Thursday, March 7, 2019

She Gon’ Make Me Move to Miami?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve grooved in my Zumba class to the sexy Enrique Iglesias hit, “Move to Miami.” It’s catchy and fun, as well as very very Latin. When, not long ago, I found myself in Miami for real, I couldn’t help remembering how the reputation of the place has changed.

Florida has always held a fascination for the film community. Citizen Kane’s Charles Foster Kane (a fictional near-ringer for the very real William Randolph Hearst) built his pleasure palace not on the California coast but rather in the Sunshine State, though his Xanadu was actually filmed on the studio lot. The more eccentric side of Florida life (featuring swamps and trailer parks instead of palatial estates) has shown up in such films as Spike Jonze’s Adaptation, freely adapted by Charlie Kaufman from Susan Orlean’s The Orchid Thief.

Long before I ever set foot in Florida, my image of the place came courtesy of parodist Allan Sherman, whose “Streets of Miami” was an hilarious send-up of the old cowboy lament, “Streets of Laredo.” Sherman sang plaintively of an argument between two transplants from the New York shmatta biz who can’t agree on whether to spend company money on a room at Miami Beach’s fancy-schmancy Fontainebleau (or, in the song, “Fountainblue”) Hotel. A gun battle erupts at the stroke of high noon, leading to a mock-tragic conclusion.

Allan Sherman’s Miami Beach was the one I myself glimpsed back in 1965, in the course of a family driving trip.  What I remember is row upon row of drab motels, and then the garish Fontainebleau and Eden Roc, all of them completely blocking any view of the actual ocean. I remember matronly ladies and paunchy men clustered around hotel swimming pools, zinc oxide on their noses, working on their tans. I remember tall drinks sporting paper umbrellas. I do not remember anyone actually swimming. It was, all in all, the bourgeois milieu so ruthlessly depicted in The Heartbreak Kid, where an annoying young bride’s painful sunburn gives her brand-new husband (Charles Grodin) the opportunity to fall in love with someone else.

The original version of The Heartbreak Kid came out in 1972. It would be a decade before the Miami region was transformed by cultural forces. As pointed out by the leader of a walking tour I enjoyed, there were three huge developments that changed Miami Beach forever. The first was an improvement of the beachfront, under the auspices of the Army Corps of Engineers. The second was the discovery, by some of the area’s artistic leaders, that the crumbling art deco hotels and civic buildings south of the Fontainebleau could be spruced up into tourist attractions. It was they who introduced the dreamy pastels that brighten the boulevards of South Beach today. And then the Miami Vice TV series came along to bathe the area in Hollywood glamour. Add to this the spice of Latin culture that has come to mark this area since the exodus that followed the Cuban revolution and you have a place of magical festivity.You can see it in some of its glory in the 1983 Scarface (which features a Cuban take on the old gangster saga) and 1996’s The Birdcage. And last year’s American Crime Story exploring the killing of fashion designer Gianni Versace made use of the South Beach locations where events really unfolded.

But that enticing music video promoting “Move to Miami” by way of scantily-clad beauties?  I’m pretty sure those sexy young women are on the wrong coast. Isn’t that my home town, Santa Monica?

No comments:

Post a Comment