This past New Year's Eve, Engel reserved three of the VIP lounge areas at B.E.D., the restaurant/nightclub on Washington Avenue in South Beach. Engel, a German native, wanted to throw a nice little party for himself and a few friends. But as midnight neared, he apparently couldn't contain his enthusiasm for celebrating. He ordered magnums of Dom Perignon for his guests. His urge to spread cheer didn't stop there. He arranged to send magnums of Dom to all the other lounge areas. Then he ordered up a round of New Year's drinks for everyone at the bar. Engel's midnight munificence set him back roughly $10,000. The high-spirited bon vivant wasn't done yet. Each hour on the hour he sent a new round of champagne magnums circulating through the lounge. Total by night's end: $65,000. A generous man indeed, and equally generous with the B.E.D. staff. To his bill he added a $30,000 tip. With taxes, Benno's big night came to a whopping $96,000. Prosit!

Fortune's Fool opened a year ago at the Caldwell Theatre up in Boca Raton, a bit too late to honor this actor in last year's issue, but the memory of Wade's performance lingers on and now's the time to pay him his props and give him his award. As a supercilious Russian aristocrat, he was a model of acting style and craft, balancing superb comedic timing with sudden, unnerving moments of casual cruelty.

This North Miami company devoted to African-American playwrights and culture has managed to survive a looong time, through thick and thin (mostly thin). Past work has been all over the map in terms of quality, but this season it all came together for the Ensemble. Jerry Maple, Jr., and John Pryor's resourceful directing and an increasingly assured team of talents are backed by solid production and technical support in the company's newly renovated studio space. Each show of the season -- The Piano Lesson, Strands, and now Flyin' West -- has been a significant step up in quality and power. What the "M" stands for must remain a mystery, but we do know what it should stand for: More!

Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Every time you cross this classic causeway you can virtually hear the sound of money dancing back into your pocket. As long as the slow-motion construction continues on a new toll booth (modeled on the original), there will be no charge to use the Venetian Causeway. One of the most beautiful thoroughfares in South Florida, it offers great views of the downtown skyline, Biscayne Bay, waterfront homes dotting the Venetian islands, and the hordes of bikers, bladers, and joggers who constantly are zipping about. Be sure to cram in as many trips as you can before July -- that's when the new toll booth is scheduled to open.

Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Ka-ching. Every time you cross this classic causeway you can virtually hear the sound of money dancing back into your pocket. As long as the slow-motion construction continues on a new toll booth (modeled on the original), there will be no charge to use the Venetian Causeway. One of the most beautiful thoroughfares in South Florida, it offers great views of the downtown skyline, Biscayne Bay, waterfront homes dotting the Venetian islands, and the hordes of bikers, bladers, and joggers who constantly are zipping about. Be sure to cram in as many trips as you can before July -- that's when the new toll booth is scheduled to open.

PS 742
While the powers that be in this town have pinned all their most delirious PR pipe dreams (and taxpayer dollars) on ill-conceived money pits such as the Performing Arts Center and more arenas than we have teams, it's the small art spaces and their starving inhabitants that are building the real-deal cultural infrastructure of temporal Miami. This Little Havana space, run by Artemis's lovely Susan Caraballo, is one of the city's sensory treasures. Surreal Saturdays, in particular, tend to mix different genres of art, from passive forms like sculpture and photography to performance art such as plays, interactive dance troupes, music, and intriguing social experiments presented as art. PS 742 has also played host to much of the Subtropics Experimental Music Festival, which, rest assured, will never be booked into the PAC.

Miami artist George Sanchez Calderon's contribution to the Art Basel art fair last December was the carnival he installed one night at the Buena Vista rail yard just south of 36th Street in Wynwood. Beneath circus banners and a Ferris wheel, local musicians, poets, and dancers strutted their stuff, along with the future developers of the 56-acre tract, who helped pay for the bash. Hundreds of revelers were lured over from the Design District by the scent of free booze and flirtation. But Midnight Midtown Midway, as Sanchez dubbed the event, was even more layered than that. He had planned a secret little happening within a happening. "The only people who knew were the fireworks guy, the toothless Ferris wheel operator, and my one buddy who was standing next to him," Sanchez recounts. At 11:30 p.m., as the Ferris wheel seat carrying Sanchez and his girlfriend Judy Perez whizzed through the air, he popped the question. "The Ferris wheel was spinning, so she was confused and convoluted, but when she said Yes, I stuck my hand out, signaled to the guy to stop the Ferris wheel on top. And as we were going up to the top, I pressed fast-dial on my cell phone to the fireworks guy. So the moment the Ferris wheel stopped, on the exact apex, the first fireworks went off."

Miami artist George Sanchez Calderon's contribution to the Art Basel art fair last December was the carnival he installed one night at the Buena Vista rail yard just south of 36th Street in Wynwood. Beneath circus banners and a Ferris wheel, local musicians, poets, and dancers strutted their stuff, along with the future developers of the 56-acre tract, who helped pay for the bash. Hundreds of revelers were lured over from the Design District by the scent of free booze and flirtation. But Midnight Midtown Midway, as Sanchez dubbed the event, was even more layered than that. He had planned a secret little happening within a happening. "The only people who knew were the fireworks guy, the toothless Ferris wheel operator, and my one buddy who was standing next to him," Sanchez recounts. At 11:30 p.m., as the Ferris wheel seat carrying Sanchez and his girlfriend Judy Perez whizzed through the air, he popped the question. "The Ferris wheel was spinning, so she was confused and convoluted, but when she said Yes, I stuck my hand out, signaled to the guy to stop the Ferris wheel on top. And as we were going up to the top, I pressed fast-dial on my cell phone to the fireworks guy. So the moment the Ferris wheel stopped, on the exact apex, the first fireworks went off."

When Luis Botifoll passed away last September at the age of 95, he left behind a 44-year legacy of community activism unmatched by any one man -- and that's just the story on this side of the Florida Straits. Twice exiled to the U.S. and a graduate of Tulane University, Botifoll was a lawyer and well-respected newspaper publisher in Havana before fleeing in 1960. He immediately went to work on the problems facing the exile community here in its new "temporary" home. Perhaps his greatest impact was felt not in publishing or law, but in banking. In 1970 he joined Republic National Bank, where, with remarkable foresight, he saw to it that Cuban exiles with impressive credentials but little credit history in Miami received business loans other banks denied them. Within a few short years the community vibrated with new growth; the bank prospered as well. (Lesson: A little well-directed money can go a long way to help people.) Botifoll later turned his attention to building bridges among South Florida's sometimes contentious ethnic groups. He also proved to be a wizard at raising money for many organizations, including United Way and the University of Miami. Age seemed not to slow him down at all. He died a few hours after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, a session devoted to local community issues, of course. Next year in La Habana, amigo.

When Luis Botifoll passed away last September at the age of 95, he left behind a 44-year legacy of community activism unmatched by any one man -- and that's just the story on this side of the Florida Straits. Twice exiled to the U.S. and a graduate of Tulane University, Botifoll was a lawyer and well-respected newspaper publisher in Havana before fleeing in 1960. He immediately went to work on the problems facing the exile community here in its new "temporary" home. Perhaps his greatest impact was felt not in publishing or law, but in banking. In 1970 he joined Republic National Bank, where, with remarkable foresight, he saw to it that Cuban exiles with impressive credentials but little credit history in Miami received business loans other banks denied them. Within a few short years the community vibrated with new growth; the bank prospered as well. (Lesson: A little well-directed money can go a long way to help people.) Botifoll later turned his attention to building bridges among South Florida's sometimes contentious ethnic groups. He also proved to be a wizard at raising money for many organizations, including United Way and the University of Miami. Age seemed not to slow him down at all. He died a few hours after meeting with Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, a session devoted to local community issues, of course. Next year in La Habana, amigo.

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®