Back In The Day: Wide Right II

By | October 3rd, 2010 | 1 Comment

Hurricanes vs. Seminole

Today marks the 18th anniversary of a good day in Miami Hurricanes history. Coming after an 8-7 win against the Arizona Wildcats that demoted the Canes to #2 in the country, the reigning champs faced the Seminoles in the Orange Bowl on October 3, 1992. Hurricane Andrew had razed swaths of Miami to the ground in late August, and the city was hungry for a win against its state rival.

The Seminoles came into the Orange Bowl ranked #3 in the country. Led by quarterback and future Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, FSU had won its previous four games. But the Seminoles’ streak was fated to end in agonizing and familiar fashion.

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Extra! Extra! Al Capone Takes Stand In Perjury Case (Again)

By | September 28th, 2010 | No Comments

In commemoration of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court’s centennial, local attorneys reenacted Al “Scarface” Capone’s 1930 perjury trial this morning in the same courtroom as the original hearing. (Spoiler alert: Capone was acquitted.) Below are a few black-and-whites from the event. For you sticklers out there, list any anachronisms you spot in a comment.

Al Capone Takes The Stand
Scarface takes the stand with Judge Scott Silverman presiding.

Prosecution Opening Argument in Capone Perjury Trial
Lanky prosecutor in vintage pinstripes makes his case against Capone.

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Didion’s Miami Part II: Francisco ‘Pepe’ Hernandez Interview

By | September 27th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Francisco “Pepe” Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), is one of those figures who inspire intense reactions. Some call him a terrorist, or at least a benefactor of terrorists. Others call him a hero of the Cuban exile community. On his way to the White House, Senator Barack Obama called him host.

Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, CANF President

What no one can dispute is that Hernandez, who left Cuba in his 20s after Castro took power, has been on the front lines of the Miami-based anti-Castro movement for 50 years, first as a participant in the Bay of Pigs Invasion (La Batalla de Playa Girón), then as a CIA operative running actions against Cuba, and then as a founding member of CANF, an uberpowerful voice for Cuban-American interests since its 1981 founding. (This 1993 article in The Progressive describes the sway CANF and its late founder, Jorge Mas Canosa, held in both Miami and Washington.)

As I wrote in an earlier post, I am working on a retrospective essay on Joan Didion’s 1987 book Miami, which chronicles the city during the roughly 25 years between the Cuban Revolution and the end of the first generation of Cuban exile. My essay will explore how Miami and its Cuban community have evolved since the end of this intense and violent period in the mid-80s.

On Friday I spoke to Hernandez on the phone for about 90 minutes to get his perspective. Here are several excerpts from the interview. I’ve lightly edited them for length and clarity.

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Back In The Day: Jaco Pastorius Dies in South Florida Hospital

By | September 21st, 2010 | No Comments


Beaten to death by a nightclub bouncer is, by anyone’s estimation, a bad way to go. On this day in 1987, Jaco Pastorius, a pioneer of the fretless electric bass who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, succumbed to that grim fate when he died in a coma at Broward General Medical Center. Jaco had suffered multiple facial fractures and damage to his right eye and left arm at the hands of Luc Havan, a bouncer at the Midnight Bottle Club who was trained in martial arts. Jaco allegedly had kicked in a glass door after being denied entry to the club, and Havan evidently responded by kicking the shit out of the renowned jazz musician. At the hospital, Jaco fell into a coma and was put on life support. He later suffered a massive brain hemorrhage and died on Sept. 21, 1987, at the age of 35. He is buried at Our Lady Queen of Heaven Cemetery in North Lauderdale.

Havan was charged with second degree murder but copped a manslaughter plea. He served four months of a 22-month prison sentence.

In so short a life, Jaco managed to have a huge impact on music. Here is an excerpt from fellow musician Pat Metheny’s liner notes to the 2000 reissue of Jaco’s self-titled debut album.

Jaco Pastorius may well have been the last jazz musician of the 20th century to have made a major impact on the musical world at large. Everywhere you go, sometimes it seems like a dozen times a day, in the most unlikely places you hear Jaco’s sound; from the latest tv commercial to bass players of all stripes copping his licks on recordings of all styles, from news broadcasts to famous rock and roll bands, from hip hop samples to personal tribute records, you hear the echoes of that unmistakable sound everywhere.

To commemorate this day in Miami history, below are a few videos of Jaco ripping it up on the electric bass. You can also read this interview with BBC radio journalist Clive Williamson, in which Jaco mentions his days as a University of Miami professor before joining Weather Report.

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Back in the Day: Jim Morrison Convicted of Indecent Exposure

By | September 20th, 2010 | 8 Comments

Jim Morrison Miami Mug Shot

Forty years ago today, a Miami jury convicted one James Douglas Morrison — better known as the Lizard King, Mr. Mojo Risin, or simply Jim — on misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure and open profanity. The verdict came more than a year after The Doors infamous concert at a converted seaplane hangar in Coconut Grove called the Dinner Key Auditorium, where Jim allegedly whipped out his [insert colloquialism for ‘penis’ here] in front of a crowd of about 12,000 Miami fans.

Whether he actually did any such thing, the “Miami Incident” may never have garnered national headlines if not for the attention of a Miami Herald reporter named Larry Mahoney. An FSU student at the same time as Jim, Mahoney has gone down in “Justice for Jim” circles as the opportunistic muckraker whose exaggerated accounts of the concert goaded goadable Miami politicians into proving their law-enforcement bona fides at Jim’s expense.

Here’s an excerpt of Mahoney’s “Rock Group Fails to Stir A Riot,” from March 3, 1969:

Many of the nearly twelve thousand youths said they found the bearded singer’s exhibition disgusting. Included in the audience were hundreds of unescorted junior and senior high school girls…. Morrison appeared to masturbate in full view of the audience, screamed obscenities, and exposed himself. He also got violent, slugged several [concert promoters], and threw one of them off the stage before he himself was hurled into the crowd.

Many people who were at the concert dispute Mahoney’s rendition (including Bill Campbell, interviewed below, who thought Jim had stuck his finger through his zipper for a lark). What no one disputes is that Jim was damn drunk and screaming damn-drunkenly at the crowd and his band (in this audio recording from the concert, he interrupts “Touch Me” with screams of “It’s all fucked up. You blew it!”). Having missed his flight to Miami from L.A., he had loaded up at several airport lounges and arrived late for the concert. To add to the tension, the concert promoters pulled a fast one on The Doors by booking them at a flat $25,000 fee and then ripping out the auditorium seats so as to double its capacity. If Jim did tussle with “several” concert promoters, that’s probably why.

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Back in the day: The Great Miami Hurricane

By | September 18th, 2010 | No Comments

Biscayne Boulevard after Great Miami Hurricane 1926

The devastating 1926 hurricane flung boats across the yet unfinished Biscayne Boulevard. — photo from "Miami: Then and Now," by Arva Moore Parks and Carolyn Klepser

If today’s 30 percent chance of rain is putting a crimp in your plans for a beach-volleyball round robin, realize that 84 years ago to the day the deadliest hurricane in Miami history, a category 4 storm known as the Big Blow, whirled through Miami Beach like God’s own dreidel of wrath.

Following a lighter storm that season, the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 (another moniker) took the city’s 30,000-plus residents by surprise when it crashed into Miami Beach at two o’clock in the morning on Sept. 18, 1926, just after the Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur ended. It had squeezed through the Gulf Stream at its narrowest point, and “Miami Beach was isolated in a sea of raving white water,” Florida author Marjorie Stoneman Douglas wrote.

Now, we’ve obviously had our fair share of hurricanes since 1926, and at this point Miamians know more or less how the whirling bastards behave. But 84 years ago, folks down here took the eye of the storm for the end of the storm, and, well, the results weren’t pretty.

Finally the storm ceased. Miamians who had boarded up their windows and doors unboarded them and stepped outside to assess the damage. Misinterpreting the calm, they didn’t realize they were stepping into the eye of the storm. Most casualties succumbed after the lull. During the hurricane’s second half, winds reached a terrifying 128 miles per hour, and rain drowned people who didn’t reach shelter in time.

Structural damage was stupefying. Utility poles hurtled through the air. Roofs were torn from buildings. Electricity and water were cut off. Even the beach seemed to shift; Collins Avenue was covered in sand, as were lobbies of prestigious oceanfront hotels. —, “The Hurricane of 1926

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Does Joan Didion’s Miami still exist?

By | September 15th, 2010 | 6 Comments

Joan Didion’s 1987 book Miami chronicles the city during the roughly 25 years between the Cuban Revolution and the end of the first generation of Cuban exile. Didion portrays Miami as a sweltering locus of violence and vengeance where assassination plots and covert CIA actions constitute dinner table conversation in the exile community. In the words of a New York Times review, “Didion has turned so much sunny light into a murky underwater darkness full of sharks and evil shadows.”

As a Miami native born in the mid-’80s, I found Didion’s narrative astounding. From the violent reprisals – bombings, stabbings, shootings – hard-line exiles visited upon dissenters within their own community, to Miami’s status as the second-largest CIA installation in the world (with “the third largest navy in the western hemisphere”), to “guerilla discounts” offered at the Howard Johnson near the Miami airport, the incidents and details piled up until my hometown began to seem foreign to me. I had a similar experience watching Cocaine Cowboys, the surpassingly gruesome documentary about Miami’s drug wars, but somehow Didion’s lens proved more unsettling.

When I finished Miami, which, a few leaps in time aside, covers the period between 1960 and 1985, I found myself wondering how much the city has changed. Having spent most of my life here, I instinctively felt that Didion’s portrayal no longer held in its entirety, but I wanted to know to what degree Castro and the Cuban Revolution still cast a shadow over Miami. How much has it evolved from the seething city Didion described, having “the feel … of a Latin capital, a year or two away from a new government”? To what extent does the legacy of a vengeance never realized define Miami today?

These are the questions I am pursuing in a retrospective essay on the book. In the hopes of getting some answers, last week I contacted Dario Moreno, former director of FIU’s Metropolitan Center and an expert on Cuban-American history. A 52-year-old who left Cuba at age 3, Moreno is involved in Marco Rubio’s senate campaign. While I assume his political leanings influence his understanding of Cuban-American history, I never felt that our conversation got stuck in an ideological box. Moreno was generous with his time and insights, and I believe the interview illuminates a Miami very different from the dark city depicted in Didion’s book.

You can see an edited transcript below. Make sure to stay tuned for more posts on this topic as I continue researching for the essay.

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