"Are you for real?" asks a caller to The Phil Hendrie Show. "You must be making this up." For Miamians who enjoyed Hendrie's satirical shtick during the two-and-a-half years he broadcast on WIOD-AM (610), the impressionist master's syndicated return this year on WINZ-AM (940) is the best thing to happen to Miami radio since he left, two years ago. Sure there are some changes. Stock characters such as steak house owner Ted Bell made the move west with him. Show-business columnist Margaret Gray no longer hails from Bal Harbour but from Pacific Palisades. (Recently she encouraged abortion as a way to generate fetal tissue that could be used to research a cure for the paralysis that cripples actor Christopher Reeve.) But like fans of a minor-league baseball team, those of us who heard Hendrie hone his act in Miami feel proud of his success and glad that he can now exploit an entire nation of gullible listeners, a never-ending supply of dupes questioning the credibility of, say, the recent guest who claimed to have invented solar power.

Rooney has enjoyed one of those Abe Lincoln careers: failure after failure until, unexpectedly, emerging as an extraordinarily capable leader. The little-known player out of C.W. Post University arrived in Miami after being waived by the MetroStars. He struggled for playing time, and when he did take the field, he didn't score a goal in 22 games. Under new coach Ray Hudson, though, Rooney's talents began to emerge. Last season Rooney moved from defensive substitute to midfield starter. He began scoring goals and dishing out assists. Then he won the title of team captain. By the end of the year his gritty play was so respected by the media covering the team that the once-obscure reserve was voted Fusion MVP. At this rate of improvement, it's only a matter of time before the Rooney Memorial is built overlooking the Lockhart Stadium reflecting pool.
Once she was just another young, attractive woman on South Beach. A student assembling a portfolio at the Miami Ad School, a part-time employee at Books & Books on Lincoln Road. Browsers who even noticed her behind the register probably never realized they were in the presence of "America's Sweetheart," as Bryant Gumbel would soon anoint her. Yet the cutest member of the cast of the first Survivor, the spectacularly popular television show she joined almost by accident, shed her anonymity forever by lasting until the show's final six contestants. An entire nation fell in love with her voice, her spirit, and her fresh look. Suddenly a celebrity, Haskell maintained a healthy attitude about the fame thrust upon her. "All the publicity is a complete joke," she told Detour magazine soon after her island banishment was broadcast, "and I don't know how long this phenomenon is going to continue." Long enough for her to take on an agent, cash in on an endorsement contract with Blistex, and win a role as a love interest in a major Hollywood movie, due out in June. Through it all Haskell appears completely in control of her ride, perfectly sane about the hype, lovelier now than when she left us.
"A place as busy as this could really become a mess without good management," said an alligator to another one evening in the mangroves of Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

"Yeah, I noticed one night them restrooms were cleaner than you'd normally expect, at least for Homo sapiens' restrooms."

"Yep. Quite clean. They were actually stocked with soap and paper."

"The Lighthouse Café over yonder is not too intrusive either. I kinda like the design."

"Lots of wood. Blends right in. Kind of reminds me of the beach at Cape Cod. The café is a little crowded on the weekends, but that must mean they got something mighty tasty in there."

"They'd probably be scared if we went, though. They'd think we'd eat them."

"But we wouldn't."

"No, sir. Strictly frogs and birds. Maybe an occasional poodle."

"They'd probably try to eat us."

"As long as they stay on the trails or on the beach, I think we'll be okay."

"I heard they don't give out straws at the café because they found out that when straws blow into the ocean, they hurt the aquatic animals. Now that's another sign of good management."

"Yeah, the place has come along way. Especially considering that amazing tornado we had back in '92."

"Tornado Andrew I think they called it."

"The humans did a nice job on the restoration. They looked at some historical photos and put in a lot of native plants like sea oats, sea grapes, spike rush, mangroves, and saw grass. That's pretty much why I came back."

"Me too. I love that saw grass. You notice how a lot more water birds started showing up?"

"Yum."

"A couple of crocodiles even came back."

"Are they the gray ones with the tapered snouts?"

"Yep, but they're harmless. As long as you stay away from their kids."

"Who is the manager anyway?"

"A guy named Niblock. Lee Niblock. Been superintendent since October '94. He recently helped get the state to change the place from recreation area to park, which means only twenty percent can be used for human recreation. You know, like parking and eating. Lately he's been trying to keep a group from building some baseball fields in here on 30 acres."

"Must be a good man."

Park the car for the day and get on Miami's billion-dollar transportation boondoggle for a self-guided tour of the city. You can enter a station at any point along the 21-mile convex curve from Hialeah to Kendall. You'll travel a crazy parabola through neighborhoods as different from each other as the people are in this highly stratified society. The views are by turns breathtaking and depressing on the journey through Hialeah, Brownsville, Allapattah, Overtown, downtown Miami, and the Brickell area, then south along Dixie Highway through Coconut Grove, Coral Gables, and South Miami. Then jump to the Metromover downtown for a photo-worthy whirl above the Miami River and the pulsing streets of the center city, catching occasional glimpses of Biscayne Bay. Metrorail's history is one for the books. Voters approved a bond issue to build it in 1978, but plagued by cost overruns and construction delays, the complete $1.3 billion elevated train track wasn't open for business until 1985. And it hasn't exactly done much to relieve our ridiculously congested roads; only a tiny percentage of Miami-Dade's population actually uses it. Still we like Metrorail (or Metrorail, as its detractors lovingly call it). It's as much adventure as you can have for a pocketful of quarters.
For thirteen years Miami has been lucky enough to host the weird and wonderful sounds of new music concocted by local composers and freaks from around the world. Festival director Gustavo Matamoros looks for artists who push the boundaries of that thing called music into an exploration of pure sound. The Subtropics' sound safaris will travel anywhere from the street corner to innerspace. This year's festival captured, among other things, the random electronic patterns of Sony Mao and Needle; the analogue chaos of George Tegzes; the sonic deconstruction of Celia Cruz by Ileana Perez Velazquez; the musical meanderings of the Sephardic Jews as tracked by the Duo Kol-Tof; and Sam Ashley and Jens Brand's pseudo-collaborative performance "The Bugs Who Could Be Revived After Being Dead."
This past season, every time a set caught the eye as aesthetically pleasing or clever, it was inevitably one of Rich Simone's creations. Simone's sets always seem to help bridge the gap between the audience and the actors, using the stage not only as a meeting point but also as a point of departure. Most recently his specialty seemed to be setting the mood for licentiousness, adultery, and other forms of sexual high jinks, as he did in Miracle Theatre's Things We Do for Love, and GableStage's The Real Thing. In Things We Do for Love Simone created a three-story home perfect for the bawdy upstairs/downstairs humor that British playwright Alan Ayckbourn had in mind when he wrote this farce about a nympho, a soon-to-be spinster, a drunkard, and a vegetarian. Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing had a more sophisticated design (clean lines and streamlined contemporary furnishings) for this more erudite group of lovers (also British, come to think of it). Simone cleverly made use of upstage space to depict the playwright's play within a play.
It was a harrowing fall. Before: Helps lead a successful zoning fight to keep denser housing out of suburban Hialeah Gardens. Touted as first Latina mayor in the United States when elected in 1989. Divorces Angel Ramos, loses seat in 1993, marries Angel Ramos again, becomes mayor again in 1995. Wears miniskirts with blazers.

After: Swept up in storm of anonymous letters accusing her of lascivious, corrupt acts at city hall. Jailed in June 2000 on charges she conspired to kill her ex-husband in order to collect $45,000 in insurance money. Also charged with voter fraud. Convicted a month later and sentenced to four years and eight months in prison. Gov. Jeb Bush removes her from office. Touted as Women's Detention Center inmate No. 0053063. Released on $100,000 bond pending appeal. Denies wearing miniskirts with blazers. Former city employees file a harassment lawsuit against her for lewd and lascivious remarks.

The Music Lesson dismantled the myth that good drama must arise from a dramatic situation. A couple of musicians, Irena and Ivan, take refuge in Pittsburgh from war-torn Sarajevo and end up giving music lessons to American children from a broken family. What made this drama exceptional was the acting. The alienation and suffering these individuals felt moved through the audience like slow ether, emanating from their simplest gestures. In fact the play is a gestural masterpiece. All the action centers around an invisible piano. More than a metaphor, classical music becomes a tangible character, so that The Music Lesson is not just another account of human tragedy desensitized by a flood of overt emotion and sentimentality. It is a moving account of people trying to rebuild their lives. The Music Lesson featured Maggi St. Clair Melin, Jessica K. Peterson, Joris Stuyck, Elizabeth Dimon, Amy Love, Ashton Lee, Craig D. Ames, Eddi Shraybman, and Ethel Yari.

An actor's success in a dramatic role can fall into one of two categories: the ability to make the unbelievable believable, and the ability to make the believable unbelievably incredible. Bridget Connors managed to do both in her role as a young Jewish woman dying of a terminal illness. That's the believable part. Rachel's plight easily could have been a case study in Harold S. Kushner's book When Bad Things Happen to Good People. She expressed all the predictable emotions and asked all the right metaphysical questions. The not-so-believable part is the conversion experience she had, which was facilitated by her sister, a devout member of the Christian Science faith. Believable or unbelievable, Connors brought something magical to the role from the moment she stepped onstage. Her ability to be simultaneously earthy and ethereal left theatergoers feeling as though they were seeing a tragedy for the first time.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®