How Does It Feel: To Be Theresa LePore

Former Palm Beach County supervisor of elections, Creator, 2000 presidential butterfly ballot

I was at a luncheon, and some lady comes up to me. “Are you going to hit me,” I said, “or are you going to be nice to me?” We had a good conversation. Usually, I kind of hesitate when people [approach] me. I can’t always judge what their reaction is going to be.

I’ve gotten some really ugly, hateful mail. And death threats. [People have said that] I have the blood of thousands of men and women on my hands. That I put Bush in office, both terms. That 9/11 was my fault.

I lost so many friends over what happened [during the 2000 presidential election], and some people today still don’t speak to me when I see them. I think what upsets me the most is that I was on several task forces for balloting—and the idea was to make the ballot easier for the people to read.

A couple days after [the election], I remember going upstairs to the county attorney’s office. There’s a back elevator. When we came down and the elevator door opened, there were 60 or 70 of these SWAT guys, and all these flashbulbs were going off. The press had found me. People were screaming, “There she is! There she is!” They were calling me names and trying to grab at me. That was the first time I realized the enormity of what was happening.

I kind of lost it. One of the cops said, “Get it out. Dry your tears, and then get back out there.”

By Thursday [of that election week], some of my top people came to my office and said, “Did you drive?” Apparently, they had intercepted a threat. I didn’t drive my car for probably six or seven weeks after that. When I finally did, I had nails in all four of my tires. That’s one of the memories that’s burned in: riding home with a sheriff’s car in front of me and a sheriff’s car behind me.

I’m still very cautious when I go places. I’m always looking around. I never drive the same route twice; if I’m going to church, I’ll always go a different way. I always back into parking spaces because it’s easier to get out.  I don’t go to a lot of big places unless I know it’s at a time when it’s not very busy. I joke that I have to tip well because everybody knows who I am. It’s never gone back to the way it was before that day.

Today, I’m involved with a lot of nonprofits, but I’m mostly in the background, helping with events and [serving on boards]. People used to ask me for [political] support or endorsements, but I always said no. I still have a stigma attached to me; I don’t want someone to lose an election because of that.

I’ve always been one to use everything as a learning experience. It’s just wasted energy thinking about all the negative stuff. If I did, I’d be curled up in a ball somewhere.

How Does It Feel: To Nearly Be Struck by Lightning

Deputy James DeFago III, Traffic division, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

It was a straight week of rain, and it was crazy with lightning. Every several seconds, another flash. Another flash. Another flash.

It was raining so heavily that you couldn’t see several hundred feet down the road. I was still in my uniform and driving home after my shift, when I came to the intersection of Glades Road and 441. There was a crash. It was bad enough that I just didn’t call it in. I had to get out and check on the drivers. I reached for my raincoat, but [realized] it was back at my house drying out from the previous day. So I thought, “I’m on my way home. I’ll just get wet.”

I checked on the first driver, and she was injured. I went to the second vehicle, and [the woman] was standing outside her vehicle with an umbrella. She was not injured. I asked her if I could borrow the umbrella while she had a seat in the car. It was a red, white, green, blue and yellow umbrella—with a metal rod sticking out the top. I was walking back, calling fire rescue, and another deputy pulled up.

I don’t know what happened next. I don’t remember a flash. I don’t remember hearing anything. I was on all fours on the ground. It was enough to shut the lights off; I’d say I was unconscious for a second or two. It felt like the right side of my body was tingling, like when your arms or legs fall asleep.

Later, I found out that the actual strike was several hundred feet on the other side of the intersection. I guess the water and the umbrella I was holding transferred the electricity.

The other deputy, he heard it. He saw me on all fours and helped me up and threw me in the back of the police car. Hopefully, it will be the last time I’ll ever be in the back of a police car. The next day, I was released [from the hospital]. I didn’t miss one day of work, but that’s when the fun started.

I’m only 5-foot-4, so everyone jokes, “How could lightening strike the smallest object?” I have nicknames like Sparky and Power. Guys were buying me lottery tickets, saying I was lucky. And I really do feel lucky.

People struck by lightening directly do not live to talk about it.

 

[From the Boca Vaults/Jan. 2008 issue]

How Does It Feel: To Weigh 600 Pounds

Maximum Capacity, aka Michael Stanco, Division One Pro Wrestler

To wrestle the way I want to wrestle, I have to be between 450 and 500 pounds. But from an appearance and gimmick standpoint, I need to be at 600. So it kind of sucks both ways.

If I have an upcoming match, I go into diet mode. Typically, that means a carton of Egg Beaters, the equivalent of eight eggs, for breakfast; a Healthy Choice TV dinner for lunch; and a pound of chicken breast and about two cups of brown rice and some vegetables for dinner. When I’m not on a diet? Forget about it. I could eat 20,000 calories a day. I don’t have one of those gland problems. I’m fat because I eat.

It’s a struggle to do daily things. Walking to the bathroom, walking to my car, putting on socks—things most people wouldn’t give a second thought to. I have heart problems, water in my lungs. Bad blood return and edema in my legs. I’ve been in and out of the hospital six times in the past two years.

There are times when I’m sad or I had a bad day. You want to come home and just forget about it and have a meal. In that five to 10 minutes, you find an inner peace. Once you eat, you will feel guilty, but the guilt isn’t as bad as the depression was before you ate.

Very rarely, I’ll go out to eat—but it’s got to be with a close male friend. I won’t eat in front of a woman.

The average person would look at me as a failure—well, maybe not so much me because I’m a wrestler. But most people my size, they’re sideshows—the fat person who gets stuck in a house, and they have to knock out the walls to take them to a hospital. The average person wouldn’t know that we’re human beings. That we’re not stupid. That we’re not dirty. That we’re not failures. That we’re not a waste of life. That we have feelings.

If I could take a pill or snap my fingers like a genie and make a wish, I would be 350 pounds. But after you pass a certain weight, significant weight loss is almost impossible. If I can get to a weight where I can do what the average Joe can do—not have to worry about walking down to get the mail—I’d be happy at that weight. For me, that’s probably about 450 pounds.