Today, The Herald wrote an AMAZING story on the evolution of South Beach. I have been here since 1992. I moved to Miami Beach one week after Hurricane Andrew. Prior to that, I came to Miami Beach on vacation. I used to attend the Winter Music Conference when attendance was about 300. Now it is some out-of-control number like 30,000!
The evolution of South Beach has been truly amazing and one for the history books. Like it or not, South Beach is so big, it is now a BRAND! When I used to vacation here in the late 80s to early 90s, I could have never imagined that the place where I was standing and living would also be considered “the hippest place on earth.”
This is a picture of my friend Kelly and I prior to clubbing in 1992. We were staying at the Avalon Hotel at 7th and Ocean Drive. It was considered the coolest hotel at the time.
I was watching a documentary on SoBe where Tara Solomon mentioned that, in the early days of SoBe, there was edgy glamour but NO money. She was correct. The buildings were still dumps, BUT the place oozed with cool. The fashionistas made SoBe the epicenter of chic- not the chic SoBe is known for today- but chic in an underground sort of way. You could feel the energy everywhere.
If you were “cool,” you were coming to South Beach. Keep in mind, we WEREN’T coming to Miami, we were coming to Miami Beach. I remember when South Beach started to pop. I was here for the Winter Music Conference, which was held at the Fontainebleau. Coincidentally, The Bodyguard, was being filmed at the Fontainebleau at the same time. Wow! Next came The Specialist, then on and on.
Madonna graced us with her presence back then, too. Remember her “SEX” book in ’92? Here’s a page from it with Madge “hitching” a ride in Golden Beach. Where else would this happen? Sly came and so did Gianni Versace. Does anybody remember the name of the MiMo- style hotel that he bought and demolished to create the pool area for “Casa Casuarina?” I think it was the Revere. Coincidentally, today is the 10th anniversary of his death.
Names like Louis Canales and Tara Solomon were the ones dropped most often if you wanted an entree into the “glamourous life.” We all went out seven nights a week. Remember the “Martini Club” and Cassis on Tuesdays, Warsaw on Wednesdays and on and on (and I mean on and on!)?
Here’s a trip down memory lane:
Semper’s, Egoiste, Hell, Club Nu, Deco’s, 1235, Shelly Novak on the top of the bus at the Marlin tea dance, The Spot, Gary James (he’s back), Avenue A, Michael Capponi (bigger than ever), Jorge Nunez, Andrew Cunanan, Paragon, A Fish Called Avalon, Velvet, Groove Jet, Jimmy Franzo (he used to be my trainer. I hear he’s in Vegas, baby), Rebar Monday nights-hell, Rebar every night!- The Strand, Follia, Fat Black Pussycat or “Fat Black,” John Hood (I hear he’s a writer now), PINKY!!! Remember Pinky? He’s on the show about Wilhelmina Models. Cafe Torino, I Tre Merli, The Whiskey, The Kitchen, ICON (the club; not the condo—we’ll get to that), David Padilla, Jaime Cardona (he knows Donatella - woo hoo!), Sinatra Bar, Scratch, Risk, Bar Room, Joia, Prive (is that still open?), Greg & Nicole Brier, Le Loft and Liquid (Studio 54 of SoBe). Remember Cameo Sunday disco nights? The Kremlin, Club Deuce, The Island Club, Les Bains Douche, Union Bar, WPA, Amnesia, Alex Duff, Mickey Rourke (he’s back), Debbie Ohanian, Kevin Aviance, crobar, Backdoor Bamby, Mynt, Chris Paciello,Ingrid Casares and Ellen Pompeo – that’s right, Meredith Grey herself. We hung out, and she would flip through magazines trying to mimic Kate Moss’ poses. Funny! Ellen: call me! Paloma!! Patricia Fields, Esteban Cortazar (when he was, like, three-years-old!), Merle Weiss(she was a brunette then), Torpedo, OVO, Post Mortem, Bash. Tony Goldman, Barbara Hulanicki, Esther Percal, Gilbert Stafford, Joe Bon, Fabrizio Brienza, Horacio LeDon, Alan Randolph, Andrew Delaplaine, George Tamsitt, Cyn Zarco, Gingi Beltran, and Iran Issa Kahn.
Sound fun? It was! Non-stop. When did it stop? When the MONEY came. I got into real estate at the suggestion of a friend in ’94 (before everyone and their mother became a Realtor). Real estate was just about to take off. Lots and lots of money came pouring into these 20 blocks. The Netherland on Ocean Drive was the first “luxury condo” that started the wave. Portofino Tower was the building that would start it all.
Pretty soon there was sooo much money that we didn’t have time to party so much anymore because we were working – working our a**es off! No time to play.
South Beach made its reputation on the “beautiful people”. Everyone was beautiful. Money follows beauty. Then came the restaurants, hotels, clubs, art, food, yachts, celebrities, more celebrities, multi-million dollar condos, international bon vivants, $40M homes, and on AND ON. Pundits say that it is all going to end, but hey, they’ve been saying that for twenty years.