Not even a pane of glass separates those inside Nick's from the action on the Broadwalk just outside. The windows swing in and anchor to the ceiling, leaving large openings in the stone façade. All the better to spy on the parade of exercisers speed walking, teenagers cruising, couples courting, babies wailing, condo commandos conferring, Canadian snowbirds squishing in Aquasox, tourists sweating in rented pedicabs. Peer past them to the sun-addled die-hards blackening on the beach, then adjust your pupils to the worn nautical interior and peel a few spicy, beer-steamed shrimp and slurp a daiquiri. Patience. If you sit here long enough, it seems, every demographic and nationality will make an appearance. Yet despite this variety, a lack of pretension or even self-consciousness binds the passersby into a single stream.

Say you just had your hair done. Ten minutes ago. If you're a man, you had it frosted. Or cut short and brushed forward à la George Clooney. Your hair matters less if you're a woman. Because you're wearing something tight. And black. If it's Saturday night, you hope to catch a glimpse of Donald Trump. Or Jenny McCarthy. Or Yanni. (OK, no one cares about Yanni.) So you wait in line with the rest of the riffraff, while the beautiful people stroll past in the VIP line. Sunrise 251 is in its first full year of operation, so it's bound to be crowded. Here's a hint: Tell the bouncer you're friends with Stephen Heise, the bar's self-described "fun manager" and the owner's older brother. That's who Trump et al. call when they plan to swing by. Then pay the $5 cover -- no problem if you're part of the well-heeled, 25-to-55-year-old jet set that frequents Palm Beach's newest nighttime hot spot. Strut past the dance floor, wind toward the bar past the handsome folks on their cell phones, and buy yourself a bottled beer. Do not -- again, do not -- light up a cigar. That's so '98. Now check your posture. All right, you've arrived.
It's a glorious afternoon in South Florida, and your guests are already braised to a tender vermilion, strung out on seafood, and exhibiting signs of mai tai malaise. So you slide into the car and head east to see how the other 1 percent lives. Nature and nurture have struck a truce on Ocean Boulevard, where the luminous waves and terra-cotta roofs on opposite sides of the road play Ping-Pong with the sun. Cruise leisurely alongside the painted net, swiveling your head to follow the match. Peer over hedges and through wrought iron gates and topiary arches at colonnaded estates and sprawling haciendas. Set aside your gripes about conspicuous consumption and stage a million-dollar dream in one of the Gold Coast's most extravagant mansions.
Just like sausage-making, it may not be pretty to see how government works, but it sure is instructive. The most entertaining show lately is in Hollywood, where the five combative commissioners perform on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. Crowds arrive in eager anticipation of a good scrum. Slick-suited lawyers and lobbyists clog the entranceway, cutting deals up to the last minute. The Pledge of Allegiance is recited, as in the prelude to a ball game. Rogues, cranks, and goody-goodies line up to testify, alternately flattering and blaspheming the commissioners. Every foreign accent can be heard, from New Yawkerese to comic-opera Italian, with most speakers invoking the lofty principles of American democracy to support their causes. The commissioners let no compliment or complaint go unanswered. Occasionally one will storm out in a snit. Then the real action begins. They joust for hours over whether to let their rich campaign contributors build giant hotels on unspoiled beaches. The city manager and his staff sit nearby, cringing, waiting for their masters to flog them. To end on an inspiring note, the commissioners invariably pass a resolution praising some beloved old person in the room, preferably a woman of color. You laugh, you cry, but what's the alternative?

If you hang out at Port Everglades and watch as the three immense cranes offload containers from supercargo freighters, you're witnessing the refueling of South Florida's economy as needed goods and products and raw materials pour into the region. What you may also be watching is the feeding of a drug habit. Last year Port Everglades was unmasked as a major point of entry for cocaine shipments into South Florida, as no fewer than three smuggling rings jockeyed for position and profits within the port. Eventually an investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. Customs Service resulted in charges being filed against 29 dockworkers, port security guards, and associates. Even as they basked in a successful bust, however, port authorities admitted they were no closer to winning the war on drugs. Because it's impossible to comb every single container coming off every single ship, the drugs may still be coming in.
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.

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