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
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 www.tomfexas.com.
This Memorial Day, remember those who were lost serving our country on the high seas in the U.S. Navy aboard PT Boats. Recently we were invited out for a ride on the only operational combat-veteran PT Boat, PT 305 in New Orleans.
See what it was like here. ▶