Miami: Then & Now
By Tom Austin (Nightlife); by sondra schneider (neighborhoods); by brett sokol (culture)
Tama Janowitz turned up at Score, the Energizer Bunny of gay bars: “Look at all the guys standing against the wall like they’re at a prom or something.” At the thankfully still-around Joe Allen, the theater set talked about Kathie Lee Gifford in Sondheim’s Putting It Together (they weren’t kind). Meanwhile, over at the Blue Moon hotel, A-gay Merv Griffin—he’s gone, but not his hotel—hosted a bizarre party with the oldest living Ziegfeld Follies girl. Across town at some dive or other, Vin Diesel reminisced about working as a club doorman with the late Gilbert Stafford. Mynt recently hosted a damn fine wake for Stafford, the most fun funeral imaginable, with a fan of mine—and many others, apparently—licking everyone’s tongues for chuckles. Stafford, who liked to spread a bit of club love, would have approved.
At Bambú, now Buck15, Gabriel Byrne was surrounded by several heat-seeking model missiles, Adrien Brody, Sky Nellor and a local implant king who still resembles Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame: Everyone, as they say in show biz, is still working. Hometown glam girl Debbie Ohanian is back in the club business at Private Residence: It’s situated above Barton G., home to the late and much-lamented Starfish. In 2000, Starfish’s entertainment lineup included the then 77-year-old bolero singer Rosita Fornés lifting up her skirt for a number. Those were the days.
And so the night goes, year after year. Was South Beach 2000 better than 2010, or are all the memories of decadence past a drunken chimera, couched in the sickly sweet violence of nostalgia? At the 20th anniversary party for Books & Books on Lincoln Road, the fun, as per usual these days, was virtual. A seasoned group of reformed degenerates gathered around an iPhone, taking in Carlos Betancourt’s Facebook gallery of vintage club photos: Neither technological innovation, of course, existed in 2000. We all bragged about the era when we drank, smoked, snorted, danced on tabletops and actually went to clubs, as opposed to looking at old club photos of ourselves. Someone at the table suggested a 9:30 movie, and an outraged cry went up, as if a 5 AM visit to an after-hours club had been proposed: Everyone had an early morning at the gym, meetings, middle-age creaks, whatever. Time takes a toll.
In the past decade, Miami went on a building spree of such magnitude that it morphed into a different city, warping at the speed of light from a fairly low-key town into a highenergy world-class destination with (according to Forbes) the sixth-highest cost of living in the country. The contrast between Miami past and present is most clearly seen in the older neighborhoods that have emerged in the last decade into full bloom: SoFi on the Beach, the Design District, MiMo and, centered by downtown, the gleaming Brickell area and the revitalized lower Biscayne corridor.
By 2000, the gentrification of SoFi had begun with the construction of Portofino, a 44-story luxury tower that served as the catalyst for a series of ultra-pricey condos developed by The Related Group, including the Yacht Club at Portofino, the Murano, the Murano Grande and Icon. In 10 years, SoFi developed a skyline to rival downtown’s, with some of the most expensive real estate in the area, from the Continuum towers to the final addition, Apogee, where preconstruction prices soared as high as $15 million. And restaurants have followed suit, as the formerly abandoned blocks now host gourmet spots from Smith & Wollensky and Red the Steakhouse to Myles Chefetz’s collection of highend eateries, epitomized by Prime One Twelve.
photographs by seth browarnik (miami) manny hernandez (miami, mendes); seth browarnik/red eye production (jackson); Dacra (moore building)