Filed under: News
Martin Luther King Jr. Henry Flagler. José Martí. All are historically significant enough to have streets named for them.
Add to the list strip mall magnate Raanan Katz, whose five-year eminent-domain legal battle with the City of Sunny Isles Beach was recently settled. Katz will get $7 million, including legal costs, for an acre-size parcel north of city hall. As part of the settlement, Sunny Isles will rename NE 170th Street in Katz's honor.
Riptide stopped by his R.K. Town Center North shopping plaza to speak with Katz. His office walls were lined with 26 large aerial photographs of properties he owns in South Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. Sitting at his desk, behind a placard reading "Show Me the Money," Katz said the deal is less a sale than "a major donation to the city." He said he could have gotten more than double the $5 million he'll ultimately net for the plot of land, which houses an Alamo/National rental car operation.
So why the gift? Katz, who also owns a minority interest in the Miami Heat, wants local officials "to continue to convert the entire city into, I don't want to say Manhattan, but into the most developed city in South Florida. The settlement was a very reasonable price in order for them to appreciate what I'm doing."
As for the street to be named after him, Katz gestured at a photo of the strip mall, which is bisected by the future Raanan Katz Boulevard, running from Collins Avenue west to the Intracoastal. "This is my street anyhow," he said. "I own it."
Outside, at the entrance to the shopping plaza, a middle-age man holding a yellow, arrow-shaped sign advertising the nearby Vista View apartments said he doesn't know the name Raanan Katz. "I just know R.K. He's got stuff all over the place," said the man, whose gray ponytail protruded from a beige fishing hat. "He may own those [apartments], I don't know."
The Vista View buildings aren't Katz's, but he does own two adjacent parcels. He'd like to erect condo towers there, once the ocean side of Sunny Isles is built out, which shouldn't be long. — Frank Houston
What a Drag
Filed under: Culture
No blond wig. No pink lipstick. The fabulous creation known as Shelley Novak isn't meeting me today at Quarterdeck Restaurant on Alton Road. Instead I'm sitting across from Tommy Strangie, the man behind the makeup.
He's got a scruffy beard and a black skullcap. His build is robust but compact, though his calves are as cut as a bodybuilder's — the legacy of two decades in heels. Back in the good old days, Novak was the epicenter of a thriving local drag queen scene.
"The nightclub scene here was like alchemy — like Studio 54 or Warhol's Factory. It all just ... happened," Strangie says of his early days as Novak. "Then they shot Versace and arrested Paciello. That was like 9/11 for South Beach."
Monday he will host the 15th annual Shelley Novak Awards — his self-titled celebration of the best and brightest of drag. But these days he's tired. "It's not easy being an elder stateswoman of drag. Every day I look more and more like Baby Jane."
Novak plans to "retire like Cher," re-emerging every so often for paid gigs. He's run out of camp films for his monthly screenings at the Miami Beach Cinematheque, and the nightclubs don't pay a queen to hold court anymore. Most of his friends have moved on. What's a semi-retired queen to do?
"Whenever I try to do something serious, it doesn't work out. I got a 40 on my real estate exam," he says. Strangie wanted to work on a gay cruise but can't bear to leave his German shepherd behind. He contemplates a Vegas lounge act but then says, "No, I love Miami too much."
Will this be the last year for the Shelley Novak Awards? "Maybe," he admits with a heavy sigh. "But it's hard to say. It's like the gay mafia: Whenever I think I'm out, they pull me back in." — Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik
The Butcher's Backlash Begins
Telmo Hurtado was skinnier, cleaner-cut, and younger-looking than they had imagined. They were happy to see him in shackles.
Last week was the first time Teófila Ochoa and Cirila Pulido, two petite housekeepers in their midthirties, had seen Hurtado since the former Peruvian army major led a massacre in their remote village in 1985 ("Butcher of the Andes," August 30).
"I always wondered, What is this person like?" says Pulido, her honeyed voice sharpening. "When I saw him, I wanted to speak even more to ... this person, this criminal animal."
The slaughter claimed nearly 70 innocents, among them Ochoa's mother and five siblings and Pulido's mother and brother. The women sued Hurtado for civil damages in July and traveled from Lima to testify against him in Miami federal court last week.
Hurtado escaped punishment in his country when in 2002 he slipped into the United States on a visa and settled in Miami Beach. He's now being detained for immigration fraud.
Ochoa was about 20 minutes into her testimony when a man in gray sweats flashed into her peripheral vision. The mood chilled. "I wanted to shout at him, but I had to control myself," she says. "I wanted to tell him to his face that we knew what he did, but he knows what he did in his conscience."
Hurtado refused to testify or listen to the women and was escorted away. Judge Adalberto Jordan granted a default judgment against him. The amount of damages should be decided soon.
It was a week of other firsts. While eating a breakfast of eggs and sausage at their downtown hotel, the women talked about their first plane ride and first trip outside Peru. They marveled at the tall buildings and the soft, lapping waves on the beach. They're waiting for Hurtado to be deported to Peru to face an open case against him. "If we can make it this far, we can keep on fighting," Ochoa says. "Justice will arrive."
That, too, would be a first. — Janine Zeitlin