Glorious and Notorious

Casablanca had Rick's, Vegas had the Stardust, Miami's cocaine jazz age had the decadent Mutiny Hotel

"Some legitimate people liked rubbing elbows with the not-so-legitimate people. Guys like Willy Falcon, his group was in there. He liked the corner booth the best. The dealers would come for lunch and order martinis and just keep going and going. There would be huge backgammon games, a lot of serious gambling. There would be four guys on the patio doing lines off the table and no one paid any attention -- you just pretended you didn't see it.

"I only worked nights a couple times. It was completely different from days, like the animals came out. I felt like I was in a jungle. A lot of leather and gold jewelry, a lot of diamond-faced Rolexes and gold coins on chains. Night was more intense, more pressure. There are some people who want to forget they even worked there. Some of the girls wound up marrying very wealthy men."

Mitchell, law enforcement consultant, ex-FBI: "I knew this Cuban immigrant, a very bright guy; he arrived in Miami and got a very menial job making about 50 bucks a week. He came upon a couple guys who asked if he knew how to use a walkie-talkie and binoculars. He says sure. They drive him to the Keys and put him on a bridge and said if you see any police, either in cars or boats, get on the radio and let us know. He spends the whole night there scared to death and never saw a thing. No one showed up. The two guys pick him up in the morning, mosquito-bitten to no end, and two weeks later they showed up and gave him $10,000 in cash. One thing led to another, and the next thing he knows he's one of the biggest dope dealers in Miami. The highlight of his pissing-it-away days was this: He had a confirmation party for his daughter at the Mutiny Hotel. It cost him $30,000.

"Colombian drug dealers really didn't understand the U.S. because they didn't live here. They relied on Cubans to do their dope importation and distribution. The Mutiny became a central point for Cubans involved in the drug business to hang out and be seen.

"These were otherwise normal human beings who all of a sudden fell into so much money it was unfathomable. It was like hitting the lottery every Saturday night. And the Mutiny just seemed like the place to be. Miami Beach had become a pit. There were no clubs for these guys in Lauderdale, because they were Cuban. There really was nothing else but the Grove.

"Drugs were relatively new to the FBI, so I said, Well if I'm in Newcastle, I'll mine coal. The first thing I saw was that it was a very fluid environment. Allegiances shifted all the time. You would be partners with three other people on a load, but the next day you weren't. If you were sitting at the Mutiny and had access to X amount of dope that was arriving, you then needed access to storage, offload spots, shrimpers, trucks; so you would hook up with your partners of the moment there at the bar."

Lazaro, private detective, former Metro-Dade Police undercover narcotics officer: "Miami was crazy in those days. It was fun but it was also very dangerous -- all those sensationalistic hits, the shootouts down U.S. 1. For a long time you had some local American guys involved in grass smuggling, and they were happy-go-lucky, sort of mellow types. Then the fishermen started getting into cocaine and had all of this money, and then the Colombians started coming in the mid-Seventies. After that, cocaine started getting really heavy and it was a more violent type of world. The cocaine types were more vociferous, more aggressive.

"In the middle of all this mayhem, the Mutiny was like a no-man's land, sort of a sanctuary. There weren't very many fights because everybody was armed. I remember Monkey Morales sitting there one night. A couple of people came in who he didn't like, so he asked for a basket of bread, and in the basket of bread he had put his weapon. That's how he did it. So if the police searched him, he was clean, but he had his gun close at hand."

Monkey Morales -- stocky, scary, possessed of simian features -- began his career the same year the Mutiny opened and eventually reigned as king of a court that included colorful top-flight drug traffickers such as Rudy Rodriguez, Carlos Quesada, and Francisco Condom-Gil. In 1968, after defecting from the Cuban secret police, Morales was arrested for the first time in Miami. But instead of going to jail, he became a paid FBI informant, testifying later that year against fellow anti-Castro zealot Orlando Bosch, who was caught at the Port of Miami trying to shoot missiles at a Cuba-bound Polish freighter. Throughout the years, as he became one of Florida's most successful cocaine importers, Morales informed on virtually all of his Mutiny drinking buddies, who, oddly, continued partying with him.

Lazaro, the undercover narc: "Monkey had a table at the end of the bar, and sometimes he'd be sitting there with Carlos Quesada. I liked Monkey. Quesada, I didn't like him as much -- he was less intelligent, basically a silk-shirt punk. One day he's putting vinyl on people's car tops at a joint off Le Jeune and Eighth Street, a year and a half later he's driving a Rolls and a Mercedes. He wasn't in the same class with Monkey, but then again, he's still alive.

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