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
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