As Nasty as He Wants To Be

Miami Beach sours on Luther Campbell's Memorial Day freak show

Not that Campbell hasn't proved adept at working the political angles of the Beach's racial jitters. He freely admits that back in February, while officials were quietly mulling his offer, he convinced sympathetic writers at the Herald to put his proposals into print, hoping to force the Beach's hand.

"Miami Beach wants to prove to the NAACP that it's not racist?" he explained of his press tactic. "Then let's watch exactly how they treat me. If they're not racist, then they'll treat me just like they treat the Winter Music Conference, [Ocean Drive magazine's] Volleypalooza, and the 'N Sync concert they had on the beach."

Twisting the screws farther, Campbell arrived for a meeting with assistant city manager Cuervo accompanied by an aide to outspoken civil-rights advocate Rep. Carrie Meek; later meetings with Beach police chief Donald De Lucca saw Campbell flanked by Larry Capp, director of Miami-Dade's Department of Community Relations, and Tom Battles, Miami director of the Department of Justice's community relations service. Battles is a veteran of the headline-grabbing investigations and lawsuits surrounding Daytona Beach's 1999 Black College Reunion -- a 100,000-strong fest which, like last year's Beach Memorial Day mess, ended with conflicting accusations of widespread anarchy versus racist behavior. The implications of involving this negotiating team weren't lost on anyone.

Ludacris at last May's Memorial Day bash -- one of the many rappers expected to return
Steve Satterwhite
Ludacris at last May's Memorial Day bash -- one of the many rappers expected to return
The gloves are off: Luther Campbell sees conspirators at city hall
Cindy Karp
The gloves are off: Luther Campbell sees conspirators at city hall

"Campbell's very good at playing the race card," griped one Beach administrator to Kulchur. "Can you imagine any other city in America bending over backwards for a guy that makes porn films? If everybody wasn't so terrified of bad PR, [Campbell] would've been shown the door a long time ago."

As of last week, city hall finally looks ready to take that step. While the Miami-Dade Department of Community Relations has stepped in to co-sponsor the Ocean Drive arts fair, Campbell's PRO has scaled back its Convention Center concerts from three nights to just one. And the contract for even that single evening has yet to be signed; Campbell told Kulchur he was considering passing off the event to a different promoter entirely.

So why the turnabout? According to faxes sent between the city manager's office and Campbell's PRO, the rapper repeatedly postponed putting down the $24,000 security deposit and proof of insurance required to rent the Convention Center for three nights. After missing permit deadlines, Campbell then asked for only two nights, and presently just one.

The Department of Justice's Tom Battles attempted to do a little spinning via cell phone as he drove between meetings with City of Miami officials over a PRO concert on Virginia Key with Master P and Ja Rule.

"Luther Campbell couldn't come up with the right economic formula that was comfortable for him and his partners," Battles said, choosing his words carefully. "He wasn't able to meet some of the challenges placed on him."

Is Mr. Campbell broke? What exactly is the problem?

"I'm not sure specifically what he has a problem with," Battles answered, adding that he had yet to actually talk with Campbell about the matter. Battles chose not to tell Kulchur that he was sitting next to Campbell at that exact moment.

Tact was not one of the four-letter words Campbell aimed at Beach officials during an impassioned interview last Friday. Memorial Day weekend was "set up for a disaster," he warned, pointing the finger of blame squarely at Police Chief Donald De Lucca and the city manager's office.

"I feel like I've been fucked around, jerked around, bullshitted, for almost four months now," he said bitterly. "I always wanted to give the City of Miami Beach the benefit of the doubt. We're on the heels of a black boycott. As I explained to Victor Curry, I wanted to give them the opportunity to either shit or get off the pot. So I came with a solution."

Instead, he charged, Beach officials intentionally sabotaged him by constantly delaying his events' approval. "Their whole idea was to make sure we didn't have anything concrete, so we couldn't promote it around the country."

He denied being short on cash for the necessary deposits, security, and performers' fees, turning the question around: "Why didn't the Chamber of Commerce, the Convention Center, and the [Greater Miami] Convention [and] Visitors Bureau co-sponsor me right from the beginning? If they're with the program, they should be saluting me. They should give me a goddamn key to the city!"

As proof of what he calls the city's double-dealing, Campbell produced a series of faxes sent between himself, the Convention Center's Doug Tober, Beach City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez, and Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver. In them, Shiver originally promises to provide the Convention Center with both fire-rescue services and 31 police officers each evening, absolutely free -- a savings to Campbell of more than $100,000.

Then, on April 25, Campbell was informed that of the 87 county officers being sent to the Beach for the holiday weekend, none would be available for his Convention Center concerts, per the decision of police chief De Lucca. Instead De Lucca would provide only seventeen Beach police. Campbell's PRO would have to hire more security to make up the difference on its own dime -- a proposition PRO seemed unwilling, or unable, to entertain. "It's all a big goddamn motherfuckin' conspiracy!" Campbell snapped.

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