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Alli a petite, dark-haired 27-year-old sales rep from Kendall is in a convivial spirit tonight at Glass (432 Arthur Godfrey Rd., Miami Beach). The newly renovated club is an offshoot of The Forge, Miami Beach's 37-year-old house of drippy decadence, world-class cuisine, and immoderate imbibing. Previously Jimmy'z, this is the restaurant's more youthful, less financially exclusive sidekick.
"You don't see people here grinding and dry-humping on the dance floor," Alli says. I caught her a few moments ago, whipping the hem of her white tube dress wildly from side to side, smirking playfully at her equally animated dance partner, keeping him a foot from her own personal dance bubble. "The truth is, if you're going to dance for any reason besides giving some guy an erection, you need more than five inches of space in some sweaty dark room. That's why I love the Saturday [Aquabooty] parties here; you can let loose, it's usually not too crowded, the music is amazing, and the people have IQs over 45."
In the DJ booth is Rich Medina, who hails from Philly and New York but has become a well-known name on Miami's music scene partially owing to his involvement with promoters Joe Budious and Tomas Ceddia's wildly popular Aquabooty nights. These parties have drawn guest DJs such as the famed Louie Vega and NYC legend Danny Krivit.
Tonight Medina pulls the right strings to keep patrons' limbs moving. His mix is a seamless interplay of smooth, soulful/jazzy lyrics; driving yet decidedly un-digital bass; and melodic instrumentals.
At the central bar, I lock eyes with a six-foot-two man in thick, square black-rimmed eyeglasses and a remarkably stylish fitted white button-down shirt littered with delicate geometric swirls (I later learn it's from Daffy's in New York). He also boasts white trousers, polished black leather shoes, and a headful of well-kept minikinks. His name is Carl B., "formerly Carl B. Dread, but then I cut my dreadlocks off, and so I shortened it." An uncannily youthful 42-year-old, he bums a cigarette, lights it, and explains his long history on the party circuit in Miami.
"I've been a promoter for fifteen years. I'm one of the original black promoters in Miami Beach," he says proudly. "This here is the reincarnation of house music on the Beach," he continues, referring to Medina's spinning. "It's stylish and funky, like back when there was no hip-hop on the Beach and the only club that offered it was Warsaw [the now-defunct legendary, lascivious SoBe nightclub], and you had to get there at four in the morning."
He's not so easily influenced by celebrity status, though, he assures me. "Puff Daddy tried to buy my hat off my head for $200 at Space, but I said, öNo! I don't care if you're a celebrity; you can't buy everything.' I told him that. I shut him down."
Carl says he loves the vibe at Glass, the people, the music, and the unique location.
"People here are educated about music. That's why they're here. They know their destination."
So does this deter him from hitting the hackneyed Washington Avenue strip?
"I go back there to feel important. I know every bar back, club, and restaurant owner, all the locals.... I've been on TV, on the cover of magazines.... I'm an icon of the Beach."
Attention-monger much? To quote Carl B. himself: "Yes."
In the women's bathroom, I study the mosaiclike portraits of various women that adorn the stalls: a mermaid, a queen, and a nude woman reaching up to a blossoming tree. All three are speckled with faux gems in various hues. In the waiting area, a finch is perched on a small swing in a miniature aviary enclosed behind a pane of glass on the wall.
While washing my hands in a porcelain basin, I strike up a conversation with Francheska, an outspoken young woman with long, dark slicked-back hair; tan but soft-looking skin; a flowing brown halter-style top; jeans; and chunky wedge shoes. "It's kind of a secret," she says about the club, after asking if I have any eyeliner. Alas, I don't.
"You have to be a local to know about it. I love that. It sets it apart."
"It's just for locals," confirms another woman as she pushes past us to leave the premises. I begin to think I've stumbled into a secret society or something.
On the dance floor at 3:30 a.m., white girls, black girls, Asian dudes, Latinos ... everyone is cutting a rug. One astounding dancer is taking a breather on the back of a cushy couch. "I go out to dance, not to look pretty," says Tito, a tall, stocky black man with a handsome, welcoming expression. His peach T-shirt is uniformly soaked. "I told you, I go out to dance! I brought an extra shirt in my bag," he says, pointing to a shoulder bag stashed under the bar. He's a producer for MTV Latino who has moved back and forth from New York over the past few decades. He says it doesn't matter if the club isn't on the main drag in SoBe; he drives up from Kendall every single Saturday because, in his eyes, it has the New York feel he craves.
"Miami is about fashion; the scene is about style," he says. "It's about what you can take fashion and turn it into, not what it can turn you into."