By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
In 1651 a tubby little Englishman named Thomas Hobbes rocked the thinking world with his book Leviathan. Hobbes put forward the idea that man's life was "nasty, brutish, and short." The only reason primitive dudes finally traded in their beatin' sticks for butterfly ballots, Hobbes guessed, was fear of a violent death -- from some bigger, more primitive dude. Safety and security, he ventured, were the whole point of society.
Too bad Hobbes never made it to Miami.
Alligators and giant pythons may struggle to do each other in just beyond Miami's western edge, but the same violent weirdness slithers through our swampy citadel every day. One weekend on South Beach, and Hobbes would no doubt shit his knickers.
In honor of the town's rough and tumble moxy, Miami New Times has decided to take a hard look back at the most magnificent matchups of the year. Our only regret is that Hobbes couldn't be here to enjoy the show.
Many Americans now spend days preparing for the ordeal of navigating a U.S. airport. Others no longer fly at all, fearing they will have their shampoo, their dignity, and their pocketknives hurled into a large trashcan by the same doofus they used to beat up in middle school, who is now an agent of the federal government.
Thank god for Johnny Winton, former Miami city commissioner, visionary developer, and steel-belted American.
On May 15, 2006, Winton arrived at Miami International Airport and stepped onto Concourse A sometime around 5:00 p.m., headed for Houston on official business. But the Nazis at the American Airlines ticket desk had other plans, citing "bad weather."
Winton fears no weather; he could have flown that plane through the eye of a hurricane with his teeth.
The delay allegedly pissed Winton off somethin' fierce. He found an ally in a Texan named Karl Sherman Folckemer, whose shoulder-length blond hair and golden hoop earrings must have appealed to Winton's love of virility. Bound by their travel woes, the pair retired to Altitudes Bar for some refreshments around quarter to six, according to a police report.
Winton kept to seven glasses of Robert Mondavi's finest Pinot Grigio. Karl, somewhat more rugged, stuck to beer, whiskey, and amaretto. One hundred thirty bucks later, Johnny and Karl were ready for Texas.
It was just a small matter of that dweeb behind the ticket counter, who had canceled the flight outright. Around 7:00, Winton let loose with both barrels -- a double blast of Johnny.
Concerned that his new pal Karl would be stuck with a hotel bill or, worse, stranded in the terminal like a Russian orphan, Winton demanded that American Airlines provide Karl with lodging. He wasn't going to leave Gate A-3 until Karl got what Karl deserved. You see, Winton wasn't fighting for the sake of being drunk and belligerent: He was fighting for the rights of Karls everywhere -- like a shitfaced Gandhi.
Unfortunately Karl failed to live up to the Folckemer name, running out of grit just when it mattered most.
Around 7:30, a pair of Miami-Dade County cops squashed the nonviolent protest. Karl quietly submitted to charges of drunk and disorderly. Winton, according to their report, screamed obscenities as he was being arrested for disorderly intoxication.
The cops said Winton put up his dukes, only to be handcuffed and led out of the airport. (New Timesattempted to speak to Winton, but the former commissioner didn't return our calls. We also tried calling Folckemer at his home outside Houston, but we were unable to reach him.) At some point, Winton allegedly went bananas, ramming one officer in the face and chipping his tooth, and kicking the other in the ding-a-ling.
Karl bargained his way out of a misdemeanor charge and went back to Texas for some counseling. Johnny, on the other hand, lost his commission seat and cried on local television. Last week he was sentenced to two years' probation, abstinence from alcohol, $2000 in restitution, and anger management courses after pleading guilty to misdemeanor battery and disorderly intoxication charges; his lawyer claims Winton is entitled to return to office.
On television, Johnny was contrite, calling himself a jerk, claiming he'd ruined his reputation ... whatever, Winton. We know that if Karl had just stuck by your side, you both coulda taken those cops ... and flown that plane to Houston.
The Old Man and the Sea Monster
The first target had been chosen wisely. The execution came off without a hitch. They got him right through the heart -- on camera, no less. This past September 4, a bull ray whacked "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin off the coast of Australia, a warning that these badass pseudosharks weren't taking any more shit.
According to ABC News, ten mutilated stingray corpses turned up on Australian beaches in the week following Irwin's death, their fins and tails sliced menacingly from their bodies, which were left rotting in the sun.
But the stingrays would not be intimidated; the bloodshed would only stir their murderous fervor.
Forty-six days and nine thousand miles later, 81-year-old James M. Bertakis woke up in his manufactured home in Lighthouse Point and brushed his teeth. Little did he know he was standing in the cherry-red bull's-eye of an international stingray assassination conspiracy.
The scrappy entrepreneur, who made a mint selling manufactured homes all over the country, ate breakfast, kissed his wife, and prepared his boat for a day out on the water with his nineteen-year-old granddaughter, Sarah. According to TV news accounts, Bertakis piloted the sixteen-foot boat himself.
A mile off the coast, a spotted eagle ray flopped aboard and into Bertakis's lap. When he laid his hands on his surprise guest, the marine assassin whipped its tail and plunged a serrated foot-long barb into his chest.
The venomous dagger punctured Bertakis's left lung and slid into his lower left ventricle. Ever the stalwart seaman, Bertakis hurled his aggressor to the floor of the boat, seized the helm, and piloted himself back to shore, with the now bloodied barb jutting from his chest. According to the St. Petersburg Times, rescue workers airlifted him to Broward General Medical Center, where doctors "pulled the barb through [his heart] like an earring."
The old man lived; the ray suffocated.
"I feel great," Bertakis told New Times before declining to comment on his triumph over an international federation of stingray assassins.
His patented survival tactics should be displayed on docks the same way the Heimlich maneuver appears in restaurants: If a menacing sea creature jams a poisonous thing in your heart, leave it there. Get medical attention immediately. And give the fucker a couple of kicks, too. One for Irwin and one for our maritime savior, James Bertakis, who is doing just fine.
G.I. Joe, American Hero
At some awful point in recent history, thugs far and wide devised to sap us of our livelihoods. Donning tiny vests, they stand in wait behind makeshift kiosks, prepared to swindle the hapless citizen of his three dollars and the right to park his own car. Today valet parking is the greatest threat to the American way of life, outside of Middle Asia. One man decided to take a stand.
Like most American heroes, Jos' Ricardo Arriola loves charity almost as much as he loves profanity and action. At age 60, he has earned a name for himself slapping recording devices out of the hands of obnoxious radio personalities and putting those damn NBA referees in their place.
One cool Saturday evening this past March, Arriola wheeled his green 2004 Jaguar up to the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Brickell Key and relinquished his keys to a band of vested hooligans. He whisked himself into the tastefully pink ballroom, joining his wife Lourdes, State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, and other well-intentioned muckety-mucks at the gala dinner benefiting Women of Tomorrow, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to at-risk girls.
He stepped out into the night air around 11:00 and handed the valet his ticket. Though Arriola later said he had been drinking nothing but good old American Coca-Cola, his detractors would insist he stank of booze.
A half-hour went by, and his Jaguar was nowhere in sight. Arriola accosted 25-year-old Samer Kalaimi, the ringleader of the Mandarin's valet goon squadron.
"There were a lot of complaints about that particular valet," Jennifer Valoppi, NBC 6 news anchor and founder of Women of Tomorrow, told New Times. One man had slipped in the rain after Kalaimi refused to pull his car under the hotel overhang, she said. Valoppi's husband had asked his name after he "had been exceptionally rude."
Joe didn't like him much either. "He was horrible to people," he recently told New Times. "He pushed a couple around."
"I wouldn't put up with him," he added.
Arriola addressed the crowd, imploring them for empathy. Where was his car? What were these people for?
Kalaimi told him to cool off.
And that's when Joe Arriola got real ... really real.
Stepping into Kalaimi's face, according to the police report, Arriola bellowed, "If you knew who I am, you would shut the fuck up."
Security agents were called to the scene. But Kalaimi still hadn't gotten his medicine. At some point, everyone agrees, Arriola's black jacket came off, revealing his mighty 240-pound frame. According to the police report, Arriola shot a hand through the security guards and sent the valet tumbling backward over a table.
Kabaam! Ker-crack! Hadookin!
Arriola snatched his keys from a second valet, who had peeled onto the scene in the Jag. Arriola barked, "Do you know who I am?"
Joe was gone before police could arrive. Kalaimi's case never materialized. "He tried to file and he couldn't get any witnesses," Arriola said. "When I confronted him, he was like waaah, waaah, waaah."
And now valets all over town whisper his name in terror. Everyone knows who he is.
Erick and the Unicorn
Erick Fuentes was born in Cuba in 1972. Under Castro's regime, Fuentes found it difficult to be a jerk. He had no access to guns. Police and government informants kept watch from every corner. He could be arrested and hurled into jail just for thinking about the right to own property -- to say nothing of forcefully taking it from other people.
As a boy, Fuentes fantasized about coming to the United States, where he could bask in his God-given right to be the biggest jerk imaginable, just like Thomas Jefferson would have wanted.
One month after his eighteenth birthday, the short, chunky crook was well on his way to realizing his dream. He'd made it to Miami, where guns came easy and the occasional armed robbery charge got wiped away in court like so much pudding.
The busts never got him down, either. Fuentes just kept robbing: cars, houses, people -- ten arrests in fifteen years. He refused to go quietly, beating charges left and right and resisting arrest every once in a while -- just to keep things interesting.
Fuentes put considerable effort into becoming the biggest jerk ever, rising early to start work. At 8:00 a.m. this past March 1, he was trolling through Allapattah looking for an opportunity, when he spotted a black Acura LE idling in a driveway.
The car's owner, Altheysha Diaz, a 24-year-old mother of two, had just buckled in her children -- Briana, 6, and José, 2 -- and left the engine running as she dashed back to close the front door.
Fuentes made a beeline for the driver's seat. "What are you doing?" Diaz asked as he got behind the wheel. She lunged at Fuentes, begging him to take her Acura and leave the kids. Fuentes threw the car into reverse and dragged the hysterical mother along her driveway, smashing the car into a telephone pole, crumpling the driver's door.
According to police reports, Diaz rose from the driveway, badly bruised, just in time to see Fuentes speed off with her children. She took off running behind the car, following desperately for the next fifteen blocks.
Meanwhile Fuentes must have been fairly pleased with himself. He had never kidnapped anyone before, much less beaten up a mother. Yes, he'd risen up into a whole new bracket of ...
Tiny fists and book bags came flying from the back seat. Little Briana had launched an assault. Fuentes turned around and boxed her on the ear. Big mistake. Clutching a 48-page hardcover copy of Sarah's Unicorn, Briana began laying into her captor with full force. At 17th Avenue and NW 32nd Street, Fuentes let the little girl and her brother go.
Three weeks later, someone in the neighborhood dropped an anonymous tip on him -- just like Cuba! Fuentes was seized with yet another stolen vehicle (having wrecked the Acura) and charged with kidnapping, carjacking, and aggravated and simple battery.
Briana and her family received a brand-new car from Ellen DeGeneres.
Meanwhile Fuentes's trial is under way. In all likelihood, he'll receive a long prison sentence, the net result of his marginal criminal career.
Yet another tale of an immigrant's dreams dashed at the hands of a six-year-old girl.
The Brawl to End All Brawls
It began (as these things often do) with the best of intentions: the first game of an annual City-Line Series, in which the town's two college football teams -- the University of Miami Hurricanes and Florida International University's Golden Panthers -- could compete at the 70-year-old Orange Bowl for local supremacy.
What a great idea! Toss the ol' pigskin around and show the kids that it's all about school spirit and sportsmanship and all those other things they tell you about when you're eleven.
It didn't take long for the trash-talking to take hold.
FIU was coming into the match having won only fifteen games in its five years of football. Everyone was pretty sure they would be trounced, so for them, this delightful pick-up game was to be more of a public flogging.
When FIU wide receiver Chander Williams saw a UM player intercept a pass and set down on one knee, he missile-launched himself head-first into the bastard. Who wouldn't? The fuckers were up by thirteen points.
As the third quarter was winding down, Miami halfback James Bryant taunted the FIU cheering section with an ironic bow shortly after intercepting another pass and scoring a humiliating touchdown. He was penalized fifteen yards, but FIU needed revenge.
When Miami kicked for the extra point, FIU's Chris Smith decided it was on. He seized Miami's Matt Perelli, body-slammed him, and began punching him in the helmet and neck. Smith's teammate, Marshall McDuffie, joined the fray, delivering a swift kick to Perelli's helmet as he lay on the ground, establishing that, for the next five minutes or so, kicking people, in the head, while they were down, was A-Okay.
What was truly amazing about the bench-clearing brawl that immediately ensued was its inspired savagery. This was no kick-dirt-on-the-umpire's-pants baseball fracas; neither was it a grab-each-other's-jerseys-and-yell basketball scuffle. This was Iwo Jima on ice.
UM's Anthony Reddick hurled himself into the maw, brandishing a helmet like a war club. (He received a New Times "Best of Miami" award for that stunt.) FIU's A'mod Ned hobbled onto the field on a pair of crutches, swinging them wildly at opponents. (As a result, he now has an unauthorized clothing line dedicated to him.)
( Eventually Miami-Dade Police officers were called in to quell the uprising. After a twenty-minute deliberation, officials ejected 31 players from the game. Miami won after scoring an additional 21 unanswered points, post-brawl.
No one really got hurt. And in a way, we all won that day -- for it was truly the best brawl of the year.
Check out this video of the best brawl of the year: