Attitude Dancing

Wire editor and former club owner Andrew Delaplaine wants to be the next mayor of Miami Beach. Is this guy tilting at windmills?

The campaign's headquarters, located in the lobby of the empty Park Washington Hotel (the Washington Avenue hotel currently is being refurbished), seldom hum with activity. On most days it's just Tamsitt or another volunteer answering the phone, and on a recent Tuesday morning there wasn't anyone there at all, because Tamsitt was out obtaining precinct maps. About 70 volunteers signed up to work on the campaign, Morningstar says, but there's little sign in Miami Beach of their presence. "It's hard to get people motivated to do anything," she concedes.

Overall, political analysts say Delaplaine will be doing well if he gets more than 30 percent of the vote, but no one is predicting a victory. Yet consultant and lobbyist Randy Hilliard believes that Delaplaine's vote count may surprise people. "I think he'll do very well," surmises Hilliard. "There's a great deal of voter discontent with incumbents." And Hilliard discounts the widespread view that Delaplaine is just running as a stunt: "Andrew is too intelligent a man to do something like this for the sake of frivolity." (Sources say Hilliard has served as an informal adviser to Delaplaine, but Hilliard declines to confirm or deny those accounts.) Most experts, though, view Delaplaine's candidacy with disdain. As political consultant Bob Goodman puts it, "I don't know what motivates him. Maybe it's a little of the Andy Warhol in all of us. He just isn't a serious contender; he has no chance."

Whatever his chances, sometimes Delaplaine and his supporters create the impression of having political momentum in a typical South Beach way: They throw parties, in this case parties-cum-fundraisers. Although turnouts may vary, they're always enjoyable affairs, and Delaplaine A witty, literate, and outgoing A almost always rises to the occasion. At one such party, when he's asked about his campaigning that day, he says, "I kissed three babies today -- so the state attorney's office is investigating me for child abuse!"

On a recent Friday night, over 70 people show up at the Bridgetown Grill on South Beach for a Delaplaine soiree, a considerably better showing than a similar event at Lincoln Road's 821 club the previous weekend, when only about 15 people attended. A table at the front of the Bridgetown staffed by two volunteers takes in approximately $1000 by the end of the evening. Even socialite and publicist Norma Jean Abraham, one of Delaplaine's creditors from the 1991 bankruptcy stemming from his failed South Beach nightclub Scratch, shows up to lend him support. Delaplaine is as irrepressible as ever -- joking, for instance, when someone hands him a cigarette, "This is my first bribe." But when he gives a brief campaign talk to the audience, he's animated by genuine passion. "The momentum is building," he says. "They realize we're serious." He goes on to talk about Coconut Grove, where he was born, as a wonderful place to live before "they built it out," he adds. "That leaves South Beach, and before they totally fucked it up, I wanted to have one thing to say about it. I'm trying to remind these people that have been in power that they were put up there to serve the people who live here, and they don't do that now. It's time we reminded them in no uncertain terms who their employers are." He finishes to whistles and strong applause.

After his speech he even acts like a concerned political official. When a man who lives near Glam Slam complains about his frustration at getting noise codes enforced by different city departments, Delaplaine listens patiently and tells him: "We'll have a meeting with the police about this." It's as if Delaplaine really believes that he could get elected.

The real challenge for Andrew Delaplaine comes when he tries to reach beyond his hard-core South Beach base to the broader electorate. His first serious test in that regard occurs at a candidates' forum on October 10, the day that the Herald publishes a critical article about him headlined, "Beach candidate boasts 'new vision,' messy past." Besides the article's references to his 1991 bankruptcy and two arrests A one in 1992 for public intoxication, the other in 1985 for drunk driving A there's the lingering allegation that he deliberately published anti-Semitic slurs in Wire. Delaplaine and his staff have always said that a 1993 reference to "Jewish landlords" resulted from a typographical error. But that explanation may not be sufficient to appease the heavily Jewish audience he has to face tonight in the candidates' forum, sponsored by the Middle Beach Community Association and held at the Miami Heart Institute. After being portrayed as an irresponsible anti-Semitic lush in the Herald profile, Delaplaine has, perhaps, some damage control to attend to.

In a bid for respectability, he's abandoned his T-shirt look, supplementing his usual khakis with a blue blazer, red tie, and white shirt. He sits on a dais with candidates for the city commission: incumbents Susan Gottlieb, Martin Shapiro, and David Pearlson, plus two challengers. Mayor Gelber is running late. In response to questions from moderator Dwight Lauderdale of Channel 10, Delaplaine and the others explain why they're running for office.

"I saw an entrenched mayor representing an entrenched power structure," Delaplaine says. "A small businessman trying to get a Dumpster in back of his alley has more trouble than Thomas Kramer does in getting a 60-story building built." That comment elicits modest applause from the crowd of more than 100 voters.

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