Excerpt from ‘Nabelichting’, Chapter 22, South Beach
A lot had changed since the 80’s when Al Pacino starred as Tony Montana in Brian de Palma’s ‘Scarface’ and Bruce Weber shot his ‘Obsession’ campaign for Calvin Klein on top of the Breakwater hotel on South Beach.
Until then, the slowly dilapidating art-deco district of Miami was inhabited by a mixture of Jewish pensionados, Cuban refugees, dope-dealers, bums and crack heads. In a few years time this all had changed dramaticly. The seniors, with their giant sunglasses and skinny legs in oversized tennis shoes, sitting on the verandas of run-down hotels had made place for healthy young girls, models and actresses with portfolio’s waiting for their turn to show their pictures to photographers and movie-directors from all over the world, the ones who were now living in the small hotels along the beach. Orthodox Jews dressed in black, with their large hats and ‘payots’, moving slowly, leaning on canes, had become rare under the palm trees in the hot midday sun of Ocean Drive. Wherever you looked you saw joggers and skaters, production vans, assistants with tri-pods and reflection screens, models and make-up artists, caterers and producers making phone calls.
New places opened. Japanese style Sushi bars next to down to earth American burger joints, French orientated restaurants, an original Thai, Surf & Turf, Italian pizza. A wild nightlife developed. Business was booming. Gianni Versace, the money chucking Italian fashion king was murdered right in front of his house amidst the glamorous crowd.
The immigrants did well, for a while. In the beginning the newcomers liked their café Cubano and Guarapo, juice made of sugar cane. But then, just like the elderly, together with the Guarapo, the Cubans disappeared as well from Ocean Drive, the boulevard, the ocean and the beach.