Did you know that the mother of billionaire garbage and sports magnate Wayne Huizenga died a few weeks ago in Fort Lauderdale? I didn't. And when somebody mentioned it to me recently, I wondered how in the hell that could gave got past the Pulp. I loo
ked up the coverage and found that the Sentinel didn't report the death; it just ran a paid obituary for Jean Huizenga, who was 87, on Feb. 12.
The Herald ran a six-inch story by Ashley Fantz buried in the back of the newspaper about the death in the obits. A clue as to why the Sentinel didn't publish anything at all is contained in Fantz's story: "The Huizenga family declined to talk Sunday for a story about Jean Huizenga."
So Huizenga didn't want a story about his mother's death ... and, surprise-surprise, the Sentinel didn't publish one. It's undoubtedly news, but when the biggest paper in town makes Huizenga -- a buyer of politicians who is one of the great civic vampires of all time -- a sacred cow, you don't get news. You get a paid obit instead.
And you get fluff pieces about H. Wayne Jr. The Sentinel had not one, but two, feature stories the week before Jean's death about the heir apparent. First came Paul Owers' glowing and unquestioning feature about Junior on Feb. 6. Trust me (because I can't find a link), it was bad in a head-exploding way, with mushy quotes about how great the son is from stinking lobbyists. Two days later, religion writer James D. Davis wrote a similarly gushy piece about the kid, who is now 44. It was about how Junior was becoming a proselytizing evangelical Christian. Good news: His faith made him realize that his employees are people too. "The Bible says to `be kind to your slaves," Huizenga explained in the article. No joke.
So why do you think Huizenga Sr. didn't want any stories done about his mother? Well, that's where this thing gets interesting. Let's harken back to a 1994 story in Miami New Times by Steve Almond, who is now a successful author
, about Huizenga.
"Harry was not an easy man to live with. In a divorce petition filed in 1954, Jean Huizenga accused her husband of ongoing mental and physical abuse that eventually landed her in a mental hospital. He would demand sex and when she didn't comply, he beat her, she stated.
Police records indicate that she filed a complaint alleging that Harry terrorized her on New Year's Eve 1953. He moved the family to Florida soon after, hoping to salvage his marriage and make a killing in the Florida real estate market. Both plans failed.
On July 26, 1954, a deputy from the Broward County Sheriff's Department arrived at the family's modest home off Federal Highway to serve a complaint filed by Jean Huizenga, accusing Harry of "extreme cruelty" and seeking a divorce after eighteen years of marriage. The deputy left the papers with fifteen-year-old Wayne.
The divorce unfolded in a flurry of nasty motions that laid bare the extent of the brutality in the Huizenga home.
"This past July, he came into the room," Jean recounted in court. "And when I asked him not to wake the children and go back into his own room, he hit me. He walked around the other side of the bed and hit Bonnie and when Wayne came to the door to try and stop him from hitting me, he hit him, he hit Wayne too."
"I don't think we ever got one night's sleep around here," young Wayne testified. "[Harry] was always getting up in the middle of the night and would come in the bedroom and monkey around with my mother and wake us all up…He would push us down on the floor, hit mother, Bonnie, and myself."
After the divorce, the rancor dragged on for several years. Harry, who had buried himself in debt building three homes he couldn't subsequently sell, was reprimanded by a judge for failing to make child-support payments. Jean also accused him of breaking into her home and assaulting a male friend of hers. Harry retaliated by attempting to have custody of his children transferred to his relatives in Chicago, accusing his ex-wife of being a mentally unstable adulterer. (The couple eventually remarried in 1978.)"
If you want to read the rest of Almond's awesome story (which also includes the tale of a business-related altercation during which Huizenga was accused of grabbing a man's testicles and squeezing them to the point of injury), it's here
(the Miami New Times' archive didn't have it in there for some reason).
You just have to wonder. Is Wayne ashamed of his past? Does his mother's story not jibe with his tycoon image? Is that why he refused to publicly memorialize his mother?
I don't know but I can guarantee one thing: The Sentinel won't answer those questions.Story of the Day
Look, it’s not my business to lead you somewhere that will engross you for way too much of your morning. But if you haven’t been reading Larry Keller’s coverage
in the Palm Beach Post of the James Sullivan murder trial, you’re missing some pure Pulp. I'm going to give it a collective Story of the Day.