Shine On, Crescent Moon

Love him or hate him, Miami Sound Machine architect and Crescent Moon Records visionary Emilio Estefan is a major force in contemporary Latin music

In any case, the Estefans' neighbors no longer have anything to complain about. Days after the exchange in the Herald Estefan bought a South Beach warehouse on Jefferson Avenue at Sixth Street, and announced he was selling the 62nd Avenue house that had ignited the protest. He had been looking for a location on the Beach for some time, he says, and the Jefferson Avenue building, most recently the home of Raleigh Studios, happened to become available at this opportune moment. Eventually Estefan says he plans to move all operations to South Beach, where he also owns a former car-dealership lot near the Fifth Street entrance to the MacArthur Causeway. For now, however, only the Crescent Moon offices will be moved to the Beach location, while the large Bird Road building will continue to be used for recording and mixing.

Estefan gives a tour of the existing facility's four small studios where handwritten flyers that read "Crazy Moon Mixing, Do Not Disturb" have been taped to the state-of-the-art mixing boards. He gleefully introduces a visiting journalist as "his cousin from Cuba" to the engineers in one of the studios. It's a running gag they've heard before, but they still smile and nod warmly. Even when the boss has another idea and introduces the visitor to other young staffers as a new Crescent Moon artist, they still nod (a little skeptically), smile, and say hello, before they notice Estefan's grin and laugh indulgently. Estefan, like everyone who works for him, is casually but neatly dressed; this day he wears beige linen trousers and a white shirt. A small hoop earring in each ear adds a touch of record-industry radical chic, but he still looks muy nice.

Like a high-speed train on the local track he bounds from room to room, peering into offices, taking calls on different phones, cracking jokes, screening videos, and dancing with Patricia Escoto, his assistant and Gloria's best friend. The night before, 76-year-old Cuban bassist Israel "Cachao" Lopez had appeared on the Tonight Show. Cachao's CD, Master Sessions, Volume I, produced by actor Andy Garcia (with Estefan as executive producer), has just been released on Crescent Moon and Estefan stayed up to watch the father of mambo lead a Cuban descarga on the popular TV show. Today Estefan is jubilant.

"Oh, he's always like that," confides Tinga Lopez, Crescent Moon's media relations executive. "I've never seen Emilio in a bad mood."

Gloria Estefan rounds the corner en route from the restroom dressed in baggy pants, a sleeveless work shirt, and sandals. She rubs her protruding belly as she complains of an insistent bladder induced by her six-month pregnancy. (The couple plans to name the baby, a girl, Emily.) The singer offers a stick from her pack of Juicy Fruit gum, apologizes sincerely for not being more "dressed up," and goes back to laying down vocals for her upcoming album of old Top 40 hits. Then her husband suggests we go to his office to view a video from the album, a cover of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," a Top 10 single for Mel Carter in 1965.

Inside Estefan's huge office, below gold and platinum albums hanging on the walls, two coffee tables are piled high with magazines boasting Gloria as cover girl. A couple of yards away an army of music-biz trophies guard a raised kidney-shaped desk covered with cassettes. Rather than sit at the desk, Estefan goes to a black marble conference table near his elaborate entertainment system and a cabinet on which a fencing mask, an autographed soccer ball, and some Oriental-looking objets d'art are displayed. Politely accepting a compliment on his impeccable work place, Estefan surveys the spotless room.

"I'll tell you something," he intones seriously, "I am a perfectionist."
In the video Estefan cues up, Gloria looks like a beautiful seventeen-year-old, with long straight hair and bangs. He stares at the monitor for a moment, bewitched by his wife's image, and then blurts out, "I wish I could get pregnant so I could glow like that."

Estefan jumps up and changes tapes, this time popping in a thunderous promo video of Sylvester Stallone's upcoming film The Specialist, for which the record producer just finished putting together the soundtrack. (Estefan and Stallone also have been talking about opening a Miami-based film studio with The Specialist producer Jerry Weintraub.) Gloria, Secada (both of whom record for Epic normally), and five Crescent Moon artists are featured on the disc, including Miami Sound Machine (minus Gloria), now known as MSM.

Estefan Enterprise's genteel, omnipresent corporate concierge, Tony, who is Emilio's cousin, pads into the office and offers sweet Cuban coffee in a white espresso cup that reads "Gloria Estefan A Mi tierra" in gold script.

Epic Records Mi tierra has been the number one Latin album in the United States for over a year, and is the only Spanish-language album in the last decade to sell over a million copies. It also has been a megahit throughout Latin America, while in Spain, where the market does not respond particularly well to salsa and other New World Latin dance music, Mi tierra is the biggest selling international album ever. It sat at number one on the Spanish charts for 37 weeks until it got knocked from the top spot by those chanting monks.

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