After the January indictment of Dade County Commissioner James Burke, Miami's civic-hype artists could be heard gnashing their teeth and noisily decrying the latest "black eye" to our image, an especially touchy subject after months of unrelenting allegations of massive voter fraud, a scandal-plagued seaport, corrupt county bureaucrats, and the fact that roughly half of Miami's city government was being tossed into prison.
When an appeals court on March 11 dramatically booted Xavier "The Midnight Rambler" Suarez and installed Crazy Joe Carollo as Miami mayor, the worrywarts started yowling again. National headlines. Late-night talk show jokes. Miami vacation plans canceled by the billions.
Then a mere five days later County Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, following a lengthy criminal investigation, pleaded guilty to lying on his financial disclosure forms and agreed to resign from office. The handwringers, needless to say, were apoplectic.
Even Robert Steinback, an earnest Miami Herald columnist not normally associated with those nervous Nellies over at the convention and visitors bureau, seemed to lose his cool. "Miami's scandals damage our quality of life by imperiling the forces of growth and prosperity," he wrote in a column that practically quaked in fear right there on the page. "The negative national image generated by political corruption is a drag on our region's progress."
This from a man who was recently seen at a Miami karaoke bar, microphone in hand, warbling his way through the entire Hootie and the Blowfish catalogue. Trust us: Steinback's rendition of "Only Want to Be with You" was more crippling to the city's image than a cellblock full of Miami public officials. Besides, even if we do have a "negative national image," he's just plain wrong about the consequences.
Tourist visits to South Florida reached an all-time high this past season. Violent crime is down, especially crime against visitors. Brickell Avenue and downtown Miami are poised for a building boom. Miami Beach is in the middle of one right now. Foreigners are dropping major coin on new luxury condos all over Dade.
Sometimes it is difficult to acknowledge the truth -- at least publicly. But just pull aside these moralistic magpies for a little off-the-record strategizing and prioritizing, and they're quick to admit the truth: Sin is sexy. Scandal sells. When Humberto Hernandez goes down, our numbers go up.
So why not exploit the hell out of this subtropical cesspool of sleazy corruption? It's clear that people the world over love it. Wallow in it. Pay darn good money to get near it.
Why fight it?
As a public service at this crucial juncture, New Times is stepping forward to help point the way to a new golden age in Miami's history. And what we offer here is only a beginning, a mere hint of the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.
With this series, we're solidifying Miami's corruption image while at the same time precluding possible copycat campaigns by competitors. Everyone knows government is corrupt in Chicago and Washington. This says Miami is more corrupt. Playing on the television program adds a hook and serves as the overall theme.
Television stills of a commercial starring Don Johnson:
1. South Beach shoreline scene
2. Alex Daoud at courthouse
3. Nightclub scene
4. Cesar Odio at courthouse
5. Downtown Miami skyline
6. Don Johnson
"Miami. Vice." :30
(Open on low-altitude helo aerial of crowded South Beach shoreline)
Don Johnson (VO): The place is hot. Really hot.
(Dissolves to Alex Daoud at courthouse)
D.J. (VO): You know what happens. Sometimes yer gonna get burned.
(Dissolves to nightclub scene. Dancers.)
D.J. (VO): And sometimes ya just gotta take a break.
(Dissolves to Cesar Odio at courthouse)
D.J. (VO): Nah. I said take a break, not take a cut.
(Dissolves to helo aerial of downtown Miami skyline)
D.J. (VO): It's a crazy damn place. But ya gotta love it. I sure did.
(Dissolves to Don Johnson)
D.J.: Guess I shoulda never left. I miss it. But don't you.
Super: Miami. Vice.
A no-brainer. The guy is still in worldwide syndication. Beware: He absolutely refuses to utter Philip Michael Thomas's name, much less have him involved in any way.
Paris billboard featuring photo of Xavier Suarez.
"Miami est merveilleux et fou. J'en sais longtemp."
-- Xavier Suarez
Video cassette: "Miami: Too Hot for TV"
Prospective tourists who contact the convention and visitors bureau will be offered -- free of charge -- a sizzling twenty-minute video cassette mailed to their homes, here or abroad. Glamour footage, tourist attractions, glitzy restaurants, plus excerpts from the 60 Minutes segment, bloopers from Miami City Commission meetings, and outtakes from the James Burke surveillance tapes and the FBI's Humberto Hernandez perp walk. Possible bonus special: archival tape featuring Joe Gersten, Raul Martinez, Silvio Cardoso, Sebastian Dorrego, Andres Mejides, Alberto San Pedro, Roy Gelber, Harvey Shenberg, David Goodhart, David Kennedy, and others.
A Guide Down the Crooked Path
Heavily distributed at the airport and area hotels, these babies are guaranteed to be a hit (in English, Spanish, French, and German). Clearly marked routes direct visitors to some of Miami's most famous sites: the pauper's grave of still-active voter Manuel Yip; the Little Havana home of Edna Benson, who drew her .38 revolver when Xavier Suarez paid a late-night visit; the Miami Outboard Club, where surveillance tapes caught Dade Mayor Steve Clark discussing "spooks" with an FBI informant; various streets named after felons; and much much more.
The map integrates local business interests for added synergy (and revenue): After a visit to Bruce Kaplan's creatively mortgaged house in Miami Beach, visit the All-Star Cafe on Ocean Drive. Before touring the hopelessly corrupt Port of Miami, stop by Bayside Marketplace.
Lipstik Adult Entertainment Club, 8099 S. Dixie Hwy., South Dade
U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey slumped into this strip joint at about midnight on February 22, 1997, depressed because his office had recently lost one of the biggest drug cases ever to go to trial. He proceeded to use his American Express card to purchase a $900 bottle of champagne and $200 in "Lipstik Money," which he spent on a private rendezvous with Tamara "Tiffany" Gutierrez. As the dancer later recalled, Coffey "lunged at me ... to kiss me on the cheek. I turned my head, and he went right down my neck, right to my arm and he bit ... hard." Although Coffey's office indignantly denied allegations that he'd broken skin and drawn blood, South Florida's top prosecutor hemorrhaged under the intense media coverage and quickly resigned.
Since Parrot Jungle is nearby, why not fly on over?
Denny's, 1150 S. Dixie Hwy., Coral Gables
On March 14, 1996, Miami City Commissioner Miller Dawkins accepted a $25,000 cash kickback from a city computer contractor in the parking lot of this restaurant. What he didn't know was that the brown paper bag contained hundred-dollar bills marked by the FBI, and that the bagman, city finance director Manohar Surana, had already flipped for the feds and was wearing a body wire. Dawkins later pleaded guilty to bribery charges. Unanswered question: Did he enter Denny's and order a Moons Over My Hammy breakfast sammich?
While you're in the neighborhood, may we suggest a matinee at the impeccably refurbished Miracle Theatre?
Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, 19999 W. Country Club Dr., Aventura
In March 1987, Democratic Party presidential front-runner Gary Hart set sail in a motor yacht from this marina on an overnight trip to the venerable Compleat Angler hotel and bar in Bimini. Also onboard, and on his lap, was Miamian Donna Rice, a 29-year-old field representative for a pharmaceutical company and -- relevantly -- a former Miss South Carolina-World. When Miami Herald reporters confirmed a relationship between the two (the candidate was and still is married to someone else), Hart's campaign sank like a rock.
The boat, the Monkey Business, was owned by Aventura developer Don Soffer. Why not visit his gleaming mall? Be sure to check out the new Crate & Barrel and Bloomingdale's.
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Dinner Key Dinner Theater
After political corruption, Miami might be most famous for its New World cuisine. Why not combine the two and put the meaning back in Dinner Key by turning meetings of the Miami City Commission into dinner theater. Guests can nibble on pepper-painted grouper served on a mango-habanero mojo with a boniato-plantain mash in poblano while the city's leaders pander to their constituents and play to the crowd. Table service provided by commissioners' support staffs. (All tips in unmarked bills, please.) Diners are invited to use tableside cellular telephones -- provided at taxpayer expense -- to lobby commissioners on the dais.
Hard Time Cafe
The Hard Rock Cafe is hardly the appropriate anchor for Bayside Marketplace. The Hard Time Cafe works better. The waiting area would be stocked with Xavier Suarez's missing mayoral furniture. Seated customers would order "Cesar Odio salads" and "Kendall coffee" by speaking into the chests of waiters, all of whom will be wearing wires. Tired old rock memorabilia like Elvis's jumpsuit would be replaced with fascinating local relics: the "hot suit" County Manager Sergio Pereira was accused of buying; the business card Humberto Hernandez pushed on family members of ValuJet crash victims; a River Cops life vest; the $9000 in gold-plated plumbing fixtures purchased with taxpayer money by Dade County schools superintendent Johnny Jones. Other possibilities: Joe Gersten's crack pipe, lobbyist Ron Book's checkbook, Judge Philip Davis's coke spoon, Commissioner Pedro Reboredo's martyred toe, one of the too-short palm trees sold to Dade County.
Here's a nifty chance to help save the floundering Orange Bowl Parade by stealing a little heat from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day tradition. But rather than a helium-filled Bart Simpson or Kermit the Frog, why not take advantage of Miami's sexy reputation for corruption by floating notable political rapscallions. Real politicians could compete for the role of grand marshal (pending approval of their parole officers, of course). Shown here: the James Burke balloon, an odds-on bet to become a spectator favorite. Hope the wind doesn't kick in!
The Russi bungalow in Miami's Roads neighborhood is deceptively modest. Apparently ten or more people lived there immediately before last November's Miami mayoral election. As the focus of an ongoing criminal investigation into vote fraud, and as a roomy guest home, the Russi B & B & B provides the perfect lodging experience for verite-seeking tourists and serves as a model for other creative entrepreneurs.