Shooting Stars

South Beach is still a mecca for the rich and infamous, but nowadays the stars tend to be more of the "who is that, again?" persuasion. In the 1990's, our neon-illuminated stretch was the playground for A-listers who partied all night and stumbled home in broad daylight. Photographer Manny Hernandez captured all of it. Hernandez started out photographing Ileana Ros-Lehtinen when she was first running for office, then moved on to Latin celebrities before that market was discovered.

"I didn't make any money that way, so I went to the American market. And I made my living by selling photos of Madonna, Sly Stallone, Sharon Stone... the stars of the day," he explains. Hernandez has experienced incredible success in his sixteen year career. Finally, some of his most remarkable photographs will see the light of day in his first exhibit, provocatively titled "It's Never Going to Happen Again." "This whole exhibit is dedicated to my father, who passed away two years ago. He always took care of my negatives, and when I had to clean out his house I rediscovered them," says Hernandez.

Among the thousands of negatives, Hernandez found a veritable galaxy of stars that he had photographed from 1990 to 1999. Some of his most notable shots underscore the double-meaning of the exhibit's title: Tupac Shakur in the height of rap superstardom, a beaming Celia Cruz posed with a flayed lech�n, and Gianni Versace in an unguarded moment. "Celia was always, always so wonderful. And I love the Versace picture. Back then he was still building his house. He's standing on the same step where he was killed." Meet Manny and enjoy some star-gazing when his exhibit opens on Saturday October 14 at the Buena Vista Building, 180 NE 39th St., Miami. Call 305-753-5899. -- Patrice Yursik