By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
The premiere took place at Books & Books in Coral Gables. The shop's outdoor courtyard had been transformed into a party area (including room for spinning) with a wine and beer bar and projection screen. The Bitch almost didn't make it. Standing across the street from the event on Aragon Avenue around 8:00 p.m., the sensitive hound's auditory and olfactory senses were assaulted by sound that could be made only by one human plus one guitar. There was a wave of tie-dye effluvia patchouli and lack of bathing so potent her eyes watered even as her ears flattened. Summoning a reserve of canine courage and taking a deep breath, she plunged ahead.
The documentary was made by twenty-year-old surfer/cinematographer Andrew Petersen and narrated by Robert Burr. It's a 40-minute mélange of mostly present-day footage of septuagenarian shrimp-shack owner James "Jimbo" Luznar, who, through a tenuous agreement with the city, inhabits a storied Virginia Key property. There are some snippets of films shot at the bayfront location Wild Things and Porky's among them as well. To Petersen's credit, he remains off-camera and allows his subjects to pretty much represent themselves, which in Luznar's case is charming though predictable (mugging with babes, rolling bocce balls, et cetera). What's grating is the film's thesis statement: that hippie culture particularly the Florida cracker version of the Easy Rider/Monterey Pop lifestyle is precious, imperiled, appreciably superior to its alternatives, and all in all as critical to the world as, say, Minoan bull-jumping or Etruscan funerary practices.
A good 30 minutes of the movie is devoted to scenes of hippies dancing (to acoustic, blues-derived bands playing Dead covers, of course), drinking beer, drunkenly hugging, complaining about the living detritus that gets caught in shrimping nets (annoying stuff like live dolphins, sea turtles, and soon-to-be endangered sharks), and talking about how Jimbo's is the last place where you can get away from "what Miami has become," as one nameless, hooky-playing businessman exclaims.
"This is really an important part of history," insisted Michael Stephens, a dark-haired fiftyish man with a gap-toothed smile. Wearing a Che beret and Havaianas, and exuding a lack of Old Spice deodorant, he continued, "I mean, this is one of the places that's left to go for the people like me who represented the Sixties and Seventies. We protested the war and for civil rights...."
The Bitch cited some anti-hippie propaganda Skinny Puppy's 1987 fourteen-minute anti-tie-dye screed "Tin Omen" and noted that even hippies have a song about how lame they are: "Easy to Be Hard," from the Hair soundtrack.
"That's just because the New Wave, Reagan generation didn't have to suffer the way we did," irrationally interjected Stephens' companion, a svelte, beaded-halter-wearing blond named Pacey Kara, who is either much younger than Stephens or, you know, has had some work done. "People who are keeping the old ways alive like Jimbo deserve a museum."
The crowd at Books & Books generally seemed to reflect those values. Standing behind The Bitch were a woman named Isabel a striking redhead dressed down-and-out in a floor-grazing muslin skirt and nerd glasses and a man named Mark in a red-green-yellow Rasta beanie. The thirtyish couple was involved in an intense discussion as the film unspooled:
Isabel: "I haven't actually been out to Jimbo's in a while. They only have beer, and beer aggravates my urinary tract. I think it's my ureter, actually!"
Mark: "Well, I don't have a problem with beer. But I don't have any cash on me. Can you buy me an Amstel Light?"
Other audience members clapped and cheered every time self-affirmation in the form of hippies flickered across the screen. One person who appeared in a few shots in the film and was present for the screening was Douglas Renshaw. He is also known as the dude in the fake dreadlocks and black tam who tries to collect money from people to "guard" their cars when they park at Flanigan's on Bird Avenue.
"Yeah, I had to take the night off," Renshaw, in all seriousness, told The Bitch. "Fortunately I've got enough for some brew. This is gonna hurt later in the month, though."
Luznar received the biggest applause of the night for his comments after the film, for asserting that his life's greatest joy is "my wife, my five kids, and my eight grandchildren."
The Bitch realized she was still in present-day Miami-Dade when a limo containing reggaeton duo Wisin y Yandel nearly mowed her down. They were on their way to their record-release postparty at Houston's. The dog took the trolley-bus combination home, where she had to destroy the clothes she had been wearing, so imbued were they with eau de hippie.
And Then There Was Fancy
As Studio A, downtown Miami's shrine of hipster hopefulness, hits its third quarter, the club can look ahead to the season. With Art Basel bacchanals only a month away and holiday parties, M3, and Winter Music Conference looming, the live-music-oriented club could conceivably make it to its first anniversary in March 2007.
But it won't greet day 365 with its original cast of operators, who all presented a façade of collective grit and camaraderie ... that is, until the moment they cut and bolted. Just days ago, Lara Coppola at age 24, one of Miami's best-known and most respected club promoters told ignoremagazine.com editor Hunter Stephenson that things were going swimmingly at the venue (60 NW Eleventh St.). Then recently she announced in a subdued e-mail: "As of today, I will no longer be working at Studio A. The time has come to move on."
Pressed for an explanation, Coppola, whose platinum shag and kohl-rimmed eyes belie a reserved and deeply discreet demeanor, would say only that there were some issues about money, some questions about direction. Then the native Miamian added with a half-laugh: "I know this sounds like an irrational thing to say about nightclub culture here, but I have my reputation to consider. That's all I can really say."
This past September another Studio A founder, Pedro Mena, age 29, beat Coppola to the door. He was returning to New York City, he said, to get married and take a break from the club biz. Yet Mena's newly taken vows haven't kept him from returning to the nightlife scene: New York magazine reported in its October 6 issue that he was back on the turntables at the Shout! party at Manhattan club the Delancey.
And 39-year-old Georgie Seville, Studio A's co-owner (with silent partner Robert Nowak), shares Mena's absence from Miami and presence in NYC media and milieus. Seville just opened the nightclub Studio B in Brooklyn's Greenpoint neighborhood and was photographed for a spread in the September 26 New York Times Magazine about "rockers, freaks, punks, mods, gays, and straights" making their homes on the Lower East Side. Contacted by The Bitch about his apparent decampment from A to B, Seville had no on-the-record comment other than to say he didn't know when, or if, he'd return to Studio A.
This seemingly leaves the pencil-mustachioed Fancy to run the show. The carefully dressed onetime record producer, who is often spotted at the club's door attending to admission matters, wouldn't identify co-managers.
On a recent Tuesday around 9:00 p.m. insanely early by Miami nightlife standards about 200 people stood in line outside Studio A, waiting to see the Brand New Heavies. This is a respectable turnout for a live show on a weeknight by a band that hasn't broken new musical ground in nearly a decade. Yet Bitch analysis reveals this demographic which is defined more by behavior than age, gender, income, or race is not necessarily the one that keeps a club in business. The small, same-people-at-every-show group of scenesters usually gets comped at the door. And once the open bar and/or drink tickets run out, they don't buy fourteen-dollar Stoli-and-cranberries, eight-dollar Red Stripes, or six-dollar Diet Cokes. And drink sales, even above the per-head door take, are the mainstays of nightclub revenues. (Neither Nowak nor Seville would speak about how Studio A is doing financially.)