The Sultan of Schmooze

Michael Aller can smooth-talk with the best of them. His political friends in Miami Beach love him for it. His creditors don't.

But what exactly does he do all day? As an independent contractor, albeit one with an office at city hall, Aller doesn't have to work any set schedule, although he does report to the mayor and city manager a few times each week. He works about 40 hours per week on city business, he claims, and puts in numerous additional hours on other civic causes and his radio show. Much of his efforts involve either planning for upcoming conventions or not-so-aimless schmoozing with anyone connected to tourism.

His eager-to-please personality is perfectly matched to his job. When the American College of Physicians was in town in late April, for example, Aller learned that visitors at one hotel couldn't get hot water. The surly manager allegedly hadn't listened to pleas from the group, so when Aller got on the phone, he told him, "If your guests aren't getting hot water, how are you cleaning your dishes?" -- implying that the hotel might merit a surprise visit from health inspectors. As Jean O'Donnell, the physicians' convention manager tells it, the hotel's general manager rushed over to the convention center to apologize, and soon the hot water was restored. O'Donnell says, "Michael had the level of authority to make things happen, and he didn't hesitate to use it."

Aller worked especially hard on the May 23 Ocean Drive party for the 5000 people attending the international tourism trade show Pow Wow; he recruited volunteers, went door-to-door to businesses, and pressed city departments to spruce up the area. His job isn't always so demanding, though. Recently, for example, he held forth on a South Beach tour bus filled with representatives of corporations that will host parties at next January's Super Bowl. In this role, Aller essentially had become a high-priced Gray Lines guide. "This is the cleanest and clearest of the oceans," he enthused. "We've got fabulous boutiques....Here's the News Cafe. It's like the Polo Lounge."

A typical Aller day is not solely devoted to his official work, but he has such an expansive view of his role that, as he says, "It doesn't make any difference." Besides his one-hour radio show, in any week he'll make time for such activities as emceeing an AIDS fundraiser (last month the United Foundation for AIDS luncheon he hosted raised $175,000), planning a gay business group's lunch, or organizing a holiday concert in North Beach. In Aller's mind, practically everything he does helps advance tourism and conventions, directly or indirectly. "It all overlaps," he says. "Everything I do is for the betterment of the city." Indeed, he'd probably be just as devoted to his work even if he didn't need the money.

The sometimes earnest nature of his city job occasionally mutes Aller's dishy, effervescent personality, but that side of him is given full rein every day at noon on his radio show, and on his raucous Saturday-night program. Both programs are broadcast live from the Booking Table Cafe on Ocean Drive, with Aller at a front table, talking to anyone with something to plug. New store owners, restaurateurs, Miami Beach city commissioners, even total unknowns who somehow are acquainted with Aller can get their shot. It is a form of patronage, and he dispenses it liberally.

Occasionally a real quasi-celebrity will make an appearance. On one recent afternoon, he and cohost Linda Stein welcome someone who's an even greater self-promoter than Aller himself. "Ladies and gentlemen, the one and only, the man who is famous for being famous, Monti Rock the Third," Aller says as a pony-tailed Monti Rock begins a fast-talking hypefest of his assorted projects.

Later, as Rock begins to recount his climb to fame in the 1960s and 1970s, Aller and Rock discover they have more in common than being flamboyant and gay. Rock begins to explain how he met record producer Bob Crewe when Aller interjects, "Oh...I went out with Bob Crewe!"

Before long it turns into a mutual ode to each other's fabulousness, and Aller pays Rock the ultimate compliment: "You're sick. They should lock you up, Monti Rock -- and they have on several occasions."

Rock is pleased. "You know how I love you," he says.
"I love you, too, Monti," Aller responds. But he can't resist getting in a final dig: "You've had more careers than Linda's had colors of hair." Stein smiles faintly at the put-down.

Aller is not shy in asking other people about their sex lives, either, although he claims to be celibate himself. On a Saturday night not long ago, he and one of his regular guests, businessman Kevin Burns, owner of Condomania, spent much of their time stopping people on the street and asking, "Do you practice safe sex?" Then Aller would hand them a free condom and say with a grin, "These are Rough Riders." Most people take the inquiries -- and the condoms -- with good cheer, but some people aren't so pleased with his intrusions. Two young jocks come by, and when he asks them if they practice safe sex, the shorter one says, "I don't. I have a steady girlfriend." His taller buddy responds, "What he doesn't realize is that his girlfriend had sex with twenty guys."

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