Art Blockage

Despite what Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale Director Irvin Lippman says, it ain't normal for a big art museum to close down during the summer. Doing so, as the MOA has done, cuts a big slice out of the cultural life of the city. Summer is when people have a little more time and carry a little less of the burdens of careers and businesses so that they can get excited about things artistic.

In truth, the museum is closing for three months to fix the bathrooms. This means that a lighthearted exhibition of humor in art, "Situation Comedy," won't be seen in South Florida at all. And Jorge Santis' long-anticipated exhibition of Cuban art, "Unbroken Ties: Dialogues in Cuban Art," has to be postponed until next year. Tailpipe's not sure about you, but he's going to miss the aesthetic stimulation. It's something he got used to. In recent summers, there has been a continuous buzz around the museum because corporate grants allowed MOA to maintain a free-admission policy.

According to MOA's news release, the museum needs to do "preventative maintenance on security and fire suppression systems." Say what? During four months of King Tut last year, followed by seven months of artifacts from the Holy Land under the title "Cradle of Christianity," the security and fire suppression systems were breaking down? Broward County shelled out about $1 million for preparations, half of it in grants, just before Tut came to town. Now they're halting everything before opening an exhibition of quilts in September?

Until those (yawn) quilts arrive, you'll just have to get your art elsewhere.

Boca Vice: In the Air Tonight

Tailpipe's always looking for an excuse to don his tropical Armanis, his Ray-Bans, and a pastel-colored T-shirt, just to make like Sonny Crockett. You say you've seen a ghostly figure tooling through rain-splashed streets in a Ferrari with Phil Collins wailing from the Boses? That's the 'Pipe, out there lamenting the loss of the garishly self-pitying 1980s.

But this battered car part is here to tell you that the pungent Miami Vice miasma is still with us. Law enforcement agencies don't talk about it much, but they still spend a lot of time chasing those drug-hauling cigarette boats, some of them equipped with twin outboard engines that can hit speeds upward of 135 mph.

Just recently, Crockett and Tubbs, er... Special Agent John McNair, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and some other guys were patrolling the dangerous waters off the coast of Boca Raton in a U.S. Customs and Border Protection boat when, eight miles offshore in international waters, they spotted a 27-footer, a Zero Tolerance brand boat. (Wait a minute. Did cops and perps switch boats?)

McNair and the others activated their lights to signal the boat to stop, but it suddenly turned toward Grand Bahama Island and rocketed away, cutting a furrow through the sea like a jet-propelled plow.

According to Juan Muñoz Torres, a spokesman for U.S. Customs, law enforcement has the right to stop any suspicious watercraft at any time and for any reason in international waters. U.S. Customs policy calls for a pursuit and the firing of warning shots; if that doesn't work, agents are permitted to shoot at the boat to disable the engines — and that's what authorities did.

So McNair and his crew, riding a comparable speedster, no doubt, hightailed it after the fleeing craft and called for air backup; pursuit airplanes were dispatched from Homestead Air Force Base. No way of escaping these boys. The speedboat captain tried some panicky maneuvers, ramming the customs boat twice, until an officer jumped onto the boat and physically restrained its operator. Then the hourlong chase was over, according to McNair's arrest warrant.

Why would a private boater take extreme measures like that?

Well, authorities searched the speedboat and say they found 95 kilos of cocaine and a kilo of heroin. Shawn Rolle, 33, a Bahamian national, and Lisa Stephenson, about six months pregnant, were taken into custody on drug trafficking charges. A hearing is scheduled on the case in federal court in West Palm Beach on July 2.

In an order denying the couple bond, U.S. Magistrate Judge Linnea R. Johnson said that Rolle has been deported from the United States once before. Johnson also noted that while Rolle claims to work as a fisherman, no fishing equipment was found on the boat that day.

All in a day's work, the feds say. (More recently, authorities reportedly busted a drug-transporting boat that sought to mingle with the floating Air & Sea Show audience off Fort Lauderdale Beach.) A couple of alleged drug smugglers were busted and a rocketing speedboat confiscated. And federal drug enforcement officials have presumably added a Zero Tolerance speedboat to their arsenal.

Tailpipe would love to get his hands on that baby. He'd look good in the cockpit, alert but laid-back, slicing through aquamarine water, urban skyline in the background, that song playing in his head. "I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord..."

I Need My Jai Alai!

Jai alai is one embattled sport. Box office is shrinking, and frontons have been shutting down. One theory is that slot machines are to blame. The old court game can't compete with the whir of spinning fruit and the electronic hum of the slots, the thinking goes.

But that doesn't take the passion of jai-alai lovers into account.

Two weeks ago, the Sun-Sentinel decided, out of the blue, to stop publishing jai-alai scores. Tailpipe's not sure what they were thinking, but there's been a lot of talk about downgrading jai alai now that Boyd Gaming Corp. owns the place and plans to turn it into a slots casino. Why bother reporting scores, eh? Jai alai is just incidental to the really important business of the place.

The Sentinel apparently had no idea what havoc they would wreak. The response was instantaneous. A call went out over the Internet. A hail of e-mail messages reportedly blasted Sentinel inboxes. The call to arms came with a valuable weapon: Sentinel Sports Editor Brian White's e-mail address and office number, along with a suggestion to "let him know your feelings." They reportedly did, and how. Messageboards lit up, with one e-mail blast igniting another and another, each carrying a thumbprint of the person who last received it.

One complainer offered the fist-shaking hope that the Sentinel's circulation would "decrease by at least 50 percent" for such a sin. (Now that was verging on hubris.) No evidence that the newspaper's circulation actually dropped significantly. But it was abundantly clear that jai-alai fans weren't about to give up. Within a week, the paper rescinded its policy and went back to the old routine of publishing the daily scores.

"They [the newspaper] did what very few people can do," said Dania Jai-Alai's assistant general manager, Marty Fleischman. "They admitted they were wrong, and they put [the scores] back in."

The newspaper never informed Dania Jai-Alai of a new reporting policy, Fleischman says.

"One day there was just a little blurb with a link to our website, saying, 'We are no longer carrying Dania Jai-Alai or Flagler Racetrack scores, please visit their websites,'" Fleischman says. Surely the Sentinel had a master plan; it must have filled the then-empty space with other local ink, right? Fleischman laughs. "No," he says, "they subbed in this obscure stuff, like soccer scores from Afghanistan or puddle jumping in Australia, but there's maybe two people who want to read that."

For the record, Boyd plans to build a new jai-alai fronton to replace the old one, which is much in need of repairs. The Las Vegas-based corporation, which will open a new casino on the site with 1,500 slot machines and 40 poker tables next year, says it's committed to maintaining the games.

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Edmund Newton