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Trend Magazine Online
Travel Review Winter 2019
South Beach Walking Tour Part II of II Page I of II

By Jay Whipple

Trend Magazine Online™

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Re-published from a previous edition!
South Beach Walking Tour Review Pic

We were told by our guide Gina that newly constructed buildings were required by city ordinance to look different than the old original designs. She also pointed out that some of those buildings have what they call eyebrows above the windows. Next up we stopped in at The Tides Hotel at 1220 Ocean Drive in which our guide stated that it was the tallest building on Miami Beach when it was completed in 1936. Gina did not know the number of floors which prompted me to ask one of the staff members then confirm via the elevator that there are ten. This Nautical Deco-style building features port holes on the outside and was remodeled in around 2000, she said. It features a Keystone check in desk, was nicknamed The Diva of Ocean Drive, and was popular with that other Diva Marilyn Monroe. We were reminded that South Beach was inhabited by mostly older Jewish women on fixed income back in the 1970's; my high school days. It was during that time frame, in 1979, that Ms. Barbara Baer Capitman founded the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), the presenters of our walking tour and pioneers of restoration of South Beach. We then encountered another signature South Florida flash rain storm that blew over in a few moments.

South Beach Walking Tour Review Pic!
In the 1980's Gina recalled the most prolific influx of immigrants in modern times via the Mariel Boat Lift whereas over 125,000 Cubans were allowed to call Miami home after being given the green light by former President Jimmie Carter in April of 1980. That feat unfortunately lead to a massive wave of crime in this area at the hands of the criminals that were released amongst the law-abiding, educated, and hardworking segments of Cuban society. In fact, I was told by a family member that they would often come across dead bodies in the streets of Miami from that new wave of criminal activity that floated over with normal citizens. Our guide pointed out that the opening scene of Scarface (partially filmed on South Beach, 1983) featured actual footage from that dilemma of the refugees in the old Orange Bowl (now Marlins Stadium site). The 1980's, recalled Gina, ushered in the now thriving model's market here when European photographers' shot scenes for clothing designer Calvin Klein's Obsession ad campaign. One of the most memorable scenes featured nude models at the Breakwater Hotel; covered earlier.


Gina then got into my absolute favorite segment of our tour; the Miami Vice (1984 - 1990) phenomenon which, in my opinion, sealed the deal in making Miami and Miami Beach one of the coolest and sexiest places on earth. The series was shot at various scenic area locations and one show included a short boat trip to the then off limits island of Cuba. Well, I am not sure if it was in fact filmed there; I will have to investigate. The series starred smartly-dressed undercover drug detectives Crockett (Don Johnson) and Tubbs (Phillip Michael Thomas), and their no-holes-barred by the book stone faced Captain Castillo played by Edward Olmos.


South Beach Walking Tour Review Pic!
The soundtrack of the series is off the chain and I believe that they were first to introduce background music during and in between scenes. I actually still have it in my repertoire of cassettes that I still play on long drives from the Charlotte, NC, area to South Florida. I could not wait until Thursday evenings on NBC especially if I was going to hit the town later that night with my alligator kicks (no socks), Willi Wear coat and pant set, designer belt and watch, Mr. Jay Cologne; and black Nissan sports car with sun/moon roof, pewter grey interior, state-of-the-art sound system, and flip up headlights. I was living in North Carolina at that time but add a little imagination and "Walla;" it's now South Beach baby! Smile!


We were directed to turn around at the Leslie Hotel because of the then construction going on north of that property. We then got into the Tudor design at 11th Street and Collins Avenue (next street west of Ocean Drive) which I am more familiar with because it is quite prominent in the Charlotte, NC, area where I give guided tours. Gina also showed us an example of the streamline Moderne-style nearby that features clean lines cutting through air and the hotel, eyebrows above the windows for functionality as well as decor; keystone from the Florida Keys dyed on front of building, and a vertical tower which are also displayed at the nearby Palmer House and Kent Hotels.

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