County Commissioner Katy Sorenson is a politician devoid of subterfuge. There are no hidden agendas with her. She is exactly the way she seems: honest, sincere, forthright. Others may not agree with her positions on civic issues, but no one questions her integrity. The past twelve months marked Sorenson's best year on the commission since her arrival in 1994. She successfully led the charge to pass a gay rights ordinance. She was the first politician to speak out in favor of saving the Miami Circle. And she was one of only two commissioners brave enough to say the county needs to increase its sales tax as a dedicated source of transportation funding. Four years ago when she beat Larry Hawkins, Sorenson was an unknown. Voters weren't really voting for her as much as they were voting against Hawkins, who had become mired in allegations of sexual harassment. This past fall Sorenson won re-election, and this time the victory was all hers.
Not only do they own some of the hippest hotels in Miami Beach (the Albion, the Greenview, and the soon-to-open Beach House in Bal Harbour), but the Rubells -- Mera, Don, and offspring Jennifer and Jason -- together possess the finest private collection of contemporary art in Florida. "There are few collections of its equal anywhere in the world," insists David A. Ross, director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "I'm jealous." Many of the works, too big or too daring for the average museum, reveal this family's taste for the strange, humorous, and irreverent. The paintings, installations, photos, sculptures, and videos by artists such as Paul McCarthy, Keith Haring, Francesco Clemente, Sherry Levine, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Charles Ray, and Cindy Sherman are exhibited in a former warehouse once used by the Drug Enforcement Administration. There is no fee for admission, but be forewarned: This stuff hasn't passed the censors. One depicts dozens of naked mannequins sprawling on the floor engaged in oral sex. In another a young boy is encouraged to get it on with a goat. Bring the kids at your own discretion. And risk. The collection is open Friday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Best Boxing Figure To Die In The Past Year

Chris Dundee

Dundee, elder brother of legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, was himself revered by generations of fans and practitioners of the sweet science, especially here in Miami. From the Fifties until an incapacitating stroke in 1990, Dundee promoted hundreds of shows in South Florida, including the classic Cassius Clay-Sonny Liston bout of 1964. He managed four world champions and dozens of contenders. And he turned Miami Beach's Fifth Street Gym into one of the world's most vibrant boxing epicenters. That gym is gone now, and Dundee's energetic personal style and love of the sport is sadly obsolete in today's boxing industry, tightly controlled by promotional monopolies and rich television contracts. Dundee was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. He died of pneumonia on November 16, 1998, at the age of 91.
Resident folklorist at the Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Steve Stuempfle is the leading proponent of Miami's unique popular culture. An authority on Trinidadian steel pan music, the 41-year-old Stuemplfe arrived here two years ago from New York and immediately leaped into the pot of disparate cultures that makes Miami great. The Historical Museum, located with the main library and the Miami Art Museum at 101 W. Flagler Street (305-375-1492), has become a showcase for the artistic and cultural traditions of South Florida's native and immigrant communities, and for artists who are usually (and inexplicably) ignored by the local museum community. Various exhibitions and cultural programs at the museum ("Percussion Traditions in Miami," "Florida Folklife," "Miami: The Gateway City") have featured Santería drummers, vodou priestesses, carnival musicians, and many other previously unsung local heroes. "I'd like to see action here at the museum on an ongoing basis that includes a variety of voices," Stuempfle says. "I want to get a lot of people interacting and thinking about what it's like to live in Miami."
Sylk, a recent hip-hop transplant from Philadelphia, took to Miami like an alligator to the Glades: He slid right into our cacophonous subtropical airwaves and made them his own. Shortly after his arrival, people began talking about "The Roll Call," his twice-nightly homage to listeners. "What's up, y'all, so what's it gonna be? Now, who's on the line with your homey Al B.?" People of all ages call in, usually right in sync with Sylk's rap, and "shout out" to their friends. Caller: "Tasha's in the house." Sylk: "Oh, baby." Caller: "Mica's in the house." Sylk: "Baby, baby." When callers stumble and miss a beat, they'll be gently chastised by Sylk: "You're a dodohead!" Miami's most popular DJ, 29 years old, also instituted the nightly A-Team announcement. At the beginning of every grading period listeners fax in school report cards. Sylk then picks people at random and calls them at home to congratulate them on the air. Even when he's shouting "Whoooo do you love? 'Cause you got to looooove somebody!" to close his Friday-night show, Sylk doesn't preach so much as he invites his audience to have as much fun as he's having.
Lawton Chiles
David Lawrence's columns

Best Spanish-Language Radio Personality

Pedro Sevcec

Widely known for his television show Sevcec on the Telemundo network, Sevcec's full range of talents are revealed on his radio show Sevcec Live, which airs from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Monday through Friday on Radio Unica. Sevcec himself says he is in his true element on the radio. Listen to the show and you'll see what he means. It is clear he's having a blast, and it's contagious. His staff lines up interviews with presidents and truck drivers for a program that roams from thoughtful analysis of Latin American elections to a story about a kid devoured by a shark. In between Sevcec demonstrates his remarkable ability to project empathy, which has garnered him the title, the "Latin Phil Donahue." Radio's informality allows the host to exercise his considerable wit, often with uproarious results.

Wish Restaurant
When L. Murray Dixon designed the corner structure on Miami Beach's Eighth Street and Collins Avenue in 1939, it went by the name Tiffany Hotel. It still did until late last year. That's when South Beach urban-renewal pioneer Tony Goldman and hipster designer Todd Oldham transformed the place into an unpretentious treasure. Something must have gone terribly right because almost immediately old-guard jeweler Tiffany & Co. began breathing down Goldman's neck, "urging" him to change the hotel's name. After a brief legal spat, the parties settled and the Tiffany was subsequently rechristened The Hotel, an exceedingly simple moniker that belies the striking atmosphere Oldham created. The gleaming white Streamline Moderne building blends in with its surroundings from the street, but step over the threshold and enter an oasis rendered in a lush array of colors. No sterile insane-asylum look here. Original gold, pink, and green terrazzo floors mix easily with new comfortable chairs and couches upholstered in mustard, aqua, sky, emerald, and avocado velvet and silk. White walls, blond wood, and generous-size bathrooms featuring sunny-color tile adorn the 52 rooms. No garish art on the walls, just discreet mirrors in frames. On the ground floor, in the hotel's restaurant Wish, a cluster of multicolor Murano glass globes hang from the ceiling, illuminating the cozy inside. Oversize white umbrellas shade those who prefer to eat outdoors. In a show of defiance, the building's narrow spire still bears the name "Tiffany" in neon.
So you think Miami is all about bubbleheads whose most intense reading comes from their hair-gel tubes, right? And about people who would say Verlaine is a brand of sunglasses and Pynchon a species of fish, right? Think again, dude. This town was practically founded by highly literate people from the northeastern United States, e.g., author Kirk Munroe, one of the first settlers of Coconut Grove in the late 1800s. These days the area's best-known men and women of letters are realists such as Carl Hiaasen, Les Standiford, James Hall, and Edna Buchanan. They cater to the popular tastes, and we love that stuff. But every vibrant literary scene needs a journal, because quality and experimentation do not always reach the mass market. Instructors at Florida International University founded Gulf Stream Magazine in 1989 when they launched the school's master's program for creative writing. "We particularly look for work we think is energetic, well made, and provocative," editor Lynne Barrett says. Call that statement a synechdoche for Miami. You can subscribe or order single issues by calling the FIU creative-writing department, or buy a copy from Books & Books.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®