First Words — 30 June 2017
Seeing Florida through Baywatch eyes

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

My earliest impressions of South Florida began with Flipper.

From Flipper, a popular 1960s TV show about a family living in South Florida with a bottlenose dolphin, I learned that everyone here lived in a world full of wonder. That everyone here had:

A. A dock.

B. A boat.

C. A bottlenose dolphin friend who was gentle, faster than lightning and smarter than anyone you’d see.

There were other perks as well, especially for an 8-year-old Midwestern boy who liked to play in the dirt and did not like to take showers.

“Why should I take a shower when I have the whole ocean for a bathtub?” Bud Ricks said to his TV older brother Sandy Ricks.

A dock, a boat, a bottlenose dolphin – and you could bathe in the ocean? This was way cooler than anything we had in the Midwest. (With the possible exception of farm animal sculptures, made entirely from butter).

Shortly before I moved here for my first job, my impressions of South Florida were transformed by Body Heat, a 1981 noir potboiler starring sultry Kathleen Turner and steamy William Hurt. From Body Heat, I learned that everyone in South Florida lived in a world full of sexy heat and humidity. That everyone here had:

A. A lawyer.

B. An alibi.

C. A girlfriend who was sultry, faster than lightning and smarter than anyone you’d see.

“You aren’t too smart, are you?” Kathleen Turner smoldered to William Hurt. “I like that in a man.”

Once again, way cooler than anything we’d had in the Midwest. And hotter. (All the farm animal sculptures would be puddles of butter).

And now, Baywatch.

Oh, sure, there have been other movies over the years that have given us a sense of South Florida – a sense we attempt to project here in the Summer Issue of City & Shore. Caddyshack, for example, taught us about our golf and yachting etiquette. Rock of Ages taught us that Coconut Creek’s Mount Trashmore could pass for the Hollywood Hills. There’s Something About Mary taught us always to check in the mirror.

But I’m trying to imagine what a Midwesterner would make of South Florida, this time around.

From Baywatch, a popular TV show of the 1990s rebooted into a movie starring Dwayne “The Rock’’ Johnson squaring off with Priyanka Chopra (“I’m not a Bond villain. Well, yet”) we learn that everyone in South Florida has:

A. Rock-hard abs. (Primary and auxiliary set).

B. A Ford F-150 Beach Patrol pickup.

C. An Olympic-medal swimmer friend who’s shredded, faster than lightning and more smart-alecky than anyone you’d see.

 Editor’s Note: The following quote is about the only one from Baywatch that could be reprinted in a family newspaper magazine.

“Some people are up to no good,” Priyanka Chopra says to Dwayne Johnson, roughly summing up – in seven succinct words – the uncomplicated plot of the movie, too.

And an uncomplicated plot is a good thing because now, as a long-time South Floridian, I kept getting interrupted from my rock-hard ab, Ford F-150 and Priyanka Chopra viewing enjoyment by – Hey! I know where that is! – scenes shot on location here. Until they weren’t.

Because while there are undeniable South Florida landmarks on display in Baywatch – The Boca Raton Resort & Club, Deerfield Beach and the Hollywood Broadwalk – some of the action was clearly filmed amid Spanish moss-draped and red-brick walled Georgia.

So impressionable Midwesterners – impressionable people everywhere, really – will come away from Baywatch thinking South Florida is full of ripped, pick-up driving, Spanish moss-draped, smart-alecky people, some of whom are up to no good.

But still, a world full of wonder.

Photo: There may be dolphins in the background, but no Flipper in the cast of Baywatch.

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