Miami's own comeback counselor, former U.S. Attorney Kendall Coffey, pulled off the legal achievement of the year when he ousted a sitting mayor. Coffey argued in Miami-Dade Circuit Court that Joe Carollo lost the November 1997 Miami mayoral election owing to rampant fraud among absentee balloting. He was convincing. In March 1998 Judge Thomas Wilson, Jr., booted Xavier Suarez, the putative titleholder. The expulsion survived an appeals court hearing. The episode occupies a special place in the tropical hothouse of Miami politics, and not just because of the dead man who voted or the arrest of a campaign worker for buying absentee ballots. This was significant because it also signaled Coffey's return to the limelight. In 1996 the federal prosecutor resigned his post after he was accused of biting a dancer in a strip club. To his credit though, the chagrined Coffey didn't flee town. He stuck around, rightly believing that our collective memory would evaporate like a puddle after a summer shower. Then new opportunities blossomed. It was worth the wait for him. What's getting caught taking a little love bite compared to toppling a corrupt government?
Sam Shepard's characters are many things: schemers, losers, maligned heroes. But they're rarely female. When women are present, as in the case of Cecilia, a would-be love interest of the protagonist in Shepard's 1994 play Simpatico (produced this past summer by the Florida Shakespeare Theatre, now called GableStage), they're odd ducks, intruders in a strange male universe. Sometimes they get lost amid all the testosterone. That wasn't the case with cast member Kim Ostrenko. The actress may have been playing one of the oddest creatures in the Shepard menagerie, but she deftly embodied all of Cecilia's contradictions, moving from utter blankness to incisive maneuvering in the blink of an eye. She may not have been a star in this play, but Ostrenko's performance was indubitably a star turn.
Any stage designer can put his or her imprint on a show that no one's seen before. But what do you do when you've got to dress up the longest-running musical on or off Broadway? That would be The Fantasticks. The Hollywood Playhouse staged the chestnut as the debut performance under its new management, and nobody who's seen the off-Broadway version could recognize the set. A boy, a girl, and a wall were the basic elements, as they have been for 40 years, but in place of a bare stage and black-box aesthetics, designer David K. Sherman substituted cotton-candy pastels and whimsical costumes. Think the show can't work with an entire palette of cheerful light filters that changed the performance area from pink to blue to midday yellow? Think again. As this production demonstrated, just because a show is timeless doesn't mean it has to be stale.
Not since Miami Vice has a television show better harnessed the color and character of Miami. Each Saturday night Sins of the City reveled in the rainbow hues of the I.M. Pei's CenTrust Tower and the quaint mansions of Morningside, along with the obligatory Deco decadence of South Beach. The weekly series debuted this past July to scathing reviews, all well deserved: The plots were almost inconceivably stupid and the acting provoked dry heaves among those hearty enough to watch. (Lead "Sinner" Marcus Graham always seemed disarmingly constipated.) Nine shows later, in October, Sins slipped off the air, seemingly forever. For entertainment-seeking cable viewers, that's probably a good thing. But for the beautiful character actor that is Miami, it's a good thing gone.
Congress passed this law in October 1998 after an unprecedented bipartisan, multiethnic lobbying campaign conceived in Miami-Dade County. The measure grants green cards to about 50,000 Haitian immigrants living in the United States before 1996. These immigrants, concentrated in South Florida and New York, would otherwise be awaiting deportation today . Congress approved the measure a year after passing a similar bill benefiting Cubans, Nicaraguans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans -- but excluding Haitians. The effort to push the Haitian act through Congress involved players as diverse as Republicans Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Connie Mack, U.S. Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen; and Democratic lawmakers Sen. Bob Graham and Rep. Carrie Meek. Behind-the-scenes alliances were equally important and featured powerful lobbyists from both parties, plus leading immigrants' advocates, and a host of Haitian community leaders and activists from all over the country. Perhaps most significantly, it was the first time Miami's Haitian leaders stepped outside Little Haiti to wield influence in national politics.
There was a time when toy stores were small, friendly places where kids could dream and nag their parents for a couple of dollars' worth of playthings they might or might not receive. Now toy stores are sprawling, electronically engorged money traps where young people vie for coolness and make greedy demands. Sports, as the saying goes, is the toy department of life. And as with toys, traditions have been kicked to the curb. Rampant greed has practically become pro sports's selling point rather than the dirty little secret it should be. Athletes are celebrated, even worshipped, the way scholars and artists should be but rarely are. It's all hype. Downright nasty. The players simultaneously act like children and the eaters of children. The pecking order has broken down so that the employees are in charge and the customers (fans) always come last. These sad facts of life threatened to shatter the Miami Fusion soccer team this past summer when Ivo Wortmann came aboard as coach. Long-haired, long-in-the-tooth star player Carlos "El Pibe" Valderrama took umbrage at the team's selection of Wortmann, and held his breath until he turned blue. Wortmann, obviously still living in a previous era, held his ground. El Pibe came crawling back. More recently El Pibe threw another hissy fit after Wortmann kept him on the bench longer than El Pibe deemed suitable. El Pibe now plays for Tampa Bay, and Wortmann has proven it's not whether you win or lose, it's who's in charge.
As a head coach, the Dolphins' Jimmy Johnson makes a great general manager. He possesses championship acumen for recruiting, organizing, and training. But when it comes to game day, he falters as a field coach. That, along with a few critical injuries, is why the Dolphins fade in the stretch after teasing their demanding local fans by looking good before early on. Wannstedt has been hired to alleviate the problem. A special position, assistant head coach, was created for the former Chicago Bears head coach. Wannstedt has spent more than half his 24-year career working with Johnson, including three seasons with Dallas, where Wannstedt, as defensive coordinator, took the Cowboys defense from twentieth in the NFL to number one, and where Wannstedt picked up a Super Bowl ring. He also assisted Johnson at Oklahoma State and at the University of Miami. His 'Canes teams of the late Eighties gave up just 10.9 points per game and held opposition runners to an average of 2.2 yards per carry. With Wannstedt handling sideline decision-making, that elusive Super Bowl looms enticingly.

Miami-Dade County Manager Merrett Stierheim is living proof that eventually everything comes back in style. During his original tenure as county manager in the early Eighties, Stierheim was seen as something of an anachronism: one of the last of the old Anglo bosses who ruled this county for decades. When Stierheim was originally county manager, commissioners took little more than a passing interest in the day-to-day operations of county government. Since then county government has been remade. Starting in the late Eighties with Joe Gersten, commissioners began taking a more active role in bureaucratic affairs, and with the advent of single-member districts in 1993, the commission itself became more ethnically and racially diverse. Whether the corruption that followed is the result of those changes is debatable, but the impact of the scandals is not. They have had a devastating impact on the image of Miami-Dade County throughout the world. So when Armando Vidal was fired as manager, the mayor and commission tapped Stierheim to bring order to a chaotic situation. He picked up easily where he had left off more than a decade earlier, seizing the reins of power and paying little heed to the desires of intrusive commissioners. As a result morale throughout county offices has soared. How long this trip down memory lane will last is anyone's guess. As each week and month goes by, Stierheim's autocratic style rankles someone new. But for as long as it lasts, we should enjoy and appreciate it.
It's the graveyard used as a setting for spooky nightmares. Large, creaky iron gates guard the two entrances. Old, crumbling tombstones dispersed among headstones tall enough for someone to hide behind. Fully grown oak and mahogany trees blocking the light to form imposing shadows. From the rich, white, and powerful in the Burdine crypt to the graves of the poor, black laborers buried in the rear, the cemetery's subterranean residents foreshadowed the city's diversity today. To learn more, a lot more, take a guided tour with local historian Paul George (305-375-1492), who'll point out the many war veterans, five mayors, and the city's original instigator, Julia Tuttle, all of whom are buried there.
Lovers of legerdemain, practitioners of prestidigitation, converts to conjuring, savants of sleight of hand. In short these folks dabble in the arts arcane. Since 1994 the International Brotherhood of Magicians, Ring 45 (a sufficiently hocus-pocus moniker), has presented its annual convention each fall at the Hotel Formerly Known as the Radisson Aventura Beach Resort. Attendance at the two-day event is limited to the 200 or so semipro or amateur magicians -- mostly guys who bag groceries by day and palm coins by night. If you're serious about learning the tricks, and not putting on a dorky mask and exposing the tricks on Fox while the bald dude from The X-Files makes bad jokes, you're welcome to pay the $65 registration fee and partake of the booths, lectures, and seminars, and find out all about false bottoms, mirrors, wires, and twins. The general public is welcome to attend the Saturday-night gala event (twenty bucks, please), which takes place in the delightfully faded red-velvet splendor of the hotel's Persian Room theater. The big show features as many as six performers from as far away as Israel, Spain, Canada, and Kendall. This year it takes place October 15, 16, and 17, and if you really want to creep yourself out, watch the movie Magic, starring Anthony Hopkins and a dummy, the night before.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®