Fort Lauderdale City Manager George "Gummybear" Gretsas don't like no unnecessary palaver during City Commission meetings. Capeech? If those elected people talk too much, it encourages, er, disagreements. And you know where that could lead, right? So Duh Boss conducts special one-on-one "conferences" with commissioners. Gets the votes wrapped up ahead of time, all neat and pretty like yer little girl's birthday present.
So on the occasion of Georgie Boy's one-year anniversary on the job this month, New Times has obtained secret tapes of his meeting with Mayor Jimmy Naugle. The Organization of American States was comin' to town last month, see, and Big George didn't want no commie beatniks givin' the city a black eye. So he and his boys explained the, uh, issues to Jim-Bob before he voted on a (later-overturned-in-court) measure to limit demonstrations. On the q.t. No fuss, little muss:
Gretsas (in double-breasted suit and black fedora, entering Jimbo's office with Franky and Spanky, two beefy, bent-nosed men): Got two words for you, Jimmerino. Peace and quiet. Me and the boys, see, we don't much fancy no ugly hoopla on our streets. The traffic jams, the banners, the litter. None of that. It encourages lawbreakers.
Naugle: Well, freedom of speech is one of the...
Gretsas (grabbing Jimmy-boy's shirt): Nobody asked for no civics lesson. (He lights a smokeless cigarette. ) Like I was sayin', there's gonna be a motion banning OAS protests on the agenda tomorrow night. I think you're gonna keep your mouth shut and vote for it. (One of the goons stands behind Jimmy-baby and places two immaculately manicured hands on his shoulders. ) That's why you hired me, ain't it? To make things go all smooth like. (Those manicured hands move toward the Jimmerino's throat. )
Naugle: Gurgle, gurgle.
Gretsas: So you're understandin' us now, eh? There won't be no need for you to get all motor mouth in front of John Q tomorrow night. Let's just say your fellow commissioners are in full agreement with you. (Turns around. ) Right, boys?
(Gretsas and The Boys exit laughing. )
Because of Winn-Dixie
The widespread closing of troubled Winn-Dixie's supermarkets won't be felt too hard in South Florida. Only four of Broward's 43 stores are slated for shuttering.
Why's the chain going broke? Might be because of the shoplifting at Winn-Dixie. There have been dozens of reports at one of the stores where a buddy of this tube used to toil -- at the intersection of Sunrise Boulevard and Powerline Road.
So the 'Pipe pulled some recent police reports to find out what the Winn-Dixie crowd is doing for fun:
On March 30, a minor tried to walk out with $19.45 in merchandise in a black bag and $3.17 worth of hair bands in her jacket pocket. The giveaway was when a witness saw her enter the restroom with a package of strawberries.
On April 24, a 37-year-old man had a clerk ring up $12.45 in Bayer and cough syrup, admitted he had no money, and tried to walk out.
On May 11, a 29-year-old man set off the alarm with a $3.99 bottle of Tylenol. He was released with a trespass warning.
On May 26, a 46-year-old man set off the antitheft alarm with a $3.39 stick of Mitchum deodorant. Turned out he was already wanted for theft.
On June 2, a 59-year-old man with a heart tattoo on his left arm tried to walk out with $11.85 worth of stuff (two Bic lighters and 13 packets of Kool-Aid) in his back pockets. The alarm noticed.
On June 20, an employee on her way into the bathroom noticed a 31-year-old woman taking medicine out of boxes to conceal them for theft. She was caught with $321.41 worth of Visine, Advil, Aleve, and women's socks and two used glass crack pipes with no assigned retail value.
On June 22, a 52-year-old man tried to walk out with a 16-ounce can of Steel Reserve 211 beer in his pocket. Police kept the stolen beer for trial.
You think you've got it bad? Shop at Winn-Dixie and get a dose of reality. When you're down and out, there's nothing like some Kool-Aid and a Bic lighter to get your focus back.
Portrait of Benny
Press coverage of the Controversy art show at the publicly funded Broward Art Guild seems to have taken on a twisted life of its own. After Deerfield Beach artist Michael Friedman complained about the poor taste of a prominently displayed painting by Alfred Phillips -- it depicts President Dubya bent over an oil barrel and serving as a bottom to an Arab man's top -- bigwig county officials ordered that the painting be put on a less conspicuous wall of the gallery. That set off a media blitz about government censorship, which included editorials in out-of-town newspapers like the St. Petersburg Times and even a planned segment on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
In fact, the media blitz was so great that the National Catholic League jumped in. Forget the president taking it from behind, Catholic League President William Donohue said. Get rid of Friedman's own contribution to the exhibit, which was a painting of Pope Benedict XVI in front of several swastikas.
So the 'Pipe called Friedman. Everyone's been talking about and publishing images of Phillips' Yahoo!, Tailpipe told the artist. So how 'bout we publish your little picture? We wouldn't want to disappoint our Catholic readers.
Good Citizen Friedman suddenly got cagey, like somebody selling Rolix watches on a streetcorner.
"Are you going to pay me for it?" Friedman asked.
"How much you want?" Tailpipe responded.
"One hundred dollars," Friedman said.
"How 'bout $50?" Tailpipe countered.
But then Friedman called back. The 'Pipe wouldn't be trying to make fun of him, would it? Huh? This rusty thing?
"I think it's best to let the story die," Friedman decided. "So I don't want to encourage it. I won't be giving you the picture."
But, hey, what about your $50? Got a crisp Grant right here.
"You want to be a journalist?" Friedman said in an angry phone message to the 'Pipe. "Come up with the complete truth of the Controversy exhibit, citing examples and facts that nobody has touched on yet so that your name will be remembered internationally as the one who came up with the actual truth of the story."
So the 'Pipe dug and dug. Its findings? Well, we can't say cuz they're so controversial... but if you have, say, $75...
Flush in West Palm
Frank Speight's a nice guy. But his frustrations with West Palm Beach City Hall hit the boiling point a few weeks ago, and he paid someone $2,500 to create a website. He calls it flushfrankel.com, and it's devoted to the well-documented troubles of Mayor Lois Frankel, whose two-year administration has been beset with disruptive traffic situations, delayed building projects, and rancorous personnel problems.
When Speight moved from Ocala to West Palm Beach two years ago, he says, he'd sit in Clematis Street bars and marvel at the passing hordes. "You got dudes in jackets and ties and hot chicks everywhere," he says. "I thought, 'This place is fucking great. '" Speight liked the atmosphere so much he opened the Paradise Bar and Grill across from his Clematis Street office, where he works as an investment banker. Then came the street construction. And more construction. Two years later, Speight says, downtown is hurtin' like a racehorse with a fractured tibia. It all goes back to Frankel's inability to get the city moving, Speight contends.
"She has to go," he recently said in his bar, which had only two lunch patrons.
In truth, the 'Pipe finds Speight's website a little crude and over the top. It features, among other things, a Pac-Man-like Frankel devouring the city's skyline, a Monty Python-style foot crushing the mayor, and a graphic of her head plopping into a toilet bowl, which gives Speight's message all the delicacy of a safe falling off a roof. Since the site went up in mid-June, Speight says, it has averaged about 200 hits and 30 e-mails a day. Many of them, Speight says, are city workers who support the site. The website claims that Frankel has banned workers from visiting it on city computers.
Frankel didn't return a phone call seeking comment. City spokesman Elliot Cohen refused to answer questions about the site. He would repeat drone-like the same statement to every question: "The mayor is busy doing the work of the city. That's the only comment from the city."
Speight says next he'll hang anti-Frankel banners outside his bar and pass out "Flush Frankel" bumper stickers. "She's going down," he says.
The 'Pipe prostrates itself before New Times Broward-Palm Beach columnist Bob Norman, who last week was named a finalist for the 2005 Gerald Loeb Award for articles on Broward County Commissioner Ilene Lieberman in the small-newspaper category. Norman's five-part series "Our Mayor, the Lobbyist" described Lieberman's conflicts of interest in her work for the Pinnacle Housing Group. More on this subject can be found in this week's news story, "Cor Values, Part 2" (page 11).
-- As told to Edmund Newton