That Fishy Smell

So the Boca Raton cops bust David and Michelle Bachmann for running a prostitution ring out of their house. This was one heckuva painstaking investigation. Detectives spent almost three years allegedly establishing that the Bachmanns' various escort services, carrying such colorful names as The Butt Man, Centerfolds, and Florida's Finest, were actually providing sex for money before arresting them on January 12.

Why does the 'Pipe detect the smell of mackerel here?

The cops say David Bachmann was an inveterate hoochie monger who loved to sample his own wares, while Michelle was the business' talent recruiter, interviewing potential escorts in her Mercedes while parked at a Boca Raton gas station. The daily papers were full of stories about how none of the Bachmanns' neighbors in their gated Laurel Pointe community ever suspected the couple of being in — good grief — such a sordid occupation.

But were the Bachmanns any different from hundreds of other pimps and procurers operating in South Florida? Not from what Tailpipe hears.

"They operated the way most escort services operate nowadays," says one sex-business entrepreneur who knows the Bachmanns. "They got a website, ran newspaper ads, then sat in front of a computer and booked the girls."

The case does raise a batch of questions (one of which, by the way, is why a blond hottie like Michelle would have married a dude who resembles Chris Farley's older, less-fit brother) about the Boca cops and the nature of the escort business. Since this is way outside Tailpipe's range of expertise, he turned to the publisher of Pynk Pages, whose nom de plume is Jim Ironman (though in previous incarnations, he has identified himself as Ralph Teetor). Pynk Pages is South Florida's Consumer Reports for information about adult stores, massage parlors, escort services, and general all-around whoring tips.

Yeah, Ironman says, he's familiar with the Bachmann empire. "They're a typical bait-and-switch operation that preys on tourists," he says. He's not talking about visitors who come here to deep-sea fish. "The organization that this rascal ran advertised 100 percent in print magazines. He always ran pictures of women who didn't work for him and frequently had never worked for him. So when the victim" — that would be the john — "calls up, he'll tell them anything to make the sale. And the girl who shows up has only an accidental relationship to the person in the picture."

The switcheroo is no sin worthy of a Better Business Bureau complaint, says Tailpipe's pimp acquaintance. "It always happens," our friendly pimp says. "A guy sees a blond, blue-eyed girl with big titties. She's not available, so they send someone else. It's the guy's choice whether he wants the girl to stay or not. Most of the time it's, 'You're here already. I'll do you. '"

The usual scenario in an escort bust, the pimp says, is that one of the escorts feels wronged by her employers and drops a dime (or 35 cents nowadays, if you can find a public phone). "They must have pissed off one of their girls, who told the police they were running a service out of their house," he says.

That brings us to the police investigation. Two and a half years? Laughable, Ironman says. "The only person who couldn't manage to put these guys out of business in a one-day investigation is Inspector Clouseau."

Sex for hire is a big part of the South Florida economy. Shut all the escort services down and there would be an audible hiccup in the gross national product, local businessmen say. As Ironman sees it, there's a delicate balance between the letter of the law and the pressing demands of a tourist economy. "The reality is, so long as these guys don't generate complaints, they're providing a service to the tourists," he says. "They're good for business."

Adds the pimp: "Letting an investigation go on for three years — that's just wasting the taxpayer's money."

Yellow Brick Highway

There are plenty of drifters along America's asphalt arteries but not many with their own fliers. "I am known as the PEACEWALKER," reads the 812-by-11-inch sheet that Mike Oren has been carrying along on what he says was his walk from Californy to Gotham. About 18 months ago, the rangy 51-year-old was working at a Las Vegas golf course, mostly marking time until his 60th birthday when his bartender's union pension would kick in. Then Oren saw on CNN the story of Carlos Arredondo, the Hollywood, Florida, father who torched himself and the van of the Marines who notified him of his son's death in Iraq. Oren then began a journey to protest the Iraq War from the terminal point of old Route 66 in San Bernardino, California. When the 'Pipe ran into Oren, fresh off a night's sleep on Fort Lauderdale Beach, the flannel-clad pilgrim didn't realize he was but ten miles from Arredondo's old home.

"I've been walking through red states the whole way," Oren said. "I've found Republicans are very supportive. They say, 'I don't agree with what you're saying, but our troops in past wars gave you the right to say it. '"

As for the specifics of his journey, Oren is vague. He had a great time in Arizona — where he got a PEACEWALKER tattoo across his upper back and hunkered through a storm in an RV crawling with the live pets of a guy calling himself "Rattlesnake Tim." As he began his Miami-to-New York trek up U.S. 1, Oren noted of South Florida: "You've got to be careful crossing the street. Everyone's in a hurry."

Does the 'Pipe believe this guy? A few weeks ago, before Tailpipe learned that a literary mook turned his experience during a two-hour stay in an Ohio drunk tank into a bestselling "memoir" about a psychopathic badass' life of violence and drugs, he might have.

The 'Pipe bid farewell to the pilgrim, then did an Internet search on Oren. It turned up an arrest in Key West on December 15 on a misdemeanor larceny charge; the mug shot on the Monroe County Sheriff's Office website depicts Oren shirtless, frizzy-bearded, and slack-jawed, with one eye shut. Would that have been right around the time Oren was supposed to be shambling through the Midwest?

Tailpipe put the information into the Oren file. For future reference. At the bottom of his flier: "I am also making a bid for President of the United States as a Democrat in 2008."

Politics 2006

Back in November, the Broward County School Board met to talk about divvying up appointments for the coming year to subcommittees. When the nine-member board took up approving three of its members for the Insurance Commission, board member Stephanie Kraft pulled rank on her junior colleague, Maureen Dinnen, to land one of the slots.

Dinnen stepped aside, and Kraft got the appointment. But her insistence kicked off a discussion about a sudden interest in overseeing the insurance biz.

"I think this is the seventh organizational meeting I've been through, and I have never seen anyone want to be on the insurance committee," board member Carole Andrews said. "I just find this fascinating. What's happening in the insurance committee that's changed?"

Andrews didn't get an answer then, but the question popped into the 'Pipe's mind when he took a gander at the cash flowing into the campaign of Kraft's husband, Mitch, the former city attorney for Tamarac who's running for a City Commission seat in Coral Springs. With few local donations, the contribution list for Mr. Kraft looks like a who's who of lobbyists, developers, engineers, and, yes, insurance companies that are hip-deep in School Board contracts. At more than $40,000, Kraft's fundraising total is eight times higher than his opponent's, and it's almost twice as much as the sitting mayor had collected as of the end of 2005.

The biggies are on the list. There's $500 from Neil Sterling, a lobbyist for Zyscovich Inc., which has contracted with the Broward school district to design buildings throughout the county. Pirtle Construction Co., an architectural/contractor that's had a hand in building Broward schools, kicked in $1,000. Vista Insurance and its subsidiaries from Hollywood gave $2,000. One $1,000 contributor, CompBenefits Co. of Roswell, Georgia, is among the six companies the insurance committee is considering for a contract to provide employee dental insurance.

Stephanie Kraft tells Tailpipe that she really needed to sit on the insurance committee to shepherd through reforms to the district's allegedly wasteful and mismanaged workers' compensation plan. As for the ties between hubby's contributors and the School Board? Well, that's entirely... intentional.

"He got the lobbyist list from the School Board, and he compared it to the people he knew when he worked for 13 years in Tamarac, and there was a lot of overlap," she explains.

No subterfuge. That's politics in 2006.

Don't worry about the division of labor in the family, though. Stephanie makes the School Board decisions; he raises the cash. "I haven't been involved at all in his fundraising," she offers. "I hate fundraising. He did all mine when I ran both times."

— As told to Edmund Newton

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