By Michael E. Miller
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The two women in pressed pantsuits and high-necked collars look on in near shock, tittering to themselves as Tara Solomon strolls up the steps of the Compass Cafe on Ocean Drive. Even amid the mobile mosaic of the beach-front sidewalk, the high priestess of South Beach nightlife draws stares. Tonight her rounds will include the Havana Club, a decidedly non-Beach nightspot on the mainland, and as always La Solomon is dressed for the occasion - a black-fringe mini skirt, a bustier garnished with a dozen pink, yellow, and red roses (one ceramic, another real, the rest fabric), a black pompom-fringed bolero highlighted by a dachshund pin at the shoulder, a Barbie charm bracelet on the wrist, and of course the wig, a dark affair piled high, bangs hanging down. "It is," she explains, "my pre-Castro tribute."
No sooner does she sit down at a table than the waiter, the fourth or fifth person she greets by name in the first few moments, places a glass of champagne in front of her. The bubbly continues to flow, without request, for the next hour or so.
By day she works as editor for Metro Playbill Publishing, which produces Playbill magazine for theaters and concert halls throughout the southeastern United States, as well as Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, and Key Biscayne magazines. By night she is the princess of club land, a busy social butterfly in subtropical Bohemia, a nocturnal diplomat-without-portfolio.
A native of Cape Coral on the west coast of Florida and a television/film graduate of the University of Miami who refuses to divulge her age, Solomon moved to the Beach five years ago and promptly dove into the after-hours scene as features editor and nightlife columnist for the now-defunct Miami Beach magazine. She currently chronicles her adventures in Antenna, a free Beach newspaper, and serves as news editor of Miami Mensual magazine. She also hosts a weekly Karaoke night, featuring amateur singers, at the Beach club Semper's. Lately she has received more publicity, locally and nationally, than most aspiring South Beach models. And she is fast becoming a striking visual symbol of the Beach's burgeoning reputation as Party Central
Do most nightclubs let you in for free?
Every club lets me in free. I cannot remember paying a cover charge. But I always bring American Express and enough cash to pay for myself and friends who may not have money. I never assume I'm going to be hosted for the night's events, but chances are I am.
How do you arrange for free entry to clubs? Do you have to call ahead?
No. I just go.
What do you tell them?
I say nothing.
Can anyone do this?
Do you ever have to tell them who you are?
Once. Once I was at the ill-fated Reggae Rockers Cafe across from Warsaw that was open for about three weeks. It was about a year ago, and I happened to be with David Andrusia,the author of the book North America: Hot and Hip. So he was researching a chapter on Miami. As a favor to the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau I squired David about, taking him to the hot spots of South Beach. I thought he should see different types of clubs, although I perhaps do not frequent them, which in this case I obviously did not because they didn't recognize me and were very vocal about not recognizing me. And Dave was just like, "Sure you're queen of the night scene. Sure." I'm not going to argue with this over-steroided, poorly dressed causewayite who is tending door because he doesn't have anything else to do. And so we just spun on our stilettos and pranced over to Warsaw, where not only were we admitted immediately but given rolls of free drink tickets to boot.
But that's the only time it's ever happened?
That I can remember, yes. Once at Boomerang a very young girl hesitated, but then someone probably promptly gave her the signal, and I was admitted.
So they never say no?
No one ever says no.
Do they let you bring along friends?
Yes. Sometimes I'm with one person and other times I've been with a party of twelve to twenty. Often I help entertain writers from New York, and so we're a press junket. In that case I usually call ahead to let them know as a courtesy to the club owner.
What do you think is in it for them?
Every club wants to have fun people that help further the energy, to keep things fun. It's theater, in a way. South Beach is performance art 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Any club owner wants to look and see his club saturated with fun, self-amused, creatively dressed, highly coiffed individuals. It behooves the clubs.
What about free drinks?
Free drinks are a part of it like anything else. Put it this way: I've never had a problem getting a drink, and typically my drinks are on them. Most of the time the club owners are very gracious, very generous, and they'll either give me a small roll of drink tickets or will just bring me a glass of champagne or an Evian.