More nightclubs spreading across the terrain. Mambo madness. Rave fever. A serious music spot opens, geared to the "normal people" market. The anti-yuppie movement takes hold, promoters in a death grip with club owners, and general nastiness abounds. A city run amok, but still, comfortable in its amokness.
All the promises of Miami fulfilled with a trip to the Mambo Club on Eighth Street, contained within the old Warehouse/Copacabana space. Since opening two months ago with a Celia Cruz/Tito Puente concert, the club keeping that hype thing going with a 23-dancer-strong revue, a celebrity impersonator doing singers like Raphael, and various guest stars. Mambo Club working that crazy Latin rhythm in a fairly crowded market, what with Club One, the Havana Club, Tropigala Club, and Les Violins, but manager Dixon Barreto keeping his eye on the horizon: "We have two banquet halls, catering, and a whole package -- drinks, dinner, see the show. Dancing to the Mambo Club orchestra and bands like Los Babies de la Salsa. Las Vegas style. No show like us."
No club either. Purple and green neon bongos bouncing up the facade of the building. Inside, the color riot scheme continues with dancing green and blue neon music notes, a satiny stage curtain gathered like a quince gown, and flashing palm trees. The patrons all dolled up for the big night out, ordering bottles of Johnnie Walker Black for the men, cutesy tropical drinks with umbrellas for the women. Singing ballads to one another, "I die for your love" kind of things, and being tended to by waiters in white dinner jackets.
Backstage before the show, the dancers blowing kisses and jumping around in surrealistic costumes: push-up rhinestone bras and insanely colorful Carmen Miranda hats, white stretch pants and gold lame bolero jackets, pink and green three-foot-tall feather headdresses. Barreto uttering a phrase we don't hear often enough ("My club is going to be yours tonight") and affecting an introduction with Allen Morpha, whose family owns the club: "We have the ballad singer Marta Estrada, like Edith Piaf. A defector from Cuba. Annia Linares, she sings boleros -- back in style now. Our choreographer is Victor Cuela, from the national ballet company of Cuba and the Tropicana -- the real one. He just defected too."
Then it's lights, cameras, glitz as the "Noche Cubana" show unfolds like some Dali-esque wet dream, eight costume changes and lots of general jumping about. A Carmen-inspired number with black fishnet stockings and yellow chiffon, the men gathering around one of the Blanche-Dubois-gone-native dancers. A beautiful Josephine Baker type in the background, poised as a crane. One or two other numbers, before the celebrity impersonator comes out to a great roar in silver lame. Without knowing the reference points, some of the songs sounding eerily like an Ethel Merman toast to mambo. On to the African-inspired routine, a dancer dressed as a tribal chieftain, grandly anchoring a leapfrog formation up the stairs. The Garden of Eden finale, the lead dancer in a see-through leotard with sequined leaf patches, doing amazing gymnastic moves and holding aloft the male dancers. A perfect evening.
From there, defecting to a series of odds and ends. Some of the talent involved in the old Area of New York doing the club Hell at the Leonard Hotel on Collins Avenue. Hell, set to open in September, featuring the promotions of Steven Z, formerly of Area and Studio 54, and the installations of Area designer Norman Gosney, also known for his work on Beetlejuice and the Prince tour. Michelle Squiteri as director of operations. Third Rail Company, having experienced some difficulties with "No Tea Served Here" and the "976 Club," opting to do their own gay/lesbian Monday night party, "Next Exit." The nationwide strip club chain "Deja Vu" taking over the Roxy Burlesque Theatre. Just down the street, male stripping at the Crazy Horse. Miami Beach, the city with everything.
In the Grove, Christopher Walken shooting Scam, not a bad premise for a Miami movie. "Milk Bar," the Sunday night party at Egoiste, bringing to mind the ultimate club in A Clockwork Orange. Oba Oba fever taking over Van Dome on Fridays, in the form of their new "Carnival Miami" nights. The Avenue A team debuting a new series of restaurant semi-happenings at Cassis, honoring Bastille Day and R.O.M.E. magazine. The Antenna gang kicking ass with the new publication Night, Wire going through a series of interesting management shakeups.
Saturday night on the Beach, and it's a real soft opening for Stephen Talkhouse on Collins Avenue, set to open more grandly July 21 with Dave Mason. A tasty looking place, molded plywood banquettes with gray and red color accents, looking out over a back patio. Quite a change from the former inhabitants, the Caribbean restaurant My Mother's Place. Co-owner Loren Gallo, who's also involved with the Amagansett, Long Island branch, explaining the concept: "A nice club for nice people."
Out to the not-so-nice streets, with a new series of troublesome graffiti statements from the Scum Punx: "Don't Think. Just Die...Kill Yuppie Saps." And then it's 3:30 a.m., the perfect entrance opportunity for the "Raindance" rave at the Surfcomber Hotel. Beach Blanket Bingo gone psycho. Banjee boy thugs, X-head teenagers in a Less Than Zero mode, and the three graces of go-go: Roxy Bunny, Cheryl Funny, and Gigi Honey. Projections, smoke machines, and techno with the unpleasant edge of a chainsaw on overdrive. Snatches of club conversation ("What are we going to do? I hate this, but I can't go home yet.... I heard they had free beer, but shit, man.... He's your friend and he's getting sick all over my shoes....") and traces of the Summer of Love revisited. Incense sticks. Marijuana. Porto-potties. Gyro stands. Announcements along the order of, "Please, please, get off the speakers." One or two "Fuck you, man" encounters just to lighten up all that let-the-love-pour-over-you terminally groovy stuff. Kind of fun, actually. And then out of the wilderness, a valid woman of our acquaintance, with another why-do-you-do-this-to-yourself question: "This really isn't your element, is it?" In the end, unfortunately, it's all pretty much our element.
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.