BEST CHUTZPAH 2002 | Pat Tornillo | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
Valentine's Day, 2001. The scene: More than three dozen Miami notables, from county Mayor Alex Penelas and Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler to Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce chairman Philip Blumberg and United Way chief Harve Mogul, gather before the school board and urge members to grant bumbling back-slapper Roger Cuevas another two years in office as superintendent of schools. Union-boss-for-life Pat Tornillo is also present. As he has on other occasions (such as the time this paper made a stink about the diploma-mill degrees held by Cuevas and several of his top administrators), Tornillo comes to the defense of Cuevas, arguing that, with all the other problems facing the school district, the continuity of leadership Cuevas could provide is needed. The school board decides to extend the superintendent's contract by two years (at $251,690 per annum). Just seven months later the school board is under heavy fire from the media, state politicians, and the public for financial and ethical scandals. Cuevas, until then the board's happy, well-fed puppet, becomes the board's well-compensated scapegoat and is fired. At the same time the district faces a huge shortfall in state funds. When the cash-strapped district suggests that teachers take a couple of days off to ease the strain on the budget, Tornillo agrees. But then the disgusted union rank and file vote down the compromise. His back against the wall, Tornillo suddenly adopts the language of militant union bosses of old, charging that teachers shouldn't have to take a cut just because the school board wasted so much money on things like Cuevas's lucrative golden parachute -- up to $800,000. Now that's chutzpah!
Why Elaine? Here's one reason: At a recent Perry Ellis fashion show, this South Beach diva famous for her killer Cher impression had the unenviable task of working the crowd following the parade of beauties who had just pranced down the runway. The fashion elites, with their low tolerance for tacky, were restless. Rather than resort to the common drag conceit of outrageousness, Elaine appeared in a stylish gold evening gown, dazzling earrings, and a perfect Sixties beehive. She was classy not trashy. As she well knows, drag is more than just shock value. It's about performance and poise. Flawless in her appearance, Elaine knows there's something even more important: being the consummate hostess. That she is.

Mayco survived years in the trenches at county hall as a competent and fair-minded bureaucrat, only to be knocked off by county Manager Steve Shiver for -- gasp! -- releasing public information to the press! Shiver forced him to resign and then had the gall to seize his computer minutes later, a humiliating blow to a veteran professional like Villafaña. After knocking around town and a brief stint at the State Attorney's Office, he followed old boss Merrett Stierheim into a true snake pit -- the public school district. May he bring sunshine to the dark corners.
Was that a wink? Is she flirting with me? Man, she seems happy tonight. Maybe she's tipsy. No, I think she's just flirting with me. Viewers of WSVN's nightly newscasts can be excused for wondering if Laurie Jennings is communicating directly with them via the tube. When she began at Channel 7 in February 1998, she was a mechanically rigid human automaton improbably paired with blowhard Rick Sanchez. After the voluble Sanchez split for MSNBC, Jennings began a subtle but noticeable transformation, from straightlaced news reader to emotive broadcaster with personality. Those saucy little winks. The lead-in comments spiced with attitude. A relaxed posture that hinted at seduction. The change has been a bit unsettling, but ultimately it's just what we want and expect in our love-hate relationship with Seven News, the big show.
No one can adequately explain the day-long, perpetual traffic jam on the westbound Dolphin Expressway (SR 836) just after you pass over Le Jeune Road and Miami International Airport appears on the north side of the road. This is our Bermuda Triangle, the place where time inexplicably vanishes. There never appears to be a good reason for the sudden crush of cars slowing to a crawl -- no accident, no disabled vehicle, no construction. It just is. Could there be some unknown force field that compels Miami drivers to drop to school-zone speed (which, ironically, they rarely observe in actual school zones)? What up, Miami?
If there were a category for best hair on television, Schmidt would win hands down. That pompadour of his rises at least two feet above his head. Even more impressive is his voice: deep, serious, pontifical. Schmidt could make a routine Krome Avenue car crash sound as important as the fall of the Soviet Union. In fact that's exactly what he's done for NBC 6 on numerous occasions. In fact Schmidt comes across as so authoritative he may even startle himself. As he told one of our colleagues: "Can you believe I'm actually reading the news and that people actually believe what I'm saying?" Sure, man. Absolutely. The potent combination of voice and hair is enough for us to predict big things for this swarthy Wesleyan grad. We're talking national news. Stone Phillips, watch your back.


Ego Trip

The table of contents in this four-by-five-and-a-half-inch monthly magazine tells the story. Bartender of the month. DJ of the month. Artist, chef, and model of the month. Concierge of the month. Doorman of the month. Bulwarks of our community. The front line in our noble struggle for the dollars of the rich and often not famous. In their own words. How does Stacey, an Aquarius who works the door at a strip club for women, keep himself entertained? "My job at La Bare pretty much does that," he explains. Each issue the "What's your ego trip?" page, in which local cognoscenti answer that bold question, presents yet another window on our bodies, ourselves, our naked souls. "A full glass of Bacardi 8 with a full breasted Latina," responds an assistant marketing manager for Bacardi. "Fashion consulting," replies a fashion consultant. "Cutting hair," reveals a haircutter. But Ego Trip cuts even deeper with its regular "Fifteen minutes of fame" interview. Look out, Michael Putney. Here comes the prince of South Florida reporting, the journalist still known as Buster, who recently confronted Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer in a historic Q&A. Buster: "During a commission meeting you said chances are there're just as many people doing illegal drugs at the Mix as there are at the Delano." Dermer: "There are some [clubs] that were bad and there were some that were good. I think Pump was actually one that had a pretty good record.... Since the nightlife industry is so important to the city, we want to make sure it's done properly." Ego Trip could be considered an authority on that topic, thanks to experts such as millionaire former club owner Shawn Lewis, who told New Times he bought the magazine in late 2000. Lewis left the South Beach club industry in early 2001 after a nasty legal dispute with former business partners. But such woes are nothing a cheerful disposition and a keen astrological awareness can't cure. "Keep smiling," advises publisher Buzzy Sklar, "because you never know when you might end up in Ego Trip magazine."
Let's face facts: It's no secret that thoroughly married women have by and large given up on the frills along with the sexual thrills. So you can pretty much assume that any female shopping at Victoria's Secret for lacy apparel that couldn't cover a kitten's rear end is on the legitimate prowl. And if she's not now, she's planning to be. So go ahead. Give it your best shot. Try picking her up while she's picking up a teddy.
Part records technician, part social worker, part comedienne, Minnie Bishop is a pleasant surprise when you walk into the Miami Beach Police Department's snazzy building at 1100 Washington Avenue. Even if it's five minutes till closing time, Bishop will deal with your problem without the hostile stare we've come to expect from government service workers. With a hearty laugh and a "Hold on, baby, we'll see what we can do for you," Bishop swings into action, brown eyes sparkling behind wire-frame glasses. She can help a domestic-abuse victim needing a battery report, fax police documents to the U.S. Attorney's Office, and keep up on the office gossip all at the same time. Bishop also has a million stories for every occasion, some sad, some funny, whatever she thinks you need to hear. "I've laughed at my desk and cried at my desk," she says.
According to OpenZine editors Humby and Kiki Valdes, this is an "urban subculture magazine." Did you know Destro is back? Bet you didn't even know Destro had left. (That's the name of a straight-edge rock band.) You'd be up on it had you been reading this zine. Just like you'd be privy to what's going on in the head of Kendall's own DJ EFN. "Yo, sometimes I'm like turn off that rock shit," he admitted in one OpenZine interview. "I can't even listen to salsa. My mind is strictly on hip-hop. As much as I love other types of music, I do have my periods where I only want hip-hop." Sons of Cuban immigrants who settled in New Jersey, the Miami-based Valdes brothers started their zine as a photocopied handout in the early Nineties. Humby, a 26-year-old graphic designer, first devoted it to punk/hardcore. Kiki, a 22-year-old painter, later inspired him to include hip-hop, "but with a punk attitude," the kid bro insists. It now is a glossy publication with some color pages (along with the Web presence). A news section keeps graffitiheads, art freaks, and all homies informed of important developments from MIA to NYC. Did you know, for example, that a New Jersey high-school teacher shut down students painting a mural of dead rappers Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur, B.I.G., and Big Pun? One memorable 64-page edition in 1998 included a spread on graffiti art in Miami and, as the editors promoted it, "a funny story about the Cuban Mafia." Three bucks an issue. Order or subscribe online.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®