Stephen P. Clark Government Center
Suited men on their way to someplace else get their shoes shined. A woman vends green plantains and umbrellas under the Metromover. Beneath the bench-wrapped trees outside the county government's headquarters, there is shade and a breeze even on the hottest day. In this multiple-ring circus of the absurd, nothing much happens, yet it is fascinating, mesmerizing. Everyone is either selling, playing a part, or part of the audience. Judges of man stroll by men who preach about the power of a higher judge. While the barker calls out muffled destinations and arrivals, the roar of the train, the screech of the bus delivers the next pack of freaks, jesters, lion tamers, and popcorn pushers costumed in skirts, ties, plastic bags, and tired painted faces. Children of all ages carrying their burdens, briefcases, babies. Ladies and gentleman, step right up: Inside the building politicians and bureaucrats make decisions about our community. Outside is the community itself, in a hurry to get somewhere.
As you roll down the highway in your car, the radio blasts the last few notes of the Commodores' sappy hit "Three Times a Lady." Suddenly your speakers begin to rattle. You turn down the volume, fiddle with the bass, adjust the treble. Nothing works. That hum is still there. Not to worry: Your stereo is fine. It's just broadcasting the basso profundo voice of trusty disc jockey Freddy Cruz. Host of the station's nighttime love-song serenade The Quiet Storm, Cruz has been unleashing his sultry Spanish accent over the Hot 105 airwaves for the past fifteen years. Back in 1985 the show was heard 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. on weekdays. A loyal listening public has made the station number two in the market for the 25-to-54 age category, and now the people get five stormy hours of music per night during the week (8:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.) and a special old-school edition on Sunday (8:00 to 11:00 p.m.). After a hard evening on the air, what's a radio personality to do? Why get a day job, of course! For a while Cruz's inimitable pipes could be heard in two languages. After a few years on Spanish-radio WCMQ-FM (92.3), he became the production director for the Spanish Broadcasting System, a local chain of FM radio stations. When does he sleep? He claims to get five hours per night. "People hear me on the radio so relaxed but I'm really hyper," he notes. "I like to stay busy. I like to work." Not that he has to do much of that when guiding his listeners through the storm. In 1985 he spun records on turntables, then moved on to using CDs and tapes. Now thanks to computers, music is brought forth at the touch of a button. Fine by Cruz, who gets more time to take on-air dedications, growl song titles, and chat with the folks at home. "I love it," says the deep-voiced DJ about his long-time job. "The listeners are so loyal. I talk to people who started listening fifteen years ago and now they have kids; some even have grandchildren. I feel like I'm in their living room. I'm part of their family."
Miami's most prominent reading series, by current authors of predictably high caliber, is a good way to defy this city's tendency to settle for beauty over substance. And no doubt about it, intelligence more often than not cultivates a singular kind of beauty. In short, good-looking women go to these things, and they probably are smarter than your average barfly. If you spy a single woman at a reading, chances are good she's looking for more in a mate than a walking billfold. And if she's alone, she's either single or her boyfriend doesn't share her interests. All the more reason for you to sidle up and see if she wants to deconstruct Susan Sontag over an espresso.

Best Sign That Tom Fiedler Is Spending Too Much Time At The Gym

In a New Year's Day column, the Herald's opinion page editor asked readers to think of him and the other members of the paper's blandly predictable and pitifully self-important editorial board as "fitness instructors for your intellect."
South Florida sports icon Dan Marino retires. It's a no-brainer who we want to see cover the biggest sports story in years. Jimmy Cefalo is not just another sportscaster; he's also a former Dolphin himself. He even roomed with Marino while a receiver for the team. When he retired in 1985, he made an easy transition to broadcasting. In 1988 he won an Emmy for his coverage of the Olympics in Seoul. He joined Channel 10 nearly eight years ago as the host of Sports Monday. Now as sports director and anchor, Cefalo's smooth delivery and wealth of experience have proven a boon to South Florida sports fans. Just as expected Cefalo brought the proper poignancy to Marino's departure without letting the team's management off the hook for sloppy handling of the transition.
All Dan Blonsky wanted, he told Regis Philbin, was a date with supermodel Elle Macpherson. All he got instead was the grand prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Blonsky -- single, 34 years old, a graduate of Palmetto Senior High, and an attorney at a Coconut Grove law firm -- advanced to the final round by knowing who appeared on the first cover of People magazine (Mia Farrow), what food is served al dente (pasta, duh), and which country first granted women the right to vote (Switzerland). Blonsky never lost his cool, even after his final answer (yes, his final answer) of 93 million miles from Earth to sun. As confetti swirled around him, Blonsky radiated serenity, no doubt thinking how the money will allow him to bide his time until the next television sweeps period. Surely Who Wants to Date a Supermodel? must be in the works.
The Miami area once had several renegade stations that eschewed advertising, including The Womb (107.1 FM) and SupaRadio (104.7 FM). But a federal assault on unlicensed broadcasters squelched them and many other pirates in 1998. In the secretive underworld of pirate radio, where stations are here today and shut down by the Federal Communications Commission tomorrow, it's hard to discern just what is going on. But our antenna detects a trend, albeit nascent, toward purist piracy. We especially like the nighttime spinning on 101.9 FM, because the DJs on this frequency seem to be more interested in airing their beloved Haitian compas than getting people to show up at someone's dance party for ten bucks a head. Okay, once in a while the Kreyol-speaking announcers might plug an event or store, but they do so far less than our allegedly commercial-free public radio station, WLRN-FM (91.3), which runs full-fledged ads disguised as corporate underwriting. We've also witnessed such low-key pirates on 94.5 FM, where they let the hip-hop speak for itself without interruption, sometimes for hours at a time. It is our humble hope that other unlicensed broadcasters will stop squandering the chance to create a true alternative to the oppressive and unimpressive state of commercial radio in South Florida.
Miami Commissioner J.L. Plummer had his re-election formula down pat: Raise tons of cash, glad-hand voters at community festivals, and have his Cuban friends praise him on Spanish-language radio. It had worked seven times before, after all. Upstart businessman Johnny Winton might push him into a runoff, but the veteran's vast war chest would crush him. Oops! While Miami politics changed, Plummer didn't. District elections had turned the city's politically neglected Upper East Side into a powerful force that overwhelmed Plummer's traditional base in the Cuban community. He also underestimated how badly the city's scandals sullied his reputation. Most voters, including many in Plummer's Coconut Grove back yard, didn't buy his pleas of ignorance as his colleagues were arrested, the city fell into disarray, and taxes climbed. In addition the 29-year incumbent didn't take underdog Winton seriously. The end result: Plummer maintained his unprecedented streak of seven elections without a runoff. But he was clobbered in the eighth.
Not since Richard Nixon declared "I am not a crook" has a politician shoved his foot so far down his throat as Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas did earlier this year during the Elian Gonzalez crisis. Even Ted Koppel felt the need to fly into town and bitch-slap our sexy little mayor on national television for his abrasive and incendiary comments toward Attorney General Janet Reno. Once a golden boy of the Democratic Party, even rumored to be on Al Gore's list of possible running mates, Penelas is now a national joke. The only cabinet post in his future is the one he can buy at Home Depot.

Best Local Defense Against Terrorism

Call us old-fashioned patriots, but we do all our gift buying at the American Federation of Police and Concerned Citizens. This nonprofit operates out of the American Police Hall of Fame (the Biscayne Boulevard building with the cop car climbing its façade). We can't tell you the number of times we've gotten out of a jam by giving a dear friend or relative the "Pig Face Specialty Lapel Pin" ($4.95) or the double-locking steel handcuffs ($18). As door prizes at dinner parties, we've often distributed wallet-size cards inscribed with the Pledge of Allegiance, room for a signature, and the phrase "I am a card-carrying American" (available in packs of 100 for only $5). Our favorite gift, though, is the "Honor Membership in the Citizens Task Force for Civil Defense Preparedness." It comes with a six-point star nestled in a black-leather wallet and has been issued "in response to the threat against our nation by terrorist states." From the brochure: "I am sure you are aware that Iraq has produced enough poison gas to kill every man, woman, and child on Earth! And that other nations are also involved in terrorist threats against the United States. In addition to our mission to aid the families of police officers killed in the line of duty, we also have as a mission to promote civil defense preparedness. The purpose of this membership star, identification card, and leather wallet is to identify members in good standing who, when called upon by local police, will offer their assistance in an emergency. From the simple task of making phone calls to people in need to offering aid in any natural or manmade disaster.... Understand that the badge does not imply or grant you any police powers. It certifies that you are an Honor Member who may be willing, if called upon by local police, to assist them in an emergency. (Most states, in fact, have laws that require a citizen, when called upon, to assist any peace officer in an emergency.) This star and wallet may help to identify you as a person willing to assist during such a time." The cost is only $75, and it comes with "a preaddressed enrollment in a course that we highly recommend: Emergency Response to Terrorism Self-Study. It is FREE and you can attain a certificate of training by completing the test at the end of the course."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®