I'd been told that Beverly Kennedy has a photographic memory, found the fountain of youth, and never told a lie. What I didn't know until she rested her hand on the small of my back and started whispering a prayer was that she was a healer too.
It was hard to make out what she said, though the word Christ was heard more than once. She prayed for a full minute before taking away her hand and saying that God listened.
For a moment, I almost believed her.
Beverly Kennedy can have that effect. The longtime Broward political player and radio-show host projects the rather messianic brand of energy that might be found in a religious zealot, a singularly driven political candidate, or a Chamber of Commerce maven.
As it happens, she's been all three of those things during her 32 years in Broward County, as well as playing first lady to husband Ed Kennedy, a veteran pol who has served as a county commissioner and as the Jeb Bush-appointed Broward Clerk of Court.
But now, at age 63, she wants to take over the airwaves with her evening drive-time show on WBZT-AM (1230).
First Broward, then the world. And it was in that pursuit that she contacted me a few months ago.
"Bob Norman, you have the ability to tell the truth, and that's what I do," she told me on the phone. "I separate fact from fiction. Together, we can change the country, the state, and Broward County."
I didn't know about that, but after five minutes on the phone, my head was reeling. With her story punctuated by sharp gales of laughter, she provided fragments of her life. Her time in Haiti doing a TV show. Her bout with hepatitis A. Her transformation from Democrat to Republican to Independent. Her epic battle with legendary land baron Hamilton Forman and his son Austin. Her guiding belief that Broward County is a judicial and political "hellhole."
This wasn't what I'd expected. I'd heard about her, read about her in newspapers, mainly because she was married to Ed Kennedy. But I'm not sure it's possible to expect Beverly Kennedy. She just happens. Like a tsunami.
After a few roller-coaster phone conversations, I met her last week at the high-rise condo — her office and radio studio — that she invested in with her father in downtown Fort Lauderdale. We met in the parking lot of her building, the large Waverly at Las Olas at the intersection of Broward Boulevard and Federal Highway.
She'd told me she could pass for 50, especially since she'd started taking what she said was a miracle vitamin supplement called Thymic Formula that she claimed saved her life and made her feel 20. Apparently, it's sort of the wonder pill of the Broward power set. She said she was introduced to the vitamin by Hamilton Forman, who swore by the stuff, and it's used by many local politicians.
I don't know if it's a miracle, but it's true that Kennedy, who emerged from her Saturn in a smart-looking business suit, could pass for 50. As we walked to the building, I began asking her about her legal and political battles. She stopped me in the elevator and leaned close to my face, her eyes almost glaring.
"I am going to tell you one thing, Bob Norman," she told me. "I don't give up, I don't give in, and I don't give out."
We rode to the fifth floor, and she let me into the condo, which was made up as an office, dominated by a large desk. She showed me her scrapbooks with newspaper articles about her and a few Woman of the Year awards she's won through the years. She showed me a picture taken in Haiti when she was in her 20s. In the photo, she has long black hair (her hair now is almost whitish) and a darkly tanned body.
"I was a hot mama," she said. "I was hot and exotic."
She was born, however, in decidedly unerotic Pennsylvania, the daughter of a fruit and vegetable wholesaler. She studied art at Penn State and, after graduation, lived for a time in San Francisco. Then she got married to her first husband and moved to Haiti, where she did a biweekly television show called Haitian Happenings.
"I did the only show on the island," she told me in her office. "I realize I'm a character. I realize I have a photographic memory, and I realize I can talk."
She points at her head.
"Today's show is already in there. Everything I've read today is in there."
Yes, the daily show. It's almost 5 p.m., so she's about to go on the air. She pays for the airtime and is always looking for sponsors. She leads me into the radio studio, the condo's lone bedroom, which has a table with three microphones and a phone hookup to the WBZT station in West Palm Beach. We sit, and she soon begins the show.