When Sally Fitz decided to relocate from Miami Beach to Chicago, the veteran WSVN-TV Channel 7 news anchor did what any other red-blooded member of the American bourgeoisie would do: she had a yard sale. And if garage-sale popularity were judged by TV newscast standards (i.e., turnout), hers was a huge success. Hundreds of Fitz Fans descended on her Miami Beach residence on Saturday to buy a piece of the former Channel 7 mainstay. Even those who didn't buy anything walked away happy. Explained one woman: "I just wanted to see what kind of stuff she has."
And what stuff it was!
Prices ranged from 50 cents for the Sally Fitz Corncob Pipe to $250 for the Sally Fitz Sofa. There was plenty to chose from in between, including the Sally Fitz Exercise Bicycle ($100), an extensive collection of Sally Fitz Bric-a-brac (50 cents and up), and a basket of Sally Fitz Decorative Scarves (modestly priced from $1 to $5 apiece). Also offered was a rack of Sally Fitz Fine Fashionables (dresses, size four!) and a tableful of Sally Fitz Jewelry.
Though the merchandise outclassed typical yard-sale fare, it wasn't much of a drawing card compared to Sally Fitz herself. Locally legendary for her breathless delivery of Channel 7's glitz-and-gore newscasts, the anchorwoman hadn't envisioned the 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. event as an extravaganza when she invited neighbors over to comb through her castoffs. But after columnist Joan Fleischman publicized the sale -- and Fitz's North Bay Road address -- in Friday's Miami Herald, it was Sally-bar-the-door. Browsers pawed through the pickings as nonchalantly as possible, their eyes invariably scanning the landscape, searching for a flicker of the famed La Fitz. Whispers of "Where's Sally?" dominated the bargain-hunting banter.
Not surprisingly, Fitz spent most of the day inside her house, pricing batches of clothes and knickknacks before they were hauled out to the tables. This didn't deter 71-year-old Sam Davis from ferreting her out, even though it took him a few tries.
"Hi, are you Sally?" Davis inquired of one woman, as the crowd around him tittered. The faux-Fitz happily informed the retired service station owner that he might have better luck in the front yard. "A little-bitty thing," the woman said helpfully.
"A little-bitty thing," Davis repeated. "Okay, I'll look for a little-bitty thing. Evelyn," he said, locating his wife amid the throng, "they say she's up front. We have to look for a little-bitty thing." As he strode past the tables filled with Fitz-ware, Davis gave a dismissive wave of his hand. "I don't want any of this stuff," he declared. "I just want a picture of Sally."
Davis's luck didn't seem to be improving in the front yard, until the camera-wielding retiree approached a well-groomed man. "Excuse me sir," Davis ventured, failing to realize he was talking to Fitz's husband Michael Morrison. "I'd like to get a picture of Sally." Morrison promptly ran into the house and fetched his wife, who emerged obligingly with a big smile. As the couple posed, Davis instructed, "Say 'cheese' or 'sex.'"
"Sex!" Morrison called out as Davis snapped.
"Very funny," Fitz chided, then dashed back inside.
Only a diehard Fitz aficionado would go to such trouble. Well, sort of. "I know she's on TV," said Davis as he and Evelyn walked to their car, their mission accomplished. "But other than that, I really don't know who she is. We're here visiting, and my cousin said I had to come and get a picture of Sally. I'm really not sure why."
Most of those in attendance, however, said they'll miss Fitz. "I've always liked Sally," offered yard-sale browser Toni. "I mean, I don't really know her, I've just seen her on TV."
"Sanchez is all right," chimed in Toni's friend Helen. "But he's not my favorite. I like that Kelley Mitchell."
"She's on 4," said Toni.
"No," Helen said. "She's on 7. You know who else I really like -- I like that little Kelly Craig. I'm very upset Channel 4 got rid of her. I do not like that Michelle Gillen person."
As Toni and Helen debated the merits of various television personalities, Fitz was led by a potential customer to a four-piece patio set marked at $75. "That's too much," the man protested. "Look at that rust!"
"It's not rust," Fitz corrected. "It's aluminum."
"Sally," the man pleaded, as if they were old friends. "Can't you do something on the price?"
"Fifty dollars," Fitz responded.
Unsatisfied, the man commenced to criticize the condition of the small table that accompanied the set. "I'll have to put a new top on this," he sighed. "How about $40?"
"Nope," Fitz said, "$50 is as low as I'll go." With that she wheeled and started back toward the house, only to be accosted by a woman waving a blouse.
"What is this made of?" the woman asked. "Is it polyester?"
Fitz felt the fabric and concluded that it was indeed a synthetic material.
"Oh," the woman responded. "If it's polyester, then I don't want it."
Fitz smiled, took the garment from the woman's hands, and continued back to the house.
"Come on, Sally!" the patio furniture man called out. "What about $40?"
By then Fitz was gone.
"I think I'm going to have a garage sale," offered another customer. "I have better stuff than this."
Most visitors disagreed with that sentiment. A majority of the people New Times surveyed, in fact, felt Fitz had some lovely things for sale. Tina Rodriguez was especially pleased. "I got a crystal-with-pearls necklace from Russia," Rodriguez boasted. "Very beautiful, very cheap." The fact that the bauble once was worn by Sally Fitz made it all the more special, she added. "It's nice to say to people, 'This stuff used to belong to Sally Fitz,'" she explained. "Who knows, maybe she'll be president someday."
If Fitz does run for office -- and if she waits about ten years -- she can probably count on the votes of Natalie and Lilly, two eight-year-olds who live just down the street. Like the adults around them, the girls stopped by to take a gander at Sally's goodies. And, as young women are wont to do, they went straight for the jewelry. Trying on different earrings, the pair said they admire Fitz.
"She's the weather reporter," Natalie stated confidently.
"Yeah," Lilly nodded in agreement. "She does the weather."
Lilly happened upon a particularly large earring, perhaps two-inches square, with black and white stripes, the type of earring that has become a Channel 7 trademark. "This is an earring?" the girl asked incredulously.
Natalie could only shake her head.
Did the two girls watch Fitz on television?
"Sometimes," Natalie replied. "But not all the time. My parents don't usually let me watch the news because they say there is too much violence and they don't want me to get scared."
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There might have been violence at the Fitz estate (and indeed there was a certain measure of fear) when the newscaster discovered that a New Times writer was present. "You're going to do a story that I'm gouging people," she protested, pointing the way off the property. "I'm not gouging people!" Fitz did take the time to comment on the Herald's contribution to her sale, saying she had no idea how Joan Fleischman got word of the event, and that she had been given no advance warning that it would be announced in the newspaper.
Uncharacteristic of a person who has put in more than a decade at a television station that emphasizes invasive journalism (including, but not limited to, celebrity "news"), Fitz said she didn't understand why the Herald or New Times or, for that matter, anyone, would be interested in her sale. Anita Bryant, she observed, once held a yard sale across the street and nobody covered it.
"What I wanted this to be was a neighborhood party and not a big event," Fitz shrugged. "And the sad part is, it's scared off a lot of my neighbors. I guess I'll have to have another party for them."
Exact date and time to be announced.