Best Of :: People & Places
When the book about South Beach in the gay Nineties is finally written (and what a story it will be), there most certainly should be a chapter dedicated to the one and only Shelley Novak. The hirsute, zaftig drag queen has been hosting her Shelley Novak Awards for the past eleven years. Eleven years! "And I've been doing drag for fifteen years. I don't think anybody I know has made that kind of commitment to anything! I know marriages that haven't lasted that long," quips the blunt-spoken Bostonian. Her awards ceremony is always ribald and ridiculous, fluffy and fun, with a couple of outrageous musical performances tossed in for flavor. "If anything, it becomes like a Friars Club Roast, but it does get taken very seriously. I try to nominate people who I know will get up onstage and break down in tears," chuckles Novak. Besides hosting South Beach's longest-lasting awards ceremony for drag queens, Shelley takes part in the education of the gay community by hosting her own monthly film-screening series, Shelley Novak's Hollywood. Before she stepped into the dazzling spotlight at crobar to hand out awards this year, Novak stood in the darkness of the Miami Beach Cinematheque, to host a suitably reverent tribute to her recently deceased namesake, Shelley Winters. Winters and Novak shared more than a first name. Both were talented yet overlooked for their more svelte and glamorous counterparts. And it's because of actresses like Shelley Winters -- and her other namesake, Kim Novak -- that Shelley Novak continues to proudly carry a torch for almost-forgotten film stars. "The reason I do Shelley Novak's Hollywood is because there was a generation lost," the adorable, self-depreciating cross-dresser reveals. "When I was a young gay kid in 1985, I had all these older gay guys introducing me to John Waters and David Lynch, and because of AIDS, that generation died. For the kids now, there's nobody to look up to for advice, or to teach them old Hollywood, or camp value, or what books to read," she explains. Novak does her part to keep the drag flame burning, welcoming young queens into the circle while simultaneously recognizing the courage and longevity of old warhorses like Henrietta, who's been dressing up since the Fifties. Always an awarder and almost never an awardee, this playfully modest South Beach institution maybe should just write a book of her own.
James "Jimbo" Luznar opened his joint on Virginia Key, Jimbo's, a half-century ago. And there's no better place on the water to take a toot.
What is your greatest triumph?
We used to be where the Herald building is, but then they said our boats would have to go. So we looked at Snapper Creek, Mart Park, then we ended up on Virginia Key. It stunk sometimes, and there were mosquitoes, snakes, coons, opossums, and iguanas. It cost us a lot of money to be there, but we stayed. They've been trying to get me out of there for a long time, but now everyone all over the world knows Jimbo.
Born in Homestead, Kevin Wynn is the producer and cohost of Downtown Dade, a TV talk show that covers the arts and culture and airs on the county's government access channel. He is also the coprogrammer, with Barron Sherer, of Cinema Vortex, a nonprofit organization devoted to screening unusual, significant, and neglected film and video works. And he's the creator of Public Domain Playhouse, a continuing series of screenings he curates with Sherer.
What is your greatest triumph?
My greatest triumph? I dont do triumph. Ive never had one. I cant tell you how it feels to triumph, or what it looks, tastes or smells like. I wouldnt know triumph if some guy ran over me with a TR4.
There are several safe, clean places where we can let Fido run off-leash in Miami-Dade. Coconut Grove has several dog-friendly parks; the Beach has some nice locations; there's a spot on Virginia Key where dogs can swim and sunbathe; but of all the canine treats in my Miami, the mac daddy of all dog parks is in Aventura. Two years ago the city, which is burgeoning with young dog-owning families, built the expansive new Veterans Park. The $600,000 two-acre expanse has a wonderful, well-kept, welcoming space. There are pooper-scooper dispensers throughout the space. There are doggy water fountains and doggy showers. And the most endearing detail: red fire hydrants. All of this greatness, of course, comes at a price: You have to live in Aventura, and show proof of residence, to gain access. It's almost reason enough to move there.
It is a dark time for Miami-Dade County's executive mayor. The evil lords on the county commission annihilated Carlos Alvarez's bold offensive to strip them of some bribe-making abilities. Then the Galactic Empire displayed the true power of the Dark Side when it crushed Alvarez in the Boundary Wars. Beaten but resolute, the good mayor fled to the outer rim of the county's suburban wasteland to regroup and complete his training. Upon his return, Alvarez successfully destroyed the Imperials' diabolical device: The Public Silencer. In time, this Obi-wan of the Swamp may finally bring balance to the county.
Come one, come all, to the "Read to Farley" sessions at the children's section of the North Miami Beach Library, the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month at 4:00 p.m. This is no ordinary dog. This shaggy mop o' unconditional love once suffered from crippling agoraphobia, owing to early abuse. But his patient handler, Margo Berman, a professor at Florida International University, worked tirelessly, training him to overcome his fears and earn his Therapy Dog badge. Now Farley helps shy children who have trouble reading aloud. Once the youngsters sit down with Farley on the colorful rugs, they don't want to stop reading him stories because he is a great listener, mispronunciations be damned!