Now It Can Be Told Page 2

Spectator — April 2001
By Tom Fexas

Now It Can Be Told
Part 2: Dirty Deed
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The same people who owned those tony restaurants in crisis also catered to the lunch crowd (also very popular with retirees) with their ice-cream shops, pizza joints, and fast-food dives. Unbelievable as it may seem, Pappas proposed that the owners add appetite suppressants to lunch food so the retirees would not be hungry until much later in the evening! At first his proposal was met with scorn; however, when the restaurateurs discussed it further, it looked like an easy way out. Yes, simply add a little Acutrim to the ice cream or mix it in the mayonnaise or pizza sauce, and the early bird specials would be no more. The members took a secret vote, and it was decided that the dirty deed would be done.

It was a simple thing to accomplish, since nonprescription appetite suppressants were available over-the-counter from drugstores. And so they were discretely purchased from varying suppliers and added to lunch food. The demand for early bird specials began to wane, but a kid who worked in an ice-cream shop leaked word about the restaurateurs’ activities. Outraged, the retirees decided to use their considerable political muscle to fight this threat to their lifestyle, and so during the election of 1982, amendment BS44743-892, banning the sale of all appetite suppressants in west coast counties from Collier in the south to Citrus to the north, was placed on the ballot. Not surprising, it easily passed, although little attention was paid to it outside of the local area.

Now the restaurant owners had a big problem. Cars and trucks were being searched at county borders, and airports were being monitored. Appetite suppressants were routinely confiscated. The owners had to find another way of getting the stuff in. When publicity about the Midnight Lace rendezvous appeared, another member of the WFRA named Dominick de Genoa (who was friends with a Lace owner) had an idea. Why not bring a big load over aboard the Midnight Laces that were coming to Boca Grande? De Genoa obtained the names of the boat owners and approached each himself. Ten of the 13 owners agreed to haul the stuff across the state. Unfortunately, one owner couldn’t help bragging about his upcoming adventure while imbibing at a local bar. That night when the stuff was unloaded, the marina was under surveillance by the local cops. Boat and restaurant owners were briefly jailed and eventually paid misdemeanor fines and were released. In 1984 the law banning appetite suppressants on Florida’s west coast was repealed, and everything eventually returned to early bird status quo.

If you are reading this and shaking your head in disbelief, look at the date at the bottom of this page. Yes, it is the April 2001 issue. April Fool! The only part of this article you can “take to the bank” is that we, indeed, did have a Midnight Lace rendezvous involving 13 boats in 1982 and we, indeed, did run from the east coast to Boca Grande. I hope you will accept my deception with good humor. Got to go now. It’s 3 p.m., and I’m late for dinner.

Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is

Next page > Spectator — April 2001, Part 1 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the May 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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