By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
While the ability to recall (or fudge) obscure songs at a moment's notice is undeniably a valuable asset for a singing piano player, Sid's would not be Sid's without the owner's bawdy sense of humor, equal parts winks, one-liners, and four-letter words. "I have a fair vocabulary of dirty songs," he confesses. "It amazes me that when you use the f-word or the c-word, people still get shocked. Maybe because they think an old fart like me shouldn't talk like that."
Of course, you have to wonder about anyone who wasn't tipped off by a sign that reads, "HOUSE RULE: IF YOU DON'T SING YOU GOT TO SHOW US YOUR TITS," mounted above the entrance to the piano bar.
"Entertainers are not your run-of-the-mill characters. They tend to be strange or deviants. Many have problems with drinking or drugs. I've been very lucky; that was never my way," Sid says. "I've been looking after this bar for sixteen years, counting the till every night, keeping an eye on things. Most musicians couldn't handle the business end of something like that.
Sid does, however, confess to feeling a tinge of guilt. "I've worked cruise ships before, in Canada," he confides. "I wouldn't mind doing a little cruise-ship work. The bar can look after itself. We have a lot of regular customers -- lawyers, scumbags, a real slice of America -- they're probably getting sick of seeing me around every night as it is."
THE AMERICAN EMBASSY/YORKSHIRE INN
6505 Bird Road*CHECK ADDRESS
Bill Fernandez and his brother Joe, who grew up just a few blocks off Bird Road, went on to own or manage three separate nightclubs in the immediate vicinity: the Alley, Zachery's, and the American Embassy/Yorkshire Inn (the Embassy was the bar, the Inn was the restaurant). But the Fernandez brothers, who recently opened The Baker and the Fisherman, a seafood and gourmet market where the old Red Road Meat Market used to stand at the corner of Red and Bird, claim they've gone out of the bar business for good.
"First, you've got all the competition from the Grove and the Beach," explains Bill. "Then you've got the neighborhood -- it's mostly Cuban, blue-collar. Not the kind of folks who'd be willing to spend much more than a buck or two for a drink. We used to hear all the time, 'I'm moving to Broward,' or, 'I'm moving to the west coast.' Between the crime and what-have-you, it seemed like 50 percent of our clientele moved out of town. And then you had the cops. MADD buried a lot of places, with the stricter drunk driving laws. Absolutely killed the Copa. Back in '82 and '83, cops were sitting outside the place just waiting to pull someone over."
After a splashy 1981 grand opening that attracted thousands of patrons, the Embassy quickly established itself as one of Miami's hottest nightspots. In a matter of approximately three short years, however, business slowed to the point where the brothers chose to close up shop.
During its heyday the bar became known as a gringo hangout. "The American Embassy, so-called because the rumor was they didn't let Cubans in," asserts Jim Fox, a long-time local and font of Bird Road lore. "They didn't broadcast it or anything, but if they didn't like your looks, they might make you show five or six IDs before they'd let you in."
Bill Fernandez says the bar was tough on potential troublemakers, not Cubans. "We had a lot of Cuban customers. We had an English DJ that came up with the name because he thought it was ironic that so many people spoke different languages, but that was the extent of it. If we thought there was even the potential for a fight, we'd throw the customer out. The secret to preventing trouble was letting people know ahead of time that you meant business. And it usually worked."
The presence of an intimidating bouncer didn't hurt, either. "We had the world's biggest doorman," says Fernandez, "Fred Ottman. Six-foot-seven, 375 pounds. Not much fat. One night Dennis Harrah (former Miami Hurricane and L.A. Ram all-pro lineman) and *CK SP*Gary Dunn (former Pittsburgh Steeler with a handful of Super Bowl rings) tried to tackle Freddy after the bar was closed. Couldn't do it. Today he's a famous professional wrestler, one of the Natural Disasters. I think he's called The Typhoon. Weighs about 450 now, or more."
THE FOXXY LAIDY LOUNGE (CLOSED)
6507 Bird Road *CHECK ADDRESS*
The American Embassy adjoined one of Dade's better-known nude dancing bars, the Foxxy Laidy Lounge. The Laidy boasted multiple stages, a reputation (accurate or not) for being outlaw biker-run, and the second-biggest bouncer in South Florida, a six-foot, six-inch, Jabba the Hutt-looking dude as wide as he was tall, perpetually clad in a Harley T-shirt and a greasy denim vest. The Laidy gave the neighbors fits for years before finally shutting down amid rumors of drug busts, gang wars, and financial hanky-panky. It's a safe bet that few homeowners mourned the Laidy's passing, although it will be hard to match the cheap thrill of sitting in the Kentucky Fried Chicken across the street and watching the Colonel's customers do a collective jaw-drop when a gaggle of strippers strutted in wearing pumps, hot pants, and flimsy halter tops amid the lunch rush.