Stacey and Friends

Four characters in search of a talk show.

It was the mouth that struck a chord. Everything else about her, the rouge on her cheeks, the long brown hair, the dark-tanned skin, was common enough, especially in South Florida. But the mouth? That was special. Giant and audacious. Glorious and monstrous. A mere instrument, a maestro, a mauve-lipsticked Chopin that seemed to hold all the answers to all the questions in the universe. Just a glimpse of that glistening smacker told me I was in the presence of a star.

Stacey Honowitz, cable TV prosecutor.

You've seen her, whether you realize it or not. Honowitz has chatted it up on the small screen with everyone from Sean Hannity to Dr. Phil, from Geraldo Rivera to Bill O'Reilly. Lately she's been a regular on Larry King Live. Name a court case that has supposedly gripped America, and you can bet she's opined on it. Want to know about Michael Jackson or O.J. Simpson? Debra Lafave or Natalee Holloway? She'll tell you all about them, whether she really knows anything about the cases or not.

And that's what a real TV talker needs: the courage to plow ahead, no matter how thick the air gets with speculation and doubt. Honowitz is a doubt killer. She's second-in-command at the Broward State Attorney's Office sex crimes unit; it's what she does when she's outside the national limelight. She kills juries' doubt.

Or maybe not. Does it really matter that she's lost her most highly publicized cases? Should I care that someone paid by taxpayers' dollars to protect children seems to spend an inordinate amount of time researching and talking about cases half a world away?

No. She's on TV.

That's why I had to introduce myself when I noticed her at a Fort Lauderdale sidewalk café last week. Walking up to her table, I saw she wasn't alone. Three other members of television news' glitterati — Greg Mathis (the famed "Judge Mathis"), Democratic consultant James Carville, and Los Angeles defense attorney Mark Geragos — were lunching with her.

"Ms. Honowitz?" I said.

She popped a full meatball into the mouth and checked me out. There was still plenty of room left for talking. "Yes?" she asked with the beefy morsel rolling around on her tongue like a volleyball on the deck of a cruise ship.

"I'm a big fan," I said. "Just a big, big fan."

"That's nice of you," she said quite pleasantly. "Call me Stacey — and say hello to Mark, Jim, and Judge Mathis. What can we do for you?"

I tried to hide my awe. No way was I going to blow this opportunity.

"Well, Stacey, I know from your recent appearances on Larry King Live that you have strong opinions about the Internet," I said.

"Well, everyone thinks it's so fabulous, this superhighway,"* she said, simultaneously sipping wine and chomping pasta. My God, her mouth was multitasking. "And I can tell you, in doing the work that I do, I see nothing but problems with the Internet. I see it with soliciting kids for sex, soliciting kids for things that are absolutely disgusting."

"That sounds terrible."

"There are so many thousands of pedophiles, these Internet chat rooms are havens," she said. "They're sitting ducks, these victims sitting in there. So we need these undercover police officers to go and pose as 13- and 14-year-olds in order for us to make any kind of leeway in capturing these pedophiles."

"I don't know, Stacey, that sounds exaggerated, like Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle talking about the dangers of public bathrooms."

She turned to Peter, Jim, and Judge Mathis.

"Well, we recently, in the last couple of months, have had this whole thing going on in Broward County about anonymous gay sex in bathrooms, on the beach, in public, because there have been so many complaints," she explained. "It might not sound like the most important thing in the world, but things go on in these bathrooms."

"Yeah, but there were hardly any complaints at all," I said. "Mayor Naugle was grandstanding. Of course, right after that, you had the arrest of Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who —"

"Well, I don't know," Carville interrupted. "I don't know why they're running him out. He pleaded to disturbing the peace and sent in a thing. Like I said, it's a traffic ticket, and you're going to railroad somebody out of the Senate for that? I could have easily said, 'I'll just send them the $500 check and the heck with it. What difference does it make?'"

"No, you wouldn't," Honowitz said sharply, a bread roll now clenched between her cheek and gum. "No, you wouldn't."

"I could see somebody doing that," Carville reiterated.

Honowitz stood her ground.

"No, you absolutely would not."

"Don't tell me what I would have done and what I wouldn't have done!" Carville said. "How can you tell me what I'm going to do?"

"That has never stopped Stacey before," Geragos piped in.

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