Year in review: LeBron rescues Miami
It's midsummer, and a rainstorm beats against the neon-lit windows of a nearly empty dive bar. Inside, our heroine sits alone. She leaves a smear of red lipstick on the tumbler as she sucks Grand Marnier from the last bits of ice. The bartender — a craggy, slicked-back cat named Riley — pulls a preposterously long piece of paper from the pocket of his Armani shirt and adds another tally to her tab. He pours and slides her the drink, then goes back to wiping the bar spotless with a rag. His barback, a black-mopped kid named Erik, runs around frantically accomplishing not much in particular.
There was a time when our heroine was the most beautiful thing you'd ever seen, a magnet for flashy Lotharios and naïve Midwesterners who couldn't see she was a freight train pile-up waiting to happen. That was about three bankruptcies, a legendary coke habit, and 7,000 busted capillaries ago. Now, she's all runny stockings, mascara-smeared headlights, and surgically inflated knockers that could take an eye out.
Her real name's Miami. But she's a long way from the A-class, so everybody just calls her Mimi.
Miami year in review
When the little bell above the door rings, Riley doesn't look up — he just pulls out that long paper and marks something. He knows exactly who's walking in.
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Hell, he arranged it.
A young giant so tall he has to bend under the doorway saunters in. He wears a purple gingham shirt and queasy little grin. He acts like child royalty, a smug prince making his first solo trip from the palace.
Riley rubs clean the spot on the bar next to Mimi, and the tall kid takes a stool. The bartender buys them a new round and Mimi launches into her favorite subject: herself. She burns through Pall Malls and manages to make coño her every third word.
The story she tells, of all the men she has messed with, is legendary. In the '70s, she danced disco and donned furs bought by flashy coke barons who wore moustaches, packed stubby machine guns, and drove batwing Benzes. But when the Feds raided, it was her bloodshot mug on the national nightly news. She emerged from the '80s indicted, broke, and with a bullet permanently lodged in her upper left thigh.
She became bait for grifter, fly-by-night types — condo flippers and Medicare fraudsters looking for a quick lay and pretty face to cover their two-bit scams. Mimi tottered through the '90s, overdid it with party pills, and spent most of the new millennium nursing a merciless hangover.
As if to swirl another rotten olive in her martini, she got involved with paper gangsters — Madoff, Rothstein, Stanford, and dozens of lesser clones — who seemed intent on finishing her off. They pawned Mimi's great-aunt's engagement ring, quadruple-mortgaged the deed to her penthouse, and stomped on her heart.
In Mimi's story, the tall kid doesn't hear a cautionary tale, but a challenge. Screw those chumps, he thinks of all the scumbags who crashed and burned with this femme fatale. I'm the king.
He stands up, suddenly feeling dizzy from the whisky Riley's been feeding him, and pulls out his iPhone. He texts his high school sweetheart, who's waiting for him at home, "Fuk u. Im takin my talents to South Beach." He might regret it later, but for now, it feels good to be cruel.
LeBron James staggers to the jukebox and, at Mimi's request, puts on some Frankie Valli. Mimi pulls him close on the splintered dance floor. Her green eyes glimmer at the thought of what a huge catch she's landed and, more specifically, all the expensive shit she's going to buy. Then she thinks: Does this mean I have to pretend to care about basketball?
This time last year, Miami was on the verge of apocalypse: double-digit unemployment, the worst foreclosure crisis in the nation, and real estate and tourism industries doing their best impression of a taxidermic squirrel. Residents fled South Florida like A-listers from a Mel Gibson flick.
OK, so all that bad shit is still going on. It's been 365 more days of bizarre, disquieting, horrifying events, of tar balls that weren't and elected morons that were. Haiti was devastated by an earthquake and cholera epidemic. South Beach's trashiest clubs were invaded by a film crew trailing a posse of sexually promiscuous New Jersey Italians who dressed like they'd been chased from their homes by fire. The Dolphins were once again the picture of mediocrity, and the hapless Marlins traded away middling utility player Cody Ross to San Francisco, where he promptly became Reggie Jackson in the World Series. Republican-hasta-muerte pol Lincoln Diaz-Balart retired, while his gun moll Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was promoted to a top job in the House. Their mummified nemesis, Fidel Castro, reanimated and donned a military costume to return to his life's work: making paranoid speeches so relentlessly boring they might drive the capitalist oligarchy to hari-kari.
But one overhyped, overwrought, and stammered-through event has come to define our year: In July, basketball overlord LeBron James held history's most ill-advised television special to announce he was taking our beleaguered city under his wing.
Never one for moderation, in the months since Mimi redeemed her white linen furniture from E-Z Pawn, ditched losers from her pre-LeBron existence, and screwed around with a few very creepy and bizarre characters. We'll call it Mimi's Great Rebound — even if it existed only in her head.
Step one of the Great Rebound: spending LeBron's money before his moving trucks arrived.
To be completely honest, Mimi never did lead the life of a pauper. In the throes of the recession in 2008 and 2009, when her net assets were a $2 bill and three lime Skittles, our girl signed up for every 29.99 percent interest Capital One card in her mailbox and made Nordstrom her bitch on a twice-weekly basis.
But in relative terms, the last two years were austere. So with the combination of LeBron's arrival and the official announcement of the end of the recession, she dug up neglected issues of the Robb Report and parsed them with a red Sharpie, circling all the baubles that caught her eye. She's been tossing around cash ever since like a freshly jail-sprung Lil Wayne at a strip club.
For years, empty condos have lined Biscayne Bay like artifacts of some era that never actually occurred. But this summer, something crazy happened: A dude moved in. His name is Russell Wright, and he is — of course — a black country-music mogul who engineered devices that track Mexicans trying to sneak across the border. His claim to New Times that he bought a $4.2 million penthouse atop the Marquis skyscraper to be closer to the revamped Miami Heat sparked a frenzy of coverage in other newspapers. Before we knew it, it was like 1999 all over again. A Versace-hosted fashion show at the Icon Brickell, where chocolate-dipped strawberries were served and then regurgitated in the bathroom three minutes later, was heralded as the "return of glamour to real estate."
Speaking of vomit, a few thousand gallons flowed when South Floridians discovered Mimi's prized Fabergé egg — the Marlins' Little Havana stadium deal — is actually garishly painted ostrich dung. (The Marlins — they're a baseball team; baseball — it's like soccer but with jai-alai sticks... ah, screw it.) Yes, it was already common knowledge that our Miami-Dade politicians screwed the pooch by agreeing to a mostly taxpayer-funded stadium — total cost, including interest: $2.4 billion — for a miserly team nobody cares about. But it wasn't until sports blog Deadspin released the Marlins' secret financials, revealing the team turned eight-figure annual profits and owner Jeffrey Loria was, therefore, a giant, horrible liar, that it was understood how Marmadukian in stature the screwed pooch was. Thanks, Mayor Carlos Alvarez!
And because Mimi had a few sweaty bills stuffed in her cleavage, she decided to spend roughly $1 million ruining some teenager's life. In summer 2009, the notion that the news cycle slows to a Zydrunas Ilgauskas when it gets too hot proved true when the entire city went crazy over the appearance of dead and mutilated housecats. An 18-year-old high school student, Tyler Weinman, was charged with the deaths after an investigation that cost more than $2,000 a day and stretched for 16 months. Then, in November, prosecutors issued an official "Oops... our bad" to Weinman after determining it was most likely dogs who killed the cats. The kid's wealthy family vows to sue the county, which will undoubtedly result in a sizable settlement shipped their way. We're going to let our 12-year-old little sister sum up this sad story: WTF?
Then there was the $200 million Miami Art Museum (art — it's like Britto but with fewer butterflies; museum — it's like a consignment store where you can't buy anything) groundbreaking downtown, right next to LeBron's new workplace. Then came the $450 million Port of Miami tunnel project that looks an awful lot like a giant concrete funnel to builders' pockets. Oh, and let's not forget the Dubai-style subtropical ski slope. It was proposed for the North Miami site of the failed Biscayne Landings project, a foreclosed condo sinking into a landfill that's supposed to be protected land. It seems the town's mayor, Andre Pierre, is a fan of piling shit on shit and calling it a delicious club sandwich. The subtropical-skiing idea inevitably went belly-up, so developers are now proposing a combination hotel and old folk's home, which makes just as much sense.
Yep, Mimi swaggered into 2011 stunna-shaded and blinged out, having mortgaged LeBron's name to the hilt. She's always been the queen of keeping up appearances: Her stomach may be rumbling for a morsel of bread, but she'll don some rented diamonds and flash that winning smile when she picks up wealthy Europeans at the airport. Welcome to Art Basel! Would you like to buy a fabulous sculpture made out of ostrich crap for $87,000?
Step two: shredding her little black book of losers.
Anybody who's ever crawled back from rock bottom knows the drill: The first thing you do is cut ties with the creeps who dragged you there in the first place. You unfriend your heroin dealer on Facebook. You delete from your cell phone all those bad-news flings you call while hammered at 3 a.m. In short, you vow never again to speak to anybody you met at Churchill's.
The last year has been the same story for Mimi. Now that she had LeBron, she couldn't be associated with bums from the past. Forget going through her little black book with a Sharpie — Mimi plunged the whole thing into a Cuisinart. In the city of exiles, it was a bit of a double whammy: twelve months full of firings, exposés, and forced resignations.
Let's start with our two favorite ousters — the ones we caused. Not to blast our own foghorn, but New Times had a pretty good year in terms of ruining people's careers.
George Alan Rekers was on the founding board of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), one of those creepy Christian organizations determined to "cure" gayness through Jesus, ice baths, and repeated viewings of Baywatch VHS tapes. Rekers was once paid $120,000 by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum for expert testimony in defense of the state's gay adoption ban. The thing is, like 88 percent of right-wing homophobes (see: T. Haggard, M. Foley, L. Craig), Rekers is as gay as his rent-a-boy's member is long. Yep, this humble publication busted the junk scientist returning from a European vacation with a male prostitute who advertised his "perfectly built 8-inch cock (uncut)" on Rentboy.com. Rekers claimed he hired the "travel companion" only to "lift his luggage" — but responded to global backlash by resigning from NARTH.
Another person we're guessing now prefers the SunPost is Gerald Posner, a self-proclaimed investigative journalist who, it turns out, was actually investigating other writers' work and reproducing it wholesale under his byline. Upon Posner's resignation from the Daily Beast for plagiarizing from the Miami Herald, we revealed that nearly everything the guy wrote in the last five years — books, articles, his Publix shopping list — was stolen from others. That's when Posner, whose apparent infatuation with plastic surgery transformed his face into something like a Justin Bieber death mask, threatened to sue us. His odd pick for a lawyer: Mark Lane, noted JFK assassination conspiracy theorist and Jonestown massacre survivor. Posner, who now faces litigation from at least one author whose work he plagiarized, was last seen in Afghanistan doing public relations for despot president Hamid Karzai's brother, Mahmood. Really, we're not nearly creative enough to make this shit up.
If we had a billion dollars, we'd probably spend our days aqua-fitting Chevy Novas or feeding Cristal to camels. But Norman Braman, resident cantankerous rich guy, amuses himself by terrorizing inept politicians. This year, the auto magnate petitioned for a recall of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez, the luminary behind the aforementioned boondoggle of a Marlins stadium deal. Alvarez sued to halt the recall petition — not exactly a sign of confidence in his popularity — before realizing he had no legal case to stand on and dropping the suit just before Christmas. He then wailed incessantly until an aide stuffed a spoonful of mashed peas into his mouth.
And then there was the case of Sad Charlie, the little pol who couldn't. As a Republican, Charlie Crist was always a supreme political waffler, the type of guy who wouldn't tell you whether he prefers Aunt Jemima to real maple syrup without first gauging Jeb Bush's stance on the matter. With his term as governor expiring, Crist seemed a shoo-in for an open senator's seat — until he ran into the bland buzz saw that was Tea Party panderer (and mildly retarded man-child, but more on that later) Marco Rubio. So Crist jumped ship and became an independent in a three-way race against Rubio and never-had-a-chance Congressman Kendrick Meek. The thing is, voters weren't likely to vote outside their party for an empty cipher without an opinion, even if the cipher had the best tan this side of Snooki.
Crist handily lost to Rubio and now faces an uncertain future. Mimi wasn't too upset about that one: Word on the street is, despite supporting a ban on gay marriage, Crist isn't into chicks himself. Here's hoping he'll head off to some oiled-up, all-male beach resort — Mandals? — where Rekers is also holed up, and they'll bang that pesky homosexuality right out of each other.
But it wasn't just the figurative bums who fled when Mimi hurled her Christian Louboutins out the door. Real-life homeless people and our famous drifting perverts were displaced with more force than bath water in Rush Limbaugh's tub.
In 2007, New Times discovered the World's Worst Idea®: County and city officials were stashing sex offenders under the Julia Tuttle Causeway that connects Miami Beach and downtown. This year, the 60-plus molesters were finally banned from under the bridge, which raised the mysterious question of where they were going to end up. We got our answer when it was discovered that at least a quarter of the sex offenders were moved into a Homestead hotel by the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. They turned the place into a Chateau de Molesters, eating tiny bagels in the morning, body-gazing by the pool, and catching up on late-night Cinemax programming. Once that little boner was exposed (sorry), the sex offenders were dispatched again. Nobody quite knows where they are now — whether they've been given corporate jobs at Chuck E. Cheese or turned into Soylent Green.
If you were a local homeless dude, you didn't have to touch someone inappropriately to get swept away from the public eye. Since basketball season started, cops began targeting regular ol' bums around the American Airlines Arena for alcohol-related and other petty arrests. Commissioners unanimously voted to pass an ordinance that nearly doubled the "no-panhandling zone" around the arena, cutting into untold beer funds and singlehandedly crippling Colt 45's countywide sales.
Sorry shelter-deficient scamps, but LeBron's in town. Mimi couldn't have society's unsightly detritus bothering her new boyfriend while he was at work, could she?
Step three: Play the field, with slightly creepy results.
Forgive us if this was already covered in some Ashton Kutcher movie. But doesn't it seem like when you're single and lonely, the opposite sex won't touch you with a ten-foot prophylactic, and when you've got a good-looking mate, you can't beat off the suitors with a crowbar?
We think that's what's happened with Mimi. She became a hot commodity on the meat market again. And while we're far too progressive a publication to use the word slut, let's just say Mimi is the type of woman who's never not-looking. The net result of this animal attraction is that she got involved with some pretty sleazy characters. Yes, we're referring to you, right-wing weirdo politicians.
It was one of those election cycles, rife with attack ads and boldfaced political lies, that made South Floridians want to claw their skin off because they felt so dirty. And when the dust settled, we were left with a Burger King Kids' Club Gang of dangerous and unqualified — but racially diverse! — newly elected officials.
Let's start with Rubio, who looks like a 12-year-old Catholic schoolboy and treats politics like a game of locker-room towel snap. The West Miami native downed a giant shot of yeah-sure-down-with-big-government-and-Obama-is-a-Muslim-why-not? in order to send Crist packing. And while we have to admit it was entertaining to watch The Tanned One flee the scene with Rubio's size-6 Croc lodged in his ass, now comes the harrowing reality of a U.S. senator who looks he should be valeting cars.
We sort of understand why Mimi got involved with Rubio. He's charming and good-looking in a barely pubescent Jonas Brothers kind of way. But we were totally befuddled when our girl got herself in a long-term relationship with Rick Scott, who's about as charming as death by gangrene, and looks exactly like the evil dude in Poltergeist II. Scott — he of the nihil political experience and $2 billion Medicare fraud settlement — wasn't supposed to have a chance against Alex Sink in the gubernatorial race. The difference-maker may have been that Scott spent a record-breaking $75 million on television ads that featured his hypnotic, glowing red eyes. More likely, it was that Sink's campaign — declared the worst in the year's national election cycle by MSNBC — was as lively as a shred of Subway lettuce.
Rounding out the stab-you-with-a-Harley-gasket quotient of depraved characters inaugurated into public office was Allen West, who won a Congressional seat despite ties to a biker gang, the Outlaws, that is notorious for its involvement in the meth trade. He even wrote for the gang's magazine, bumping bylines with such booby-batting pundits — actual quote from the publication: "Vaginas are way kool" — as Nuke n' Pave Dave, Nasty, and Miami Mike. The political attack ads wrote themselves: "Guns. Prostitution. Murder. That's who Allen West rides with," a gravelly voice intoned over one Democrat-funded spot.
West had negligible political experience and his dogged wear of a flattop and military medals seemed desperate, considering he was booted from the army for firing a gun next to an interrogation suspect's head. But apparently the magical rarity of a black guy in the Tea Party — the political equivalent of a chupacabra humping a unicorn — made West invincible.
So it is that Mimi — Gucci-clad, makeup-caked, and wearing a spiked German motorcycle helmet — roars into the new year on the back of West's hog with Rubio and Scott pedaling behind in a baby blue tandem bicycle, ominously whistling show tunes.
Fast-forward to May 2011, and Mimi is back at the dive bar, chin sagging into her Campari. Instead of Frankie Valli, there's an angry operetta playing on the jukebox. Riley stands behind the bar with his arms crossed sulkily, every so often pulling out that long piece of paper to jot down some testy note-to-self. That doofy black-haired barback Erik? He got canned months ago for ineptitude, and left the bar with the outline of Riley's revolver butt molded into the back of his head. It's no more Mr. Nice coach — erm, bartender — now.
LeBron already skipped town after finishing up work a little earlier than expected — why was nobody told the Boston Celtics already have a "Big Three"? — and will spend the spring and summer with his Midwestern high school sweetheart, who always knew he'd return with his tail between his legs.
As for Mimi's other suitors: In Tallahassee, the streets are paved in human skulls that once belonged to opponents of Rick Scott's Bloodthirsty Robot Equal Rights Act. Allen West is holed up in a Hialeah meth lab with an aging biker babe named She-Blade. And Marco Rubio spent the last six months making collages of President Obama wearing a dashiki and dancing on Ground Zero.
So no, the Great Rebound didn't pan out so well. But Mimi lives on a Nasdaq-esque roller coaster of ups and downs, and she's always on the lookout for her next high.
The little bell above the bar's door rings, and somebody walks in. He looks like trouble. He looks like money. Mimi's green eyes glimmer, and she winks hard enough to pull a neck muscle.
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