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 palomapopulation 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.”

The women called Miami Beach Mayor David Dermer’soffice, 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.”

Cock-a-google-do

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 www.lopezart.net.

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 Heraldfeatures 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 Baryshnikovthat 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....”

With this from a piece by Roca in the Heraldthis past February 27: “He does not disappoint his fans. It is even endearing to see how the program’s sole double pirouettes — dazzlingly youthful, incidentally in the middle of Cesc Gelabert’s 2003 dance ‘In a Landscape’ — can bring out the biggest applause...”

Unlike notorious New York Timesplagiarist Jayson Blair, Roca reportedly stole only from his old clips.

Neither Fernandez nor Herald managing editor Judy Miller returned calls seeking comment.

Invisible City

Miami-Dade County Commission memberswon’t grant an audience to a group of citizens concerned about shelter for the poor and the county’s public housing problems.

At the June 22 commission meeting, members of the grassroots organization Low Income Families Fighting Together, or L.I.F.F.T., were prohibited from responding to a Miami-Dade Housing Agency report on the progress of the disproportionate number of vacancies (1038) in county-owned housing projects.

The group had been in the commission chamber from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., patiently waiting for the opportunity to exercise their right to free speech, only to be turned away, grouses Max Rameau of the Miami Workers Center.

When housing agency bureaucrat Alphonso Brewsterpresented the report to the commission, Commissioner Dorrin Rolle objected to letting the L.I.F.F.T. contingent speak. Despite a roar of protest from Rameau and members of the group, vice chairwoman Katy Sorenson, who held the gavel, refused to recognize the L.I.F.F.T. members. Sorenson then requested that Miami-Dade police officers remove them from the commission chambers when L.I.F.F.T. members began chanting: “No justice! No peace!”

Earlier, county commissioners spent nearly two and a half hours discussing how they were going to spend another $67 million to cover cost overruns on the previously estimated $255 million Performing Arts Center.

Best “Free” Publicity

Miami Beach Realtor Charles Burkett, owner of Burkett Properties, received the following e-mail from SunPost classified sales manager Jamie Kaufman, evidently an effort to streamline the Miami Beach paper’s flow by combining its news and advertising functions:

“The SunPost is about to put together our Best of Issue ... perhaps you would consider placing a FULL PAGE ad with all your properties — not only do you get the ad placement BUT you also get a Best of Award.... and a small write up in the paper.... This is the issue NOT TO MISS.... Have I enticed you??”

Kaufman’s comment on this merged media process was: “More than likely we got a nomination for this business.” The SunPost’s “Best Of” issue comes out this week.

Customer Nervous

Automatic teller machines are one of the great boons of the modern age. Miami Beach residents who deposit their dough at the Bank of America ATM on Alton Road and Fourteenth Street, however, may want to start burying their money in the back yard along with the bones instead. At least two customers have reported depositing checks and cash via ATM, only to later learn that the transactions did not accurately register. Crobar cocktail maker Kristine Hall deposited $1800, and was only credited with $1400. “A friend of mine deposited $5000 two different times, and only got $4700 both times,” Hall says.

At first the bank’s customer service reps told Hall and her friend that it was their word against the bank’s (sounds like the same BofA employee who, when The Bitch called to ask about the missing funds, referred all queries to a nonexistent phone number), but when Hall started talking about filing a police report, they changed their tune. “We have good credit ratings, and we’re good customers,” Hall says. “So for now they credited our accounts for the missing amount, and they said they’re investigating.”

Wrecking Ball Swings

Palm Bay resident and Upper Eastside Miami Council co-founder and vice president Bob Flanders used to be just a nice guy plugging events going on in his neighborhood. Now he has become an apologist for big developers. A while ago in an e-mail he touted the greatness of the gargantuan proposed Midtown Miami development and the wonderful economic kick in the pants he thinks it’ll give to the hood. Flanders also supports the new fourteen-story Kubik condo/retail project, which won unanimous Miami City Commission approval on June 10, to be built on the west side of Biscayne and 56th Street, much to the consternation of Morningside residents who say it’s out of proportion with nearby buildings.

He said this about development on Biscayne related to the Kubik case six months ago in the South Florida Business Journal (January 12, 2004):

Area residents want the city to freeze the permitting process for proposed projects in the Upper Eastside, said Robert Flanders, a founding member of the Upper Eastside Miami Council, an umbrella organization for the area’s many homeowners associations. “The code in place doesn’t represent the residents’ view,” he said. “We want development that is smart, sustainable and reflects the historical character of the boulevard.”

Compare that with what Flanders had to say about Kubik in the June 10, 2004, issue of Miami Today: “These people clearly applied for their permits to build long before the law was changed,” he said Monday. “The building could have been 23 stories high. The developers didn’t have to have 50 meetings with the residents, they didn’t have to change the project about a half-dozen times, and they didn’t have to add in extra parking spaces,” Mr. Flanders said. “These people have bent over backward to accommodate the neighborhood.... If all developers were like this, what a magical world it would be.”

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