Julieta Venegas was the big winner at this past Thursday's MTV Video Music Awards Latin America, and you just have to be happy for such a buoyantly talented singer-songwriter and snappy dresser, not to mention that Venegas looks like a flower. Not that there's vegetative stillness about Venegas, she just has a nice, pretty, organic presence that's rosy, yet sunflowery. Venegas even wears some shades of green and hangs out in a flower box in the video for "Andar Conmigo" (which did not win an award).
The awards show itself at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach was okay, too, or at least less self-important and with better sound than the "main" VMAs in August at American Airlines Arena. Like all awards shows though, the VMAs LA were too long, far exceeding 35 minutes, the maximum possible time to command The Bitch's attention.
Erica Pedreguera, the long-suffering PR specialist at MTV's Miami Beach satellite office frequently tormented by this column, was gracious and patient, even permitting The Bitch to mince along the purple carpet behind Lenny Kravitz, thereby tricking dozens of disappointed teenage Gap customers into thinking she was Sarah Jessica Parker. The Beastie Boys still look like teenagers themselves, though it had to be hot in those shiny elfin-green sweat suits. "Monkey tastes def when you pour it on ice," advised The Bitch.
What else is happening in Miami Beach? Well, nothing -- not to crobar, anyway. Despite rumors that the megaclub would dim the familiar marquee and head to the mainland, independent promoter Carmel Ophir, whose production company Creations PMG holds down an important corner of the crobar circus tent with Monday's ever-popular Backdoor Bamby party, says that's just not going to happen. "Nope, we're not moving," swears Ophir. "We're possibly opening another venue downtown in addition to the South Beach venue."
Music nights are up and down at the Marlin. Samantha Stormo, having leaped quite successfully to the classic hotel and bar at 12th and Collins from a shaky situation at Nerve Lounge, has booked some great live acts. A recent show by Big Brooklyn Red and Maya Azucena was a standing-room-only event for a way-appreciative crowd. Other evenings are dead quiet: This past Saturday, Stormo was nowhere to be found around midnight and the lounge was about empty. (The cocotinis were still free, though!)
Nor are cost-free beverages hard to come by at the inexplicably successful Amika for those willing to navigate an obstacle course of velvet. Amika's director, Tony Guerra, is a swell fellow and everything, specifically when it comes to generosity measured in Ketel One, and The Bitch admits that the music at Amika has improved, the addition of more trance-based house beats leavening the Weathergirls house variant.
The big problem with the nightclub-as-a-white-box-space is its polar color scheme (white sofas, floors, walls) and all-blue-spectrum lighting. It feels cold and confining, and it must be stopped.
I Want a Pony
The City of Miami may have used horse sense, or chosen a different tack, by reining in plans to move the mounted police squad to historic Lummus Park. Historians and preservationists were in a lather when officials announced that the equestrian unit would leave Tropical Park on Bird Road, where horses now must be transported in trailers after shifts in the city.
William Keddell, founder of Friends of Lummus Park, feared that stabling Miami's Mounties would trample the aesthetic at the city's oldest park, home to historic structures such as the William English plantation slave house later used as military barracks at Fort Dallas. "My initial response was öOh no!'" remembers Keddell. He agreed, however, to bridle his lack of enthusiasm until a planned November meeting where police would present the final plans for the new stable.
The Urban Environment League also weighed in, riding city manager Joe Arriola in a letter saying nay to the plan. Either the UEL holds Arriola's reins a lot tighter than he lets on, or something else is in the works: UEL president Nancy Liebman says she got a surprise phone call from one of the city manager's stable ponies, informing her that the mounted police were no longer planning to lasso Lummus. "We're just waiting to find out where they are planning to move," Liebman says.
But City of Miami spokeswoman Kelly Penton says the plans "haven't necessarily been canceled." After a feedbag full of letters from citizens bucking the move, "the city has decided to take time to take those concerns into account," Penton says. "There's not really a time frame -- we're going to work on it until we get it right."
Least Competent Hackers
A senior staffer for a Democratic candidate sidles up to a reporter at a union rally. The staffer, in costume for the occasion in work boots, scuffed jeans and a brand-new firefighters local T-shirt, unloads an unverifiable tale that vaguely impugns the Republican opposition. These desperate measures are a sign that the Democrat, despite years in government and detailed plans to deal with social and economic ills, fears the threat posed by his opponent, an authoritarian type once described by a political analyst as "a simple man using simple words" who brandishes his security credentials or mouths bland platitudes when asked about his platform on almost any other issue.
Miami-Dade County may well be a crucial battleground for this year's presidential election, but voters here will also choose between Jimmy Morales and Carlos Alvarez for mayor. The election is nonpartisan but as fate would have it, Democratic county commissioner Morales and Republican former police director Alvarez emerged as the finalists from the August primary.
It was Morales staffer B.J. Chiszar who approached The Bitch at a Service Employees International Union rally and offered up this tale: During an earlier stint with mayoral candidate/Hooligan's owner Jay Love, Chiszar says he witnessed Love's campaign manager Brad Nickel and others "hack into" an online Univision poll aimed at getting a read on the county's Latino voters. "I'm not a technical guy, but ... they kept saying they were ödisabling a cookie,'" Chiszar says. The Love staffers clicked for their candidate so many times that he led the poll by an unrealistic margin, according to Chiszar. "So they put Alvarez in first place and Love in second," he recalls.
This type of "hacking" is, of course, known in circles of computer expertise as "hitting the same Website a lot of times." The madcap tale is unverifiable. Nickel denies knowing anything about it, as does a Univision spokesman.
But Chiszar takes it as an indictment of the entire Alvarez campaign -- he says the poll was the beginning of Alvarez's "fake candidacy." Here's how he connects the dots: The Univision poll, taken in early August, affected the following week's Miami Herald poll, which affected the next week's primary. But even if the prank shook out a couple of percentage points' worth of voters in a primary tally, it could not have catapulted Alvarez into first place, which is where he finished on primary election night. It is doubtful that such a doctored poll would have been any more useful in the primary than a story about a doctored poll will be on November 2.
Who's Disgruntled Now?
Part-time swimming pool attendant and recreational guitarist Mark Whittington wants the world to know he is not going to let the man get him down. "I'm like a rattlesnake," Whittington professes. "I don't bother anyone, but if you step on me, you're gonna get bit."
For the past ten months, Whittington's venom has been directed at William Alvarez, president of Sterling One Realty and a lieutenant with the Miami Police Department. Whittington claims that Alvarez harassed and threatened him when he resided in an apartment building near the Vizcaya Metrorail station.
The trouble began when Eli Maine decided to sell the property in 2003. Whittington says he provided a copy of his apartment key to Maine with a note requesting that Maine give Whittington at least one day's notice before showing the unit. "I have all these expensive guitars, so I wanted to lock them away while people were looking through the apartment," Whittington explains.
But Whittington claims Maine and Alvarez, who is serving as the seller's agent for the property, showed up unannounced to see the apartment at least four times, and some sort of fracas, complete with hurled racial epithets, erupted on a subsequent house call when Whittington wouldn't let the pair in.
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Whittington has filed two lawsuits against Maine and Alvarez in Miami-Dade Circuit Court, alleging that Alvarez committed "forcible entry" and "intentionally inflicted emotional distress." Both complaints were dismissed. Whittington, who represented himself, has since filed a discrimination complaint against Alvarez with the Florida Commission on Human Relations and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Alvarez's attorney, Chad Tamaroff, says his client denies all of Whittington's charges. "It's funny how those derogatory racial comments didn't come up in his civil complaints," Tamaroff scoffs. "Mr. Whittington's accusations lack merit. He's just doing whatever he can to put pressure on my client to pay up some money."
"He sees me as a piece of crap because I'm white, have long hair, and play guitar," Whittington fumes. "And here he is, a Realtor, in the Miami Police Department. God forbid anyone who stands in his way."