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 Unguarded Moment Caught On Videotape

Henry Fraind

In his many years as the public face of the county's public schools, Fraind had repeatedly proven himself to be inarticulate, insensitive, and inflexible. When school-board members finally got tired of him making them look bad and decided, at their March meeting, to appoint someone else as their spokesman, Fraind demonstrated the wisdom of the decision by offering an upraised arm and fist -- in the universal gesture for "up yours" -- to a parent who had questioned his salary level. How ironic that the first candid, straightforward, concise statement from this guy, captured by the television cameras that record each meeting, came only on the eve of his removal as the district's mouthpiece.
This isn't your typical South Florida outdoor arts-and-crafts shindig. In fact as far as we can tell, there's nothing like it south of Atlanta. Over three days in May (sorry, just missed it) wine aficionados and food lovers gather at the grand old Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for a feast of the senses. This year's extravaganza, the fifth annual, featured wines from more than 60 wineries spanning the globe. (With wine master Chip Cassidy of Crown Liquors an event director, you can be assured every vintner is top quality.) Food preparation was in the able hands of 25 fine South Florida restaurants, including Norman's, Armadillo Café, Baleen, Nemo, and the Strand. In addition a coterie of Michelin-starred chefs was imported from France to create a sumptuous dinner in the Biltmore's courtyard. Auctions, tastings, and more tastings. This marathon of sublime indulgence in luscious foods and rare wines comes with a price tag, of course. (The event is actually a fundraiser benefiting Baptist and South Miami Hospital foundations and the United Way of Miami-Dade.) So you might want to begin saving your pennies now for the 2001 blowout. Individual events start as low as $50 per person, while deluxe packages can run up to $475 per person. Festival organizers can be reached at 305-913-3164.
It's supposed to feel like a little bit of Nantucket down here on the lower peninsula. A fresh and crisp Northeastern respite from the scorching Southern sun. But really the lobby in the new Beach House is Florida through and through. This is no rectangular foyer, stop-over-while-you-check-in type of lobby. Instead you get different lounges with different flavors for different moods, all outfitted (if the blue hue didn't already give it away) by the Polo Ralph Lauren design team. If you enter from Collins Avenue, huge vases of fresh-cut flowers -- usually yellow -- greet the visitor at the entrance, which is decked out in muted blue and white. But no need to dally here. Head for the bright and playful room to the right -- the, well, Florida room. Two walls are windows, with views out to the pool and to the ocean beyond. Lime-green covers the walls; pink, salmon, yellow, green, and blue cover the cushions and pillows on the white-wicker furniture. That may sound noisy but it's not. The colors combine into a soothing balm, light and airy but well removed from the heat. All the rooms are furnished like a bed and breakfast -- knickknacks on the end tables, art books scattered about for a leisurely browse. The main lobby is toned down, furnished in brown wicker with blue upholstery, and trimmed with sophisticated Chinese porcelains and paintings (heavy on deep red and gold, adding an extra-lush touch). From here it's also possible to see the pool area, which really should be considered part of the lobby as well, with its multicolor cabanas, ample seating, and hedges sculpted into sea horses. Grab a drink from the bar and choose your mood: There's no better way to refresh your feeling for Florida.
How to tell Miami's film buffs from our town's film fanatics? Simple. The buffs can be found on Sunday afternoons inside the Alliance Cinema, forsaking a day at the beach for two hours in a darkened room, blissfully soaking up that week's Cinema Vortex selection. As for Miami's premier film fanatic, that would be Baron Sherer, the fair-haired young man orchestrating the whole shebang: taking tickets, hunching over the projector, often painstakingly splicing together the reels. It's obviously a labor of love for Sherer, with the only real payoff being the sheer joy of turning audiences on to his own personal faves and latest cinematic discoveries. And like the best film series, Cinema Vortex most definitely is an extension of its curator -- Sherer's brain unspooling before a flickering light. That means plenty of vintage film noir, lost classics of the American New Wave like Point Blank, as well as offbeat foreign flicks such as last year's Made in Hong Kong and Jean-Luc Godard's 1965 dystopian portrait Alphaville. The common denominator is simply good taste and the unspoken realization that you won't see any of these movies anywhere else in Miami.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®