It's a little after dark on Ocean Drive: A man in tight Lycra shorts and a black tank top is lumbering down the sidewalk, a video camera on his shoulder. He's carrying a strange-looking aluminum pack on his back, which makes him look like a potbellied astronaut who has just landed on Planet South Beach.
Approaching two tall teenage blondes who look like models, our oddly equipped explorer launches into his spiel. "Are you girls waiting to be discovered?" he coos.
Ladies and gentlemen, Ugly George has arrived in Miami.
George Urban came to South Florida last week to do what he seems to do best: persuade women to undress for him on camera, a metier that has won him the enviable sort of fame that leads to write-ups in Playboy and appearances on the daytime talk-show circuit. Hoping to go national with the concept, which has aired on the soft-core porn cable channels of Manhattan, Ugly George came to town to look for new "talent."
"It's not the camera," Urban says of his ability to convince strangers to bare their bods for him after only a brief encounter on the street. "It's me. I've got charisma."
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But admittedly not much in the way of looks. Though he says the "Ugly" appellation was affectionately bestowed by an old girlfriend, Urban's fat-cheeked face, unruly mop of scraggly dark hair, and tough-guy Brooklyn brogue don't exactly inspire comparisons with, say, Antonio Banderas.
And yet here he is, smack in the middle of Model Land, working his peculiar brand of magic.
When he learns that one of his teenage targets is from New Jersey, he begins quizzing her about that state's former governor, Thomas Kean. It's clear that seventeen-year-old Meredith has never heard of that particular politician, which affords Urban the opportunity to launch into a series of teasing insults as he switches on a light and commences filming. "The trouble is you're just like me: beautiful, blond, and brainless," he tells Meredith and her colleague Chrissie, who's sixteen. Both work for a local modeling agency.
Seemingly riveted by the mere fact that a camera is trained on them, the young women continue to hear him out as he gradually steers the conversation toward his real interest. "Do you want to be in the centerfold of Popular Mechanics?" he asks. Meredith squeals with laughter as Urban jokingly describes a scenario for a centerfold: a nude girl wielding a wrench to fix a toilet. He talks about celebrities who have posed nude, even fabricates a tale of how the governor of Chrissie's home state of Alabama was indicted because he tried to rid cable TV of naked women. "Would society suddenly fall apart if they saw you naked on TV?" he asks.
Chrissie ponders this pressing topic for a moment before responding. "I hope not," she offers.
Onlookers have begun to converge. "Why don't we walk across the street and talk a little more; we're attracting unworthy elements," Ugly George suggests. In no time the pair are posed provocatively atop a low wall, the camcorder whirring. "How many guys have you driven crazy?" Urban asks. "I'm not even a leg man, but that is fantastic!" He hitches up Meredith's skirt a few inches and runs his hands along her legs.
In an attempt to inspire a bit more salaciousness, he brings out his trusty packet of clippings, recounting the overtures he's made to former China Beach star Dana Delany, Pamela Anderson ("the most famous pair of boobs in the world," he notes of the Baywatch actress), and Caroline Kennedy, conveniently gliding over the fact that the aforementioned all rejected his advances).
"I wish you could take off more," he cajoles, adding, "I guess South Beach isn't as liberated as New York. I could shoot you naked in Greenwich Village and nobody would notice."
By the time the camera stops and the light is flicked off, Urban has pocketed both women's phone numbers. "You girls would look good in your own way as a different kind of nude," he says as they rejoin the pedestrian parade along Ocean Drive.
Back on the prowl, Urban observes, "If I was alone, I could have taken those two back to my hotel room!"
His next stop this evening is the News Cafe, where he charms a phone number from an elegantly dressed model. "Do you want to be naked for Ugly George?" he asks, then suddenly reaches over and pulls open her blouse a bit. She laughs warmly. "You're a cultural resource of South Florida all by yourself," he tells her.
The exchange prompts photographer Bill Wisser, a South Beach resident who is accompanying Ugly George on his Miami Beach peregrinations, to remark with baffled awe, "There's an X factor at work."
There is also genuine ugliness on display. When Wisser stops to answer questions posed by a few black passersby, Urban barks, "I told you not to talk to anyone. Niggers can't take no for an answer." Continuing to saunter down the street, he's recognized by some tourists, whom he ignores.
He doesn't want to be distracted. As the night's filming is drawing to a close, Ugly George spots a thin woman wearing a tight sequined dress. "This is Ugly George's satellite TV," he informs her. "This could be the biggest break of your life -- being discovered by Ugly George here in Miami!" Camera rolling, he compliments the woman on her figure, snuggles up against her, and grabs her breast.
"This is all real? No silicone here?"
"Grandma's real," she confirms.
When he pulls down the front of her dress to help show more cleavage, she shakes him off with a laugh, but by the time the camera goes off, Ugly George has bagged another phone number.
Nineteen-year-old J.C. Collins says she finds the whole thing hardly shocking. "I'm in modeling, so I'm used to people trying to feel me up," she remarks. "He wasn't going to rape me here on the street, and he seemed like a great guy."
As New Times goes to press, Ugly George has returned home to New York, where he has plans to prepare a pay-per-view cable special featuring some of the footage he shot on South Beach (along with more risque material, presumably). He says he has rounded up investors -- he refuses to name them -- to bankroll the show, and has even more ambitious visions of a TV network that would send out "unscrambled" sex shows to millions of satellite dish owners.
Then again, you probably don't want to start aiming your dish in Urban's direction just yet. The Ugly George Hour of Truth, Sex, and Violence no longer airs, although excerpts of Ugly handiwork do appear during late-night nudie programming. A staffer at Time Warner Cable, the Manhattan company that leases time to soft-porn producers, says that as far as he knows, The Ugly George Hour hasn't run in New York City in years. "I haven't seen him anywhere for a long time," the staffer asserts.
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