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.

When songwriter Robert "Raven" Kraft made a New Year's resolution in 1975 to jog along the Miami Beach shore every day for a year, he didn't think he'd attract a following. But after 26 years of late-afternoon runs (even through gale-force hurricane winds), and after logging 76,500 miles, the man was bound to get attention. A coterie of locals, old-timers, and snowbirds gathers daily at the Sixth Street lifeguard stand for a casual eight-mile jog with Raven. Dressed in his trademark black running shorts, black headband, and single black glove, Raven leads his pack with a slow, methodical chug. (He reportedly is one of the nation's top "streak runners," people who literally never miss a day of jogging.) Through the years more than 200 individuals, from financiers to corrections officers, have trotted with the man in black. Complete a run and you're part of this quirky gang. Membership is free, plus you'll be christened with a funky nickname such as Tangerine Dream, the Plantain Lady, and Chapter 11.

If any single artist traces the trajectory of art in Miami from local pastime to global force, it's this graduate of Havana's vaunted Eighties Generation, who arrived in South Florida via Mexico City's alternative scene in the mid-Nineties. Novoa has steadily widened the frame of reference for his political critique to include not only Castro's Cuba but the shimmering promises of his new homeland. His 1996 exhibition at Ambrosino Gallery centered on "La Habana Oscura" ("The Dark Havana"), while the architectural renderings and installations of his "Recent Works," shown in the same gallery a few years later, examined the technology of surveillance generally. The literal frame of his work has widened as well: Te Fuiste (You Left) escaped the boundaries of canvas and took over gallery walls in Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Sarasota, and Indiana. In the "social experiment" called "Publickulture" at the Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art this spring Novoa was one of seven artists who broke through the boundaries of the museum to become part of the social landscape. Just how prominent a point of reference Novoa has become will be clear when the Miami Art Museum's yearlong "New Work Miami" series culminates with a specially commissioned installation by Novoa in fall 2001.
Miami Tower
The array of lights illuminating the 47-story Bank of America Tower quite literally provides a beacon in a city that too often seems to lose its way. Public officials are hauled off in disgrace at an alarming rate. Racial and ethnic tensions threaten to boil over at any moment. Cold-war passions still dominate civic life. But on any given night we can glance up at the Miami skyline and see the tower bathed in soothing bands of colors: red, white, and blue on the Fourth of July; red on Valentine's Day; orange and green to salute UM's football squad; icy blue with giant snowflakes at the winter holidays. We gaze upon it and instinctively our mood softens. Beyond that, the structure's history entails the kind of bumpy ride that is the Miami experience. Designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, it was inaugurated as the headquarters for David Paul's CenTrust Savings Bank in 1987. CenTrust collapsed, and Paul went to prison for gutting the institution. The Resolution Trust Corporation has sold it twice since then. Current owner is National Office Partners, which considers the building's illumination to be a serious matter. "We view this as a civic-pride thing, really," says property manager Jay Windsor. Two workers require nearly four hours to change the colored lenses on nearly 400 1000-watt lights. But one glance at the incandescent glow over a darkened Biscayne Bay and you can see it's clearly worth the effort, a reminder that no matter what else, we live in a beautiful place. Sometimes that's enough.
Artistic director Michael Hall did South Florida theatergoers two favors this season. First he brought the socially relevant and riveting docudrama The Laramie Project to his stage. It was the first production after the play's off-Broadway debut. Second he assembled a troupe with the range and experience to make the production not only important theater but good theater as well. Dressed in drab brown tones, the ensemble of eight portrayed more than sixty characters, from townspeople to ranchers, doctors, reporters, and friends of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die by two local boys in Laramie, Wyoming. With fluid and subtle transitions, these characters switched roles seamlessly, revealing an unforgettable cross section of small-town America and a staggering array of attitudes. The Laramie Project featured Kim Cozort, Jason Field, Laurie Gamache, Jacqueline Knapp, Pat Nesbit, Mark Rizzo, Robert Stoeckle, and Michael Warga.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®