Why? Because he's so damn entertaining. Because he's not afraid to lie down in a $1000 suit in front of a jury to approximate a corpse. Because he comes up with cute nicknames for opposing counsel (he mockingly told a jury that if federal prosecutor Allan Kaiser got his way, police would blow kisses to criminals rather than arrest them; he called it the "Kaiser Kiss"). Because he moves his arms constantly when summarizing. Because there's not a gag order around that can shut him up. Because if you're a cop accused of something very, very bad, so bad you don't think you have a prayer, this is the guy who will put on a show that just might distract the jury enough to get you off.

Well, okay, the Lord never said, "Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor with electoral fraud." But Tony! Neither did He say, "Go forth and bear false witness to petition signatures because homosexuals belongeth to an axis of evil." In the absence of an explicit prohibition, our local Christian Coalition leader apparently figured there'd be no problem. The issue was repeal of the Miami-Dade law forbidding discrimination against our neighbors because they are gay, lesbian, bi, straight, or asexual. Last August state law-enforcement officers arrested Verdugo and charged him with one felony count of false swearing during the Take Back Miami-Dade petition drive that forced this repeal question onto the September 10, 2002 ballot. (Agents also arrested three others in the Take Back family.) A few hours later Verdugo was out on bond, unrepentant, and preaching on AM radio about how he had been framed by Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, the supervisor of elections, various prosecutors, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and other members of the homosexualist Mafia. Verdugo hit bottom, however, when he took little Elian's name in vain. He told listeners that his own arrest reminded him of that early morning in April 2000 when federal agents swooped in and snatched the miracle child. Verdugo now knows the power of mercy, if he didn't before. Because he was a first-time offender, prosecutors gave him the option of performing community service instead of standing trial. And so the charge was dropped.

We're not jealous of you Jorge, we're proud! We've seen your handsome face adorning those humorous videos, and we know the rest of the world has been chuckling with them as well. We watched you win Best New Artist at the Latin Grammys, then go on to be nominated for Best Latin Pop Album at the non-Latin Grammys. You were one of the first signed up to Madonna's new label Maverick, and not just because of those looks -- we all know the other pretty boys on the charts don't write their own songs and play their own instruments like you did for Jorge Moreno. That disc that gave us the exhilarating homage to Desi Arnaz in "Babalú," and highlighted your own songwriting skills -- and mixture of styles from pop to tropical to son -- on "Mi Sufrimiento" and "Despertare." And you can still laugh at yourself. You Cuban-American honest-to-God high-quality-product-of-Miami, you go boy!

Readers Choice: Alex Rodriguez

Cuban immigrant Gerardo Gonzalez was one of the most popular boxers of the Fifties. As "Kid Gavilan" he won a world title against Johnny Bratton in 1951 at Madison Square Garden. He was inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990. Gavilan was notorious for overwhelming his opponents with flurries of punches coming from all angles, and coined a notorious strike called the "bolo punch," a potentially lethal uppercut. He retired at age 32 with a record of 107 wins and 30 losses (28 KOs). In 1958 Gavilan returned to revolutionary Cuba only to have his property confiscated. Like so many others he escaped to that intermediary land of Miami, where he remained a vital source of information and energy in the boxing world. Gonzalez died of a heart attack February 13, 2002, in Miami. He was 77 years old. Papers in England, Scotland, and Australia wrote obituaries commemorating his career.

She came from St. Louis to Miami, innocent and earnest, to get her degree in physical therapy from UM. She got it and began aiding old folks and kids with accident or disease-based problems. An admirable life of helping others. But then she caught a glimpse of the Miami Heat dancers and succumbed to her inner star complex. It's been downhill ever since. Before long Trista was in Los Angeles, a popular finalist on ABC's dreadful The Bachelor, in which a guy goes through 25 hapless ladies to see which one he'll marry. True love on reality TV? Many in here shuddered to think she represented, however tenuously, the best Miami had to offer. When she didn't make the final cut, her audience popularity (imagine that audience...) led boob tube honchos to give her a spinoff all her own: The Bachelorette. This time she got to go through 25 guys and dump 24 of them. Just in time for the final episode, and with commercial sponsors lining up for the kill, she picked a poetry-writing fireman. "We're still together and in love," she recently ventured, adding (to no one's surprise) that she was now looking for a more permanent TV or movie job.

On May 6, 2003, by a unanimous vote of the U.S. Senate, Altonaga became the nation's first female Cuban-American federal judge. President George W. Bush personally nominated her, sidestepping a list of South Florida candidates forwarded by the state's two senators, Bill Nelson and Bob Graham. The move provoked cries of foul. It's clear Bush wanted a Cuban female in the position, and in Altonaga he found a winner. The Yale-educated Coral Gables resident was a career prosecutor with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office until she became a county court judge in 1996 and then circuit court judge three years later. Even Nelson and Graham, two Democrats, conceded the point of her qualifications and ended up backing the president's pick.

Readers Choice: Gloria Estefan

Her passport put her age at 82, but relatives think she was at least 90 when this nation's grande dame of the sleazy art film departed Miami this past August 10 on a nudist cruise to hell. At least that was the destination Doris Wishman always thought she'd booked, owing to the naughty nature of her movies. Indeed her reputed cult classic is Bad Girls Go to Hell. But so extensive was this Coral Gables denizen's following that the boat surely dropped her off at that cinema paradiso in the sky, probably still wearing an imitation leopard-skin suit and retro sunglasses. In the Sixties Wishman's low-budget shoots explored a strange universe of nudism. They include Hideout in the Sun, in which two bank robbers hide from the police in a nudist camp, and Blaze Starr Goes Nudist. Another classic overlooked by the Academy was Nude on the Moon, in which astronauts touch down and find a welcoming committee of naked women with antennas and bouffant hairdos. She even delved into heavy international political themes with Behind the Nudist Curtain. As the decade progressed, the self-taught director gradually refined her grainy black-and-white melodramas in which crude men tended to abuse scantily clad women. Critics raved about her jarring jump-cut closeups to ashtrays, squirrels, heaving breasts. Her filmography is a veritable review of Sixties history: Another Day, Another Man; The Sex Perils of Paulette; Bad Girls Go to Hell; Indecent Desires; A Taste of Her Flesh. Perhaps it was a lust for money that led to her mid-Seventies hardcore phase (Come With Me, My Love). But mostly she eschewed explicit sex in her art, preferring to revel instead in tasteless weirdness. A few years later the prolific filmmaker culminated her dream of making a horror flick with A Day to Dismember, about a female porn actress turned psycho-killer. After a long hiatus and a stint working at the Pink Pussycat sex boutique in Coconut Grove, Wishman returned in the new millennium with the lyrical Dildo Heaven and the violent yet sexy Satan Was a Lady. She was editing Each Time I Kill at the time of her death. In the end, she was a crazy sweetheart. "I made all my films out of love," Wishman purred.

Sunny Isles goes up, Fontainebleau mural goes down, DCF kids go missing, Rilya still missing, Stierheim stays, rain stays, Mas Santos seeks a dialogue, Alonso seeks a defense fund, gay rights are challenged, priests are accused, more rain, more DCF kids missing, DeFede goes mainstream, Beach Memorial Day goes on, Stiltsville goes public, Cubans get smuggled, Warshaw gets released, Alex Diaz de la Portilla gets off, cops kill, DCF kills, lightning kills, Elena Burke dies, Leonard Miller dies, George Batchelor dies, more priests are accused, more rain falls, more Haitians arrive, Nicole Guillemet arrives, Carrie Meek retires, Kendrick Meek is anointed, Reno hits the road, Bad Boys II hits town, traffic stops, tempers flare, temperatures rise, summertime sizzles, bus benches sizzle, more priests are accused, more DCF kids are missing, Haitian kids kill, Maysie Beller dies, Ellen Morphonios dies, Humbertico gets released, Al Gutman gets released, Ecstasy smugglers get busted, anti-gay activists get busted, Miami poverty gets famous, Marcos Jiménez takes charge, Joe Arriola takes charge, Alonso is charged again, Muhammad Ali returns, classics return to radio, the Gusman returns to splendor, Shiver meddles at MIA, MIA's Richard Mendez is convicted, Sal Magluta is convicted, Vaclav Havel arrives, Oswaldo Payá arrives, election monitors arrive, Hurricane Andrew turns 10, Calle Ocho turns 25, Bushwacker Lounge dies, Mike Gordon's dies, the Taurus dies, gay rights survive, Natacha Seijas threatens, Rick Sanchez threatens to return, elections turn to chaos, more cops shoot, more Haitian kids shoot, Art Basel arrives, David Leahy quits, Carlos Gimenez quits, Chuck Lanza quits, Ira Clark quits, Florida Philharmonic goes bust, Performing Arts Center busts budget, Miami Beach busts lobbyists, hurricanes stay away, tornadoes arrive, Bill Perry dies, Maurice Gibb dies, Laurie Horn dies, Reno tanks, Dolphins tank, Canes tank, Cubans hijack, Graham runs, cruise ships sicken, Haitians still detained, DCF still kills, but finally some good news for those who think the bad guys always win: North Miami Beach detectives were after Henry Box, Jr., wanted for attempted murder. They got a hot tip and chased it. After securing the area where they hoped to apprehend the suspect, they had a clerk get on the intercom: "Mr. Box, please come to the front office. Mr. Henry Box." He did just that, sauntering from the jury-pool room at the criminal courthouse, where he was doing his duty, into waiting handcuffs and a short stroll across the street to jail.

Everything you ever wanted to know about local education (from pre-k to post-doc) and so much more. History professor Peterson, a slight man with glasses, a limp, and a sardonic smile, creates somewhere between seven and ten e-mail newsletters weekly and sends them to a few hundred people. The newsletters are partly a compendium of education-related articles in major newspapers and journals, studies, and statistics. But they also serve as a repository of Peterson's analysis of political trends, bald advocacy of ideological positions, parsing of the smallest potential motives behind every decision made by the school board, and tweaking the administration and politicos by endlessly speculating on their essentially corrupt natures. To subscribe, send an e-mail to peterson@fiu.edu with "subscribe MER" in the subject line.

The Miami Herald was a favorite DeFede target for the ten and a half years he was employed by this newspaper. Now that he's toiling away in the belly of the beast, his crusade against corruption, incompetence, malfeasance, official mediocrity, and, well, official idiocy appears to continue unencumbered by the powers-that-be -- at least so far. The first page of the Herald's local section is a far more interesting read thanks to him (and an inspired internal shakeup that affected the other columnists at the paper). Are we sorry to have lost him? Of course. Is he making us proud nonetheless? You bet.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®