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.

Aller earns his keep these days not simply by ingratiating himself to visiting bigwigs, but also by continuing to treat city political leaders with a subtly unctuous deference. As Miami's leading courtier, he is well-suited to be the host of the city-sponsored call-in show, Open Line, broadcast on Gold Coast Cable channel 20, lobbing puffball questions at politicians. In the mezzanine above the commission chamber, he takes his seat, looking prosperous in a jacket and tie, in front of a painted backdrop of a beach. He reviews the questions he will be asking Commissioner Nancy Liebman, and graciously lets her glance at them before firing away.

"Welcome, Nancy," he says gently. "You've always been someone who's sparked interest in our community." He adds, "I wore this tie in your honor," referring to a Miami Beach Development Corporation tie that features Art Deco hotels. Liebman has been a leader of the Art Deco preservation movement, so Aller asks her how she views the prospect of a high-rise being built across the street from the two-story Century Hotel. She offers a vague answer to the question, referring to "incompatible zoning," but Aller lets that slip by. There's no reason to offend her.

At the end, after she diplomatically answers questions from Aller and the viewing public about parking, trash collection, and other problems, they exchange compliments. "You are wonderful for doing this, Michael," she says. "That was terrific."

He has praise for her, too, when they go off the air. "The people want the openness of the commission. You've always been the open person, you've always been there [for them]," he says with seemingly heartfelt sincerity. As usual, Michael Aller, Mr. Miami Beach, is being very nice to his friends, and they, in turn, will be good to him.

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