The Education of Shawn Lewis

Lesson #1: Hard work and an aptitude for computers can make a young man rich. Lesson #2: Some rich young men take to South Beach like fish to water. Lesson #3: South Beach is the shark. A young man with money is the bait.

Shawn Lewis lives alone in a $3.3 million, six-bedroom villa on Miami Beach's North Bay Road. The home features columns out front, marble floors and a limestone staircase inside, and a swimming pool fed by a man-made waterfall in the back yard. The style is more suited to a deposed Latin dictator than a former computer programmer from the Jersey Shore. The manor represents how Lewis was perceived when he first arrived here: big, flashy, and ultimately unconvincing.

A year after moving in, Lewis is selling the place. "It's not me; it's a postcard," acknowledges the 32-year-old tech multimillionaire. As if to emphasize the point, he tromps through his immaculate living room, past the oil painting of two ancient Greek wrestlers, into the modest kitchen. "It's probably more comfortable in here," he notes. Lewis is wearing biker boots, jeans, and a short-sleeve black shirt that reveals a pair of florid tattoos on his right arm. His demeanor and dress may suggest working-class swagger, but his lifestyle remains jet set. He's in a rush today, for instance, because he's getting ready to fly to Las Vegas in his private jet to see his pal Lennox Lewis box the next day. Then he'll zoom off to Japan on business. "I'm probably going to go live in a condo. Someplace I can relax in."

When Lewis arrived on the Beach two years ago, he partied in the swankiest VIP rooms with the prettiest people. Paparazzi snapped his mug for the society pages. He met a beautiful swimsuit model and fell in love. Then, as if to one-up the other rich guys who host parties in VIP rooms, Lewis bought half a dozen nightclubs.

Cool place: Shawn Lewis at the opening of his nightclub Krave
Steve Satterwhite
Cool place: Shawn Lewis at the opening of his nightclub Krave
The house was spacious and fancy, but it wasn't really a home
Steve Satterwhite
The house was spacious and fancy, but it wasn't really a home
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
South Beach trifecta: Former nightclub moguls Thomas Kramer, Richard Bronson, and Chris Paciello
Liz Romero (below from her Latin Sensations days) says her relationship with Lewis was never about the money
Steve Satterwhite
Liz Romero (below from her Latin Sensations days) says her relationship with Lewis was never about the money
The wedding that wasn't became fodder for tabloid TV when Inside Edition broadcast the extravagant bash
The wedding that wasn't became fodder for tabloid TV when Inside Edition broadcast the extravagant bash
Rich people who need help turn to G. Jack Donahue
Steve Satterwhite
Rich people who need help turn to G. Jack Donahue

Before moving here from Boston, he hardly ever went clubbing let alone own one. But that didn't prevent him from trash-talking the competition, throwing money around like confetti -- in essence taking on South Beach. "I came down here like a bull in a china shop, and I kind of screwed things up," he concedes. Indeed his temperamental outbursts and penchant for self-promotion resulted in everything from a felony arrest for assaulting a police officer to the bizarre meltdown of his wedding on national television.

"To understand what the hell he is doing, you have to be a $300-million guy," says one player in the nightclub universe. "You and I can't even think like that. If we had that kind of money, what would we waste it on? Some guys buy Ferraris. He buys nightclubs. Does he know what he's doing? No."

But many Beach observers disagree. "He's nobody's fool," counters veteran promoter Tommy "Pooch" Pucci. "I think he's gonna help the Beach nightlife. By buying up a lot of these places, he's reserving their liquor licenses, and that's worth something. There aren't any more to be had. Clubs are like condos now: They just go up and up in value. It's just another piece of real estate."

What Beach cognoscenti agree on is that Lewis, for better or worse, will determine the future of the area's celebrated nightclub scene. Last month he opened Krave, the first of five clubs and three restaurants he plans to unveil in the next two months. This unprecedented run will culminate with the New Year's Eve debut of Bar Code, in the old Liquid space at Washington Avenue and Española Way.

If all goes well, Lewis will become the conquering hero of this chronically narcissistic town, raking in accolades and profits. If, on the other hand, he opens a string of garish venues that send the glamorous people running, he'll just be the latest brash millionaire to stumble at the gates of South Beach. This much is clear: Lewis is aware of his poor initial impression, and he's determined to rehabilitate his image.


Manahawkin, New Jersey, where Shawn Lewis grew up, is a former clamming and fishing town hemmed in by the rural stretch of pine barrens along the Jersey Shore. By the Seventies Manahawkin had become a bedroom community for Atlantic City and, to a lesser degree, Philadelphia, 50 miles to the west. Needless to say there was not a lot there to stir a restless child's mind. So it came as a revelation when Lewis's grandfather, a retired U.S. Department of Defense worker, brought home a build-it-yourself computer kit. Lewis found himself propelled into a strange new world. It immediately became apparent that the boy was freakishly fast at figuring out how to write code that enabled the computer to do specific tasks.

"He was always in front of the computer," recalls his mother, Lynne Platt, who raised her son alone. "I'm surprised his fingers didn't grow into the computer keyboard."

By the time he was thirteen years old, he was writing code for Southern Regional High School, helping create math quizzes and French lessons for teachers. "I'm one of the top 100 coders in the country," Lewis boasts. "I can code anything."

Contrary to the geeky stereotype, Lewis views writing code as a highly creative endeavor, comparable to a writer scratching away at a manuscript, or an actor improvising. "It's methodical," he explains. "A plan with a reaction. But no matter what you do, you never get the same type of code from two different people. A lot of it is personality."

Writing code gave Lewis an outlet for his intellect. The rest of his life didn't. He became bored at school and rebellious at home. "I think I was just too bright for my own good," he says. "It created a rebellious personality."

His mother agrees. "The idea that “nobody can do it as good as me' is something he unfortunately inherited from me," Platt observes. "We judge others by the toughest standards, standards we set for ourselves. But sometimes people just aren't that way.

"I used to think he had a computer for a brain. He knows the quickest way to solve a problem. The difficulty with the school system is they don't recognize that. His brain was not being stimulated, and it became very frustrating for him."

In the ninth grade, he dropped out of school and ran away from home. Neither Lewis nor his mother will discuss the details of his departure. Instead, Lewis recounts how he camped in the woods, building a lean-to fort out of sticks, showering in friends' houses, eating dry cereal. ("Of course I worried about him," Platt says. "I worried about him all the time.")

Lewis found work on construction crews and after about two months was able to rent a room at a nearby marina. "I used friends as family," he notes, something he says he continues to do to this day. "I have a huge heart, and when I go out, I take care of everybody, even before I had money. I'm like the father figure."

Mainly he worked. But even as he was hanging Sheetrock during those days, his interest in computers continued. He'd notice office workers struggling to keep track of invoices and paperwork, and he'd offer to write systems that could streamline those tasks.

Lewis's computer skills eventually landed him jobs at other construction companies, writing code that helped his bosses analyze costs. By his twenties he was a computer consultant living on Staten Island. There was no shortage of work. It was during this time that he married briefly. His ex-wife, who now lives in California with their two boys, declined to comment for this story.

In 1994 David Callan, owner of the Boston civil engineering firm Boston Survey, hired Lewis. At that point he was a techie in the guise of a greaser, right down to his tattoos -- a dragon on his forearm and a skull nestled in a bunch of roses on his bicep.

"I picked him up at the airport," recounts George Collins, now co-owner of Boston Survey. "I was like, “Whoa.' He was an interesting-looking gentleman. Here comes this guy with his hair slicked back, shiny pants, black boots. He wasn't your typical computer person." Collins pauses before continuing in his Boston brogue. "But he was the best. I still can't find people to help out here like him. He's a computer genius. He wrote the code for a land-survey program after probably ten other people had tried. We're still using the same program. If I could get him for five hours right now, it would be the best."

Collins remembers something else about the kid: "He didn't have any money. After he moved here, he didn't even have a car. He had to get rides everywhere from his girlfriend. He worked fourteen-hour days, six or seven days a week. He was not a partier."

Owner Callan was even more impressed. Eager to cash in on the tech boom, he talked to Lewis about opening a business. The partners launched Complete Internet Access, an early Internet service provider, in 1994. They also explored creating their own miniphone company, a local exchange carrier, to meet the demand for access to the Internet. The next step was obvious: funding. "We spent eight months of grueling interrogations, and I mean grueling, by the VCs [venture capital firms]," Lewis recalls. "I mean, here's a guy with a civil engineering firm, and a tech guy with tattoos asking for four million dollars start-up money."

Eventually they passed muster, and a new company, Xcom Technologies, Inc, was formed.

"All he did was work," recalls Joseph Benson, a colleague from his Boston Survey days. "Sometimes he would sleep at the office, or sometimes he would go home to shower just to return at night." In the few moments he could spare, Lewis would take his motorcycle out for rides in the New England woods.

In 1998 Xcom came to the attention of James Crowe, an Internet innovator who headed Level III Communications, a vast Internet company with grand ambitions and deep pockets. Level III bought Xcom in a stock transfer agreement that, depending on any given day in the market, was worth between $170 and $240 million.

Things didn't end pleasantly with Level III. The company contested the amount of stock the entrepreneurs were entitled to when they left, and Lewis sued Level III for $20 million in stock. "It was just business. They try to scare you with a lawsuit and you sue back. I could afford to wait two years," he says, adding that he just recently settled out of court. "I won."

After years of working around the clock, Lewis's talents had turned him into a multimillionaire virtually overnight. He faced only one problem: what to do with himself.


In late December 1998, Lewis came to Miami Beach on a whim. His stay at the chic Delano Hotel was intended as a quick vacation. But it became a monthslong sojourn. He wound up renting a house and calling South Florida home.

South Beach has proved mighty alluring to rich men who court trouble, especially in the hedonistic nightlife circles. Thomas Kramer, a German developer with a taste for skyscrapers and nonconsensual sex, took the Beach by storm in the early Nineties. Richard Bronson, a stock dealer with a boiler-room fortune, opened Shadow Lounge before securities regulators chased him into retirement. More recently came Chris Paciello, the handsome Brooklyn tough who ruled the popular club Liquid until the feds exposed his mob ties.

The reasons for the attraction are obvious. This is a young town with a transient, international population. There is no snooty old guard to judge where your money came from or where you went to school. Here you can be whoever you want -- as long as you're picking up the tab. And of course there is a higher concentration of beautiful women here than nearly anywhere else in the hemisphere. No doubt about it, if you grew up poor and struggling, and really wanted the chic set to kiss your ass, South Beach would be the place for you. Lewis was hooked. Shortly after arriving he was frequenting the now-defunct club Chaos, buying bottles of champagne and tables in the VIP section. The recovering workaholic had found a place to play.

But like Kramer and Paciello before him, Lewis has had problems with his temper. While his friends in Boston remember him as an easygoing man, happiest behind a computer terminal, in Miami he's been prone to outbursts. "I get frustrated, yeah," he admits. "One thing is, it's hard in Miami. It's hard to do the right thing, and the work ethic here is 100 percent different than New York and Boston. But I'm learning; I've got my head screwed on straight. It's not happening anymore."

The most regrettable incident to date occurred in April 1999, on the sidewalk in front of Wet Willy's, the Ocean Drive bar best known for disguising vast amounts of grain alcohol in ice-creamy slush. You wouldn't have taken Lewis for a millionaire wunderkind that day. He was adorned like some kind of crazed conventioneer, sporting a feathered headband and Mardi Gras beads, a sports jersey, shorts, sandals, and wrap-around Oakley sunglasses. His attire was not the only loud thing about him. Lewis had guzzled enough slush to be sloshed. As the afternoon wore on, he and a tableful of friends became noisier and noisier, eventually catching the attention of a couple of uniformed Miami Beach cops working an off-duty security assignment at the bar.

One approached Lewis and asked him to leave. But Lewis hadn't earned his millions listening to what other people -- even cops -- told him to do. After walking away he marched right back. The officer confronted him again. Lewis spit in the middle of the policeman's forehead.

At this point the cops moved in to make an arrest. According to the deposition of officer Samir Guerrero, Lewis began struggling and yelled, "I'm not going to fucking jail." Eventually the cops cinched handcuffs on him. "He was talking all kinds of stuff," Guerrero remembers. "He said, “I made five million dollars in one day. Can you say that? I have all this money. You don't know who you're messing with. I've got the best lawyers.' The whole time I was walking him back there he was running his mouth."

Lewis's usual bravado fades when he recalls the incident. "I made a mistake," he says flatly. "I was new to the Beach. I was with friends from up north. I tried to intervene when it looked like the officer was going to move on a friend, and I should never have done that. I had a lot of booze, and my temperament does not mix well with that. It's something I regret and will regret to the day I die. I don't have a history like that, nor do I care to have one. I'm really sorry."

The cops charged Lewis with battery on a law-enforcement officer, resisting arrest with violence -- both felonies -- and disorderly intoxication, a misdemeanor. True to his word, Lewis hired the most famous lawyer in town, Roy Black. Five months later, on September 29, 1999, Lewis agreed to attend anger-management classes and alcohol counseling (the counselor concluded Lewis did not have a drinking problem) and donated time and computers to the Bay Point Schools for troubled youths in exchange for the charges being dropped.

He's had other problems handling his newfound prominence. Earlier this year a woman named Paola Arguello tried to file criminal charges against him for pulling her hair in a nightclub. When authorities didn't pursue it, Arguello sued him in civil court. Lewis simply sighs at the mention of Arguello. This is what he has to contend with: Simply bumping into someone could result in a lawsuit.

But these incidents haven't soured Lewis on the Beach. In fact the same month he settled his criminal case, he closed on his North Bay Road mansion. But he never quite got the hang of just relaxing. Rather, he turned his late-night forays into a job, scouting clubs to buy.

In the fall of 1999, Lewis formed two companies, NSU and Joe Black Productions, hiring friends he thought knew their way around the nightlife scene and partnering with a Boston pal, Paul Caputo. The companies leased spaces with liquor licenses, starting with the former Paciello lounge Risk, most recently known as Zen. Lewis renamed the place G-Spot. To many observers the name's overt sexual reference was an indication of the nightclub neophyte's vulgar tastes. Lewis would later tell Miami Metro magazine that he regretted the moniker. "G-Spot was an experiment to learn about the market," he told the article's author, scene-chronicler John Buchanan. "It was put together in about twelve days."

But Lewis certainly didn't talk like a neophyte. He boasted repeatedly that he was going to dominate business on the Beach and told Buchanan that two major nightclubs, Level and crobar, were a fad. Both, he predicted, would be gone by next season.

"Shawn came here, and his most obvious personality trait was that he didn't give a damn. He surrounded himself with his own friends from Boston, and he said what was on his mind," says Buchanan. "And he made some people mad. He didn't get to know the power structure. Pretty soon he found out South Beach is a neighborhood, and the gossip and backbiting is fierce."

G-Spot foundered, drawing a crowd of young kids. The elite partiers, including a core three dozen of the most wealthy patrons the clubs rely on to spend thousands of dollars a night on VIP tables and champagne, steered clear. In May 2000 Lewis closed it.

"He thought he could become us by buying up all the property," sniffs one nightclub proprietor. "But you've got to be reputable and hip. The nightclub industry is about personality. You do not attract society, the A crowd, with vulgarity. He just hasn't earned any respect yet."

The failure hit Lewis hard, but he had no intentions of retreating from South Florida. By this time he had met Liz Romero.


Lewis claims to have high standards for his love life. His role models are his grandparents, married more than 50 years until his grandfather's death earlier this year. "I take a look at that relationship, and through thick and thin they stuck together," he says. "No matter how hard the problems, they weathered them together." But the circles in which Lewis was traveling, the flash and sizzle of South Beach, did not necessarily make a good hunting ground for a soulmate. And then there's the warping effect money can have when decent people do meet.

Romero, a petite, buxom Cuban raised in Hialeah, had flitted around the fringes of the fabulous set here for years. In 1995, at age 21, she was Miss Hawaiian Tropic. She modeled provocative bikinis on the Website latinsensations.com and even dreamed of being a Playboy model. In 1999 she was selected as a Dolphins cheerleader, her pert looks enhanced by years of ballet and jazz dance lessons. But all her attempts to penetrate the glamour world were extracurricular, she maintains, secondary to her schooling. She has an associate's degree and is pursuing a bachelor's while working as a dental hygienist. Four years ago she bought her own condo on Miami Beach's West Avenue, of which she is very proud.

Romero met Lewis through some friends on an idle Sunday afternoon in early February at the Nikki Beach Club, the sandy playpen at the foot of Ocean Drive where club people like to recover from their all-night excursions. Though they were interested in each other, it took awhile to connect. "We played phone tag for two or three weeks," Romero recalls. Finally on February 22 they went on a date -- to play miniature golf and eat dinner at Macaluso's.

Things went well at the golf course, and their romance took off. The day after their first date, Lewis flew Romero to Cancún for three days. On the evening they returned, Lewis proposed. Romero gasped and said yes. "I was swept away," she recounts. "It was crazy, romantic, a whirlwind. And marriage is definitely something I want." That night Lewis pulled up to a jewelry store on Ocean Drive and bought a six-carat diamond ring worth an estimated $30,000. (Because of a nondisclosure agreement that prevents her from discussing details surrounding the wedding, friends had to describe the ring to New Times.)

Those who know Romero describe her as a levelheaded women who is always involved in serious relationships. Prior to meeting Lewis, she had been in a four-year relationship, and she has been married once before, to a Miami police officer. Even Lewis's friends down from Boston say she seemed genuine. "I can tell a phony, and I thought she was a pretty decent kid," says former colleague Joseph Benson. "She didn't seem like a gold digger. But who knows what happens behind closed doors."

In April they signed a prenuptial agreement that promised Romero a sliding scale of alimony payments in the event of divorce. If married less than two years, Romero would receive $75,000. Lewis planned a blow-out million-dollar wedding for May 27.

By then Lewis had hired a publicist, Dindy Yokel. Soon Romero and Lewis were found in the celebrity shots of the local magazines. "Once he met me, he started being more public about this whole “Who is Shawn Lewis, this new guy on South Beach,' thing. We were presented as a couple," Romero says.

About two weeks before the wedding, the betrothed planned a joint bachelor-bachelorette party. Lewis used two boats, one for men and one for women, to set sail for Bimini.

During the trip Romero's friends say Lewis became increasingly upset that the bride-to-be wasn't spending enough time with her man. (Romero can't talk about the trip.) "We didn't talk the whole time," Lewis says. "It was a really rude situation." On Bimini Lewis admits he was so upset, he left early in the smaller boat, which had carried the women to the island. "I left the big boat, the 80-footer, for her. They chose not to get on it."

But friends counter that Lewis kicked the women off the boat and made them find their own way home. After exploring the island, the women returned to find their luggage packed and waiting. They ended up spending the night in a hotel and then chartering a plane out of Opa-locka to fly them home.

Once they arrived in Miami, it was pretty clear the romance was over. Romero went to gather her belongings from Lewis's house. According to police records, a patrol car was called to the scene because Romero "needs help to retrieve the dog and property from the ex-boyfriend's house.... Ex-boyfriend won't let her in the house." With police watching Romero collected her clothes and her pet Pomeranian.

"I didn't want her to go," Lewis says, adding that he wasn't trying to prevent her from entering. "I was trying to convince her to stay."

The marriage was called off.

But a million-dollar wedding party doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't disappear overnight either. Nuptials or not, an extravagant feast -- including 800 oysters, four kilos of Beluga caviar, and rivers of champagne, midgets dressed as jesters, and women in mermaid costumes -- had all been paid for. Publicist Yokel convinced Lewis to throw the bash anyway.

On the guest list was a crew from the tabloid TV show Inside Edition, which had been gearing up for an episode that became, in the words of host Deborah Norville, "the million-dollar wedding with the surprise ending." Boxer Lennox Lewis showed up, as did O.J. Simpson. At one point Yokel called together the press, including John Buchanan, the Inside Edition team, and Sun-Sentinel columnist Jose Lambiet, who was there with his wife. Lewis confessed his heart was broken. "I was very much in love, but hey, things didn't work out," he told the camera. "It's very, very hard." When pressed on the reason for the breakup, he told the group he had caught Romero with another man and that she had taken money from him.

It was at this point that Lambiet asked Lewis whether he was for real. "To me it looked like a publicity stunt. I mean, his publicist had called me to invite me to this big shindig, and then they hold this press conference," Lambiet recalls. Lewis did not react well. Recounts Lambiet: "When I ask that, he goes off. He says, “I'm hurt; I'm hurt, man. She took my heart away.' Then he points to me and says, “Get this guy out of here.' I tell you, the guy's tightly wound."

Lambiet says he didn't like the looks of the beefy security guards escorting him out, so he grabbed a Miami Beach cop working crowd control to accompany them as well. "I didn't feel safe. The goon content there was very high," the writer recalls. "I've been to crime scenes at 2:00 a.m. in Brooklyn, and this was one of the most uncomfortable positions I've been in as a reporter."

The two made nice the following day, however, when Lewis beeped Lambiet and offered to bury the hatchet.

Less than a month later, Lewis also mended his broken heart when he and Romero reconciled. "I kept taking her back," he admits. "I wanted it to work." He told the Miami Herald he had wooed her back with "about $50,000 in roses." The couple married in a brief civil ceremony on June 22, and the newlyweds flew off to Puerto Rico.

At the time Lewis was fighting with his club partner Caputo, claiming that Caputo had defaulted on a loan. The clubs were held in Caputo's name. Lewis wanted them back under his control. The fight, though nasty, eventually was settled. Caputo, in what Lewis describes as a last dig, signed the clubs back to Romero, not Lewis, a move that the millionaire says legally fulfilled the settlement but was meant as a slight.

"What people don't understand is, I never wanted anything to do with the clubs. Never," Romero now says. "I've been on the Beach for years, and I'm over that scene."

After continuing their honeymoon in Europe and a trip to California, where Lewis says he paid for several thousand dollars' worth of plastic surgery for Romero, the two split. Lewis, suspicious and angry, hired a private detective to follow Romero. According to Lewis and his attorney, the detective determined that Romero had moved back in with her old boyfriend, whom she had run to after the initial breakup before the nonwedding.

Lewis and Romero filed for divorce on September 22. One informed club source says that after the nightclubs were put in her name, Romero began making inquiries about selling them off. Romero concedes that someone made queries on her behalf, but she didn't know about it or approve.

Things swiftly turned bitter. On the day they filed for divorce, Lewis filed a defamation lawsuit claiming "Romero orally published and made certain statements to third parties ... naming and accusing Plaintiff, Lewis, of being a murderer who had killed a man, that Lewis had gone to jail for seven years, that Lewis is laundering money, and that Lewis is a racketeer."

It was a bizarre document, and apparently short-lived. Lewis dismisses the complaint as "over now."

Romero had not seen the suit, saying her lawyers handled "all of that stuff." When shown the complaint, she laughed and said, "None of that is true; that's why it went nowhere." In the end Lewis and Romero struck a cash deal: She was paid a lump sum (the figure was not disclosed) to transfer the companies back to Lewis's control.

To the outside world, it looked like Lewis had been taken for a ride, that he had met a sexpot who married and then ditched him and was amply rewarded. Lewis sees it that way. Yet, when the lawyers for both sides had stopped escalating the tension, Romero says she wasn't happy about what had transpired. She decided, she says, "to do the right thing."

Back went the lump-sum payment. She returned her "birthday gift," which she is not allowed to mention, but which friends say was a Porsche Boxster. She even returned the diamond engagement ring. "I have been saying all along, it has never been about money," she notes. Lewis, still less than amicable, says he gave his ex-wife a check for half the Porsche's value.

This was Lewis's nadir on the Beach. For a time he considered packing it in and heading back north. Ultimately, he says, he didn't want to go out that way. "It was a rude awakening," he says. "I'm a pretty street-smart guy; I didn't think I'd get taken advantage of like that."


As fall rolled around, it became clear that Lewis's miscalculations had cost him. His romantic life was in shambles, and he had had to close G-Spot in order to reinvent it. Lewis needed an act two in Miami, and he needed some help pulling it off.

In early September, at a posh party on Hibiscus Island, Lewis met G. Jack Donahue. If South Beach high society is filled with snakes, then Donahue fancies himself a wily snake charmer. A dapper Irishman who even on the most humid days wears pressed shirts, ties, and jackets, he is an anomaly amid the palm trees. His face still retains the pinkish hue of his Boston roots, despite having left the Northeast ten years ago. And his work, as a kind of insider PR man, consumes him. Like a perverse chamber of commerce guide, he can't stop talking about how seductive his new home is. "South Beach is a sunny place for shady people," he says, cribbing W. Somerset Maugham's adage about Monte Carlo.

"The hottest sex on the planet is on these 23 blocks," he adds. "This is the billion-dollar sandbox. The old feel young here, and the young feel opportunistic. I'm legit; I've been here ten years, and I don't drink or drug. My penchant for women is unparalleled, but that's all right. It's healthy."

After talking with Lewis at the Hibiscus Island party, Donahue recounted, he signed on to Lewis's organization. "I don't know who the hell was advising him, but he needed some help," Donahue says. "He got involved with some poor advisors."

"Jack's a great guy," Lewis says. "He has inroads into the community where I should be. I quit school in the ninth grade. I don't have that polish. Jack can help there."

The first thing Donahue did was to set out to rehab Lewis's image. He helped the chastened mogul found a charitable institution, the Shawn M. Lewis Foundation, which threw a breast cancer fundraiser at the Raleigh Hotel in October. A grander benefit to raise money to fight Parkinson's disease is planned for this month.

"By this time next year, Lewis Enterprises could be employing upwards of 1000 people. That's a lot of revenue for this place," Donahue says. "This city should be very thankful he's here, otherwise you'd have even more boarded-up storefronts on Washington Avenue."

Meanwhile the recent opening of Krave appears to have been a success. Puff Daddy and Jennifer Lopez partied there, a necessary coup, given that celebrity buzz is the lifeblood of the club scene.

Aside from Krave Lewis's companies now control the former Liquid nightclub, the Living Room, and a new club called Chikara; they also will open Joe Black's Bar and Grille. He has bought Ego Trip magazine, a pocket-size glossy that caters to club kids. His entertainment production company, Joe Black, is cosponsoring an upcoming music festival.

And that's only a small part of the overall plan, Donahue emphasizes. Hotels on South Beach and perhaps Las Vegas loom on the horizon. Internet entertainment companies. With Lewis's deep pockets, the possibilities abound.

Lewis himself insists he's committed to his new home. "My life is down here," he declares. "I'm not going anywhere. I may have lost the first battle, but I'm not going to lose the war. I'm much more comfortable today than six months ago. I've found my groove. I needed to become comfortable with myself."

His friends in Boston simply are hoping Lewis won't become overwhelmed by the "phonies" that cluster around the rich here. "Hopefully he'll hire trustworthy people to run things," Joseph Benson says. "I think he's been there long enough to know the score. It's hard when you get a lot of money. It's bound to breed a little arrogance. I don't think he's too bad. He's basically the same person he was before all this."

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