Long before Kimberly Wendell married Scott Rothstein and became the princess of Fort Lauderdale, she was just another young and beautiful South Florida girl trying to get by.
And she wasn't doing very well at it. Back in 2002, three years before, Wendell wasn't just broke; she was deep in debt, getting hounded by creditors, facing eviction from her three-bedroom pad at the New River Village Apartments, and dodging repo men who wanted to take her new Volkswagen away, said her roommate at the time.
"I started getting calls at the apartment from creditors nonstop, people calling, 'Is Kim Wendell there? Is Kim Wendell there?'" the roommate told me. "She got $20,000 in debt, stopped paying rent, and we were driving her Jetta all over the place to avoid the repo people."
The roommate was a Florida Atlantic University student who financed her education chiefly by going on "stripping trips" to clubs in New York, Las Vegas, and other cities. And because Wendell was desperate, she decided that she wanted to
go on a trip to help climb out of debt.
"She told me she was going bankrupt," said the roommate, whom we'll call Summer, one of her stage names. "She said, 'My credit is fucked.' I said, 'You should start dancing.'"
But before Summer would take Wendell on a trip, she had to "test" her at a local strip club. One thing was certain: She had the figure for it.
"She had an amazing body," said Summer, a beautiful blond who now lives in Los Angeles. "She was very tiny, about five feet tall, and weighed about 90 pounds, with these huge double D boobs. She was tits on a stick; that's what we called girls like that: no hips, no ass. She had long blond hair and had brown eyes but wore blue contact lenses. I said, 'Why do you wear those?' And she said, 'I want to be blond-haired and blue-eyed.' I was like, whatever."
But could she do the job? Wendell began dancing at Diamond Dolls in Pompano Beach. She gave it a go for three nights, said Summer, before they knew it wasn't going to work out and Wendell would be going on no stripping trip.
"I was a professional stripper; I was all business," said Summer. "I would go on a stripping trip and wouldn't have to work for six months. You need to have a facade; you need to know how to hustle. I didn't drink or do drugs; it was all money, money, money.
"Kim was just too sweet to be a stripper. I tried to buck her up and give her that hustler mentality you need to make it in this world. You know, it's eat or be eaten. She didn't go out and work the guys; she sat at the bar drinking and looking pretty."
Wendell was a stunner, but she didn't seem to know it herself.
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"Kim used to be fat, but she lost weight, and she had the mentality of a fat girl even though she was beautiful," Summer said. "You have to be very confident in the way you look naked on stage. She was timid like a little bunny rabbit. She was little girl from the swamp who was sweet as a honybee."
With stripping out of the question, Wendell stuck to bartending, including work at the Voodoo Lounge. At one point, she met a wealthy man who was a party animal.
"He had a lot of big money, and Kim was in financial turmoil," Summer said. "He had a drug problem. He was a coke fiend, a pill popper, he was out in the social scene. He was a real shady character. One time during a party on a yacht, he threw a girl overboard because he was so jacked up on coke. Kim falls head over heels in love with him, and he hired her to bartend at his parties, which was where all the elite people were. You meet the Who's Who of America at parties during the wintertime in Florida."
[Due to time constraints, I will have to continue this tomorrow.]