Santa's elves are playing second fiddle to another diminutive foreigner this Yule season: King Tutankhamun.

Just about everybody is lining up for a piece of the Boy King, whose tombside knickknacks go on display at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art on Thursday, December 15. With a half million or so visitors (paying $14 to $30 apiece) expected in the next four months, the ancillary commercial possibilities are limited only by the imagination of the local hucksters. Ads in the Miami Herald declare the exhibit "a golden opportunity 3,500 years in the making" and urge businesses to reserve a space in its spectacular "Age of the Pharaohs" special section. Not to be outdone, the paper's competitor declared "King Tut rules the Sun-Sentinel" in a recent ad kicking off "Tut Week."

Soon to be available at local venues: Tut rainwear (complete with striped pharaoh headgear), the Tut Happy Meal, the Tut Toot (the 'Pipe's not sure what this is, but it may be illegal), the Tut makeover (including a full henna bodywrap and sunlamp dehydration), Tut thongs, Tut Mastercard, Tut condoms, Tut cuddly toys. All right, Tailpipe jests.

But the marketers are truly out en masse. For example, the annual Winterfest Boat Parade's theme this year? You guessed it. "Jewel of the Nile." That's for real.

Trying to suppress his natural-born curmudgeonry (it drifts out unexpectedly in murky fumes), the 'Pipe accepted an invitation to witness the first installation of the show on December 6. This tube was among the 20-odd TV reporters, video cameramen, photographers, and reporters to attend. Workmen in white uniforms bustled around the partly finished addition to the museum. Security was tight, so the media cadre was shuffled to a darkened anteroom to wait for the elevator. Like any tomb-raiding adventure, there were, of course, dangers: One TV reporter leaned against the wall and smudged her black dress with Spackle.

Ushered at last into a black-walled enclosure about the size of a living room on the second floor, TV crews set up a phalanx of video cameras before an empty pedestal. As two white-gloved men wheeled in a life-sized wooden bust of Tut, conversation ceased. The pair lifted the mannequin onto the stand, and the clicking of cameras sounded like a plague of locusts hitting a screen door. The snapping tapered off in a few moments, and the air was filled with more of an is-that-all-there-is? feeling.

To keep the action going, museum officials asked two men from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to pose as though lifting the bust. Perhaps bewildered by the strange American custom of "staged photos," the men's eyes darted around like grave robbers caught in a searchlight as the cameras clicked.

The event had at last reached that mystical moment when a photo-op gets too photo-oppy to bear.

"I can't do this," yelped a Herald photographer who made an about-face from the ginned-up photo-op. "It's just so wrooooong!"

Tailpipe, his heart racing, followed him out into the fresh air and breathed deeply.

Let Them Eat Cane

There's only one thing you need to know about buying an affordable home in the city of West Palm Beach: There ain't any. And if Mayor Lois Frankel has her way, there won't be any, ever. With the average price of a single-family home in Palm Beach County now tipping the scales at $416,000, an outfit called Northwood Renaissance has come up with plans to build an 84-unit apartment building to shelter middle-class professionals priced out of the market. The project would be close to city buildings, hospitals, and fire stations downtown, ideal for hospital staff and government workers. But Frankel has been cool to the idea. The mayor has suggested that affordable housing, instead, might best be built outside city limits; she lately proffered the decrepit farming town of Belle Glade as one potential site.

Even though the notion wouldn't bear legal scrutiny, the 'Pipe thinks the mayor's come up with a sweet script — very ER meets Green Acres. When burning sugarcane fields spiked asthma attacks in Belle Glade kids or migrant cane workers dinged themselves with machetes, nurses would be right in the neighborhood. Relocated West Palm cops could lend a hand to the beleaguered Belle Glade police on weekends. The new influx of social workers could succor prisoners and the homeless. And rather than drive 50 miles to West Palm, teachers might transfer to Belle Glade classrooms, boosting the schools' abysmal ratings. Goodbye, city life!

For the record, a spokesman for the mayor says now that Frankel had "thrown out the idea off the top of her head" at a brainstorming session.

Prof, Don't Preach

Flames were spotted flickering out of the windows of the Broward Community College Ivory Tower last week.

On Thursday, the BCC Faculty Senate heard a resolution that aims to put an end to the Evangelical agenda being pushed in religion classrooms at the public college. The senate, it reads, "condemns using the classroom to indoctrinate, proselytize, or promote non-academic agenda particularly of political and/or religious belief."

Chris Reiss, an English composition and literature professor at the college, drafted the resolution in response to a recent New Times article about former adjunct religion Professor James W. Johnson and his lawsuit alleging that the college illegally promotes conservative Christianity in classrooms (see "Proselytizing 101," December 1, Trevor Aaronson).

"My feeling is that the faculty has been struck by a real sense of academic embarrassment," Reiss tells the 'Pipe.

As New Times reported, Associate Dean Winston Thompson has in recent years hired five religion professors with advanced degrees from Evangelical seminaries and given to them the lion's share of religion courses at BCC's central campus in Davie. In fact, on one syllabus, religion Professor Randall Allison lists as his third course object "to assist the students in their personal religious quest as they analyze the myriad views of the divine and what it means to them."

Reiss hopes that the resolution, which will be voted on by the full Faculty Senate in January, will pressure the administration to make changes in the way religion is taught at BCC.

"The senate is the place where the faculty conscience exists," Reiss says.

But change will have to come from the administration at BCC. So far, President Larry Calderon has declined to discuss the issue, citing ongoing litigation.

Graffiti Hijack

If your neighbor's putting up a new fence and it happens to be wooden, six feet high, and sports the words Cef, Cinco, or Doper, well, they might just have some hot — as in stolen — property.

"There's been an art heist in Fort Lauderdale," Todd Nolan reports, half-jokingly. Nolan's curating the exhibit "Bad Paste: a rock art poster show." In preparation, he and a friend drove around after Hurricane Wilma, collecting pieces of broken, discarded fences, with the idea that graffiti artists would write on them, making a cool backdrop for the exhibit. "They were handpicked too" Nolan says wistfully. "Ones with crazy springs and pieces of metal sticking out."

But three graffiti writers from the MSG Crew showed up at Studio 954, where the exhibit opens Friday, to lend their services. One of them — a guy named Cinco (who explains that MSG means "whatever you want: More Slutty Girls, More Stupid Graffiti, Miami-Style Graffiti") says, "Three of us had spent the day there. We were about half-finished" working on a 20- or 25-foot-long fence "and we stacked the fences under a tree." The next day, they were — poof! — gone. "There was loads of garbage back there, but the only thing taken was the fences," Cinco says.

Not a major emergency, though; they volunteered to return and just paint the inside walls of the gallery instead.

— As told to Edmund Newton

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