Clock that Rocker | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Clock that Rocker

Remember the classic 1998 Texas documentary, Hands on a Hardbody, which described how 25 people tried to hold on to a new truck for the longest time to win it from a publicity-hungry dealership?

This was the SoFla version. Here in the capital of senescence, it was the person who could rock in a chair for the most extended period. Maroone Toyota in Davie dreamed up the affair. A car and a truck would be given to the person who could keep a recliner moving longer than the competition. Newspapers, television stations, and radio were all over it; they made much of the camaraderie. Oh, there was the little matter of urinating on the showroom floor, but it was mostly people struggling and working together. "The contestants pass the time talking to friends, trying to ignore the numbness in their hindquarters," commented the April 9 Sun-Sentinel.

At about hour 70, Undercurrents stopped by. It was among capitalism's ugliest moments. Louise Konjevich, who finished third, had lost her patience. She'd also lost her hearing -- at least temporarily. When her friend Ginger suggested that Louise's husband, Erich, give her a massage, she screamed loudly, "I don't want him touching me."

Despite her nickname of "Grandma," second-place finisher Gwen Goodwin was grouchy, agitated, all the things you would expect of someone who had been awake for 70-plus hours. She communicated with her daughters, Carey and Donna, only in harsh mumbles and nasty glares. Gwen demanded new shoes, then took them off and continued rocking barefoot. Tears came into Carey's eyes. She stood up and said frustratedly, "I can't take this anymore." Then she stormed out the door.

The real high point came when we approached John Jacobs, husband of eventual winner Cathy. "If you touch her," he said, "I'm going to kill you."

South Florida governments don't spend enough money on the arts. That's for sure. So it was encouraging when, on April 2, the Broward County Commission awarded $5 million to the City of Hollywood for an arts park at Young Circle in Hollywood.

By mid-2004, according to the plan, there'll be six dance and art studios, a fountain, galleries, a sculpture garden, and more.

A bunch of activists, however, oppose it. The city is squandering money, they say, noting that Hollywood's share of the cost could reach $12 million. And Joseph Young, who handed the park to the city back in 1927, would have opposed the plan, they say.

Both claims are hooey. The cash is well-spent in dressing up the sorry-looking center of Broward County's coolest town. And our close reading of Young's plan when he handed over the park shows only that the man (or his lawyer) didn't know which way was up.

Still, we think artist David Maxwell has a point. He recently penned a 21-page, single-spaced screed against the City of Hollywood that included a skewering of the arts park plan -- among many similar skewerings.

"I guess [the city] believes all you have to do is keep promising the sizzle and all will blindly be fooled into looking for the steak," he writes.

"Everyone thinks artists need space," he adds. "We all have space between our ears.... This is a cockamamie and daffy scheme to get funding out of government sources just because they are there.

"The [recently completed Diplomat Resort] would help if the powers that be could turn back the clock a few years," he pens near the missive's conclusion. "Disinter Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, and Perry Como."

Maxwell, by the way, is rather well-known in the art world. He has shown his paintings for 13 years at a gallery on Madison Avenue and has exhibited work in France, Germany, and Italy. He's won 77 awards, including four from the Hortt, one from the Society of Four Arts in Palm Beach, and one Knickerbocker Silver Medal of Honor. He's also lived in Broward County for 26 years.

Roland Agrillo will never return to Barnes and Noble. Why? Back on March 30, after he stepped into the store on Federal Highway north of Sunrise Boulevard, he claims he was harassed. No, not the usual. A cop placed a note on his car that said, in bold letters, THIS IS NOT A PARKING TICKET.

Seems the Fort Lauderdale police have been handing these little babies out for the past six years or so. "It goes back to the old days of checking doorknobs," says police spokesman Mike Reed. "This is trying to have the officer get out of the car, walk around, and help the person not become a victim."

The answer didn't satisfy Agrillo. "I am appalled. What's next? When do they try your bedroom door? How close do they want to get. I find them coming in on private property over the line. That to me is harassment.

"I stopped going to Barnes and Noble. Now I go to Borders."

Two New Times writers were honored recently for outstanding work.

Columnist Bob Norman's series about incompetence at the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, "Admitting Terror," has been named a finalist in two prestigious national journalism contests: Northwestern University's John Bartlow Martin Award for magazine writing and the University of Michigan's Livingston Awards for Young Journalists. Another Norman series, "Backyard Bloodbath," about teens who emulate professional wrestlers, was chosen to be included in the Houghton Mifflin anthology book The Best American Sports Writing 2002.

Former fellow Emily Bliss earned second place in the features category of a national competition administered by the Education Writers Association for her story "A Scout for Life." In two other contests, the Green Eyeshade Awards for the Southeastern United States and the Florida Press Association's Better Weekly Newspaper competition, the paper took 13 more awards. Details to follow.