Miami Beach May Remove Arthur Godfrey's Name From 41st Street
In the late 1940s and '50s there was no bigger American media star than Arthur Godfrey, who had become known and loved for his intimate, folksy radio news personality and went on to host programs like the wildly popular daily CBS variety show Arthur Godfrey Time.
Beginning in 1953 Godfrey broadcast the show from a glitzy Bal Harbour hotel, the Kenilworth, and also became a part owner of the hotel several years later. His star power brought business and tourism to burgeoning Miami Beach; for his contribution 41st Street was co-named Arthur Godfrey Road, probably as early as the 1960s, according to local historian Paul George.
Now, more than four decades later, a Miami Beach commissioner wants to remove the designation, arguing the Godfrey name no longer provides any benefit.
"He had a radio program and played the ukulele and because he broadcast his show from the South Florida area at the time they thought that was a good idea," commissioner Joy Malakoff tells Riptide. "It was requested by the business people on 41st Street. It no longer brings anybody to the city."
Despite online rumors, Malakoff says the move has nothing to do with longstanding rumblings that Godfrey was anti-Semitic.
The anti-Semitic claims against Godfrey, who died in 1983, were widespread even when he was at the height of his career, according to Paul George, a historian with History Miami, and stem from the practices of the Kenilworth Hotel.
The common allegation against the Kenilworth -- that it had a sign out front that read "No Dogs or Jews Allowed" -- is probably a myth, but the hotel was, in fact, blatantly and openly anti-Semitic. In advertisements and placards, he said, the Kenilworth commonly used phrases like "Gentiles Only" and "Restricted Clientele" -- widely understood to be code words meaning Jews were banned.
"If you were Jewish and you showed up at the hotel in 1961," he said, "you were likely to be turned away."
But some say tying Godfrey to that practice isn't fair. Dick Cavett, for one, knew Godfrey personally and wrote in the New York Times that Godfrey actually later bought the Kenilworth and abolished the policy and that his anti-Semitic label is a "bum rap."
Malakoff said she proposed the idea of removing the name because most people know it as 41st Street anyway; after Wednesday's meeting the discussion was moved to the commission's Neighborhood and Community Affairs Committee, who will discuss the change before offering a recommendation to the full commission.
"It's not for that reason specifically," she said of the anti-Semitism rumors. "It's really that his name is no longer relevant."
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.