Stephen Kopczynski's encounter with homelessness began this past summer as an exercise in self-actualization. The 49-year-old native New Yorker who works in Miami-Dade and Broward counties as an air conditioner repairman enrolled in a class at The Forum, the most recent incarnation of the mind-control indoctrination cult once called est. One of his assignments was to perform a community service project. So Kopczynski began thinking about his interactions with vagrants. "They have this body language," he explains. "They're pathetic, embarrassed. But when I started talking, they would change right in front of my eyes. Suddenly they seemed intelligent, engaged," Kopczynski continues in the parlance of those who smugly find themselves free of free will.
Kopczynski hatched an elaborate scheme that involved doling out disposable cameras to street dwellers and capturing his interaction with them on video. When the project was done, he planned to patch together what he'd culled into "a kind of guerrilla reality show."
The project did not turn out exactly as masterminded. Kopczynski and his partner, Gladys Palacios, gave the first camera in August to a scraggly, gray-haired man on the Upper Eastside who turned out to be hearing-impaired and speechless and possibly blind: All of his pictures came out blank. The next camera went to a wheelchair-bound fellow who snapped shots of street signs.
Not until round three did Kopczynski strike Bowery gold. He gave a camera to a man named Steve, who returned it full of shots of himself and his friend Jeff, a slender reed of tattoos and hypodermic scars. The photos showed the duo cooking up heroin, plunging needles into their flesh, and passing out under the 79th Street Causeway.
There also happened to be a few stray shots of Jeff's drawings, in which Kopczynski detected a whiff of talent begging for cultivation and/or exploitation. Jeff, it turns out, is a long-time fan of Robert Crumb and other dark-side denizens among them Charles "Barfly" Bukowski and William "The Junk Is a Sickness" Burroughs. In the sketches, Jeff conjured scenes from his own life: standing on the roadside clutching a "need beer" sign, retching over a toilet, scrounging for change. The final, cleverly jarring pencil-on-paper image showed him taking a camera from a well-groomed stranger, who was filming the entire encounter.
Kopczynski began meeting with Jeff and Steve every week and buying Jeff's drawings for ten dollars per page. Some were exquisitely bleak. One showed Jeff being mounted by a winged devil. By August, Kopczynski was determined to get the pair off the street. He and Palacios gave them $2000 for haircuts, a cell phone, a hotel room, and several weeks' worth of methadone. Maybe if they were cleaned up, Kopczynski thought, they could find a way to make a living from Jeff's art.
Then Kopczynski's perspective shifted. "When it started to be my money out of my pocket, I started to judge," Kopczynski says. "I began thinking, You guys have to start getting up in the morning and going to work."
Jeff and Steve vanished three weeks later, but Kopczynski' s disappointment was leavened with relief. He later learned they hocked the phone for $20, skipped out on their methadone treatment, and hit the streets again.
After a stint in jail for misdemeanor drug possession, the pair contacted Kopczynski and Palacios again, who agreed to meet with them Friday, December 16. "[We] wanted to see what happened, what went wrong," Kopczynski says. "What we're going to do from here I don't know. This might be the end of it. Then again, the crescendo of this experience might be what they're drawing now."
We're a Happy Family
David Bowie's androgynous look begot the New York Dolls, who unknowingly helped spawn legions of crappy metal bands who inspired hordes of hetero heshers to strut through the Eighties with Fawcettesque feathered hair. This motley crew never knew their stylistic godfather was exactly the kind of bi-curious boy they'd beat up for wearing a Depeche Mode T-shirt to homeroom.
The similarly hip-cred clueless now prowl South Beach in beat-up jeans, black Chucks, and Ramones T-shirts purchased at Target, without knowing the Ramones were a band. Yet the group continues to exist as an underground phenomenon. All the original members save one have expired. Drummer Marky Ramone makes a living touring Japan and DJing in clubs and on Sirius radio. The mop-topped New Yorker was booked for a December 10 gig at Revolver, the weekly party at Pawn Shop Lounge, and wound up at the center of a dispute between promoter Josh Menendez and a local Ramones cover band, Rockit to Russia.
Kendall-based rock band Radio came on as the opening act but stopped the show after 25 minutes to give the stage up to Rockit, which has gained a local following for earnest devotion to the Ramones' two-minute classics. Radio's manager, Chris Andrews, explains: "We just thought it would be cool to let these guys play on a night that Marky Ramone was there. Then, once they got there, they talked to Marky and supposedly he said he'd play with them, so we figured that would be, like, unprecedented. We had a 40-minute set, and we figured we'd give up 15 minutes. You can fit a lot of Ramones songs into 15 minutes."
Rockit singer Nick Ramone swears Marky was ready to sit in: "This guy is a classic. He created a lot of the music that we hear now. It's like if Frank Sinatra walked into a piano bar and said he'd like to play a couple of songs." But, according to Nick, club personnel began breaking down the sound equipment while his crew was setting up.
Promoter Menendez disputes this: "I never heard anything about Marky Ramone playing any drums. A band that wasn't booked tried to get onstage, which isn't cool, so I pulled the plug."
Marky Ramone is back in Japan and could not be reached by The Bitch for his side of the story.
They Only Come Out at Night
Fridays are The Bitch's nights to read, sleep, and study the aqueduct grid of Santurce, but she knows a lot of tail-wagging takes place to the progressive house sounds emanating from Nocturnal's weekly party, Aquabooty. Over the past two years, promoters Joe Budious and Tomas Ceddia have imported some of the world's most talented DJs recent spinsters include Louis Vega and Miguel Migs establishing Aquabooty as a Miami nightlife institution. Nocturnal's star-hung rooftop lounge, replete with waterfalls and a panoramic view of downtown, seems the ideal locale for the party's blissfully hedonistic aesthetic.
But Budious and Ceddia are packing up their turntables and migrating to the fledgling Mid-Beach club Glass, formerly Jimmy'z on 41st Street. While Aquabooty may have flown the $13 million coop, the pair didn't escape unscathed.
"Nocturnal I wish them luck; they're going to need it," the normally dulce de leche sweet Ceddia seethes. "They don't know what they're doing. They don't hire the right people or take the right advice. None of it seems to be working. They brought in these people from out of town that have no relevance to Miami and they ran it into the ground.... I didn't want to say anything before because they owed us money, a lot of money. They've since partially paid up. But we'll see the last couple of checks they wrote bounced," fumes the DJ, who, with Marlin maven Sami Stormo, is The Bitch's favorite power couple.
And the hatin' doesn't stop there. "We've always done smaller clubs and had total autonomy to do our own thing," Ceddia says. "A lot of our crowd wasn't feeling the vibe [at Nocturnal]. Being downtown, it feels like the seedy Space thing. A lot of our people didn't want to go there. In the long-term, the place just didn't have the right soul."
Nocturnal management did not respond to requests for comment.
A Little Bit of Heartache
Though she remains adamantly against The Man, The Bitch worked her way to a useless art history graduate degree as a minion of Howard Schultz, and thus retains enough affection for the employees of America's number one drug dealer to frequent its many outposts if not for the Gold Coast than to surreptitiously destroy as many Antigone Rising CDs as possible. Plus any hound would be forgiven for thinking a dude wearing a necklace made of bones was advertising his prowess as a kindredly spirited hunter, right? But sometimes human customs confuse The Bitch. So in order to avoid the certain social humiliation of being dissed by the fascinating yet inscrutably haughty baristas at Starbucks #416 (Washington and Lincoln), The Bitch detoured to Starbucks #749 (Meridian and Lincoln), only to discover that, to her Catherine Keener-in-Walking and Talking-like horror, the conspiratorial Melville-referencing fates had created a 416-to-749 staff trade this past Thursday.
Ears and paws ablush, the barkless dog ducked into the comfort of nearby Brownes & Co. Apothecary to find ... a really cool party celebrating the launch of Lavish, a line of clothes and jewelry by local designer Lauren Goldfarb. The merchandise was pretty; dogs were welcome; DJ Marc Vane quietly subdued a rowdy, too-much-junk-in-the-trunk reveler; and a friendly milling crowd seemed genuinely lulled by aromatherapeutic blasts of lavender and ginger.
Later that evening, a similarly soothing scene unfolded on the roof of the Delano for the opening of the hotel's made-over spa. This was a gathering so small that the Delano staff outnumbered the guests, and so relaxing that a rare occurrence of caste-mingling took place when, after one gentleman guest cautiously offered a caterer a Cohiba, everyone chilled together while enjoying the lights below and stars above.
Minority Report, Part 2
One of this publication's most irascible critics is no longer spewing vials of acidic ink in the pages of the Miami SunPost. While pawing at the doggie water fountain in Coconut Grove's Kennedy Park, Miami's most egalitarian canine overheard a neighborhood activist lament that Jack King was no longer writing his column for the Miami Beach-based weekly.
King whose columns skewered New Times staffers, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, and Miami Commissioner Johnny Winton, among other much more intelligent beings was told he could write about only assigned topics, according to two inveterate Grovites. SunPost executive editor Erik Bojansky denied the allegation, contending King quit because he was asked to expand his coverage beyond his home base of Coconut Grove and Miami City Hall.
"We don't dictate what columnists write or don't write about," Bojansky insisted. (That much is clear, The Bitch observationally concurs.) King, the former editor of the defunct Coconut Grover, did not return calls seeking comment.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Miami, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.