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."
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.
I'm new in town. Just rode in from Kansas City. I'm also hungry. Shuffling down Biscayne and eyeing some mighty fine ladies who look sorta hungry, too. Well, there's a Denny's right there on the corner. I walk in and the place is packed at ten o'clock on a Wednesday night. I can see a table of nuns in one corner and a table of something -- they've got little undershirts over their big oiled-up muscles -- in another corner. I'm sitting at the counter thinking about a chicken-fried steak. Behind me is a nice couple with two kids, all dressed up, maybe come in after Wednesday-night prayer meeting. Over on the other side of the room I see this girl with her hair stacked up into a point, like the Empire State Building on her head. She's with a guy loaded down with gold rings and chains and tattoos, but he don't have no hair at all. All of a sudden yelling breaks out at a booth. "Well, you're hungry, not me," a waitress sniffs. Then a huge roly-poly woman in a skintight leopard-skin dress, she rises up, takes a step toward the retreating waitress, and tackles her around the shoulders, like wrestling a steer. "You gonna be sorry!" Roly-Poly shouts. "Your incompetence and laziness done you in! I wanna see the manager!" Now, anyone who's been here five minutes can see there is no management at this restaurant; it's the Wild West, with all kinds of characters and grifters and drifters walking in, just wanting a cup of coffee and a Grand Slam, and getting a big slice of Miami while they wait. And wait.
Foeman has never been charged with taking bribes. He's never committed voter fraud. Nor has he used his public position, one of the top three posts at the City of Miami, to slip influence to local developers or to lobby against Fidel Castro, a real possibility in a government historically obsessed with foreign affairs. Foeman survived Operation Greenpalm because he's a true representative who serves his constituents with solid professionalism. Most days he arrives at his Dinner Key office early in the morning, laboring in solitude before the phones begin to ring. The staff he oversees is the nicest, most helpful bunch of civil servants in the city, if not the entire county. Like Foeman, they work hard while keeping their politics to themselves.
Allapattah has always been there, right in the heart of Miami, a diverse and often picturesque twenty or so square blocks. But we don't really know what Allapattah is all about. Yes, it's one of those inner-city neighborhoods that used to be rich and white and is now poor and minority. But such a great mix: about 40,000 Nicaraguans, Cubans, Dominicans, Ecuadorians, Peruvians, Colombians, Hondurans, and African Americans. They live between NW 7th and 27th avenues, from 20th Street north to 38th Street. Perhaps the most important landmarks in Allapattah are internationally known Jackson Memorial Hospital, the Veterans' Administration Hospital, Sylvester Cancer Center, and other medical institutions. But to get a real feel for Allapattah, check out the warehouse and garment district, which includes a legendary produce market. Stroll down NW Seventeenth Avenue, a day-and-night festival of mainly Dominican cafeterías, shops, botánicas, and bakeries. Visit the Wilfredo Vasquez boxing gym just a block away from Jackson Senior High. Cruise along the many residential streets lined with brightly painted 30- and 40-year-old bungalows. And for the record: That Burger King on 27th Avenue at 36th Street is the first BK to open in the United States.
Remember those heady adolescent days when shy, squeaky-voiced Romeos used baseball lingo to clumsily trade stories? Since then America's favorite pastimes have seemingly been at odds: Ask your heartthrob for a date, or catch a ballgame with the crew. It's a needless dilemma, we say. A simple test will prove the two aren't really opposites at all. To wit: Invite your next romantic prospect to watch the Fish. So what if Pro Player is practically in Broward? The drive north will allow you to compare musical tastes, a key early indicator of courtship success. Go Dutch on an unpretentious dinner, say, dogs and soft-serve ice cream. Sit in right field, where hoarse, true-blue fans do their best to heckle the visiting team between jaunty organ riffs and odd bursts of classic rock. The game provides an ideal getting-to-know-you vibe: dramatic enough to watch in silence but tame enough to ignore altogether if the conversation really gets going. And no one will notice if, amid the roar of a big play, you make it to first base.
From the Miami Herald, February 26, 1999: "A graphic that accompanied a Thursday story about the Delano Hotel contained two errors. The Delano is not being accused of illegal liquor sales. And the hotel is located on the Atlantic Ocean, not the Pacific."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®