The Day Scarface Came to Town
Twenty-five years ago, politics derailed De Palma's Miami plans.
BY FRANK HOUSTON
Brian De Palma's Scarface might hold a record for the movie with the most fucks per minute. The gangster epic, parts of which were shot in Miami Beach 25 years ago this month, includes 223 variants of the word fuck, according to the DVD release. That's an average of 1.3 per minute.
Scarface defined excessive. In addition to Al Pacino's wretched Cuban accent, the machine-gun-happy flick sprayed 2,048 shots across its 170 minutes — or a bullet every five seconds.
A few of those blasts were captured in snapshots by Bill Cooke, who in April 1983 was employed as a valet at a condo building in Miami Beach. He was working the day shift one Saturday when he heard from a co-worker that cameras would be rolling on Ocean Drive.
"I hurried down and parked a block away," Cooke recalls. Nikon in hand, he headed to a spot filled with spectators, across the street from the Beacon Hotel. "I'd been on a couple of movie sets before, and when you are uninvited, you really have no clue about what's going to take place."
Over and over again, Cooke recalls, an armed Pacino chased another actor into the street, shot him, andbolted in a beat-up Chevy.
In fact much of the production crew had already ditched town. It turned out the politics surrounding the filming were even more extreme than Scarface's violence. Months before De Palma yelled "Action!" on the Beach, screenwriter Oliver Stone's story of Tony Montana — a Marielito turned coke smuggler — had rankled the Cuban exile community.
"The basic message of the movie seems to be drugs, killing, and criminal activities. That does not represent the majority of hard-working and law-abiding Cubans," Miami Dade College president Eduardo Padron, who was then head of the Spanish-American League Against Discrimination, told the Miami Herald in August 1982. Then-Miami city Commissioner Demetrio Perez Jr. threatened to deny film permits unless Montana was recast as a Communist agent who infiltrated the United States at Castro's behest.
"We are not doing a film about Cubans in Miami. We're doing a picture about one gangster," producer Martin Bregman told the Herald. "The movie has more crooked Jews than crooked Cubans." Bregman, who helped with Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon, promised to "make an idiot" out of Perez. Later he declared the movie would be shot elsewhere.
"He was a very stupid man," Bregman says of Perez in a telephone interview from his New York office. "And I told him that."
Despite the intervention of then-Florida Gov. Bob Graham, the $15 million production decamped to Los Angeles. Bregman estimates that, at most, 20 percent of the film was made in Miami. "We had intended to shoot the whole film there," he adds. Bregman says he was visited by Cuban-Americans from Union City, New Jersey, who "were convinced this film was being financed by Fidel Castro. It was beyond silly."
Cooke, who went on to a career in photojournalism, also fell victim to the politics of the day. Though a Herald photo editor had told him the paper would publish his pictures that Sunday, none appeared. "The higherups had killed the photo," Cooke says. "It seems that Sunday was the third anniversary of the Mariel boatlift."
Rapper's Mom's Delight
Ace Hood, local rapper made good, is grounded.
BY AMY GUTHRIE
Blondy McColister Williams, age 48, is a familiar figure at Deerfield Beach High School, where she has done everything from working as a security guard to driving a school bus to coaching the girl's softball team.
A hearty, bluff, good-natured woman, she is most notable nowadays for being the mom of 19-year-old break-out rap artist Antoine McColister — a.k.a. Ace Hood — whose first single, "Cash Flow," featuring T-Pain and Rick Ross, has been hitting South Florida airwaves in a big way.
Riptide cornered Williams the other day to ask her what it was like bringing up a future rap sensation.
"He's been doing it ever since he was in middle school. I'd get calls saying he was interrupting classes, freestylin'," Williams remembers. "I'd be like, 'Turn that music down!' He'd be like, 'I'm gonna be a millionaire.' I'd say, 'Look, you have to go to college.' He'd say, 'Mom, I'm gonna keep pursuing my dream.' I said, 'Antoine, you can be a rapper and get an education.' He just kept going to the clubs, he kept proceeding, until he got to this point."
His persistence has paid off for Williams too. With Antoine's help, she's house hunting in and around Parkland, and on Valentine's Day she was treated to a Louis Vuitton purse stuffed with $5,000 in $100 bills. "I'm like, 'Oh my God, oh my God," she says.
But Antoine's largesse doesn't mean she won't still mom him — especially when it comes to obscene lyrics.
"I was like, 'God, please keep it clean.' Once I heard 'Cash Flow' on the radio, I was like, okay, good, good. There wasn't lots of profanity in there." Then she heard the swearing on the club version of the single and said to herself: "I hope it don't get no worse than that — I'll choke him!"
She was compelled to have words with one of her son's collaborators. "I told Rick Ross: 'First of all, I don't know you that well. But just keep it nice.' He said, 'I will, Mom; I will, Mom. We got love for Ace; we got love for Ace.' He's got such a deep voice. They've all been extremely good to Antoine, they really have. They love him like a brother."
But, she says, "I told Antoine: 'Just because Rick Ross uses the language that he does, doesn't mean that it's okay for you to use it, or that I'll accept it.' I mean, Rick Ross is all curse. Thank God they play the clean one on the radio station."
WMC spinners take time out for soccer.
BY TAMARA LUSH
Winter Music Conference events are supposed to take place in clubs. But not this one. It happened at an indoor soccer field nestled in a shabby strip of warehouses in Miami's Fashion District.
Last Thursday at 6 p.m., a couple dozen DJs made their way to Midtown Indoor Soccer on NW 24th Street. The owner, a Frenchman named Michael Athea — a.k.a. DJ OM — had organized a soccer match between European and Iranian DJs. The Europeans — among them international beatmasters Sander Kleinenberg, Cedric Gervais, and Nic Fanciulli — tossed on blue shirts. The Iranians, comprising Sharam Tayebi of Deep Dish, DJ Behrouz, and others, donned white tees.
As the new CD from Club Space (mixed by Gervais) pulsed over the stadium's sound system, the competitors took to the artificial turf and played with surprising speed and force.
A minute and a half into the game, the Iranian team scored the first goal. These guys clearly had spent some time with a soccer ball; indeed most said they had been avid players as boys. Ten minutes into the match, Iran had a commanding 4-2 lead, until the teams tied at the 20-minute mark. By halftime — 30 minutes in — Europe pulled ahead 11-5.
The European team ended up winning 24-15, but it was an impressive showing for DJs on both sides of the arena — especially for a bunch of nocturnal types who spend most of their time in dark clubs.
Physical exertion during WMC wasn't the easiest thing, admitted Fanciulli: "Especially when you've been out drinking the night before."
The Changing Tide
Patrick Williams, the language arts teacher accused of harassing his boss ("Good Teacher, Bad Principal," November 8, 2007), has been exonerated, but he'll remain exiled.
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This past October 19, Williams was removed from his teaching position at William H. Turner Technical Arts High School after Principal Valmarie Rhoden filed an administrative complaint against him, claiming the multilingual Jamaican was harassing her and creating a physically threatening environment at the school. The Miami-Dade School Board's Civilian Investigative Unit, which looked into Rhoden's claims, cleared Williams this past March 17.
"All along, her accusations were false and damaging," Williams says. "My students lost out on a good teacher."
Williams says Rhoden — who earns a six-figure salary and recently purchased a new Mercedes-Benz S500 — falsely accused him because he publicly questioned her about Turner's share of a $5-million grant set aside to help ninth- and tenth-graders pass the FCAT. Before his removal from the vocational high school, Williams had discovered the grant monies were in the red. According to a recent state audit of the Miami-Dade School Board, the school district wasted the funds.
The victory is bittersweet for Williams, because he won't be returning to Turner, where he taught AP Spanish for two years. The school district transferred him to Westland Hialeah Senior High School. "I don't feel vindicated," Williams says. "I've been put through hell and she has yet to be reprimanded." Francisco Alvarado