A Washington Post story last month revealing that Marco Rubio had been arrested after hours in a Brickell Park in 1990 quickly sparked far
New Times ran down those rumors and found that, indeed, Rubio's childhood pal — a man named Angel Barrios — went on to become entangled in Miami's most notorious gay smut legal case. But that's where the rumor mongering and fact separated; there was zero proof that Rubio and Barrios were gay cruising in Brickell, and Barrios insisted that both men are straight. What's more, Barrios said his ties to that gay porn case were minimal: He simply rented a house to the site, called CocoDorm.com, without knowing what they were up to.
Now, New Times has spoken to the man who actually ran that website. And he backs up Rubio's buddy's claims. He says Barrios had nothing to do with the gay porn business and was merely a landlord who accidentally ended up in the middle of a precedent-setting porn lawsuit.
"I never actually even met Angel," says Phillip Bleicher, the owner of CocoDorm.com. "I feel sorry for him and his family that he's getting dragged through all this. He was just a landlord."
Barrios and Rubio were childhood friends from West Miami, whose connection suddenly made national news when the Post dug up the 1990 incident in Alice C. Wainwright Park. Rubio's campaign says the friends were drinking beers after hours in the park — which was notorious at the time for sex and drugs. The pair later lived together in Gainesville, but Barrios says they lost touch after Rubio began his rapid political ascent.
Around 2006, Barrios rented a house his father owned in Edgewater to Bleicher's company, Flava Works. Bleicher says he never told Barrios exactly what he planned to do inside the two-story brick home: namely, invite young black and Latino male models to live inside and have sex in front of
"He had no knowledge of CocoDorm's operations," Bleicher says.
That is, until 2007 when a TV investigative crew broadcast a piece about the house and the City of Miami swooped in to try to shut it down. That's when Bleicher filed a federal lawsuit against the city and recruited Barrios as a co-defendant. But Bleicher says he paid all of Barrios' legal fees and that Rubio's friend only got involved in the suit to try to quash mounting fines from the city.
"Some of these GOP websites are saying Barrios was the owner of CocoDorm, and that he's fighting the city for the right to run it. No. We were the ones fighting. We paid the attorneys fees," Bleicher says.
By the next year, CocoDorm had moved out of Barrios' Edgewater house and into a Wynwood warehouse. After years of back-and-forth legal battles, Bleicher says the city agreed to let Cocodorm operate in mixed-use business districts and both sides paid their own attorney fees. Cocodorm kept broadcasting its sex orgies out of Wynwood until they lost their space last year; the site is looking for a new home in Miami at the moment.
In the meantime, Bleicher has marveled at how his legal case has suddenly become presidential campaign fodder. Search Twitter today and you'll still find dozens of Donald Trump supporters tweeting about how the case proves Marco is a closeted gay porn freak, despite all evidence to the contrary.
"It's just one of those six degrees of separation things, I guess, but it's very funny how this has played out," Bleicher says.
He does have a message for Rubio himself: "I'm happy to offer him a free CocoDorm membership," Bleicher says. "We'd love to have him as a customer."