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.

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.

No booming THX sound. No giant curved screen. No reclining overstuffed seats that look like they fell off a spaceship. No handy drink holders. No uniformed minions peddling hot dogs, nachos, and candy. No computerized ticket dispensers. No call ahead and charge. No TV monitors broadcasting what time the movie you came to see will be playing. A smallish big screen, 192 comfortably rickety seats. A discerning selection of first-run, second-run, and foreign films. A cozy lobby with couches, tables, and chairs where you can sip an espresso or a soda, scarf your popcorn and Snickers, chat with other cineastes, silently read a magazine, or just listen to the piped-in music. In short a charming and user-friendly theater run by two gregarious guys, Johnny Calderin and Cesar Hernandez-Canton, who remember what going to the movies was like before the advent of the multiplex.

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.
No doubt about it, Miami is a surreal place, almost cartoonlike at times. Which may be why Scott Baldwin's Carter comics do such a wonderful job capturing the local cultural flavor, as seen through bohemian, but never jaundiced, eyes. The strip's protagonist, Brandon, is a wide-eyed fellow, beat down but still smiling, just trying to make sense of it all. Whether he's sitting down for a drink with death (literally), wandering through Little Havana, or getting bounced out of punk dive Churchill's, Brandon alternately evokes laugh-out-loud guffaws and head-scratching confusion. It incorporates the best aspects of Ziggy and Nancy, but with Baldwin's own charmingly crude, left-out-in-the-sun-too-long style.
The Shops at Sunset Place
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.
"That was a small space, and I'm too big for small spaces," says drag queen Elaine Lancaster of a tiny bar on Lincoln Road where she worked recently. Sounds like Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond, who defiantly declared, "I'm still big; it's the pictures that got smaller." Lancaster, however, is referring not to her status but to her stature. She really is a big girl -- six feet two without heels or her Texas-size blond mane. Frequently seen on the arm of old Texas buddy Dennis Rodman, she arrived in Miami from Dallas nearly two years ago. You can catch her hostessing at Tuesday's "Revolution" at Red Square restaurant, Wednesday's "World Famous $1000 Strip Contest" at Warsaw, and Fridays and Saturdays at Bar Room. In her syrupy Southern accent, she's raconteur, comedienne, diplomat, and self-deprecating commentator on world events. But more than just the hostess with the mostest, Lancaster (a.k.a. James Davis) is a wiz at out-illusioning her fellow gender illusionists by doing some mean lip-synching. Batting her eyelashes, casting sidelong glances, smiling widely, wooing the crowd with her many expressions, it's no wonder she's been featured on television and in movies several times, has her own column in miamigo magazine, and lately has enlisted the services of an agent to advance her career. This diva is a glamazon who's got the goods to take her straight to superstardom.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®