Ah, the roar of the crowd. The chanting for more. All the finishing elements of a successful show at the Broward Center For the Performing Arts. But this clapping is not for the revival of Chicago playing inside, it's coming from outside the hall, and it's occurring before the performance. The stagehands, hairdressers, electricians, and carpenters are staging a noisy show of their own to bring attention to a feud with the board of directors.

The members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees are demonstrating with placards, whistles, and clapping as theatergoers enter. That's about all they can do, because they're not allowed to strike. That's right, the stagehands at the Center are considered public employees and under law can't walk out or be locked out.

The four-year-long squabble concerns wages and working conditions. But here in Broward, politics, of course, has provided the necessary plot twist.

The Center is run by something called the Performing Arts Center Authority, which was created by the politicos in the legislature, and so the workers are technically public. The appointments to the board come from politicized groups like the county commission and the school board. Such heavyweights as Marti Huizenga and Austin Forman are on the 13-member board and apparently are not willing to budge on a 4 percent cost of living increase without demanding a number of "givebacks" from the union. The local union leader, Lou Fazarano, says the issues are now more about respect rather than just wages.

The local union has successfully negotiated these issues with the other professional theater groups here, but the Center's board is not budging. Why should it? The same union members who are carrying placards outside drop them when it's showtime and go to work, because after all, they're public employees and can't really force the issue by striking. This could run longer than Cats.

Ever notice how certain philanthropists want their names attached to every project they donate to? For instance the Lois Pope Leaders in Furthering Education is supported by the Lois Pope Golf Tournament. The Lois Pope International Research Award is connected to the Lois Pope Life Center.

But now it seems there's one association Lois Pope would like to get some distance from, that being the Mob, and in particular Frank Costello. The madames of Palm Beach County's upper crust must be dropping their finger sandwiches at the idea that the original bankroll that spawned the millions that Pope lavishes on charities came from rackets money.

Pope got her millions when her husband Generoso (ironic, isn't it?) passed away and the National Enquirer, which he started, was sold for more than $400 million. Now we find out that the original seed money came from one of the seediest mobsters in Mafia history. Generoso couldn't pay the printing bills and went to Costello for a loan. In return Generoso wouldn't allow his editors to dig into the Mob or use the word Mafia on the pages.

This comes right from the offspring, Paul Pope, who now tells the press that he sees his father's story as "The Godfather meets Citizen Kane." This bankable yarn is coming out in book form. Lois says she knew nothing of any Mob connection and that Generoso was "a very intelligent, wonderful human being. It's heartbreaking that this is being talked about and he's not around to defend himself." It is also ironic that this story, whether fable or not, may tarnish the former publisher of a tabloid whose stories were sometimes suspect.

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh