominated play set in a male-dominated era, didn't have a whole lot to do. Thanks to Arroyo, they could at least sit there and look fabulous.
Foraging for a glazed doughnut at 2 a.m. can bring unusual rewards. Stumble into this strip-mall joint and you'll find flat-screen computers, a couch, a leather recliner, and conference rooms for rent. But the most unexpected luxury appears in the women's rest­room, where, attached to the ordinary toilet seat, is... a bidet. For the uninitiated, bidets are a French invention designed to wash the areas that Americans generally clean with toilet paper. But according to Dunkin' Donuts manager Emad, they are common in the Middle East, specifically his native Palestine. He was thrilled when the owner of the shop, who is Muslim, installed a portable bidet in the restroom. Emad says the bidet complies with his religious ideals of cleanliness. "We always use these," Emad says. "It's a good idea. While you sit down, just clean up."
A hard-working teacher who pursued the American dream. A man who stood by his poor black constituents to help them create a better life. A smart and fair politician who did the right thing against the odds. These are some of the ways Eggelletion, the former Broward County commissioner and state representative, might have wanted us to describe him when he was gone. Instead, the words will be simple: Eggelletion was a crook. Snared in an FBI probe, Eggelletion pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and charges that he sold out his office to a bribe-paying developer for about $20,000 and a golf club membership. What is sad about all this is that Eggelletion had the charisma and political gifts to be a great leader in a county that desperately needs one. Instead, he was just another crook on the take who pulled the wool over the eyes of the voters while padding his own pockets.
Reporters are a pushy lot, always demanding police reports and video, stipulating that these must arrive "before my deadline," an addendum that tends to sound like an ultimatum. And when the police departments' public information officers deliver those goods in a timely fashion, there's no guarantee that the reporter will produce a piece that's flattering to the department. The unflattering ones tend to get a spokesperson in trouble with his or her other constituency — the chief's office. Somehow, Stephanie Slater of the Boynton Beach Police Department manages to please both these masters. No one in local law enforcement is quicker to return a call or fire off a requested document. And Slater is adept at showcasing her department's investigative triumphs. When a SWAT team prepared to swarm the Platinum Showgirls strip club in Boynton, Slater made sure that television cameras could swoop in a moment later to watch the high-heeled beauties do a perp walk. Slater played a role in crafting one of the year's most memorable pieces of news footage, in which an officer informed Dalia Dippolito that someone had murdered her husband. The surgically enhanced gym bunny wailed ridiculously and collapsed in the officer's arms, only to be told in the moments to follow that the man she thought she hired to be a hit man was working for BBPD. Not long after, the video was available on YouTube and DVD, supplied by deadline.
When the U.S. economy hits the gutter, Americans head to the movies. That cheap, clean fun turns into free depraved escapism at the back bar at the Poor House, the darkest, dankest watering hole in downtown Fort Lauderdale. In addition to strong booze, Poor House's back bar serves some of the most horror-ific and deliciously politically incorrect films, often from Lloyd Kaufman, director of cult favorites like The Toxic Avenger. Films here are not for the easily offended, but the selection doesn't skimp on variety for the sake of provocation. You're as likely to see the queasy-violent mainstream The Hills Have Eyes or cult classic Evil Dead as you are Rob Zombie's wildly politically incorrect monster-sex comedy The Haunted World of El Superbeasto or the Russian vampire film Nochnoy dozor. These films might not offer the feel-good element of crashing a wedding or masturbating in apple pie, but considering the economic climate, a car chase in a Ferrari may be even more fantastical.

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