Food and Fundraising

For Miami's social elite, high-end galas are high-calorie affairs

If you owned the Alfred Dupont building, how would you redevelop it?

Robins didn't miss a beat: "I'd try to get the Wolfsonian to have a party in it."

At the Wolfsonian-FIU dinner, the power elite actually seemed to be enjoying themselves
At the Wolfsonian-FIU dinner, the power elite actually seemed to be enjoying themselves

The fallout appears to continue from Miami Beach Commissioner Matti Herrera Bower's tangle with the city's Cultural Arts Council (CAC). Donna Shaw, the Beach's director of tourism and cultural development and the overseer of the CAC, abruptly resigned her position after only a year on the job. Shaw's departure follows a bitter dustup between Bower and much of the local arts world over the direction of the CAC and its grant recipients. Bower argues that the once-predominantly Anglo board desperately needs more Hispanic faces -- and their less "elitist" perspectives. She rejected the bulk of the CAC's own recommendations for its new board members -- a pool of applicants that had been carefully vetted by Shaw. Bower's critics see this move as political cover for creeping patronage and a lowest-common-denominator approach to the arts.

Shaw called the ongoing CAC controversy "very sad," but declined to elaborate to Kulchur. The choice to leave city hall, she continued, was "absolutely" her own. Shaw was previously vice president of Chicago's Custom Marketing Group, concentrating on national travel campaigns. Prior to that she spent eight years heading Illinois's bureau of tourism and film -- qualifications that led her to beat out 59 other nationwide finalists to become the Beach's cultural czar in February 2003. "I simply am returning home to the city of Chicago, where I am from -- and that would be my comment," she tersely concluded.

CAC member Nancy Liebman was less circumspect. "She was frustrated by the complete lack of support from the city manager's office," Liebman said of Shaw's unrealized vision. Liebman also blamed the city commission's unwillingness to pony up more arts funding.

Those with sharper interrogation skills than Kulchur may want to stake out Lummus Park -- Shaw is in little hurry to repatriate to the Windy City before its spring thaw: "I'm taking two months prior to starting my new job to enjoy Miami. I'm running on the beach, having a fabulous time playing tourist."

The O'Franken Factor? Best-selling author Al Franken's radio show is still unnamed, but it -- and the rest of Air America's "liberal" talk radio network -- hits the Miami airwaves as early as March 31. And, as reported previously by Kulchur, lefties excited at the prospect of Franken's daily noontime face-off with Rush Limbaugh have former Radio Unica president and current county mayoral hopeful José Cancela -- or at least Cancela's failed business plan -- to thank. It was the October 2003 bankruptcy sale of Radio Unica's fifteen stations that is providing the backbone of Air America's coast-to-coast affiliates.

An Air America spokesman declined to comment, promising an official lineup announcement next week, but detailed schedules have already leaked: Miami's WNMA-AM (1210) is one of the stations on board, while West Palm Beach-based host Randi Rhodes is already crowing to her local listeners of having signed a contract to follow Franken every weekday at 3:00 p.m. Comedienne Janeane Garofalo anchors the evenings.

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