Monday, November 8, 2010

Miami Vice

The last time I was in Miami Beach, it was all the rage to wear a tight T-shirt under an Armani jacket, white pants, and a pair of impossibly tight Italian loafers. Suffice it to say that this was not a good look for me, and I was never a candidate to replace Don Johnson on Miami Vice during his rift with his bosses at NBC. Besides, I could never get that permanent five o'clock shadow look down. I go from baby-face to werewolf in about twelve hours myself. But that was then, and this is now, and Miami Beach is hotter than ever.

Hey, did you know that Miami Beach was actually once just a sandbar off the city of Miami? Yeah, in the 1860s a couple of guys from New Jersey bought it from the U.S. government for 25 cents an acre with the hopes of operating a coconut plantation on it. They managed to get investors, and even produced some salable fruits. But getting it back to the mainland proved to be a nightmare. After raising a lot of money, and going bust a few times, they built the longest wooden bridge in the country to connect what is now known as Miami Beach to the rest of the country. But being eaten alive by mosquitos and overwhelming debt led to the end of the plantation phase, and the vacation resort concept was hatched. Under new management, plots of land were sold to wealthy northeasterners and a railroad was built to replace the bridge. In 1921, President-elect Warren Harding vacationed at the brand new Flamingo Hotel and put Miami Beach on the map. Then a massive hurricane struck and took it right back. The stock market craze of the Roaring Twenties saw a new boom in development, which was just as quickly crushed by the crash and the Great Depression. Are you sensing a pattern here? This booming and busting has been going on since the earliest days of settlement on this strip of sand, and if the off season signing of NBA great Lebron James is any indicator, we're in a big-time boom right now. Let's just hope history doesn't repeat itself while I am in town.

You may know Miami Beach for its famous South Beach (or SOBE, if you are in the know), chic restaurants, vibrant immigrant neighborhoods, and a nightlife scene without equal. But did you know it also has the largest collection of Art Deco buildings in the world? Yeah, from 1923-43 Miami was a flash point of this internationally acclaimed style. The Art Deco Historic District was featured heavily in both Scarface and The Birdcage, if you saw either of those films. Hey, wouldn't it be funny if they remade Scarface with Nathan Lane as Tony Montana instead of Al Pacino? "Say Hello to my little friend!" Maybe not.

Anywho, Miami Beach is also a fantastic spot to find timeshare rentals. I am staying at the Hilton Grand Vacation Club at South Beach. Located in the heart of the Art Deco District, this is a meticulously restored resort. It features a rooftop deck, whirlpool spa, recreation room, laundry and fitness facilities, and is within easy walking distance to superb restaurants and shopping. Oh, and its location on Ocean Drive -- better known as The American Riviera -- puts you just steps from the beach. You can get a rental at this fantastic resort for as little as $175/night.

Well I have to run. I have it on good authority that there is going to be a "Conchita the Chihuahua" sighting on the strip at South Beach today. Do you know about this pooch? Her former owner and heiress Gale Posner left a $3 million dollar trust fund and her mansion to this "tea-cup" chihuahua. A little bigger than a guinea pig, this canine is officially "The Most Pampered Dog In The World," and I want to see if I can get my picture taken with her. I'd really like to get a picture of Posner's son, Brett Carr, who essentially was left out of the will in favor of the dog. But he understandably keeps a low profile.

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