BEST WEATHERCASTER 2002 | Don Noe | | WPLG-TV (Channel 10) | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times
We like Don Noe for what he is not. He's not a bumbling grandpa bouncing through the low and high temperatures. Nor is he a slinky siren in a miniskirt relaying the boating conditions in a sweater tight enough to impede speech. He's just a no-nonsense guy, friendly enough but with a reliable weather forecast delivered quickly and without pretense. That's all we ask. Noe is no mere weather reader. He's a certified meteorologist, meaning he knows about the science of weather patterns. Armed with this knowledge, he shines brightest when facing a crisis, such as a hurricane, which fortunately we haven't had in a while. When we do, as we inevitably will, we trust Noe to steer us through it calmly, professionally, and capably.

Reasons the loquacious, pugnacious, and thoroughly informed emcee of Habla el Pueblo (The People Speak) likes his new home at WKAT-AM (1360), Radio Uno: "It's very professional. There's no interference from the management." Compared to, say, WWFE-AM (670), La Poderosa, whose owner canceled Milian's show this past November after the host criticized Miami City Commission candidate Angel Gonzalez. (Gonzalez then paid the station several thousand dollars to use Milian's time slot for campaigning.) Milian had inherited the show on La Poderosa from his father Emilio, whose legs were blown off by a bomb in 1976 after he criticized the violent tactics of anti-Castro extremists. A former Broward County assistant state prosecutor, Milian peppers his aggressive style of public-policy debate with the most elevated put-downs on the Spanish-language AM dial. (Habla el Pueblo airs on WKAT weekdays from noon to 1:00 p.m.) During one show about allegations that Jackson Memorial Hospital is saving money for buildings rather than spending it on suffering patients, Milian offered a characteristically sharp simile: "It's like having money in the bank while your relatives are dying of hunger." He recently upbraided a caller with this: "I came here to live freely, not to live in another dictatorship. The only thing evil needs to triumph is for us to remain silent." Staying quiet is not in Al Milian's program, which he sees as a tool for pounding the moral turpitude out of Miami-Dade's sleazy ancien régime. "We're going to overcome the corrupt bastards," he assures between shows. "I have the sledgehammer."
It's an enormous inverted salad bowl. Or maybe it's headquarters of the Justice League of America, where superheroes Aquaman, Superman, and Wonder Woman gather to hatch world-saving strategies. Actually the distinctive building that distracted you so much you nearly veered off the road is the Aventura Government Center. Dreamed up by Michael A. Schiff & Associates and Arquitectonica, the striking contemporary structure swathed in glass and Indiana limestone features a spectacular sloped rotunda, where elected officials meet to make city policy. Since it opened in May 2001, the 72,000-square-foot marvel, housing all government operations (including the police department) has become what its creators had hoped: a one-stop shop for dealing with city business. And quite the looker as well.

And girlfriend, we do mean personality. Although Mark Moseley did a decent job for years pretending to be queer, Lita lit up the airwaves with tough-as-nails humor only a real big queen could hammer home. Whether dispensing no-nonsense fashion sense to Hialeah hootchies or dishing the dirt on that tacky J-Lo, Lita told it like it is. We don't care if she did write a column for that other weekly. In these sensitive post 9/11 times, who else dared go where Lita went, beyond bad taste to the cavities where the vulgar becomes sublime? Who else could shut up the whole morning crew with tales of playing hide-the-bin-laden in a boyfriend's deep dark caves? We'll miss Lita so.
Like all truly great annual traditions, Lincoln Road's Halloween parade just sort of happened. There is no sponsor, no formal organization, no one in charge. It's simply an outgrowth of the Road's late-Nineties transformation from a deserted strip into one of South Florida's prime people-watching spots. For locals who hardly need a holiday as an excuse to pose for a closeup, showing up in their Halloween costumes has become a no-brainer. Consequently veteran attendees know to stake out a sidewalk café seat early. Order dinner and a few drinks -- by nightfall the pedestrian mall is engulfed with dead Elvises, vampires, and every drag queen within a 50-mile radius -- all strutting their stuff for an appreciative audience. Never has the phrase freak show been so apropos, or so enjoyable.

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.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®