The Friends of Miami Marine Stadium amble closer and closer to the climax of their quest to renovate and reopen the woefully abandoned stadium in Key Biscayne, and as they've made progress, they've begun to change their stride. Having cleared the major hurdle of getting approval from the City of Miami for their site plan, they now enter the money phase, wherein this organization will have to finish raising the approximately $30 million dollars needed for their plans to take shape. And if there's anything your average Miami well-to-do enjoys, it's a swanky fundraiser with some exciting names at the top of the bill.
So it's no wonder the Miami Marine Stadium event that heralded the last weekend of the "Concrete Paradise" exhibition at the Coral Gables Museum featuring Jackie Nespral, Gloria Estefan, and Jimmy Buffet last night was completely sold out. And regardless of your capacity for donation, whether you drop $20 or $20K, there are few things that guarantee as much of a rollicking good time as the combination of an open bar and Jimmy Buffet.
The night got off to a bit of a slow start. In true Miami fashion, the stage remained empty for a solid hour past the alleged starting time of 6:30 p.m., leaving everyone to pass the time eating cheeseburgers or making their rounds to the open bar. Eventually, the museum's director, Christine Rupp, took to the stage and announced joyfully that they were starting right on time. And why not?
After a handful of speakers, ranging from an American Express representative to the president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the lead-up to the headliners got rolling. Hilario Candela, the Cuban architect who masterfully designed Miami Marine Stadium when he was 28 years old, gave a moving speech that largely focused on the relationship between the architecture and the environment and how he'd hoped the two would speak in unison of the happiness and beauty that are engrained in this city. He also explained to the crowd of potential donors, "I'm good about dreaming, I'm not good about asking for money."
Candela then brought up Jackie Nespral, who was something akin to the master of ceremonies for the evening. She said a number of things before introducing Estefan and Buffet, some of which made sense, this line most of all: "When you grow up in Miami, there are certain iconic places that you always remember - the Orange Bowl, the Fountainebleau, the Biltmore, and of course, the Miami Marine Stadium."
When Nespral called the stars of the night up on stage, things started to get interesting. It became fairly evident fairly quickly into the discussion Nespral was moderating that Buffet was exactly as loose in the tongue as he needed to be in order to offset the aura of propriety that Estefan was exuding. With every joke he made about statutes of limitations and every halfway subtle allusion to the wildness of his nights of yesteryear, Estefan seemed to grow slightly more uncomfortable, as if her entire body was focused on not cringing. Perhaps that's a bit of an assumption; perhaps they just had a very odd sort of chemistry. In any case, it was a fun thing to watch.
Both of the Miami-centric musicians reminisced about their experiences with the stadium and why they'd come to love it so. Buffet remarked at one point, "I remember there was a rope where the boats had to pay to get in. Today, everybody would just crash the bay, then, people would pay because it was what you did. It was a fun ticket and once you got in, you could do anything you wanted."
Estefan tended to take a more sober tack, saying at one point "I think that we've got the opportunity to try to prevent a terrible thing from happening, which would be to lose that stadium. It's already built, it's in great shape, it's crazy to do anything other than bring it back, not just to its former glory, but take it into this century, this millennium, and I'm very excited about what we have the chance to do."
Buffet and Estefan made it abundantly clear that Miami was their city, the city they loved, not just to play in, but to be in, and at no time was that more evident than when Jimmy picked up his guitar, called his steel drummer to the stage, and started to play. For those who've never seen Buffet live, there is far more to this musician than his music. He's not only a born performer who knows exactly how to charm the crowd and have fun, he is an unquestionably Miami-ass motherfucker, in the absolute best way possible. He's laid back, he curses his buddy Emilio Estefan drinking all of his Don Julio, gives thanks to "an audience that cares" when somebody comes up to the stage and gives him a drink. He bounces around and laughs and talks shit, then he sings his songs about bouncing around and laughing and talking shit. That's not to say the man is a musical genius by any measure, but rather that he is a happy pirate with a guitar and drink and a smile to share.
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Naturally, the night reached its spiritual climax when Buffet played Margaritaville at the end of his set. At that point, his two-piece band inflated to a four-piece with the addition of Gloria Estefan (who Buffet introduced back to the stage as "the most expensive backup singer in the world...") and her husband Emilio, who was wearing sunglasses for some reason and had found a wooden spoon and a pot lid to play, as much for his own amusement as for anybody else's. By then, Senator Bob Graham and his wife were dancing in their seats and a woman in the press corral screamed "GET DRUNK AND SCREW!" and the evening came to a close on an exuberantly merry note. Nothing like a good fundraiser at the museum to while the night away.
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