Miami People

Mitch Glazer: Magic City Muse

In the 1960s and '70s, Mitch Glazer was just your average Miami Beach kid: going to Beach High, where his mother worked as an English teacher, skateboarding along Ocean Drive, and hanging out in the lobbies of the fancy hotels where his father worked.

"As kids, we were the only game in town," he remembers. "The average age was like 68 or something. It wasn't like [today], where you had waves of cool young people hanging out and riding bikes... It was kind of just us."

Yes, times have changed. But Glazer still lives part of his life inside the world of his youth — or at least a stylish, sexy version of it in the form of Magic City, the Starz TV drama written and produced by Glazer himself.

Walking onto the show's Miramar Hotel set — an ultra-realistic replication of the lobby of the Fontainebleau hotel circa 1960 built inside a former boat warehouse near Miami International Airport — is the closest thing to time travel. Inside, you really do feel like you've been transported to the era of Sinatra and JFK and a new leader in Cuba named Fidel Castro.

The tales that Glazer writes for this retro world have matching believability. "The stories of this place stayed with me," he says. "I've kept these stories [since childhood], and I've used a lot of them already."

Glazer left Miami for college, first in Worcester, Massachusetts, and later at New York University. After graduating, he stayed in New York and began writing for music magazines such as Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone. He hung out in blues bars with Francis Ford Coppola and Keith Richards and traveled to Paris to interview Roman Polanski.

But John Belushi, Glazer says, was "the guy who changed my life." The two became friends after Glazer interviewed him for a Crawdaddy article, and "for the next six or seven years, until he died, we were inseparable."

He also asked Glazer to write his first screenplay, for a comedy about pot smuggling called Kingpin. "All of a sudden, I was a screenwriter," Glazer remembers.

That first break led Glazer into a film career in L.A., where he wrote screenplays for movies such as Scrooged and Great Expectations.

He thought Magic City would become a film as well, but his manager persuaded him to pitch it to TV. Starz embraced the project, renewing the series before the first season even premiered. Now, Glazer is back in Miami, composing episodes that double as cinematic love letters to his hometown.

"I walk by buildings and they're the same buildings I skateboarded past when I was 11. But the people are gone. Instead of Jewish bubbies, it's German supermodels. It's kind of a weird disconnect. But I love it."

<< Naomi Wilzig | Lauren "Lolo" Reskin >>

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle