There's a new book by Steven Gaines entitled, Fools' Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach which is stirring up a lot of interest here. I arrived on these golden shores at the end of 1996, but had been visiting since the late 80's; the things I saw. I eventually was hired by Gerry Kelly to control his infamous nightclub, Level. For all the gangsters, corrupt politicians, drug dealers, and general freaks that made up this town, Gerry was the only honest man in the club world; his word was gold. But the rest of the town was like the Wild West with celebrities like Cher, Madonna, Stallone, the Estefans, Versace, and countless others living and roaming around the club circuit.
When Leopoldo brought up the book at lunch yesterday, he asked, "What happened?" And, all I could reply was that it exploded with the murder of Versace, an incident that happened two blocks away from me that day. After that, the celebrities slowly sold their homes as the City clamped down on the fun with raids and regulations and developed a vision of modern hotels and condos to supplement the old, Deco hotels on Ocean Drive. Back then there wasn't one, new hotel south of 23rd St., the official, northern bindery of South Beach. The City gave generous tax and land breaks to Loews to build the first hotel on South Beach since the Thirties; Mayor Kasdin told a friend of mine, who was questioning the deal, that it was the only way conventions and other hotels would come to town.
Now, it's like this; towers crowd a small town of 90,000 full-time residents. The glamor is still here, but it's a lot quieter and you have to know God in City Hall to attempt anything even mildly fun. The new Mayor, the delightful Mayor Matti, has done a lot to lighten up City Hall and we even have her to thank for our recent Gay Pride parade and festival. The new book has raised a lot of debate about what was better: The Sodom and Gomorrah of the past or our respectable current life. You apparently can't have it both ways. I can't wait to read that book and relive my love of Sodom.