Glorious & Notorious
Glorious & Notorious
Casablanca had Rick's; Vegas had the Stardust; Miami's cocaine jazz age had the decadent Mutiny Hotel
By Sean Rowe
Dig the scene, little sister: Burton Goldberg, owner, standing in the back doorway of the members-only Mutiny Club, canary-yellow kerchief in his breast pocket, eyes scanning the room. At the corner booth: cocaine kingpins Ricardo "Monkey" Morales, Carlos Quesada, and Francisco Condom-Gil, drinking $90 Dom with three girls in cocktail dresses. Quesada's half out of his chair, yelling, throwing dinner rolls at Monkey. Across the blue shag carpet at a bend in the bar: Sgt. Raul Diaz, Metro Intelligence, nursing a Scotch, taking notes with his eyes. A pinlight spot illuminating one perfect orchid in the corner near the terrace. Over by the tiny dance floor: Esmeralda Ochoa playing the harp, wearing a G-string and no top, glitter mascara, long fingers working the strings.
Dig further: Barbara "Bubbles" Esposito, hostess, adjusting her hat, coming up the front stairs with Ramon Perez Llamas, reputed Puerto Rican hit man. Some Caracas oil money getting up and brushing past Llamas on the way to the john, Llamas giving him the hot eye. Ex-fed prosecutor Jerry Sanford walking in, noting the Buffalo Boys, upper New York state grass smugglers. Walter Elmore, general manager, crossing the room to speak with the maitre d', who's getting ready to send Fernando Puig, bouncer extraordinaire, out to the airport in a Rolls to pick up what's coming in from Seattle, the only place left in America tonight willing to ship 30 cases of champagne and aguardiente express freight. Pete "the Count" Baraban, dope lawyer, looking up from a baked potato wrapped in gold tinfoil, noticing the Villaverde brothers, Raul and Rafael, sitting down with CIA agent Edwin Wilson, all three men in white suits.
Dig: Upstairs in room 1020 -- the $140-a-night Bordello Suite -- two low rollers use twenties to light Q-tips dipped in alcohol and cocaine, throwing the lit bills into the Jacuzzi, onto the circular bed, up in the air at the mirrored ceiling. One man crawls across the floor, dropping his chrome-plated .44, throwing up, inching his way over the rail of the balcony, the other screaming incoherently and following on all fours. The two wackdoodles make their way down the front of the 138-room hotel, shirtless, climbing balcony by balcony, tumbling onto the second-story awning, spilling coke out of their pockets and on the head of the doorman. Upstairs and down the hall -- the Sahara Suite -- a thief kicks in the door and steals jazz star Herbie Mann's flute, solid silver. It's 10:00 p.m. on June 23, 1980, at the Mutiny Hotel in Coconut Grove.
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Or it could have been. Michael Borkin and Charles Pfeiffer did in fact climb down the Mutiny's twelve-story facade on that date, leaving behind them a pile of smoldering cash, a supply of cocaine, marijuana, and magic mushrooms, and a handgun. Monkey Morales, Carlos Quesada, and Francisco Condom-Gil were habitues of the hotel's smoky, second-floor Mutiny Club, and so was Pete "the Count" Baraban. Sgt. Raul Diaz may have stopped on his way home from work and ordered Scotch, but he can't remember for sure. Someone did steal Herbie Mann's sterling silver flute from a room at the Mutiny Hotel, but it was four months earlier, October 16, 1979. The Villaverde brothers partied at the Mutiny, and they hung out with shadowy CIA man Edwin Wilson, but accounts differ as to whether they ever did both at the same time. Did a Venezuelan oil tycoon bump into Ramon Perez Llamas on the way to the bathroom on that particular night, and did Llamas glare at him? Perhaps. Llamas can't remember now because he's dead, and so is bouncer Fernando Puig, and so is Monkey Morales, all three killed by gunfire in separate incidents.
Fact always did blend with fiction at the glorious, notorious Mutiny Hotel. In its time there was nothing like it, and today it lives on in hindsight like the afterimage of a hallucination, bright but blurry. The Mississippi Delta is said to start in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in Memphis; likewise the Mutiny in its day defined Miami's psychic boundaries. It was the nerve center of the city's exploding cocaine trade, a favorite hangout of globetrotting spies, and a desperately popular watering hole for Latin America's nouveau riche. It was meant to be elegant, and was, but early on it became infamous and edgy, and reveled in the reputation. Its most decadent highs were a carnival barker's advertisement for the Seventies, and its decline was an early object lesson in America's S&L crisis.
"I did a movie called life, with actors that were real people," says Burton Goldberg, the former owner. "We had dictators, secret police, drug people, bankers, the international trade, gunrunners and celebrities: Rod Serling, Sen. Kennedy, Cher, Hamilton Jordan, Jacqueline Onassis, George Bush. Mimes and magicians! Naked dancers in very fine taste, not prurient! Music! Chairs with enormous arms!"
Now a resident of Tiburon, California, and a publisher of alternative medical texts, Goldberg adds: "I was very proud of the rooms -- the Egyptian Suite with stained glass and hand-carved chairs, the Roman tubs. The mirrors over the beds came from a hotel in New Orleans. The amount of romance that was budding there was incredible! It was in the very center of the sexual revolution."
The Mutiny Hotel opened in 1968 and closed for good in 1989, after years of spiraling senescence. At its peak in 1979, the Mutiny Club claimed to have 11,000 card-carrying members, to gross $7 million a year in food and beverage revenues, and to consistently sell more Dom Perignon than any other venue in America.
A decade after it closed for keeps and more than fifteen years after its heyday, there's nothing left of the Mutiny but a gutted steel-and-concrete shell at 2951 S. Bayshore Dr. A real estate development company bought the property last year and intends to spend millions transforming its nondescript architecture into a snazzy modern condominium. The new owners found some hotel newsletters and brochures under the rubble near the western corner of the building, and that's about all that exists in the way of documentary evidence of its glory days. But there are ghosts, many of them still alive and walking around with their memories. Some want to forget they lived part of their lives at the Mutiny; some of those quoted below were given fictitious names to honor their requests for anonymity.
Jack, retired smuggler: "I would arrive at the Mutiny at seven in the morning, have breakfast, and talk to the girls. Each table had its own phone. You snapped your fingers and they'd bring the phone, plug it in the jack at the base of the table, and tell you what the number was. I would drink coffee till about noon, interspersed with a couple Heinekens. Then I would switch from the patio area to the glassed-in dining room for lunch. Barbara would seat me at my table and I'd meet with financiers for the films I was trying to produce.
"The afternoons were drinking martinis between one and five. Back to Scotch at five, calling assorted girlfriends, calling the front desk, ordering assorted theme rooms -- the Jungle Room for one type of girl, the Valentine's Room for another, always with a Jacuzzi. Plus ordering a nice supply of champagne and cocaine -- a gram, an eighth, whatever. The nights were basically about trading coke for sex. You plied women with coke, champagne. You would throw down 500 bucks and say buy some clothes, some nice earrings, here's my beeper number, I'll pick you up tonight.
"The Mutiny was the meeting place between North and South America. Both types of governments, both sets of dealers, both groups of spies and law enforcement people. You could conduct business, you could party -- there was really no reason to leave, and after a while I didn't. I lived there for weeks at a time. I left when I went to prison.
"Multimillion dollar drug deals were being done at the tables on any given night. The DEA was there pretending to be dealers, trying to suck in the real dealers. The girls that worked there knew the clientele; they knew the cops, DEA, and all the major players in the drug business. You would think that a place with drug dealers and cops in the same room there would be a lot of tension. There was no tension at all. The girls would say 'Jack, those four guys over there, they're heat.' But they didn't need to tell me. Those guys had the beards, the jackets, the shorts, whatever, but they always had the wrong shoes. That was the dead giveaway, always."
Mitzy, day waitress: "Being a Mutiny girl was sort of a status thing. Your makeup had to be perfect, you had your nails checked every day. We were all in our twenties, and we were all lookers in our own way. I had to go for three interviews before I got hired, and for the third interview I dressed a lot less conservatively.
"There was a lot of legitimate money -- millionaire Mexican chicken farmers, rich Venezuelans, local lawyers and businessmen -- but you also had the drug dealers throwing money around. They loved the girls, they were all showing off, and they all wanted to date us. We did very well. I can remember someone saying, 'Sweetheart, get me a pack of cigarettes' -- cigarettes were a dollar a pack then -- and they'd give you a hundred and say keep the change. To work three hours a day, three days a week, and clear $500 a week, that was a lot of money.
"Some legitimate people liked rubbing elbows with the not-so-legitimate people. Guys like Willy Falcon, his group was in there. He liked the corner booth the best. The dealers would come for lunch and order martinis and just keep going and going. There would be huge backgammon games, a lot of serious gambling. There would be four guys on the patio doing lines off the table and no one paid any attention, you just pretended you didn't see it.
"I only worked nights a couple times. It was completely different from days, like the animals came out. I felt like I was in a jungle. A lot of leather and gold jewelry, a lot of diamond-faced Rolexes and gold coins on chains. Night was more intense, more pressure. There are some people who want to forget they even worked there. Some of the girls wound up marrying very wealthy men."
Mitchell, law enforcement consultant, ex-FBI: "I knew this Cuban immigrant, a very bright guy, he arrived in Miami and got a very menial job making about 50 bucks a week. He came upon a couple guys who asked if he knew how to use a walkie-talkie and binoculars. He says sure. They drive him to the Keys, and put him on a bridge and said if you see any police, either in cars or boats, get on the radio and let us know. He spends the whole night there scared to death and never saw a thing. No one showed up. The two guys pick him up in the morning, mosquito-bitten to no end, and two weeks later they showed up and gave him $10,000 in cash. One thing led to another, and the next thing he knows he's one of the biggest dope dealers in Miami.
"The highlight of his pissing-it-away days was this: He had a confirmation party for his daughter at the Mutiny Hotel. It cost him $30,000.
"I thought I was working real monster cases in south Philly, but boy was I wrong. For dope, Miami was the center of the universe, and the Mutiny was the center of Miami.
"Back then a kilo of marijuana cost $5 at the dock in north Colombia. So then you sell it up here for a thousand. The profit margin was so high it defied description. That was before cartels, before it became big business. What do you do with all that money? I know two dope dealers who traded cars, they were at the bar and simply swapped registrations. One was a Porsche, the other a Mercedes, and both vehicles had engine problems, so they were playing games with each other. That was their idea of a game. Colombian drug dealers really didn't understand the U.S. because they didn't live here. They relied on Cubans to do their dope importation and distribution. The Mutiny became a central point for Cubans involved in the drug business to hang out and be seen.
"These were otherwise normal human beings who all of a sudden fell into so much money it was unfathomable. It was like hitting the lottery every Saturday night. And the Mutiny just seemed like the place to be. Miami Beach had become a pit. There were no clubs for these guys in Lauderdale, because they were Cuban. There really was nothing else but the Grove.
"Drugs were relatively new to the FBI, so I said, Well if I'm in Newcastle, I'll mine coal. The first thing I saw was that it was a very fluid environment. Allegiances shifted all the time. You would be partners with three other people on a load, but the next day you weren't. If you were sitting at the Mutiny and had access to X amount of dope that was arriving, you then needed access to storage, offload spots, shrimpers, trucks; so you would hook up with your partners of the moment there at the bar."
Roger, divorce lawyer: "Miami has always had the best criminal lawyers in America. For a long time, up until the federal laws changed, the majority of the cases handled were drug cases, and 90 percent of the good criminal lawyers defended drug cases. Later the cases became much more difficult, the sentencing guidelines left less room in which a lawyer could operate. But for a period of time, the Mutiny was a very popular place for lawyers, and it wound up getting some of them in a lot of trouble. I remember there were law offices on one floor of the Mutiny, and the classical music station, WTMI, they had their studio and transmitter on another floor, which I thought was sort of funny.
"I went there some of the first nights it was open, back when the Palm Bay Club and Jockey Club were in their heyday. It was one constant party, all the glamorous people from around the country and around the world. Then when Miami started changing, it did too. Drugs became much more prevalent and there was so much cash around that all the expensive and exclusive places started to attract the cowboys. You know: the people who now have streets named after them."
Tom, journalist: "One of my first snazzy dates in Miami was with a very glamorous rubia Cubanita who lived at Grove Isle who said, 'Gee, why don't we go to the Mutiny for a drink?' What's the Mutiny, I'm wondering? I found out. They had these humongo padded leather banquettes, these incredible private booths. What was obvious to me was that this was a perfect seduction scene for a young man unencumbered, who had recently come to Miami. It was the perfect makeout place. The decor at that time was kind of jungle-y. Those banquettes: You'd sit there and think of what might be underneath the cushions -- cocaine, bugs, cash. So here I am with this incredible Latin blonde in this incredible joint. Wow! I was in Miami! I had arrived! The only thing was, by the mid-Eighties, the cocaine cowboy days were dying down. During the Scarface era it was quite a scene, but that had kind of ended by then."
Lazaro, private detective, former Metro-Dade police undercover narcotics officer: "Miami was crazy in those days. It was fun but it was also very dangerous -- all those sensationalistic hits, the shootouts down U.S. 1. For a long time you had some local American guys involved in grass smuggling, and they were happy-go-lucky, sort of mellow types. Then the fishermen started getting into cocaine and had all of this money, and then the Colombians started coming in the mid-Seventies. After that cocaine started getting really heavy and it was a more violent type of world. The cocaine types were more vociferous, more aggressive.
"In the middle of all this mayhem, the Mutiny was like a no man's land, sort of a sanctuary. There weren't very many fights because everybody was armed. I remember Monkey Morales sitting there one night. A couple people came in who he didn't like, so he asked for a basket of bread, and in the basket of bread he had put his weapon. That's how he did it. So if the police searched him he was clean, but he had his gun close at hand."
Monkey Morales -- stocky, scary, possessed of simian features -- began his career the same year the Mutiny opened, and eventually reigned as king of a court that included such colorful top-flight drug traffickers as Rudy Rodriguez, Carlos Quesada, and Francisco Condom-Gil. In 1968, after defecting from the Cuban secret police, Morales was arrested for the first time in Miami. But instead of going to jail he became a paid FBI informant, testifying later that year against fellow anti-Castro zealot Orlando Bosch, who was caught at the port of Miami trying to shoot missiles at a Cuba-bound Polish freighter. Throughout the years, as he became one of Florida's most successful cocaine importers, Morales informed on virtually all of his Mutiny drinking buddies, who, oddly, continued partying with him.
In 1977 police bugged the phone of Morales's sometime friend and business partner Carlos Quesada, and later arrested Quesada, Rudy Rodriguez, and Morales, and seized 56 pounds of cocaine. The wiretap transcripts were ruled inadmissible as evidence, and the case began to collapse. But Quesada and Morales turned snitch and helped send Rodriguez to prison. Three years later, Morales assisted police in orchestrating the so-called Tick-Talks investigation, named for a bug placed in a wall clock at Carlos Quesada's house. Forty-eight people, including Condom-Gil, Quesada, and the Villaverde brothers, were arrested. Out on bond, Rafael Villaverde vanished while on a fishing trip in the Bahamas. Free, but running out of friends, Monkey Morales entered, then dropped out of, the federal witness protection program. In 1982 he died from a gunshot wound to the head at a bar in Key Biscayne.
Lazaro, the undercover narc: "Monkey had a table at the end of the bar, and sometimes he'd be sitting there with Carlos Quesada. I liked Monkey. Quesada, I didn't like him as much, he was less intelligent, basically a silk-shirt punk. One day he's putting vinyl on people's car tops at a joint off Le Jeune and Eighth Street, a year and a half later he's driving a Rolls and a Mercedes. He wasn't in the same class with Monkey, but then again, he's still alive.
"Anyway, you had nights when you had the top drug dealers in town sitting with Customs, DEA, Metro, all drinking at the same bar. Beepers were a new thing back then, but sometimes you walked in there and it sounded like a symphony with all the beepers going off. There were nice ladies there from all walks of life, everything from hookers to corporate executives. Everyone was there to have fun. The worst you had in the way of violence was wives walking in on drug dealers with their girlfriends. Sometimes you'd go in the men's room and there'd be three or four guys sniffing and snorting. I never saw any selling, but I sure saw a lot of giving.
"You keep asking me, Why was the Mutiny allowed to operate so openly for so long? Let me explain. It's like in espionage, the government knows who the spies are, so they leave them in place. That way they can study them. At the Mutiny we knew who was hanging out with who. We left them alone because we wanted to study the genealogy. You did a lot of intelligence gathering at the Mutiny just by going there. You would know who just brought in a load because they would be celebrating -- it was that open. Then sometimes you'd see two guys who you thought should be at each other's throats, and instead they're best buddies now. A lot of people came from out of town to meet at the Mutiny. You got their tag number, and the next morning you drove out to the airport to the car rental office, and you would see who rented the car. If you wanted to spoil somebody's night, you'd come by and sit at their table and let everyone see you doing it.
"We had a gentleman, Rudy Rodriguez, who we arrested with about $900,000 in cash at his home. In those days there were no money laundering statutes. Rudy was on his way to the Mutiny when we came in, and here's what he was wearing: white shoes, white socks, a white frock, and a white top hat. His wife was dressed in white. There was a white Rolls Royce out in front of Rudy's house with a guy named Sunshine Sammy playing a small piano, a keyboard, in the back. Rudy used to roll his base in Marlboros and then put the cigarettes back in the cigarette boxes. It was a very antiseptic smell that you could sniff when you walked into the Mutiny. It permeated the air, and you knew Rudy was there.
"We found the dope, the money, but Rudy claimed it was income from his seafood business. The IRS eventually gave him half the money back, and he went to the Mutiny and put a bottle of Dom on every table."
Raul Martinez, assistant chief, Miami police: "We took significant numbers of people out of there at gunpoint. Sometimes you couldn't help it. One night myself and a couple other investigators were walking down the stairs and one of us bumped into Carlos Quesada. When you bumped into him you could feel the handle of a gun, so we arrested him for packing a firearm. I arrested Willy Falcon there on a 1980-81 wiretap case known as Video Canary, and he pleaded guilty, the only thing he was ever arrested for that stuck. He was a puppy then, basically. The level of dealing he was doing at the time definitely magnified over the years.
"Monkey Morales, we arrested him there on one case, and later on he became an informant for us. He testified against Carlos Quesada. The Villaverdes were involved in that one, too. That's the world of informants. They get caught and want to work off a case, or they want to hurt their competition. Today's drug dealer could be tomorrow's informant against somebody else. So there are friendships, but no loyalty. For instance, I remember George Valdes hanging out at the Mutiny back when he was Willy Falcon's supplier, then he became an informant against Falcon.
"The Mutiny was a place that you didn't go by yourself. Or at least you had to be very careful when you went there, because you could get set up. Working undercover there was exciting, dangerous, kind of foolish at times. It exposed you to false allegations by any scumbag, which could be hard to disprove. Also, there were a lot of high-level attorneys with high-level clients, which created stares across the room. The attorneys wondered if you were there maybe watching them, or their clients, and they would send over drinks and you would have to send the drinks back. I did, anyway."
Steven, attorney, former federal prosecutor: "Usually the people with me were other prosecutors or agents, and a lot of the time we were just there out of sheer curiosity. It was the height of the cocaine cowboy era, which a lot of people have forgotten about, and from the eyes of a federal prosecutor it had sort of a sinister feel. Maybe sinister isn't the right word. It was like being in the Wookie bar in Star Wars.
"You've got to put Miami in context. You can't really understand the place unless you knew it then, and if you wanted to understand it then, you had to check out the Mutiny. The Mutiny was beyond a hangout, it was almost a cult. A lot of undercover meetings took place there. In the old days this town was loaded with informants. The U.S. Attorney's office was absolutely swamped. A lot of people came in from out of town on short-term detail to help us out, and the first place we always took them was the Mutiny.
In 1960 seven Miami men were recruited and secretly trained by the CIA to assassinate Cuban president Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and five other Cuban government officials. This so-called Shooter Team included Raul and Rafael Villaverde, who two decades later showed up at the Mutiny as regular customers. Two years after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, other members of the intact Shooter Team were reportedly caught by local police smuggling narcotics into the U.S. from Cuba, leading one CIA supervisor to worry about "problems of control" and illegal profiteering. Meanwhile, at least ten years before being observed at the Mutiny with the Villaverde brothers, Monkey Morales was also working for the CIA, and spent two years on assignment for the Agency in the Congo in 1964 and 1965.
What to make of the unmistakable odor of espionage that blew through the Mutiny some nights, as strong as the scent of freebase Marlboros? Some former patrons believe that, as late as the mid-Eighties, the hotel and its club were a hatching-house for Reagan-era covert schemes aimed at Central America, or at least a relaxing spot for mercenaries and intelligence operatives who were involved in them.
In 1977 rogue CIA agent Edwin Wilson reportedly met with Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza and offered Somoza the services of the original 1960 Shooter Team for the purpose of assassinating top leadership in the revolutionary Sandinista movement. The price: $80,000 per man, plus $250,000 in expenses for the operation. Somoza declined, but two years later Shooter Team members, along with CIA representatives, met Somoza in the Bahamas to discuss supplying weapons, aircraft, ammunition, and military equipment to Somoza's dispossessed officers, now known as the Contras. On his return to Miami, Edwin Wilson set up Orca Supply Company and later used it to ship arms from Florida to Nicaragua.
By 1983 John Hull, an American rancher with past CIA associations, was allowing his property on the Costa Rican border to be used as a base for cocaine smuggling from Colombia to Miami; at the same time it was being used as a landing strip for arms shipments from Florida destined for the Nicaraguan Contras. Two sources claim to have seen both Hull and Wilson at the Mutiny in the early Eighties.
In a 1982 interview with the Miami Herald, Raul Villaverde claimed that his by-then-vanished brother had refused to cooperate with Wilson, who had been charged with conspiring to recruit Americans to train terrorists for Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy. Villaverde said he and his brother were "set up" in the Tick-Talks case by Monkey Morales as a favor to Monkey's CIA friends.
Mitchell, ex-FBI: "You've really got to define what you mean by a CIA operative. There are agents, but then you have a lot of operatives who are contract men, paid on an ad hoc basis. Many of these people are businessmen who travel and collect a lot of mundane intelligence: crops, commodity futures, et cetera. At the Mutiny, we're talking about the latter. A substantial number of Miami Cubans were in a position to learn things about what's going on in Cuba or elsewhere. They were on the CIA payroll. They thought it was cool, so they wouldn't hesitate to let people know, to brag about it. You got laid a lot more, and people were scared of you.
"Some of the baddest asses I have ever known in Miami, guys doing intimidation and shooting, that CIA persona is what they aspired to, it's the one badge they didn't have. I called it the 'Casablanca effect.' There would be a contingent of pretty opulent dopers pissing money away with the most outrageous women. Then you'd have a contingent that everybody knew to their bones was a spy of one kind or another. Then there were pretenders and wannabes. Nobody ever knew exactly who the spies were. They were information gatherers. Hell, everyone was. I guess that's what we all had in common."
Martinez, the assistant Metro police chief: "About the spy thing, I'm not sure if that was a reality or a myth, whether these were real CIA, were they there officially, were they wannabes, or former CIA guys now involved in the drug business. I never did find out for sure."
Burton Goldberg was known to his employees as a petty tyrant and an overbearing perfectionist, but the Mutiny's long slide indisputably began in 1984 when Goldberg decamped, selling the hotel for a cool $17 million. The next year the Mutiny's new owners defaulted on their mortgage, and a bank named Sunrise Savings & Loan repossessed the property. At the time Mutiny general manager Bob Smith acknowledged that his efforts to clean up the hotel's druggie image had been a big mistake. "It was the downfall of the Mutiny in financial terms," Smith noted. "[Drug dealers] supported the club, and the club accounted for 65 percent of the revenues of the hotel."
In 1986 Sunrise Savings & Loan declared insolvency. To avoid widespread panic in the thrift industry, the federal government took control of the bank, thereby becoming the new owner of the Mutiny. For the next few years, the hotel floundered along as the feds tried to find a buyer. In 1987 police arrested eighteen people at a cocaine-and-conch party in the Mutiny's Cappuccino and Santa Fe suites. On the surface it seemed the wild days were still on, but in fact the party was a low-rent affair and the Mutiny had lost its pizzazz.
Local developer Manny Medina and a group of British investors finally bought the Mutiny in 1989 for $8.65 million. American taxpayers paid $5 million in losses on the building via a new congressional savings and loan bailout plan. Medina spent $2 million removing asbestos and gutting the building's interior, but his scheme to create a new upscale hotel never materialized.
In 1990 the Mutiny's furnishings were sold at auction, including a ceiling mirror from the Bordello Room, the blue satin bed canopy and Roman tub from the Arabian Nights suite, and the space-ship control panel built into the bed of the Lunar Dreams room. By the following year, scuzzy bums had moved into the now-vacant hotel, and members of the Coconut Grove Women's Club next door complained of rats and opossums floating in the near-empty swimming pool.
Last year Miami-based Flagler Development bought the Mutiny for $10.2 million. Developers Ricardo Dunin and Raul Echarte say they plan to invest $17 million more to turn the structure into a British Colonial-themed luxury condominium. A sales center and model condo unit opened on the site of the old Mutiny a few months ago, and business seems brisk. Dunin and Echarte plan to completely reconstruct the building, adding all new plumbing, electrical work, interior walls, windows and roof, as well as a two-story entrance and lobby. The lobby will have sisal carpet, cane and bamboo furniture, paddle fans, and brass details.
The new owners are careful to say that their creation will bear little resemblance to the old Mutiny. They've chosen to hang onto the name, though.
Manny Medina, former Mutiny owner: "Will it carry some of the stigma? Of course. We thought about that when we took over, the idea of changing the name. But the name will carry some of the cachet, too. Let me tell you something. I remember standing in the lobby of the Tamanaco Hotel in Caracas in 1979 and someone saying to me, You want to really know who's who in the world? Go to the Mutiny Hotel in Miami. They'll still tell you, South Americans, that the Mutiny is the place they dreamed about -- a table at the Mutiny. That was it, the beginning and the end."
Duane Cross, owner of Cross Training Fitness Center: "We took over the Mutiny phone number six years ago. We still get calls from around the world. We have people from Japan calling up trying to make reservations. I had the L.A. district attorney's office contact me about telephone bills of some former drug dealers. But that was mostly a few years ago. It's pretty much died down now."
These days the ghosts of the Mutiny are almost silent, the grist, almost, of legend. Asked what she knows about the history of the hotel, condominium saleswoman Lisa Trujillo shrugs and says: "I've heard some of the stories. But really, it was before my time."
Trujillo hands out promotional packets touting the Italian kitchens and full-length windows that will soon fill the sky-skeleton above Bayshore Drive. One promo reads: "Now, with the Grove becoming the new neighborhood of choice for a new generation, there is a new address that symbolizes everything this village by the bay is about.... the Mutiny.
In the February 27 issue, in the article "Glorious and Notorious," an editing mistake led to an error. Raul Martinez, assistant chief of the Miami Police Department, was also identified later in the same piece as assistant chief of Metro Police, which he is not. New Times regrets the error.Info:Published:
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