When author and journalist Tom Wolfe visited Miami to research his final novel, Back to Blood, he was almost 80 years old. But his age had not affected his curiosity or journalistic ambition.
Among the places I took him on his research trips: the Columbus Day Regatta party off Elliott Key, a Russian-owned strip club in Sunny Isles Beach, the Miami Boat show, and a botanica in Hialeah. I was a Miami Herald reporter at the time but later, due in no small part to Tom Wolfe's inspiration, left my reporting job to launch my own production company, Explica Media.
Tom, who died this past Tuesday at the age of 87, eventually allowed me to begin filming his research trips. That footage became my first documentary, Tom Wolfe Gets Back to Blood. It is the only documentary ever made about Wolfe.
Of all the places we visited during his research, none made a bigger impression on Wolfe than the Columbus Day Regatta. He called it “the most hedonistic place” he had ever been.
We went there by yacht and then transferred to a smaller flats boat, which we used to navigate through the dense flotilla of boats and yachts filled with revelers.
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At one point, while Tom absorbed the debauchery around him, someone cannonballed into the water right next to our boat, soaking him from head to toe. When we returned to the yacht, he shrugged it off.
“You have to suffer for style,” he said.
In his final novel, Tom dedicated a chapter to the Columbus Day Regatta. You can see the source of his inspiration in the above excerpt.
Oscar Corral is an Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist and the CEO of Explica Media. Tom Wolfe Gets Back to Blood, the only documentary about Tom Wolfe, is available on Amazon Prime Video.