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Photo courtesy of Neon and Vice

At the end of Harmony Korine's 2019 vaudeville comedy The Beach Bum, a reporter asks Moondog, the titular bum played by Matthew McConaughey, for his secret to life. "I like to have fun, man," Moondog answers. "It's why I like boats, I like the water, I like the sunshine, I like beautiful women, a lot. Man, I get all these things going — man, they're all turning me on. My wires are connecting upstairs and I start to hear music in my head, you know?" Against the backdrop of Miami, Hollywood, and the Florida Keys, freewheelin' poet Moondog bounces from boat to boat and woman to woman in what can only be described as a stoner fairytale. Life comes at him fast, leading to his eviction from a waterfront mansion in Miami and sending him to a homeless encampment underneath the Julia Tuttle, a short stint in county jail, and up to one of Broward's dime-a-dozen addiction-recovery homes. But through it all, Moondog remains buoyant, treating it all as just another adventure. The Sunshine State is his playground, and landmarks including the Miami Marine Stadium, the Hollywood Broadwalk, and Key West's Schooner Wharf bar become all the more beautiful through the lens of cinematographer Benoît Debie, who splendidly depicts Florida just as it is: a sunny place for shady people. Moondog, a most lovable deadbeat, savors every minute of it. "This life gig's a fucking rodeo," he says, "and I'm gonna suck the nectar out of it and fuck it raw-dog till the wheels come off."

Photo courtesy of Kareem Tabsch

Everyone in Miami knows and loves Walter Mercado (1932–2019), the extraordinary astrologist and television personality who helped us all become a little more spiritually aware. Kareem Tabsch, Cristina Constantini, and Alex Fumero's delightful documentary, Mucho, Mucho Amor, titled after his perfect catchphrase — "Sobre todo, mucho, mucho amor" — shows what an icon Mercado was from start to finish. Beyond getting to hear him talk about his life and sensibilities in his own words, the film also lovingly highlights his impact on Hispanic and queer communities, culminating with History Miami's tribute to him.

The Miami City Ballet is one of the top-ranked ballet companies in the nation, but connecting with its home city remains a priority — just look at its reimagined A Midsummer Night's Dream set in the waters of South Florida (there's even a dancing manatee). This year, with theaters and studios shuttered, the company had to find new ways to bring the arts to its community, and it rose to the challenge. MCB experimented with virtual classes, launched an emergency fund to help support its artistic staff through uncertain times, and premiered a new piece honoring medical professionals and essential workers, choreographed entirely via Zoom. It also took up residence at a pop-up location on Lincoln Road so audiences could watch the dancers train through the window. This month, MCB performs The Nutcracker outdoors in Downtown Doral Park, so audiences can safely enjoy the holiday tradition.

Photo by Justin Namon

This was to be a triumphant tenth-anniversary season for Zoetic Stage. The theater company, whose productions are presented at the Adrienne Arsht Center, has spent the last decade putting on intriguing and enjoyable productions for South Florida audiences. But like most arts groups that bring people together, Zoetic had to hit the pause button in 2020. Let's hope the vaccine arrives soon, because the plays now pushed back to 2021 seem especially enticing to Miamians. Hannah Benitez's Gringolandia tells the story of a family of Cuban exiles returning to their homeland to collect an old heirloom. And Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, by Alexis Scheer, has this tempting tagline: "Four teenage girls gather in a Miami tree house to summon the ghost of Pablo Escobar." Here's to you, Zoetic, and the next ten years.

Photo by Jody McClean

Director Victoria Collado knows Cuba. In the past year, the Miami native has directed two local stage productions, both of which dealt with the Cuban experience. Collado reprised her role as director when Vanessa García's The Amparo Experience was revived and expanded from a short 20-minute set to a full-length immersive theater experience in mid-2019. The production ran for eight extremely successful months in an event space in downtown Miami. Then, in early 2020, Collado worked with some of her Amparo actors again in playwright Michael León's Colony Theater debut, The Cubans. One show told the story of the Cuban experience from the perspective of the older generation, who dealt firsthand with their island being overtaken by Communist rule, while the other shone a light on what it's like growing up Cuban-American and living with parents who fled their country in search of a better life. Two uniquely Cuban stories, one powerhouse Cuban-American director.

Photo by Joan Marcus

All jokes about Lin-Manuel Miranda aside, the arrival of Hamilton at the Adrienne Arsht Center this spring was a huge moment in the history of live theater in the Magic City. It elevated our cred as Broadway-blockbuster hub thanks to the Arsht Center's increasingly popular Broadway in Miami series, and the political nature of the story couldn't have come to the swing state of Florida in a more pertinent year. There's no matching the electric energy of the original Broadway production, but the touring Hamilton company did an impressively solid job throughout the run. Although that run was shortened by the coronavirus in mid-March, attendance was still heavy as stay-at-home orders loomed at the onset of the pandemic.

Photo by Karli Evans

Kunst is the kind of drag artist we deserve more of. Ending last year with a number of protests through Miami's most gentrified communities, lambasting those with power in the art world who exploit their workers, Kunst presents a version of drag that is incredibly political in a refreshing way (though the museum that censored them might argue against that). Whether via their colorful Instagram feed (@kunsten_dunst) or their inventive live performances, Kunst provides us with a glimpse into a world of drag that isn't just death drops and pop songs, gleefully harnessing queerness as a weapon. It's as much about burning (or flushing) flags as it is about making a mockery of everything — even art itself.

Photo by Ashlyn Mckibben/

Octopussy Lounge started as an event at the North Miami bar affectionately known as the Club in 2018 before turning into a series of pop-ups. The party is the brainchild of Discosexo and Ar Kedabar, who sought to give queer people a space to be themselves in a city that's still lacking in dedicated LGBTQ+ spaces. It also put burlesque, striptease, and pole dancing at the forefront of its events as a way to "express queer sex worker joy and artistry." At the onset of the pandemic, Octopussy took to Zoom to titillate audiences with Sexotheque, a virtual strip club. For a fee, viewers tune in and watch performers tease them from afar, with tipping encouraged via Cash App at $octopusssylounge.

Photo by Alex Markow

Look, a lot of people don't consider Gramps a gay bar, but queer people flock to it from all around the globe for a reason: It's one of the most chill and accepting places to be, and it hosts a number of queer events throughout the year. It's the spot where DJ Hottpants brings you nonstop bangers while you dance until the early morning with Double Stubble. It's the kind of place where drag queens not only bring you back-to-back shows, but host bingo nights, challenging the audience with trivia and getting straight people to enjoy a night of Drag Race. It's a bar that offers great drinks and lets you enjoy a delicious slice of pizza while you flirt with a stranger. And it has been the home to Wigwood — where some folks can proudly say they've strut their stuff in a jockstrap while standing next to Gloria Estefan — since its inception. Queer folks love Gramps because it's the kind of home that accepts us no matter how we show up, even if it's our first time dressing up or going out on a date.

Photo courtesy of Yannick Kemmache

Carlos Gueits goes to the Miami Springs Golf & Country Club every Friday, but even though he sits within swinging distance of the links, he's not a golfer. He's there for two things: meatloaf and a good song. That's because, despite its name, the country club isn't exclusive to members of the golf club: Anyone is welcome, and anyone can enjoy karaoke night at Hole 19 Scratch Kitchen + Bar, which is located at the entrance to the golf course. Pre-pandemic, every Friday was karaoke night at Hole 19, and locals from every social rung would get together to belt out classic favorites. The indoor dining area, where the karaoke equipment is normally set up, creates an intimate space for audience members to cheer on first-timers, pros, and moms over-enjoying their girls' night out. As a bonus, the kitchen and bar's gourmet-level food and drinks set Hole 19 far above the average sports bar. Once the county allows music above speaking level again, karaoke will be back, so don't be shy. Observes Gueits: "It doesn't matter how bad you are — people will applaud you even more and be supportive."

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®