BEST HERO 2002 | Angela Gittens | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
A lot of South Floridians quietly cheered this past November when Gittens, less than a year into her tenure as Miami-Dade County's aviation director, lambasted the county commission as "lobby heaven," and accused a lobbyist of lying during a presentation. (Carl Hiaasen described MIA at the time Gittens took over in March 2001 as "operating with all the charm and efficiency of a hillside brothel during an earthquake.") Gittens had a history of successfully fighting corruption in her previous job as director of Atlanta's sprawling Hartsfield International Airport. And even though Miami-Dade County Manager Steve Shiver called her on the carpet for her lobbyist outburst, Gittens hasn't stopped telling it like it is at MIA, or working hard for a more equitable and efficient system of awarding contracts.

Ninoska isn't for everyone, but unlike most of her peers in the anti-Castro radio business, she's not a megalomaniac and she isn't using her high-profile platform as much for her own career advancement as for communicating her passionately held beliefs about her homeland. Ninoska is in fact a good communicator and her shows have more flavor than the endless other exile call-in programs, simply because she makes an effort to be in touch with real Cubans, both on and off the island. These days she doesn't do as much of what made her famous -- those often hilarious crank phone calls to Cuba meant to expose the foibles of self-important Communist Party officials and of the system they uphold. But Ninoska, despite a predictably Evil Fidel spin on everything, still manages to be more on top of Cuba-related events and trends than just about any other exile talk-show host anywhere.
Somogyi gets the nod for her droll, inventive Fifties design scheme, in itself a hilarious social critique. From nightmarish polka dots and pony skirts to her big-shouldered suits for the men, the New York designer brought Red Herring an added level of comedy and social commentary. Somogyi has tailored her craft to this era before. She was the one who dressed up Kathleen Turner as Tallulah Bankhead at the Coconut Grove Playhouse and sent us back, through ball gowns, to Forties post-war America.

For anyone not familiar with the local "rancho" phenomenon, Rancho Grande is a revelation. It really is a ranch of sorts, complete with horses and the occasional whiff of barnyard, way out in what passes for the countryside. But it's a club of sorts too. Tables and chairs are spread around a dance floor, all open to the breeze but sheltered from rain by a patchwork roof. You can drop by any weekend (not open weekdays) dressed like a guajiro or a prom queen or a yachtsman and lounge around drinking beer, sampling the excellent Cuban cooking (while it lasts), and watching. Infants and grandparents, fat, thin, black, white, tall, short, hairless, hirsute. The main reason to drop by is to dance to the DJ music (all Latin varieties), and that's another revelation: On any given Saturday night there's the lone exhibitionist, seemingly a different man each week, stepping and turning for hours in extended experimental theater. There are the couples with amazing vibrating butts. The salseros. The bachateros. The vendors of flowers, toys, chains and watches, snapshots of you, and "African art." Sooner or later almost everyone joins the parade at Rancho Grande.

Photo courtesy of Miami Beach Botanical Garden
There's nothing quite like surrounding oneself in bromeliads to ease the troubled mind. This lush little enclave has 150 different kinds. "Bromeliads are cherished for their lovely variations of color, spectacular bloom shoots, and their important role supporting animal life via rainwater collected in their rosettes of leaves," notes the garden's Website. From time to time a greedy subspecies of urban wildlife has been known to sneak in and run off with a few orchids from the Arthur Laufferberger Memorial Orchidaria, another feature of this sanctum. But you can relax. That security problem has been addressed, according to the nonprofit Beach Garden Conservancy, which manages this refuge from the sands and sidewalks of South Beach. The Japanese Garden is an oasis within an oasis. A number of tables and benches scattered throughout the grounds provide perches for those who may enter to slake their thirst or hunger with a little food or drink. The gardens are open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Using an all white-set and a series of mobile screens, Becker created an ever-shifting fun house of mobile space, a perfect setting for Lee Blessing's elusive, dreamlike comedy that offered director Michael Bigelow Dixon plenty of staging opportunities. The space allowed the play itself to expand into the marvelous production that it was. If you wanted to see how it's done, this was the perfect learning ground.
It's a bright and sunny weekend morning. You're headed down to the Keys for some R&R. You think you're pretty smart to use the Shula (SR 874) because it isn't heavily traveled at this hour and it's the quickest way to join up with the southbound turnpike. As you approach the exit for SW 107th Avenue you become aware of a change in your surroundings. Everything seems to open up -- wider lanes, broad grassy median, a smooth ribbon of highway beckoning to you. Is this the turnpike already? Just as you're about to pass under the bridge some involuntary reflex causes you to floor it. You begin to smile. So does the state trooper standing on the bridge, radar gun aimed right at you. Then a quick radio call to one of several FHP cars poised at the on-ramp. You're doomed and don't even know it.
This Palm Beach County company serves up challenging productions with a nice blend of local and New York actors and a welcome infusion of very talented directors and designers from across the nation. Artistic director Louis Tyrrell has an excellent instinct for play selection and maintains close relationships with several important playwrights. The result is a sophisticated level of theater artistry that sets the standard in South Florida. Some highlights this season: the sly and sophisticated comedy Red Herring, set during the McCarthy era (hey, red baiting can be a hoot!), and Lee Blessing's Black Sheep, also a dark comedy that takes aim at racial relations, the idle rich, and insipid pop culture (hey, maybe it's American culture in general that's a hoot!).
More kudos for the little Florida Stage that could. But here's why: Stephen G. Anthony, Patricia Dalen, Suzanne Grodner, Kendra Kassebaum, Johnathan F. McClain, and Gordon McConnell. This outstanding cast served up an endless stream of hilarious yet sometimes touching characters in this black comedy, from Anthony's tortured G-man to Grodner's wacky Mrs. McCarthy, the wife of Senator Joe, to Kassebaum's smoldering, sex-hungry good girl. This romp of a production included romance and intrigue, spies and bagmen, nuclear secrets and red scares, hard liquor and clever parody. The cast took the basket of outrageous thematic goodies and ran with spirit, hilarity, wit, and panache. Can't wait for more.
Grimm displays a willingness to actually leave his desk, unlike some columnists we know. And as far as we've seen, he has never wasted column space writing about the comments generated by his last column. No, Grimm goes down to city hall and rummages through files. He visits the boulevard where protesters marched, and he witnesses the sentencing hearing from the courtroom. Such shoe-leather reporting informs Grimm's intelligent opinions on the news of the moment. Generally warm and funny, Grimm can definitely be prickly on occasion, and appropriately so. His subjects are as far-ranging as cockfighting, black-market plastic surgery, failed shopping malls, swingers clubs, and the tasteless campaign of "Pete the Fireman" Iriardi, an obscure political candidate who attempted to exploit a 9/11 heroism he completely fabricated. Grimm makes all these issues (and many others) relevant to his readers. In his eyes, South Florida is the most interesting, crazy place in the country. He is, of course, right about that.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®