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As a result, Delaplaine was hit with two legal actions: a temporary restraining order barring publication of Wire -- which he violated -- and a lawsuit filed by Page charging him with civil theft and conspiracy to defraud, among other misdeeds. That suit was never pursued, Page's attorney Brian Giller explains, because at the time Delaplaine was considered too broke to pay damages. Giller adds with some bitterness, "Ray took him in at a low point, made him the editor, backed him financially, and was extremely upset that he got stabbed in the back by Andrew."
To Delaplaine, starting Wire was a personal imperative. "I had to have some voice in this town," he notes. As editor of Wire, Delaplaine has since become best known for his biting comments in his column about what he terms Miami Beach's "Silly Hall," and his quixotic campaign to promote South Beach as its own city. But his satiric edge sometimes betrays a mean streak. In a May 1994 column, he pointed with irritation to the demands of handicapped persons to use parking spaces and public facilities. "Who the hell do they think they are?" he asked, recounting the way he slammed the door of his nightclub in the face of a "busybody in a wheelchair" who wanted to inspect his restrooms. His conclusion: "My attitude is, stay home!" And at one of his recent fundraisers, he jokingly commented about the city's fleetingly floated plan to kill stray cats: "I think the [homeless] guys who pee in the streets are a lot worse than the cats. I think we should get rid of half the people and ship them away." Delaplaine says such comments were just "meant to be humorous."
As for the accusation that Delaplaine has purposely run anti-Semitic items in his publication, he heatedly -- and perhaps plausibly -- denies it. His campaign advisor, Morningstar, who is Jewish, is equally vehement that Delaplaine isn't an anti-Semite. Still, there's that troubling 1993 article mentioned in the recent Herald story. Delaplaine's column opened with these words: "Jewish landlords could get real and stop catering to those sleazy operators who run . . . neon tourist shops on Ocean Drive." Delaplaine and his staff say the phrase was caused by a typographical error that dropped the letter w from a story that began, "We wish landlords. . . ." The art director, Antony Jenners, claims he mistakenly assumed the writer meant to say Jewish, so he added a j to the letter e and closed the space between the e and wish. It's the kind of screwup a shoestring operation might conceivably make. Nevertheless that explanation didn't prevent Delaplaine from being lambasted by some Jewish leaders.
Delaplaine is well aware that his assorted flaws undermine his credibility. "It's unfortunate that I'm an imperfect person," he says. "I understand why they're trying to smear my weaknesses rather than respond to the issues." And he believes his bankruptcy shouldn't affect his fitness to be mayor. After all, he points out, "the elected people don't touch the money. The city manager's the guy writing checks."
But whether he really wants -- or expects -- to be mayor is an open question. One South Beach club veteran and supporter who knows him fairly well says that before Delaplaine filed for office, "he told me early on that he didn't want to win. He just wanted to make people think. I don't know if he's gotten excited by the campaign in the last few months."
He seems to have done just that, and now Andrew Delaplaine, jokester and gadfly, actually seems serious -- or at least as close as he gets to being serious -- about his mayoral race. And, he says, "Win or lose, I feel good about having the guts to try."
Critics have seen the change, too. "I noticed he went out and bought a suit and tie," says veteran political consultant Bob Goodman, who's advising commissioners Gottlieb and Shapiro. "Maybe he's taking it more seriously than the public is.