Tune into 90.9 FM on a Friday night, and you'll probably wonder if the Federal Communications Commission has suspended its rules regarding off-color language. The truth is, the FCC would love to find the secret location of surreptitious, scandalous Nine-Oh-Nine and shut it down but quick. Until it does so, however, this is the place to listen to the thuggiest, nastiest, bootius maximus hip-hop you've never heard. DJs regularly interrupt the music for impromptu sing-alongs and shout-outs to homeys. And they take calls from enthusiastic partyers in Lauderhill, Sunrise, Hollywood, Plantation, and points beyond who are only too happy for the chance to talk on the air. However, 90.9 isn't legal, and sometimes you'll tune in to find nothing but dead air. As one late-night DJ recently explained, "When we say we underground, we mean underground."

There's something all too gratifying about skipping a traditional meal and heading straight for the hard stuff. So why not head over to Mark Militello's eatery in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's restaurant row? Bypass the white tablecloths and go straight to the bar, which, like the restaurant, is void of Chanel suits and Armani wallets after 2:30 p.m. Order a Grey Goose martini, complete with three juicy olives, for $9 or a slender flute of Laurent-Perrier rosé brut for $16.50. A charming bartender will gladly bring you a bowl of fresh strawberries and hand-whipped cream to accompany the pink bubbly. As you order round three and afternoon melts into early evening, rest easy on one of the bar's leather-backed stools and ignore the hammer that has now begun to bang on your frontal lobe. It could be worse. You could be at work.

Grab a helping of Plutonium Pie, but expect no creamy dollop of whipped cream to soften the blow. No, brave reader, you will need lead mittens, protective visor, and earplugs of titanium to withstand the ferocious storm emitted by this local trio. After a brief fling with "punktry" last year, singer-axsmith J. Christ, his girlfriend Max Pluto, and his sister Lucy Rex have returned to form (straightforward, slam-happy hardcore) with their new Nuclear Pussy album. Expose yourself to Plutonium Pie at area venues such as Tobacco Road, the Poor House, and Churchill's Hideaway.

You can take your fingers out of your ears now. Since 1998 the folks at NSU's Radio X have made the local airwaves safe and, yes, sound, for the discriminating listener. Radio X, South Florida's only FM college station, has a lot riding on it. If it sucked, listeners craving alternative and local music would be out of luck. Fortunately the nightly program is chockablock with DJs such as Jenocyde (Jen Birchfield) who spin a musical mishmash that reflects their own unique preferences. Jenocyde's show (which airs Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 7 p.m.) has an unpredictable but always rockable play list that includes Radiohead and Rocket from the Crypt. This is one DJ whose nickname fits. She kills it.

Fifty years old on May 10, this station would wipe the floor with the competition -- if there were any. As it is WLRN remains a beacon of taste and intelligence in the vast wasteland of corporately controlled South Florida radio. The station's NPR news and public affairs programming is reliably enlightening, but locally produced shows are also first-rate. Standouts include jazz every weekday night from Len Pace (with a voice like Barry White on Quaaludes) and on Sundays from Ted Grossman (whose shtick is pure Noo Yawk). WLRN was the radio station that did the mostest, firstest, to bring reggae to the States, chiefly due to the efforts of the legendary Clint O'Neil. O'Neil still lays down the smooth patter overnight Tuesday through Saturday, handing the reins to protégé Ital-K on the off nights. Also note Michael Stock's Saturday-afternoon folk-music show, which has kept the boho flame alive for 20 years now. The station's strongest South Florida flaa-va comes from its broadcasts of the Miami-Dade School Board's meetings, at which you can occasionally hear expelled students come in to plead their cases. You won't believe the stories they tell. In a gesture that shows the station's commitment to public service, it offers a show en kreyol for the benefit of the local Haitian community, evidence of the station's continued dedication to the ever-changing needs and interests of the South Florida community.
It's about sex, so it must be good, you say? You're damn right! But The Vagina Monologues is not just about sex. More specifically it's about female sex and -- anatomically speaking -- the vagina. Eve Ensler's play was originally produced in an Obie Award-winning run in 1997 and has been playing to packed houses and rave reviews since then. Luckily the Broward Center for the Performing Arts brought the show to South Florida, and the Big V managed to live up to all the hype -- and then some. It consists of a series of monologues based on interviews the playwright conducted with women from a fascinating cross section of the American female population: old women, young women, married women, single women, lesbians, college professors, actors, corporate professionals, African-American women, Hispanic women, Asian-American women. Actresses Sharon Gless (remember Cagney and Lacey?), Starla Benford, and Sherri Parker Lee educated and enlightened us. (Did you know the clitoris has more nerve endings than any other human organ?) They also simultaneously moved us to tears and laughter. We need a cigarette.

If our strip of lights between ocean and swamp bore more than a passing resemblance to normalcy, clubs that stage rock music wouldn't be such an endangered species. But in South Florida (a place about as easy for touring acts to reach as Michigan's upper peninsula in the wintertime), venues worthy of live national talent are as rare as the Florida panther. Among the pathetic selection, the 14-year-old Respectable Street stands out. More than any other live music venue in the region, Respectable Street looks and feels like a real club. You won't have to deal with toilets similar to the horrific loo in Trainspotting, nor will you be required to endure ridiculous washroom-attendant bullshit. After all, this is rock 'n' roll, not charm school. The sound system is topnotch, the room the perfect size, the sightlines good, and the aesthetics just so -- dark, classy, and hip. Recent bands that have made the trek to Respectable Street include Fishbone, Dick Dale, the Meat Puppets, American Analog Set, Gitane Demone, and local favorites the Rocking Horse Winner, Pank Shovel, and Legends of Rodeo. There's really no contest in this category. It's Respectable Street by a length!
Not since the death of Admiral Nelson at Trafalgar have jack-tars wept such tears as they did July 31, 1970. That was the day the British Navy ceased issuing daily rations of rum, a tradition that was 315 years old when the government finally put a stop to it. It was one thing to be a drunk sailor in 1700; you might forget to lash down a cannon. But it was quite another problem to be inebriated at sea in the 1970s; you could accidentally send off a few nuclear torpedoes. Then in 1979 enterprising British expatriate Charles Tobias got permission to start publicly selling Pusser's Rum, the official rum of the British Navy, which had never been offered for sale to any civilian. These days Pusser's is available in only a handful of bars in the subtropics. Luckily for citizens of Fort Lauderdale, one of those establishments is right in town. Pusser's at the Beach serves up the original recipe, which has been formulated through a 300-year trial-and-error process. Best rum in Broward and Palm Beach counties? Heck, that hardly does it justice. What is offered today is arguably the best rum in the world. Ever.

Very early on in The Devil's Music, Miche Braden belted out a low blues note to let audiences know she is not just an actress; she's also a phenomenal singer. But Braden's acting was the real prize. The range of her characterization was sassy, wise, bitter, and flirtatious. She was inexhaustible, singing 13 gut-wrenching tunes in 90 minutes with no intermission or scene change. Her stamina and heartbreaking blues lent numerous dimensions to the character of Bessie Smith, giving her the stage presence of a diva and the theatricality of a broken woman. Although finding a talented actress who also happens to have a voice like Smith's is rare, Braden's exceptional performance proves it is possible.
The owners of this sprawling affair, which is convenient to both I-95 and the yuppie communities along Village Boulevard, say it is among Florida's largest sports bars, with more than a hundred TVs. Only two of them are big-screens, but that's of a piece with the intimate atmosphere. There are 5 a.m. sports bars -- slightly seedy, aprowl with lonely singles and anonymous mobs -- then there is the Ale House: a gathering of down-to-earth couples and groups who welcome strangers in a laid-back atmosphere clean-cut enough to draw a scattering of families. Most folks cheer for the local heroes -- any Florida team will do -- but the Washington Redskins fan club makes this place its home during the winter months, too. The décor's memorabilia includes a collection of vintage '60s sports-hero "nodders," little plastic dashboard dolls whose heads bob up and down. The usual Florida bar food menu features wings, burgers, ribs, and seafood crisply presented, and the grilled dolphin sandwich is a winner.

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