Good Morning, Havana!

Looking to add a little zing to their lineup, officials from the Office of Cuba Broadcasting have proposed several new programs for Radio Marti, including one featuring Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas and County Commissioner Miriam Alonso. According to an internal Radio Marti memo, the show would be "aimed at explaining how a city government works in the democratic context." (See the related story on the possible changes, "Hot Air Waves," on page 6.) So far the proposal is only in the planning stages, and neither Alonso nor Penelas has committed support. I fault the programmers for their lack of ambition and vision. Why limit it to just Radio Marti? Wouldn't this show boost the viewership on the little-seen and much-maligned TV Marti? This could be the answer to a producer's prayers. I say, watch out Regis and Kathie Lee, there may be a couple of new kids on the block and the possibilities for enlightenment about government are mind-boggling.

ANNOUNCER: From soundstage 5-B of the Radio and TV Marti studios in fashionable downtown Sweetwater, it's time for Live with Alex and Miriam. This morning Alex and Miriam welcome as their guest American movie star Sylvester Stallone plugging his latest epic venture, Sly-Gate. Also on today's show, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez will reveal his secret recipe for flan, and from Metrozoo, Ron McGill brings an assortment of amazing animals. And now, let's give a hot South Florida welcome to Cuba's newest stars, the odd couple of exile politics, Alex Penelas and Dr. Miriam Alonso!

Penelas and Alonso appear from backstage and wave to the studio audience, which leaps to its feet with a standing ovation. The set, made to look like the living room of the average American family, is warmly decorated in earth tones and there are fresh-cut flower arrangements on all the tables. A baby spotlight shines down on a large American flag that flutters gently in the far right corner of the studio, thanks to a small fan just off-camera. Hopping onto a pair of stools positioned centerstage, Penelas and Alonso motion for the audience to sit.

ALEX: Wow! Now that's what I call a greeting. Good morning to everyone in our studio audience and a special greeting to those of you who are either listening on Radio Marti or watching us on TV Marti.

MIRIAM: Good morning, Havana!
Crowd erupts again in a standing ovation. Penelas wags his finger at Alonso and laughs.

ALEX: You're so bad.
MIRIAM: I can't help it.
ALEX: Okay, settle down.
Crowd quiets.
ALEX: So Miriam, how was your weekend?

MIRIAM: Wonderful. Just wonderful. I went to the Brigade 2506 picnic and square dance on Saturday. And I'll have you know that Lionel and I won the line dance competition.

MIRIAM: Actually we didn't even know we were in the contest. We were just trying to make our way to the bathrooms and before we knew it somebody was thrusting a trophy into our hands!

MIRIAM: What did you and Lilli do?
ALEX: We just spent the weekend indoors, playing with the boys. William is so smart, and I'm telling you, Christopher may be the cutest baby I've ever seen. The other day he started ...

MIRIAM: Please, enough already with the kiddie stories.
ALEX: Okay, okay. But they are so adorable, especially when ...
MIRIAM: I said enough! You don't hear me talking about all of my kids and grandchildren.

ALEX: Not unless you are trying to get them government jobs at the airport. Ba-da-boom!

Studio audience goes wild with laughter. Alonso scrunches her face and glares at Penelas, but then bursts into laughter herself.

ALEX: Score one for me!
Penelas jumps off his stool and high-fives members of the audience, while Alonso, still laughing, wipes the tears from her eyes.

MIRIAM: That was a good one. I'll get you for that.
ALEX: Our producer, Roman, is giving us the speed-up signal. Relax, relax. All right, Roman?

Penelas now turns to a camera for a closeup and reads from cue cards.
ALEX: We've got a great show for you this morning. As you are aware by now, the purpose of this program is to inform the people of Cuba how a local government works within a democratic society. And I can't think of anywhere else in the United States that better illustrates the true workings of local government than Dade County.

MIRIAM: Right you are, Alex. Now, there are naysayers who want to ridicule South Florida and suggest that the only thing we know about is how not to run a local government. But let's look at the facts. The City of Miami has gone 219 days without a commissioner or a top administrator being indicted for corruption.

The audience applauds.
ALEX: You go, girl! And just because we were foolish enough to install hundreds of toilet seats that cost more than $8000 apiece at Miami International Airport doesn't mean we are a bunch of incompetents over at Metro-Dade either. And what about the port? Sure it may sound ridiculous to spend tens of thousands of dollars on golf tournaments, lingerie, and perfume at the same time the port is losing money, but that's the beauty of local government -- nobody is ever really held accountable.

MIRIAM: Oops, Roman is giving us the hurry-up signal again.
ALEX: Our first guest is one of the biggest box office stars in America. He is also a resident of Miami and, more important, a heck of a nice guy. It is our great pleasure to have him here on the show -- the one, the only, Sylvester Stallone.

Stallone walks from backstage and takes a seat next to Penelas.
ALEX: Now, Sly -- is it okay if I call you Sly?
SLY: Sure.
MIRIAM: Can I call you Sly too?
SLY: Okay.

ALEX: Now, Sly, give us an idea how local government works for you in a democratic context.

SLY: Well, as everyone in the studio is probably aware, I own a mansion just off Brickell Avenue, near Alice Wainwright Park. And I'm afraid that people like to jog and rollerskate and ride their bicycles on the public street in front of my mansion.

ALEX: That must be awful. Don't these folks realize that you are a big movie star who demands privacy? SLY: Apparently they don't care. I even had members of my personal security force engage in a wild shooting spree one night, hoping it would scare everyone away, but they keep coming back.

MIRIAM: If this happened in Cuba, those intrusive pedestrians would be thrown in jail.

ALEX: Good point. I guess here in America there is nothing anybody can do.
SLY: Not so fast. This is where local government comes into play. Since I am incredibly wealthy and famous, I went to the Miami City Commission and asked them to put up a gate, blocking the entrance to the public street in front of my mansion.

MIRIAM: You mean you personally went down to city hall?
SLY: Well, no. Because this is Miami, and because I am incredibly wealthy and famous, I hired a lobbyist to do it.

MIRIAM: Who'd you hire?
SLY: Rosario Kennedy. She's a former Miami city commissioner, and I figured she could pull all sorts of strings with those commissioners. And sure enough, she convinced them to erect a fence and a gate. Now all I have to do is get final permission from Dade County. So I've hired another lobbyist to work on that.

ALEX: Who?
SLY: Jorge Lopez.
ALEX: Hey, I know him. He's one of my best friends. I was the best man at his wedding.

SLY: I know.
Stallone smiles devilishly into the camera. The audience squeals in delight. Penelas and Alonso rock back in their chairs and laugh.

SLY: You see, that's how local government works in a democratic context.
Audience applauds.
MIRIAM: I guess that's why they call him Sly. When we come back, Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez dons a chef's cap and explains the significance of recent Supreme Court rulings making it harder for federal prosecutors to introduce evidence of an alleged kickback -- all while sharing his secret family recipe for flan. And don't forget to join us next week, when Commissioner James Burke shows us never-before-seen home movies from a recent trip to San Francisco.

ALEX: Actually Miriam, they're FBI surveillance tapes.
MIRIAM: Oh, that will be special.
Audience laughs.

ALEX: Also next week Madonna will be in our studios to discuss the merits of special taxing districts in the construction of guardhouses for exclusive residential neighborhoods. She'll also sing something from the Evita soundtrack. On that same show, lobbyist Ron Book will be here to answer questions about campaign finance reform, and former Miami Beach mayor Alex Daoud will offer useful tips on how to keep those pesky leaves out of your swimming pool.

MIRIAM: In the next few weeks we are also going to be very lucky to have Gloria and Emilio Estefan discuss last year's tragic accident in which their boat collided with a Jet Ski, killing its passenger. You'll also hear about their subsequent efforts at the state capital to rewrite water safety laws. Afterward Gloria will show us her secret for getting a nasty black bean soup stain out of Emilio's guayabera.

SLY: That Emilio is a messy eater.
More laughter.
ALEX: Plus we will have a live remote from the federal prison where Cesar Odio and Miller Dawkins are attempting to enter the Guinness Book of World Records by knitting the world's biggest afghan.

MIRIAM: Also in the works is a three-round boxing match between Alex and Miami Mayor Joe Carollo. The winner gets to dictate the terms for the new waterfront arena project. Geraldo Rivera will be the celebrity referee.

ALEX: I'm just afraid he's going to try to bite me if it looks like he's losing.

MIRIAM: I'll bring you a pair of Lionel's earmuffs.
More laughter.
ALEX: As you can see, we've got a lot of things planned in the weeks ahead. So stay tuned and we'll be right back after this word from our sponsor.


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