Who will ever forget those images of well-dressed young men with neatly cropped hair pounding on the doors of the Miami-Dade County Elections Department during the height of the presidential recount? And when a few of them erroneously thought county Democratic Party chairman Joe Geller was trying to steal ballots, they pounced on him like he was the last piece of Brie at a wine-and-cheese social. Initially television viewers must have thought the hooligans were local citizens, but anyone living in Miami knew right away this wasn't a hometown horde. For one thing there wasn't a single guayabera in the crowd. Sure enough it turned out this rabble was imported from out of state, many of them the aides to Republican congressmen from around the nation. Eventually the roving band of Republican thugs was forced to disperse, but not before they caused Miami-Dade County to cancel its recount and ensure a victory for George W. Bush.
Um, $145 billion. Yeah, that's with a b. That's how much this husband-and-wife team won for their clients in July 2000. The astounding award was the culmination of a seven-year legal battle against the nation's tobacco industry, and it all played out in the Miami courtroom of Judge Robert Kaye. The Rosenblatts' argument was deceptively simple: "My key strategy was to show that these people have knowingly sold ... a product they 100 percent knew will kill a certain number of their customers. And that they didn't give a damn," Stanley told the National Law Journal. The jury bought it. The victory for their estimated 500,000 clients is all the more impressive in light of the fact that these two local advocates faced a veritable army of high-priced attorneys hired by the tobacco giants. Faced them down and kicked their butts.

Miami theater is as alive and thriving en español as it is in English. From the reputable Teatro Avante to the burgeoning number of small theaters on SW Eighth Street, there's much to be said for local Spanish-language theater. But this season director Rolando Moreno's Spanish adaptation of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire took the prize. La Ultima Parada gave theatergoers a taste of what challenging theater can do when teamed with excellent acting. Transplanting Williams's streetcar of Southern decadence to Guantánamo, Cuba, circa 1970, La Ultima Parada turned decadence into misogyny and the tradition of Latin-American machismo into an intriguing pendulum of sexuality. Actors Carlos Caballero and Alexa Kuve stood out for their raw emotionalism as Guantánamo Bay's Stanley and Stella. The play was at times colloquially hilarious and at other times heartbreaking, but above all it provided Spanish-speaking audiences with an unflinching closeup of Castro's postrevolutionary wasteland. La Ultima Parada also featured Vivian Ruiz, Evelio Taillacq, Maria Hernandez, Hugo Garcia, Gerardo Riveron, and Ricardo Ponte.

How to prove your mettle: After coming off another stellar year, injure your right ankle in an early season victory over New England. Miss five full starts. During your absence watch other teams run over your replacements as if they were Bermuda grass. Come back even though you're still in so much pain you feel, you say, "like an old man" at age 27. Still serve as the anchor of an excellent defense that carries your team to a division title. Still earn selection to the Pro Bowl. That's how.
The Cagney and Lacey of the Clinton administration are now in South Florida. There was never much doubt that native Miamian Janet Reno would return home, even with the hard feelings among Cuban Americans over Elian. But landing Donna Shalala as the new president of the University of Miami was indeed a coup. For political junkies looking to add a little West Wing sizzle to their next humdrum cocktail party, inviting one or (dare we imagine) both of these Beltway vixens would be just the ticket. Imagine the stories they could swap while munching on croquetas and sipping mojitos. "Well, that's what I told the president. “No, sir, I don't know if club soda is really good at removing stains.'"

Call it a mixture of financial planning and public confession. "Money Makeovers," a column appearing every other Sunday in the Miami Herald's business section, is an addictive snapshot of a community's fiscal health. Readers volunteer to have their finances scoped by a certified financial analyst. While the volunteers receive free financial advice, they also must put their often-disastrous financial history on naked display. Notable participants include the high school science teacher who collects snakes. "My comfort level is not as okay as I'd like it to be," he said, referring to his stock portfolio, not to the albino boa constrictor he keeps on his property. There's the former professional baseball player who is dangerously -- perhaps embarrassingly -- leveraged in tech stocks. And there's the pathetic attorney and single mother who overspends her $70,000 income by $3000 per month, piling up enormous credit-card debt and squandering her IRA. Doh! Fortunately the column provides inspiration, too. Take the uniquely Miami story of John Quinteros. The former drug dealer, busted on national TV by Geraldo Rivera, is rebuilding his financial life after spending more than six years in prison. Now a restaurant manager, Quinteros wants to bump up his 401(k) contributions and increase his investment in stocks. "When I got out, I did not have a penny to my name," he said triumphantly. "Now I have a beautiful wife and a family, a nice house, and a growing portfolio." Beautiful indeed.

What, you thought we were going to give it to Butch Davis? After that scurrilous former Canes coach bolted for Cleveland, and after offensive coordinator Coker took over the school's prestigious head football post, the status of Miami's recruiting class looked shaky. Coaches from rival schools told the talent pool that Coker wasn't a big-time coach, that he didn't have a name, that the Hurricane football program was in disarray after four years of steady improvement brought the team to the cusp of a national championship. Yet Coker's popularity with current players, coupled with his unquestioned offensive savvy, assuaged almost everyone who had committed to UM. In fact a few more blue-chippers came onboard, such as Coral Gables phenom Frank Gore. Thanks to Coker the Hurricanes will battle for the national championship next year and for years after that. Let Davis takes solace in his Cleveland riches. It will be Coker we cheer in Miami.
Let's give it up, finally, for the Big Dog, Joe Rose. The former Miami Dolphin wide receiver is as close to a Miami sports institution as we have at this time, at least since Dan Marino and Don Shula have retired. Hard to believe in a way. Rose hardly distinguished himself as an athlete. (His greatest claim to fame, which he'll gladly tell you about, is catching Marino's first touchdown pass.) But as a broadcaster Rose has developed into a welcome, humorous personality, the ex-jock with a soft spot for the underdog. In his appearances on WQAM, on WTVJ-TV (Channel 6), and hosting numerous charity roasts, Rose plays the doofus, willingly attracting abuse from his co-workers, especially his linemates on the First Team, WQAM's very listenable morning sports-talk show. Clearly, though, Rose is no idiot. Compared with other sports clowns, such as former Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw, we'll take the underdog every time.
Led by Mayor Julio Robaina, the City of South Miami passed an ordinance last year requiring gun owners to place safety locks on all weapons. The measure is intended to reduce the number of accidental shootings, especially those involving children. "We're trying to protect the safety of the children of this community," Robaina declared. "And this is just the beginning." Despite heavy pressure from the National Rifle Association and a lawsuit attempting to derail the law, Robaina and the South Miami City Commission have remained steadfast in their support, mounting an aggressive gun-safety education campaign in addition to handing out free gun locks to any individual who asks for one. During the kick-off celebration of the campaign last August, city officials distributed more than 300 locks. Individuals who do not comply with the law will be subject to a $250 fine for their first infraction, $500 for their second. Already the South Miami ordinance is being copied by cities and counties around the nation.

Hidden among the storefronts of downtown's shopping district is a horde of local talent: musicians and artists, poets and dancers. On any given night, many of them can be found at the Wallflower Gallery. Never heard of it? Well, listen up. You're the one missing out. Gallery hours are 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Performance events take place later, usually Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights beginning around 9:00. Unless otherwise advertised, admission is a modest six dollars. Performers have included Omine, Susan Laurenzi, Dr. Madd Vibe featuring Angelo Moore from Fishbone, Ladybud, and Boxelder. That's a lot of music for an art gallery, but it is indeed a gallery. The work of up to twenty artists and craftspeople can be on display at any given time. This is an unpretentious place that attracts unpretentious people; no snooty champagne-and-cheese receptions here. Try muffins and granola, or maybe some green tea. Before joining the chorus that whines, "Miami has no culture," check out Wallflower.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®