Tommy Pooch tests the strength of the bamboo in 
    happier times at Nikki Beach
Tommy Pooch tests the strength of the bamboo in happier times at Nikki Beach
Steve Satterwhite

Rules of Subtraction

Miami-Dade mayoral hopeful José Cancela says that as far as he's concerned, developer Lowell Dunn, Sr., is unforgiven after a February meeting ended with Dunn handing Cancela a fistful of dollars.

Cancela says Dunn, best known for never-ending legal battles over his plan to develop the environmentally sensitive Madden's Hammock, called him and set up a meeting on the morning of February 19. "He said he'd raised some money among his employees. We chatted for a while and I thanked him and left.

"I drove away and pulled into a gas station to see what we'd collected," adds the former executive at Telemundo, Univision, and Radio Unica, who leads the crowded field of mayoral candidates in fundraising with about one million dollars. Dunn's envelope contained three checks and three smaller envelopes. The smaller envelopes were stuffed with cash. Cancela estimates Dunn had given him as much as $5000 in illegal cash contributions. According to state law, cash campaign contributions must be $100 or less.

Cancela, envisioning a stillborn political career, raced back to Dunn's office and caught the developer as he was leaving: "I was like, 'This is fucking insane.' I said, 'Listen, Lowell, take your cash and take your checks and don't ever call me again.'" Dunn, unfazed, suggested Cancela at least hang onto the checks.

The brazen land baron hasn't tried again to contact Cancela (who did not keep the checks). "All I could think was, 'This motherfucker thinks I'm just another Hispanic on the take,'" Cancela says. "If I see that sonofabitch again I don't know what I'll do."

Joe Centorino, head of the public corruption unit at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, wouldn't comment on Cancela's accusation, except to say that his office "initiates investigations based on all kinds of information, including news stories." Dunn may have committed at least one misdemeanor. If the envelope contained $5000 or more in cash, that charge would be bumped up to a felony. (Dunn did not return calls for comment.)

Regardless, a little publicity couldn't hurt Cancela: According to a poll commissioned by Univision conducted by opinion tracker Rob Schroth, Cancela trailed the pack of major candidates with only four percent of the vote. And Dunn and his money are easily expendable to Cancela, who travels in circles of absolute power that don't include Dunn, wealthy as he may be.

Other Miami-Dade mayoral hopefuls are also up on true crime.

Buying a pint of Guinness at Hooligan's Pub & Oyster Bar in Kendall will likely result in a barkeep's request to support the statewide campaign to restore the voting rights of convicted felons.

Candidate and Hooligan's owner Jay Love has asked his employees to get bar patrons to sign petitions that support an amendment to the state constitution making it okay for those who escape from Alcatraz to pull the lever, er, touch the screen upon completing a bit behind bars.

Brad Nickel, Love's campaign manager, insists that Hooligan's servers aren't being leaned on to pass out the petitions, nor asked to don D.O.C. duds instead of aprons in a gesture of jailhouse solidarity. Nickel adds that Love's belief that voting rights reinstatement is an important issue in the black community -- not mayoral aspirations -- is what's behind the petition drive, which so far has earned about 100 signatures.

Miami attorney Parker Thomson chairs the Performing Arts Center Trust, a Miami-Dade County board of private citizens in charge of the musical white elephant under construction on Biscayne Boulevard.

Last year the trust hired Thomson's daughter, Margaret Daly, president of First Media Direct, to handle interim marketing duties on the trust's behalf. The trust also hired Thorp & Co., a Miami-based corporate public relations firm, to handle publicity and media relations on an interim basis. Daly, from time to time, has worked with Thorp & Co.

Six degrees of Parker Thomson?

Nonsense, huffs Michael Hardy, the trust's chief executive. Reached on his cell phone as he boarded a flight to New York City last week, Hardy explained that he, PAC Foundation executive director Nancy Herstand, and Gail Thompson, the center's project manager, sat down last October and narrowed a list of eight firms down to three: Thorp, RBB Public Relations, and Conroy Martinez Communications. "These are more corporate-type problems [facing us] as opposed to arts-related damage control," Hardy crackles. "And that is Thorp's strong suit."

Hardy added that Daly stopped working for the trust in December when the board hired Gail Eden as its permanent marketing director. Thorp's public relations contract ends in May and Luis Palomares, the trust's soon-to-be-permanent in-house flack, starts in April.

Earlier this month Miami Beach officials finally inked a new deal with Jack Penrod in which the restaurant entrepreneur will pay the city a larger percentage of the gross revenues from his outdoor entertainment venue Nikki Beach Club, which is located on city-owned oceanfront land at First Street and Ocean Drive.

The no-bid concessions agreement, which shrewdly avoids the need for a voter referendum approving a private lease for public land, calls for Penrod to pay the city 5.5 percent of his receipts from Nikki Beach, two percent above what Penrod currently pays the city to lease the two-story restaurant fronting Nikki Beach that makes up the Penrod's entertainment complex.

But the deal may be worth squat since Penrod's ex-partner Tommy Pooch took his popular Sunday party up Collins Avenue to the Raleigh Hotel. This past August the Brooklyn-born promoter sued Penrod in Miami-Dade Circuit Court alleging breach of contract. Earlier this month Pooch won a round against Penrod when Judge Roberto M. Pineiro denied Penrod's motion saying his contract with the long-time South Beach promoter was null and void because Pooch was convicted of a felony years ago.

Meanwhile Pooch has prospered after his split with Penrod -- hooking up with fellow nightclub promoters Alan Roth and Ingrid Casares to host Soiree Sundays at the Raleigh and an upcoming Wednesday-night dinner party at China Grill. "It's my way of getting some payback," Pooch gloats over dinner at a table featuring NFL tight end Jeremy Shockey and Paris Hilton.

In the latest dust-up in the city with the highest concentration of bizarre political shenanigans, North Bay Village's top elected official is seeking retribution against the man who led state investigators after his best friend, Police Chief Irving Heller.

City Manager James Vardalis is in the line of fire from Mayor Alan Dorne in the midst of a Federal Department of Law Enforcement investigation into possible official misconduct by Heller.

Vardalis called on the state agency to find out who was responsible for illustrating and then circulating a series of violent, pornographic cartoons of civic crusader Fane Lozman, based on allegations that Heller was behind the perverse drawings. Vardalis also tried to place Heller on administrative leave pending the investigation's outcome. The police chief preempted his boss by taking an emergency family medical leave.

Heller, who has since announced he is retiring at the end of this month, denies drawing the dirty cartoons. Meanwhile Dorne has allegedly been working behind the scenes to get rid of Vardalis. Last week Dorne drove down to Homestead and met with former county manager Steve Shiver. "It was not a job offer," Shiver explains. "But the mayor inquired about my assistance in the search for a new manager."

Shiver says he agreed to participate in the search if the North Bay Village Commission voted to fire Vardalis. Dorne confirms meeting with Shiver, but denies ever discussing the city manager's job. "Absolutely not," Dorne says. "I work nicely with Vardalis. I don't have any problems with him at all."

Shiver, however, is adamant that Dorne's main topic was that job. "From our conversation, I don't believe he was satisfied with the current administration," Shiver says. Vardalis, who earns a $93,280 annual salary, declined comment.

They evicted the lady's dog, now they want the lady out. Last week New Times chronicled how the Miami-Dade Police Department's Animal Services Unit nabbed 67-year-old Lazara Betancourt's one-year-old mutt Ambrosio in early January while the ailing senior was hospitalized with severe heart trouble. The dog was home alone at Betancourt's small Normandy Isle apartment for several days. He had messed all over the floor by the time her Section 8 landlords, Carlos and Margarita Rivero, arrived. They deny they were the ones who called Animal Services to confiscate the dog, although Mr. Rivero admits to signing the complaint. The pound no longer has Ambrosio and doesn't know if he was adopted, stolen, or euthanized.

Three days after New Times interviewed the Riveros, Betancourt received a letter from their lawyer, Adrian Ferradaz. "The landlord has elected to terminate your tenancy at will," the letter states, leaving Betancourt on the street at the end of March. It offers no justification for kicking her out.

Ferradaz says state law doesn't require his clients to justify an eviction. He declines to offer any motive, but reveals that it isn't because Betancourt owes rent.


Interviews with the press following DanceStar USA 2004, the American Dance Music Awards, where Paris Hilton won a Best Celebrity DJ award:

Press: What gear do you use to DJ?

Paris Hilton: [Giggles] I don’t really have any records. I use CDs.

Press: What do you play the CDs on?

Paris Hilton: [Giggles] A CD player.

Press: What do you think of the DanceStar Awards?

Paris Hilton: They told me I was going to win, otherwise I wouldn’t have come.

Press: What did you think of Paris Hilton’s look?

Boy George: I didn’t notice.

Press: What did you think of Paris Hilton’s look?

Lady Bunny: Gorgeous gown. A Maxi. Hides the knee pads. [Laughs] No, she doesn’t wear knee pads. [Pause] She’s got bruises. She stole my look!

Lady Bunny: Best Celebrity DJ? Paris, I knew you could BJ, but DJ?


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