This story first appeared in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel in the late 1980s. It appears here with permission from the author.
By Pat Jordan
Rod Chadwick, 38, is running cars in the hot sun. He sprints across the street to the parking lot. A tall, leanly-muscled man in a t-shirt, sweatpants, and soiled sneakers. He has a Sam Shepherd face, only more gaunt, with hollows for cheeks and slits for eyes. The face of a pale Indian or a tightly-strung, ascetic.
It is four o’clock on a lazy, Sunday afternoon in May. There is a long line of stopped cars leading from one end of the street to the awning over the entrance to Shooter’s Bar and Restaurant on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale. A BMW-M3 convertible. A Ferrari Testarossa. A black Corvette. An Excaliber. A Lincoln Continental with blacked-out windows. A pink, Volkswagon Rabbitt convertible. A British Racing Green Jaguar XJ-6. A Chrysler Le Baron with a rentacar sticker on its bumper. A dove-gray, Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL. A Guards red Porsche Turbo with the slant-nose front end.
The locals are driving in from their day at the beach. Strippers, both male (“Crazy Horse Saloon”) and female (“The Booby Trap Lounge”). Bartenders and cocktail waitresses. Businessmen and lawyers. Plastic surgeons and insurance fraud experts. Importers and exporters of South American goods. Real estate ladies. Hookers. Body builders. Cattlemen and pepper farmers. Mistresses. Drug runners. DEA informers. A bouillabaisse of Ft. Lauderdale locals winding down their weekend with a few Cuba Libres and Rum Runners at Shooter’s overlooking the water. They sit at the bar, watching the white yachts, blinding in the setting sun, cruise up the waterway. They mill around the docks, seeing and being seen, alongside the docked speedboats. A band in Hawaiian shirts is playing a medley of Jimmy Buffett’s greatest hits from under the shade of a palm tree. A man on a docked speedboat invites a girl on the dock to come aboard for a drink. Maybe a little cruise, he adds, grinning. The girl smiles, shakes her head, no. A local girl who knows that such an invitation always ends with her confronting two options. Suck or swim.
The older men have swept-back, silver hair and gold chains nestled, just so, in their fluffed out chest hair. The younger men are tanned, muscular, with droopy mustaches and spandex bicycle shorts. The older women are pale, heavily made-up, with ash-blond hair that is cut severely short, but not so short as to expose the face lift scars behind their ears. They are wearing long, silk dresses and textured nylons held up by white lace garter belts and, occasionally, an ankle bracelet that reads, “If you can read this, you can eat me.” The younger women are tanned and trim, with brassier, blond hair and oversized breasts recently implanted by a Peruvian plastic surgeon in Miami. They are wearing spandex, mini-dresses or satin jogging shorts with high-cut Reeboks and some of them are still wearing their g-string bikini bathing suits with their stiletto, high-heeled shoes, their American Express gold cards tucked into the top of their bikini bottom.
Rod Chadwick, sweating in the hot sun, holds open the driver’s door of the slant-nose Porsche while a fat man-boy of twenty, struggles out from behind the steering wheel. The man tells Rod he wants his car parked up front, for everyone to see. He slips a $20 bill into Rod’s hand as deftly as a quarterback handing off to a fullback. Years ago, Rod had a football scholarship to Georgia Tech, where he majored in architecture. He transferred to Catawba College in North Carolina and switched to a history major. He helped support himself even then by running cars. When he was graduated he did a little student teaching but decided that was not for him. He opened a frozen yogurt business but didn’t like working indoors. He worked on construction for a while but even that was too confining. He began to run cars again. He has been running cars on-and-off for over twenty years. A valet, now pushing forty, or, as the writing on his t-shirt says, “Automotive Relocation Engineer.” That was Donnie Brown’s idea. He owns the valet-parking concession at Shooter’s and a number of other South Florida clubs, where the valet parking business is rivaled only by Southern California.
Donnie is 28, chubby, preppy-looking with his rosy cheeks and dark, Princeton-cut hair. He was a swimmer and football player at Pine Crest, an exclusive prep school in Ft. Lauderdale. When he left school he missed the jockey, macho image he had as a football Player so he took a job running cars during the 2 a.m.-to-4 a.m. shift at Club Dallas out on Federal Highway near the airport.
“It was a redneck club,” Donnie says, sipping club soda at Shooter’s bar. “They hired me and a few other football players because we weren’t afraid of the rednecks. Nobody else wanted to work that shift.”