HALLANDALE’S ELDERLY DEFEND STRIP OF PARADISE (March 8, 1987)

Miami Herald, The (FL)
March 8, 1987
Section: BRWD N
Edition: BRWRD
Page: 1BR

HALLANDALE’S ELDERLY DEFEND STRIP OF PARADISE
PETER VILBIG Herald Staff Writer

Along the boulevard, the mood is angry.

“I could put him in my pocket,” says Tibor Kaufman, 77, nearly shouting,
as he stands outside the Publix Supermarket on East Hallandale Beach
Boulevard. “I play much better tennis than him. Tell him that. Tell him
he doesn’t know anything.”

The object of Kaufman’s wrath is Neil Rogers, a middle-aged radio
talk show host who in recent weeks has turned his radio satires on the
elderly residents of Hallandale into a South Florida cause celebre.

His verbal bombs have fallen most directly on a small target: not
Hallandale as a whole, but a 1 1/2-mile strip of land along East
Hallandale Beach Boulevard from U.S. 1 to the ocean.

The boulevard, with its row upon row of condominiums to each side, is
the most densely populated neighborhood in Broward County in the city
with the county’s oldest population (average age: 64.9). It is a city
within a city, and a city of the old.

For Rogers of WINZ (940-AM) the boulevard is inhabited by “wrinkled
miserable cheapskates,” “old bags,” and senile pedestrians who leap into
the path of oncoming cars in their zeal to make the early bird special,
steal condiments from restaurants, or maul the vegetables at grocery stores.

For Hallandale residents, the boulevard is something like paradise. It
is a place where retirees can gather outside the Dis-Com Securities
office at the Diplomat Mall to watch the stock prices and socialize. Or
go to Pumpernik’s or the Sage Bagel Shop for breakfast. Or sit on a
bench in front of Publix and meet with friends.

“What we find is this is a central place to go shopping,” said Vice
Mayor Arthur “Sonny” Rosenberg. “If we want to go to a show we can. We
have the good restaurants, doctors close by, the banks and brokerage
houses.”

But for Rogers, what is paradise to the elderly is purgatory for the
young. By questioning the manners and habits of the old, he says he is
attacking rudeness and striking a blow for civility in South Florida.

“It’s not part of any culture to be rude,” he said. “And anybody who
says it is prejudiced.”

But Rogers’ detractors say he is stirring up prejudice against the
old, a tactic no different than a racist or anti- Semitic attack.

“He’s doing some of the same things he says are so terrible,” said Edith
Lederberg, executive director of Broward’s Area Agency on Aging. “He’s
persecuting a segment of the population.”

At any given time on Hallandale Beach Boulevard, many of the actions
that infuriate Rogers can be observed: Jaywalkers constantly cut from
one side of the street to the other, moving between the stores that line
the street. Diners do line up for the early bird specials at
restaurants. And shop owners acknowledge that the elderly are involved
in some theft from restaurants and grocery stores.

But psychologists and social service workers who help take care of the
elderly say that the stereotypes are based on misconceptions. They paint
a picture of the old as a group that is more frail, more frightened,
more prone to illness and emotional distress than the rest of the
population.

Among Rogers’ pet peeves:

Jaywalking: Two elderly jaywalkers have been killed on the boulevard
this year. Rogers says the jaywalkers defy the law because they believe age has given them carte blanche to do what they want.

Advocates for the elderly say otherwise: “The young jaywalk too,” said
Dr. Howard Israel, a Hollywood psychologist who treats the elderly.
“It’s just the elderly who get hit.”

Early Bird mania: Rogers says the old are cheapskates who go to
early bird specials because they don’t want to pay full prices for meals.

Not so, says Lederberg of the Area Agency on Aging. “A lot of them have
problems being out at night. They get up early. They eat all their meals
earlier.”

Shoplifting and petty theft: Store owners say the elderly do shoplift,
but the rate of theft is no higher on Hallandale Beach Boulevard than
anywhere else.

“We catch people shoplifting here, any description you want to put on
them,” said Don Manus, manager of the boulevard Publix. “It’s a
variety.” But, he added: “The shoplifting in any store is going to be
done mostly by the predominant group who shop at the store.”

Israel said he has treated elderly repeat shoplifters. Many of the
patients he treated suffered from mental impairment and were not able to
control their actions.

“In almost every case, it’s some advancing form of neurological
impairment,” he said. “They were usually very upset, very humiliated.”

The Hallandale mania that Rogers has whipped up gives signs of peaking.

Rogers says that after his appearance at the Diplomat Mall Saturday,
he plans to drastically cut back the talk about Hallandale.

That will be fine with the folks over at the Hallandale Theater, where a
Yiddish musical, A Mitzvah a Day, is playing. Their view on Rogers is
philosophical.

“Some people laugh, some are offended,” said owner Steve Weinstock. “As
people get older, they deteriorate a certain amount. They don’t see as
well, they don’t hear as well. They become impatient. They don’t have a
choice. The only choice of not getting older is dying.”

Illustration:photo: diners at Rappaport’s (b), Tybor and Magda
Kaufman (b), pedestraian at Hallandale Beach Blvd (b), sign (b),
retirees (b)
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Copyright (c) 1987 The Miami Herald
Copyright Miami Herald Media Co. All rights reserved

Rogers Pecks on the Bird

Miami Herald, The (FL)
March 8, 1987
Section: AMUSEMENTS
Edition: FINAL
Page: 1K

ROGERS PECKS ON THE BIRDS
/BILL COSFORD Herald Movie Critic/

For Neil Rogers, the moment of truth arrived this weekend.

At this writing, he was scheduled to meet the Early Birds, with much presumed turning of the worm, on Saturday. We cannot know now how this all turned out, though as you read this it will be over. Even WINZ, Rogers’ station, seemed to suggest in promoting the big event that Nasty Neil had at least a long-shot chance of being lynched, right there in the Diplomat Mall. In Hallandale.Rogers was scheduled for a rare live shot, appearing before the citizens.

And the citizens were steamed.

EARLY BIRD BROUHAHA

For weeks, the airwaves have been full of — not speculation on the future of the Reagan presidency (then, as now, a perilous affair), nor ranting on the fate of the Contras (same deal) nor even cross fire over the River Cops — but Early Bird brouhaha.

What to do about the Early Bird, and by extension about Hallandale and Miami Beach and great condo-canyon chunks of our community, and by even further, near-delirious extension, about crotchety old folks in general?

Who else but Neil Rogers could stir up such a thing? Who else could galvanize the three counties over the question of whether ’tis nobler to stuff one’s purse with rolls or, by ignoring, lose them?

Yes, it’s Rogers time again. Folks are up in arms, calling WINZ to demand that the talk-show host stop lampooning the mores of Hallandale and stop making fun of the crowd that lines up for area restaurants’ “Early Bird Specials” and then, once seated (and more often than not abused by surly help in the bargain) begins the systematic looting of
the table dressings and condiments. For this sin, Rogers has been pilloried by city commissions along the withered “Gold Coast.” Most recently, the city manager of Hallandale was actually ordered to compose a song in rebuttal, and that city manager did duly comply.

For his part, Rogers seems bemused. When he started on the Early Bird business two months ago (Miami Beach was the target then), he really didn’t figure on making people mad. He was just filling time on a slow day. The next morning, a listener called in and suggested a new tourist slogan — “The Rolls Are Different Here” — which Rogers enjoyed so much he gave the Early Bird another ride or two. The ride continues, and the furor has not died. Instead, it has become the hottest topic in talk radio. Rogers says he wouldn’t take offense. When you stop and think about it, neither would anyone else with skin thicker than a Sweet ‘n’Low wrapper.

After all: People do in fact load up on the rolls at the Early Bird, and Hallandale did indeed order up perhaps the lamest song in civic-booster history (sample lyric: “People make this city a place of the heart, Values and a culture where no one dares to part, For faith is something you simply cannot buy, And trust you’re not born with, you only have it when you die.”)

And it was not Rogers who ordered a police crackdown on jaywalking. It was the city of Hallandale.

GOVERNMENT-BY-BOZO

Of course, part of this story is just another episode in the continuing saga of government-by-bozo that characterizes South Florida from the Keys to Palm Beach. Another, more interesting part is Rogers’ role. He manages to make people mad. We need this. Oh, do we.

Though frequently dismissed as a careless rabble rouser (most often by city officials casting about for an excuse to avoid his invitations to appear on his program), Rogers’ bona fides as a local activist are very much in order.

More than anyone on local air (with the possible exception of former Dade County commissioner Ruth Shack, who has a weekend show on WNWS), Rogers talks about South Florida and how it might be made a better place. (His latest campaign was a holiday pitch to raise money for the homeless, and it was no self-promotional stunt. Rogers made it clear from the outset that “Radio Aid” was the project of Mike Spindell, a fellow WINZ personality to whom Rogers merely leant his considerably wider audience reach).

But when Radio Aid failed to excite, Rogers began to use the needle. Eventually, he got around to those whom he once baited as “prunes,” and attacked where, it turns out, it hurt the most: in the Bird. To this,the people responded. What a mean guy.

WE NEED A MEAN GUY

Well, we need a mean guy. This is not a community famous for its involvement. With the exception of the Latin bloc (the concerns of which are often foreign, not local, policy), South Floridians are about as apathetic a bunch as you will find. Across the AM band, you can hear the talk hosts whine: Introduce a serious topic or an otherwise provocative guest, and the few callers you do get will ask when the psychic, the TV repair guy or the diet doc will be on.

Ironically, when Rogers does snag a city official, the proceedings are almost invariably civil. Recently, Bad Neil even seemed to make peace with the Miami Beach City Commission, which body he has skewered mercilessly. Commissioner Bruce Singer came on, refused to be rattled and at one point extracted from The Ogre a pledge to take a second look at the city’s nightlife. Hallandale should be so clever.

But it’s more fun when Neil gets ’em mad. Somehow, the juices must be made to flow. Recently, Rogers has discovered the works of the New York radio insult-personality Howard Stern, through tapes supplied by a
colleague. Stern is known for offering no quarter. He offends all, apologizes never and redeems himself not through civic activism but by being fired periodically, generally after referring to his employers as “scum.” Clearly, Howard Stern is not for this market.

Surprisingly, Rogers is. In Hallandale — and Miami Beach and Pembroke Pines and Coral Gables and Sweetwater and Little Havana, all of which Rogers makes considerable sport of — they listen. They don’t call in when the issue is Irangate, but give them the Early Bird and the wires get hot.

I know it isn’t politic, but it’s fun to hear the town(s) hopping, and hopping mad. I hope they didn’t lynch Neil yesterday. If they did, we’ll need a monument. Put it up outside of Rascal House or in the Diplomat Mall. Somewhere where it will annoy the citizens and get them talking mad.

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Copyright © 1987 The Miami Herald
Copyright Miami Herald Media Co. All rights reserved