The Malniks

Alvin Malnik and son Shareef haven't been the subjects of a Hollywood film or tell-all book. But they should be. Al, an attorney, garnered notoriety for his long association with legendary Mob financier Meyer Lansky. The New Jersey Casino Control Commission, in denying Al a casino license in 1980, labeled him "a person of unsuitable character and unsuitable reputation [because he] associated with persons engaged in organized criminal activities, and that he himself participated in transactions that were clearly illegitimate and illegal." In some circles, that sort of publicity would be a career-killer, but it only served to make Al's the Forge restaurant (which he purchased in 1968 and lavishly refurbished) a wickedly seductive destination for generations of celebrities -- from Frank Sinatra to Michael Jackson. (Jacko and 70-year-old Al are best buds.) His wealth wasn't solely the result of the Forge's success. Al has also reaped riches as owner of Title Loans of America, an operation that has been called "legalized loan-sharking" for its practice of lending money at usurious rates to people whose only collateral is their car (hence the "title" in the company name). In 1991 Al handed over the Forge operations to son Mark, who by then had changed his name to Shareef and had satisfied his wild-side urge to race off-shore power boats and Le Mans Series Porches. The younger Malnik profitably reinvented the restaurant as a hip destination for the jet set who, in the early Nineties, began favoring Miami Beach as an international playground. In the process, though, he managed to maintain the Forge's decadent and vaguely illicit ambiance. His good looks and trademark Lothario mustache have made him one of the most recognizable faces on South Beach, and have landed him a few acting roles as well (Just Cause, The Blackout, Coffee and Tobacco). Shareef, once married to Saudi princess Sheika Hoda Al-Fassi, recently split from wife number four. How's that for a father-son team?


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