Out of the billowing exhaust of Grand Theft Auto 3: Vice City comes Driv3r, another mega-selling video game that tries to convince anyone who hasn't actually driven here that Miami is one big, lawless speedway. The Atari game is stunningly detailed to the point of eerieness in its re-creation of the streets of Miami and Miami Beach, right down to the ever-under-construction Performing Arts Center, the nonworking pay phones of Biscayne Boulevard, and the public parking spaces that are always weirdly empty by the Bass Museum of Art.
Driv3r's main character, Tanner, is an undercover cop with an anti-authority streak who, despite being voiced by "Mr. Blonde" Michael Madsen, looks instead like Harvey Keitel. Tanner is immersed in a global car theft ring that calls itself "South Beach." When he finds out that Jericho (Mickey Rourke: What has happened to your career?), leader of an international crime syndicate, is looking for 40 stolen cars, he tries to put the brakes on the impending deal. Car chases, gunfights, and other random acts of graphic violence break out across Miami (as well as Nice and Istanbul) as a result.
Other Hollywood actors slumming for a quick video game paycheck include Ving Rhames, the angry boxing promoter from Pulp Fiction, and Michelle Rodriguez, who played a boxer in Girlfight.
Atari shipped 2.5 million copies of the game to retailers on June 21. The Bitch is for any diversion that keeps people in front of the television and off the street, but local officials probably don't similarly adore this latest emblem of the area's iconically chaotic civic state. On February 17, the Miami-Dade County Commission adopted a resolution "condemning violent video games and urging families and schools to take a greater interest in the activities of children and young people."
In Slick Transit
The Bitch had to stuff air-quoting paws in her pockets at the opening party for the Transit Lounge, a new place at 729 SW First Ave. in the husk of a sailboat manufacturing plant built in 1926. The bar -- definitely not a club, yet not quite a dive -- grimly resembles, both inside and out, the gritty Boston-Irish joint where Sean Penn offs Tim Robbins in Mystic River, and its ambiance is unwinkingly retro: The food at Transit's premiere was meatballs and chicken wings served from the kind of steam tables most often seen at high school chess club conventions, and equally unironic bowls of salted, red-skinned peanuts sat in ashtrays on the bar -- along with bonus cigarette butts.
Still, though The Bitch avoided the meat, she was happy not to negotiate the Chablis-flavored, maple-crusted truffles with kiwi-persimmon reduction usually served at these events. Transit's red-haired bartenders, who solemnly asked whether The Bitch wanted an appletini or a watermelontini, have an endearingly old-school vibe as well. They even do crazy stuff like look patrons in the eye, smile, and bring them drinks.
Isabel Kling, Transit Lounge's very charming (and very pregnant) owner, mused on the opening: "We went from a classy, artsy-type crowd to a bar crowd, on to a grungy crowd, and finished off with the 'in the biz' crowd. This is exactly what I had in mind for this business."
Again with the Nautical Theme....
Earlier this month U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft paid a visit to Miami to spread the word on the latest threat of a possible al Qaeda terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Spooky Ashcroft reminded reporters and law-enforcement officials that South Florida's seaports and airports are targets of opportunity for enterprising jihadists. "With that in mind, we are at a high level of intensity," Ashcroft warned.
Apparently the heightened terror level alert does not apply to a fuel depot located in the southwest quadrant of Fisher Island. On a recent excursion by speedboat through Government Cut, The Bitch observed a dearth of security just as a gargantuan tanker was unloading thousands of gallons of petroleum on the island. Not a single Coast Guard or Marine Patrol vessel was within sight to stop The Bitch from pulling up alongside the ship to pursue her fascination with large vessels. Suppose a suicide bomber had rammed a recreational boat loaded with C4 into the tanker, in a scenario mimicking the U.S.S. Cole terrorist attack? Who is going to stop such an environmental and human catastrophe from happening?
Representatives from Coastal Fuels Marketing, Inc., which operates the fuel farm, declined comment, as did the flacks at parent company Transmontaigne, based in Denver. U.S. Coast Guard spokesman Luis Diaz says the agency, along with Miami-Dade County police and the U.S. Parks Service, enforces a security zone from the turning basin near the American Airlines Arena to the Miami Beach side of the MacArthur Causeway when cruise ships are in the channel. There is no zone enforced for freighters, Diaz conceded. "But the area is heavily patrolled by the Coast Guard," he insisted, even though The Bitch's go-fast boat encountered no impediments in approaching the tanker.
Now, That's Salt in the Wound
A Coral Gables spa manager says he has been conned by a doctor who didn't let on that his medical license had been revoked in California for negligence.
Phil Benitez, manager of Skin Therapie, says Patrick Ziad Abuzeni "seemed like a hell of a guy" when he first started performing quasi-medical cosmetic procedures such as Botox treatments and laser hair removals at the spa. "He definitely talked the talk ... and he lives in, like, a million-dollar apartment," says Benitez.
Eventually, however, it became clear that the good doctor wasn't handing over the agreed-upon share of his profits. "He made more than $25,000 in one year, and after the year was up he gave us a check for $1200," says Benitez. "He owes us like $10,000."
After realizing that something was amiss, Benitez did some checking and found that Abuzeni lost his California medical license in 2002 for butchering a patient's breasts and falsifying records. According to a press release issued by the Medical Board of California: "Abuzeni twice participated in performing a breast augmentation procedure that is an extreme departure from the standard of care." The result, according to the press release: "Harm done to the patient included one breast being smaller than the other; and blistering, discoloration, necrosis, and extensive scarring of the patient's thighs resulting from Abuzeni's negligently performed thigh lift and his inadequate post-operative care and monitoring of the patient."
Benitez and Abuzeni have severed their business agreement; the doctor did not return calls for comment.
In Goth We Trust
Paul the Goth Guy has an uncanny knack with eyeliner; Sephora needs to ditch that edible Jessica Simpson junk and give this ponytailed man with perfect raccoon rims some counter space. Unfazed by the 90-degrees-at-night clove-saturated air under the overpass at Soho Lounge in the Design District, Paul was in full Blade Runner-meets-Highlander outfit for the Kitchen Club's sixteenth-anniversary party this past Saturday.
As Paul held the door for the folks from the Abusement Park -- laden with all types of S&M gear -- he recalled goth's less lively days at Fire and Ice and earlier iterations of the Kitchen Club and reflected on the subculture's extreme lack of menace.
"If you go to a club on South Beach, you're going to see about five police cruisers per club, because all the males are there to get pumped up, drunk and fight ... it's like 'Dude, you looked at my woman, I'm gonna kill you,'" Paul observed, whereas the Peter Murphy army "just wants to dance, visit, and maybe have a few drinks."
The Right Place to Begin a Life of Crime
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The first day of work at New Times is often a form-intensive one. But the paperwork on new retail advertising sales rep Ryan Pinagel was filled out by the Miami Lakes police. Pinagel was apprehended for attempting to sell ads at Main Street Shops on Bull Run Road. The shopping center displays green signs around the premises with long lists of things that will get you in trouble, including, of course, skateboarding. But apparently the prohibition of soliciting should be taken most seriously. Pinagel didn't. After offering this publication's services to a few shopkeepers, he met his fate. An officer who had no real crimes or misdemeanors to deal with propped Pinagel in the back seat of his patrol car for nearly two hours while running his profile.
The Bitch's ears prick up at word of such overreaction. For one thing, who does that cop answer to? The fledgling town of Miami Lakes still contracts its coppy services from the Miami-Dade County Police Department. Are shop owners at Main Street really inundated by rampaging ad reps? Workers at Mia and Victoria's Secret wouldn't talk to The Bitch, but Gary Snow of Snow's Jewelers said dialing 911 wasn't an option when confronted by an advertising rate card. "Why would I do that?" he asked.
An item in The Bitch ("Felony Charges Take a Powder," July 14) misstated the location of a Wendy's restaurant parking lot where Miami police Ofcr. Pablo Camacho observed Armando Perez-Roura, Jr., conduct "a narcotics transaction" before arresting him with 35 baggies of powder and crack cocaine. The police report correctly states the Wendy's is at 755 NW 37th Ave. (not NW 32nd Avenue). The Bitch regrets the error and commends vigilant reader and fast-food connoisseur Joe Lopez for pointing it out to her.