Two in the Bush

Purloined pigeons and a rooster identity crisis

A few months ago The Bitch was waiting for the bus at the Omni station when she observed a man capturing flocks of pigeons in a wire-mesh trap set with bread-crumb bait, then dumping the bewildered, cooing birds into a bicycle basket seemingly made exactly for the job of avian confiscation. Being the do-gooding animal lover she is, The Bitch confronted the pigeon purloiner, who countered righteous canine indignation with the dulcet (and, in retrospect, practiced) response that he was working for a county program aimed at relocating the enormous downtown paloma population to less-infested outlying areas.

Recent reports of more sinister birdnapping, however, suggest that fur and feathers should have flown. Mia Otilia London and Jean Robbins are among those who were feeding the pigeons in the alley between Michigan and Lenox avenues in Miami Beach — until someone crated the pigeons up and hauled them off. London had heard from neighbors that a man was caging the birds and taking them away, and then, this past June, she spotted him herself.

“I said, ‘You’re the guy who’s catching pigeons,’” she says. “He said, ‘No, I’m just mating them.’” London recounts: “I said, ‘Stop, those are my birds.’ He said, ‘This is not against the law.’ Then he said he was taking the birds to be vaccinated. Then he said he’d show us some kind of permit. He went to his car to get it, but instead he got in and started to drive away. I tried to get one of the boxes out of the back seat, but the car was already moving.”

Joaquin Lopez, who is obsessed with rooster sculpting, refused to be photographed without his prosthetic alien breasts
Jonathan Postal
Joaquin Lopez, who is obsessed with rooster sculpting, refused to be photographed without his prosthetic alien breasts

The women called Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer’s office, and were told that the police would come around to take a complaint. (As of now, no police are on the case.)

London said she’s not sure what someone would be doing with the birds, but Robbins suspects restaurants are behind the snatchings. In an eloquent missive she sent to local news outlets, she penned the following ominous passage: “We no longer feed the pigeons, but now they may be feeding us.”


Joaquin Lopez is fixated on those goofy rooster sculptures that appeared on Little Havana sidewalks two years ago, provoking small children to cry, dogs to bark, and the snooty Art Basel set to cringe. There’s something cockamamie about them, Lopez insists. “They look like a hen,” the 66-year-old artist alleges, rather than the male of the species. More important, they are not Lopez roosters, as they were originally billed.

Lopez is the son of 86-year-old sculptor Tony Lopez, the Rodin of el exilio, whose eerily realistic bronze busts lurk in plazas and patios from Little Havana to Hollywood, California. They include likenesses of the late U.S. Rep. Claude Pepper, anticommunist paramilitary operative Tony Izquierdo, and too many José Martís to count. In 2002 Tony Lopez also sculpted a colorful two-foot-tall rooster, which appeared before the Miami City Commission one day in 2002, along with him and Pedro Damian, artist and director of the nonprofit group Art Under the Bridge. Damian asked the commissioners to let roosters be Little Havana’s answer to the flamingo statues that had alighted on sidewalks in Miami Beach and Coral Gables.

Tony Lopez says his son is right that the five-foot roosters that ended up on the streets are not Lopez roosters, because they morphed too much from the original model. But he doesn’t care. Art Under the Bridge paid him $10,000 for his little rooster (Damian puts the figure at $6000), and he has washed his hands of the project. “They can fry it and eat it for all I care,” he offers. “I told my son to forget about that crap.”

But Joaquin can’t because he believes Damian, who has now sold about 72 of the birds to individuals at $2750 per fowl, is using the Lopez cachet to sell them. “That’s like identity theft,” Joaquin charges.

“That’s false,” denies the 52-year-old Damian, adding that he came up with the original design, which Tony Lopez interpreted. Then Damian and two other sculptors modified the Lopez design.

Joaquin may be a little half-cocked, but he is cocksure there is only one authentic full-size Lopez rooster, the one he cast from his dad’s model. Price: $3000, with proceeds going to the nonprofit of the buyer’s choice. Available for viewing at

Daily Double Take

Octavio Roca’s credentials are impressive. The onetime chief dance critic for the San Francisco Chronicle also wrote about theater and music for the Washington Post and the Washington Times. He has co-authored at least one book, about opera great Renata Scotto, translated several plays, and even collaborated on a cantata. Enrique Fernandez, Miami Herald features editor, hired Roca on September 4, 2003, as the paper’s arts and culture critic.

But Roca left the paper this week. His description disappeared from the Herald Website and his byline was no more to be seen in its pages.

The apparent reason: self-plagiarism.

Compare this piece of a story on Mikhail Baryshnikov that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 23, 2003: “He did not disappoint his fans. It was even endearing to see how the evening’s sole double pirouettes — dazzlingly youthful, incidentally in the middle of Cesc Gelabert’s 2003 dance ‘In a Landscape’ — brought out the biggest applause up to that point....”

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