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.

Finally a reason to turn on AM radio again. Neil Rogers, the self-proclaimed fat fag, has no peer as far as we're concerned. His timing couldn't have been better for returning to the airwaves after a seven-month hiatus resulting from his nasty spat with WIOD-AM (610). Armed with a new million-dollar contract, Rogers took up his 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot on WQAM just in time for sexual hysteria to explode in Washington. And he never missed an opportunity to launch a funny, or at times profane, insult. Rogers spent the year gleefully attacking the Republican Party, branding Henry Hyde and Kenneth Starr "nazis" more often than he hit the button for his trademark "No!" sound bite. Rogers is also a welcome wilderness voice in relentlessly ripping Wayne Huizenga. The fact that WQAM broadcasts the play-by-play for the Huizenga-owned Dolphins and Panthers merely eggs him on.
When acclaimed South Florida architect Dan C. Duckham took on the project in the early '90s, the Kenann Building was in shameful disrepair. The big, round tower -- built in the early '60s and known to locals as "the spaceship building" -- had long been neglected, and except for the inexplicably well-preserved tropical mural on the huge panel jutting from its east side, the structure seemed a lost cause. Duckham gutted the building and then set about restoring it to its former glory, working from original architect Lou Wolf's plans and adding touches of his own, such as the steel piping on the roof and sides of the cylinder. Later, when the owner decided to add a restaurant/dance club to the side of the building's lower floors, Duckham was again brought in to ensure that the addition stayed true to the Kenann's distinctive character. As the restaurant, Hot Chocolates, has settled in over the past year or so, the renovation is more or less complete, although Duckham is still waiting for the plants he installed near the top of the building to spill over the edge as planned. Otherwise the details are all but perfect, from the gleaming metallic tiles and mirrored surfaces to the neon tubing along the rim to the circles and curves that repeat again and again in this wonderfully whimsical building.

The mosaic ribbon of mugs, saucers, ceramic suns, and glints of mirror that wraps around the front wall is the first hint that Tropi Rock is a world away from the neighboring cookie-cutter motels on the blocks extending west from Fort Lauderdale beach. The exterior of each room is painted with a colorful window border and an animal scene above the door, and the interiors are outfitted with modern Mexican or rustic Caribbean furniture and artwork set against sherbet-color walls. Manager Markus Schaerf says his father, an interior designer and former Latin music producer, describes the two-year-old resort motel's decorating theme as "Latin fusion." The Tropi Rock asserts its individuality in every nook: a sun deck with crocheted hammocks; a fountain with large, broken pottery at its bottom; a small orange bar embedded with photographs, postcards, a Pulp Fiction CD cover, and a condom wrapper; and several party areas outfitted with barbecue grills and other eclectic accouterments. In addition to two tennis courts, a shuffleboard court, and Ping-Pong table outside, Tropi Rock has a basement -- a rarity in South Florida -- with a fitness room, game room, and laundry facilities. Even the concrete border of the pool is painted charcoal, rather than left plain. Now that's attention to detail.

This is not a road AAA wants you to know about. Nor does it appear on most maps. But there it is in all its potholed glory, a hidden gift from the South Florida Water Management District that has long been a favorite of bird buffs, hunters, canal fishermen, and drug smugglers looking for an out-of-the-way landing strip. A Jeep or truck is preferred but not required. Head west from Fort Lauderdale on I-595 and turn north on U.S. Highway 27. Stock up on strawberry Yoo-Hoo and pork rinds (or the drinks and snacks of your choice) at the Sawgrass Recreation Park. Then proceed to the Palm Beach County line and pull a U-turn where the sign says "Holey Land/ Rotenberger Wildlife Management Areas." From here head west again on a road that stays paved for the first five miles and turns to gravel for the next ten. When a big pump station appears, you have reached the Miami Canal, a hydrologist's wet dream that runs from the Magic City to Lake Okeechobee. Stick to the road on the east side of the canal and shoot north for the next 30 miles, enjoying sawgrass and sugar cane vistas, big clouds and multitudinous bird life. When at last you arrive in Lake Harbor, drive up on the levee and look out over Florida's inland ocean. Do not, like some careless reporters, forget to top off your gas tank before leaving civilization.
In a state stuffed with butterfly jungles, alligator wrestling, acrobatic dolphins, and human mermaids, the Swap Shop stands alone as the Florida theme park par excellence. That's because it doesn't have a theme, aside from the unvarnished worship of commerce. Looking for a preowned set of metric socket wrenches? It's there, next to that copy of Jaws II published in Mandarin. There's fresh produce, cheap perfume, a free circus complete with elephants, and by night the biggest drive-in movie theater left on planet Earth, 13 screens in all. Call it tacky, call it tawdry, but 12 million people a year think it's nifty.

Thank God for local news anchors. When the world is cold and alien, they brighten us up with an artificial smile and a sterile quip, carefully stripped of any edge or actual humor. WFOR-TV (Channel 4)'s Angela Rae is our best friend. WSVN-TV (Channel 7)'s Rick Sanchez is our idealized version of a real man -- big and, uh, shameless. Tim Malloy is -- wait a second. Malloy's definitely not our best friend. He's not big either. He's a little wooden, even kind of geeky. Deadpan stare, steady delivery. His "happy talk" isn't all that happy. He doesn't jump out of his seat when a story breaks. Malloy doesn't want us to like him; he just wants to tell us the news. He doesn't try to hype a story or dose it with some sort of forced humanity; and that's precisely why we believe him. The man has credibility because he knows that news, like revenge, is best served cold.
The Sunrise Musical Theatre is more spacious, the Carefree in West Palm Beach more intimate, and, for that matter, West Palm's Kravis Center has comparable facilities. So what makes the Broward Center so special? Location, location, location. No other South Florida venue has a site as well integrated into its surroundings as this two-theater complex perched on the north bank of the New River near Sailboat Bend, with views magnificent enough to make Fort Lauderdale seem impressively urban. The building and grounds are snazzily designed, and the facilities -- the 2700-seat Au-Rene Theater and the cozy, 590-seat Amaturo Theater -- are versatile enough to handle all sorts of concerts and theatrical productions -- from Steve and Eydie to David Copperfield to Rent. Within minutes a leisurely stroll along the Riverwalk will take you to the bustling new Las Olas Riverfront center, with its restaurants, bars, shops, and movie megaplex, or you could opt for the row of smaller, funkier restaurants that are contributing to the rejuvenation of SW Second Street. And if you're fortunate or flashy enough to be arriving by water, you can dock your boat on the river and head up the hill to the Broward Center.
Beauty, brains, cash, and a career. That's what we're looking for, right? All rolled into one package, without hang-ups or "issues"? Surely that kind of catch was lurking somewhere on the dance floor at the recent "Howl at the Moon" bash, one of a series of themed fundraising parties sponsored by the Young Professionals For Covenant House (YPFCH), a nonprofit organization that raises money for the home for runaway teens. The "Howl" bash had the feel of a house party thrown by somebody with interesting friends. The age range was twenties to midthirties, the dress business-casual, the music made for boogying, the dance floor full. Conversation was mainly of the light-bantering, flirtatious variety, but you could find a serious debate or discussion if you wanted. Judging by the business cards being handed out, the organization could as well be named "Young and Hungry Professionals For Covenant House." YPFCH also sponsors some cool vacation packages throughout the year, such as the upcoming Young Professionals Ski Trip (March 25 to April 2) and the Lost at Sea Weekend Bahamas Cruise (September 24 to 27). An extra benefit: One tends to feel less guilty about partying up a storm when it's all for charity.

The main function of weathercasters in South Florida is reassurance. We want them to remind us again and again -- every single night, in fact -- just how lucky we are to be living in this slice of sunbaked paradise. On top of that, we want them to spell out in explicit detail exactly how horrible the weather is in every other godforsaken part of the world: tornadoes in Oklahoma, mudslides in India, earthquakes in California. We want somebody who is enthusiastic about the weather, a cheerleader for our good fortune. (Never mind the occasional hurricane.) Chris Dunn, Channel 7's weekend weatherman, fits the bill. He's goofy in a likable way. With big, bushy eyebrows, a fleshy face, and reddish hair, Dunn moves about the weather map with barely controlled glee. He's just the kind of weather geek we need.

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