Puerto Rico has the goat-sucking Chupacabra. West Virginia has the prophetic Mothman. Even Mobile, Alabama, boasts a dusk-dwelling tree leprechaun who climbed to fame in March 2006, when residents endlessly asked, "Where the gold at?"
And though nothing in the United States compares to the strangeness that is the Gobi Desert's Mongolian Death Worm (sorry, Sasquatch), in Miami, we have the Unicorn King.
And no, he never helped She-Ra save Unicorn Island and all of its beautiful, flying, rainbow-maned inhabitants, as described in Season 1, Episode 36, of She-Ra: Princess of Power on He-Man.org. But he definitely helped strike up a conversation with the overtly gothy Kirk (not to be confused with Kurt, as in Kurt Cobain, with whom Kirk is ashamed to say he shares a birthday) at The Vagabond (30 NE 14th St., Miami, 305-379-0508) on a recent Friday night.
"Unicorn Man is probably some idiot who comes to the club with a papier-mâché horn on his forehead and a Burger King crown," says Kirk, whose mouth is neatly lined and filled in with mauve lipstick. "We had a guy like that back home, but he was much cooler."
Cooler? How could this be? Nothing is cooler than the Magic City's Holy Trinity of Hip — The Vagabond, PS14 (28 NE 14th St., 305-358-3600), and White Room (1306 N. Miami Ave., 305-995-5060) — three funky clubs that light up the fringes of Overtown. They inhabit a space just west of the Arsht Center, brimming with graffiti, indie music, and suspicious bums who say they'll protect your wheels for $10. Like an American Apparel shop window, it attracts Miami's nomadic and artsy counterculture, including the Unicorn King. Gossip about him swirls around the area like hair spray on flatironed bangs.
People say he's a eunuch. Or maybe gay, being that many an attractive girl with flirtatious intentions has approached this six-foot-tall blond and been shot down or simply ignored. Some believe he is homeless, drives a rickshaw, and walks a cat on a leash in Coconut Grove. He arrives on the scene late, around 2 or 3 a.m., and dances quite intensely — sober and solo — until closing. No one is sure about the derivation of the name Unicorn King, but he once left a White Room staffer a crude Easter basket signed, "UK."
I began my quest for the elusive equine about a month ago. To me, His Majesty seemed like the Loch Ness Monster — heard of but never seen. I spent time on his turf, early, late, patrolling dance floors and searching the dark recesses beneath bars. Perhaps the quest wasn't as sacred as searching for the Holy Grail, but it was a hunt nonetheless.
Then, one recent Friday night, a Richard Cheese version of "Baby Got Back" sounded through The Vagabond's sound system, and Sarah, a honey blonde with platinum and bright red highlights streaked into her bangs, piped up. "I know who you're talking about. He came up to a group of my girlfriends and me once and asked if he could take pictures of us laughing. He said he was doing an art project or something."
She swept a flaming piece of hair from her eye and secured it in a thin scarf tied around her forehead. "He said he was collecting smiles."
Although drinks from the bar came quickly and the DJ was playing a fabulous set of Sixties R&B, I was none too happy. At 4 a.m., there was still no sign of the Unicorn King, so I headed for the door. On my way out, I ran into a heavily tattooed guy named Brooklyn. "I saw him riding a bicycle down 14th Street during the Winter Music Conference," he said, revealing a set of white teeth that seemed to shine against his full, dark beard. "He was zigzagging down the road with a full martini glass in his hand when a car hit him. He fell to the ground without spilling his drink." Brooklyn paused for a moment and tugged on a massively plugged earlobe. "And he did that while wearing an evening gown."
After failing miserably at The Vagabond, I decided to take a stab at finding the mystical unicornio the next night during PopLife, a popular Saturday hipster fiesta at White Room.
"The first time I saw him, I didn't know whether to kick him or to spill my drink on him," said Kevin, standing on the club's chic white canopied patio. Kevin, a handsome twentysomething whose fedora cast shadows against his chiseled face, was partaking of the same activity as the rest of the regulars in White Room's main outdoor area. He stood, seemingly bored, in a clique. Members whispered in one another's ears while taking drags of a community cigarette. Every few minutes, one would spot something interesting enough to whisper about. Then another cigarette was lit.