Interview of Alex Daoud: From Disgraced Mayor to Accomplished Author
ABOVE: Alex Daoud (Left) was a Miami Beach Commissioner and Mayor, from 1979 to 1991. Here is Mayor Daoud handing out the key to the City.
Say what you will about Alex Daoud, the man knows how to laugh at himself. I learned that first hand.
After penning an admittedly abbreviated profile of some of Miami’s most crooked and corrupt politicians, I received a surprising email from the third man on the list.
It was then that I knew Alex Daoud, unlike a lot of people I’ve gotten emails from, had an excellent sense of humor.
AT HOME WITH A MIAMI BEACH LEGEND
Alex invited me to meet up with him in South Beach for dinner, and, more importantly, to give me a copy of his book, “Sins of South Beach,” which chronicles the sex, violence and corruption of his time in public office. Though he has been certainly brought down to Earth after his twelve years as a Miami Beach Commissioner and Mayor by corruption and bribery convictions, the man is still an unabashed self-promoter. And no one should hold that against him; how else do you get elected mayor three times and write a successful novel?
For those who are not familiar with the Miami Beach icon that is Alex Daoud, he is an actual native of the Beach who became a City Attorney in town, then a commissioner, then mayor from 1985-1991. He was the first mayor to be reelected in 20 years, and managed to be reelected twice. Somewhere along the way he might have taken a bribe or two, sold a couple of votes, and had illicit extramarital affairs with a variety of Miami’s finest women, but that is all in the past. What is the present is Alex Daoud, aspiring author living in a modest home just down the street from the apartment building he and his mother managed in what seems like another lifetime.
Alex’s voice still booms as if he were addressing City Hall or a large-scale political rally. “Matt!” he bellows into his cell phone, sounding as excited to receive a phone call form me as he might have been from Burt Reynolds or Dan Rather. “How are you?! When you getting here?!” No wonder this guy won so many votes: Call him a corrupt egomaniac and he treats you like his best friend.
He tells me to park by the Brarack Obama sign in his front yard.
“You’re not voting for McCain, are you?” he asks ma a week before the election. “He’s a great man, and it’s a shame what they did to him. But I’m a Democrat.” Alex Daoud’s endorsement, I am convinced, is what carried our state for Obama.
Despite being in his mid-60s now, Alex Daoud is still an imposing figure. He answers his front door, and his 6-foot 4-inch frame fills the entire entryway. He is a large man, obliviously not in as good of shape as he was in the days when he trained with Angelo Dundee and Mohammad Ali at the 5th Street Gym, but his athletic past is evident.
His office is small, but he uses every available inch of wall space to remind himself of a glorious past. There are pictures of him with Mohammad Ali, a trophy commemorating his boxing match with Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez, countless tokens of esteem from various organizations, and photos with celebrities too numerous to mention. There is also no shortage of promotional material for his book. The office is like the Alex Daoud Hall of Fame, a constant reminder of everything this resident tucked away off Lincoln Road has done for the city.
THE BEACH GOES FROM GHETTO TO GUCCI
We head over to Lincoln Road, and Alex is a sharp contrast to the ever-trendier crowd that populates the pedestrian mall. Though it is Friday night, and the mall is abuzz with people wearing outfits worth more than their cars, Alex towers over them all in a white T-Shirt emblazoned with a picture of his book and some basic Adidas warm ups. After a lifetime of serving and forming Miami Beach, he doesn’t need to impress anybody.
“In the 80s, this place was all boarded up,” he says as he motions to the flourishing restaurants and shops on Lincoln Road. “It was a ghetto. You wouldn’t come down here at night. Now, it’s beautiful.”
Indeed, Daoud was instrumental in the transformation of South Beach from retirement ghetto to American Riviera. Though Miami Beach was, in the middle of the last century, a glamorous hotspot for celebrities and wealthy people, by the time he took office as a City Commissioner in 1979, it had deteriorated significantly. Matters were not helped, he contends, by the Mariel Boatlift.
“ATTITUDE ADJUSTMENT SESSIONS”
But, Daoud says, he and the Miami Beach Police had their own solution to the rampant crime of the early 1980s. He called them “attitude adjustment session..” During these sessions, he and some other police officers would beat known criminals to within an inch of their lives and leave them in body bags so as not to mess up their cars when they drove them across the causeway and dumped them in Miami. They would victimize Miami Beach’s citizens again, he reasoned, so it was preemptive violence. Like “Dexter” only less dramatic and 25 years earlier.
“We would leave them over in Miami, in Overtown or in Liberty City and take their money, their belts, their shoes,” he takes a drink of water as he laughs about it. “You know what happens in those neighborhoods when you don’t have any of that?” The question is rhetorical. Anyone who knows this city knows damn well what happens.
But as brutal and inhumane as some may find such treatment, the reduction in crime was essential in bringing back Miami Beach. Once the crime was gone, then true redevelopment could begin. And perhaps without those “attitude adjustments” we would not be sitting outside at Books and Books enjoying the passers by.
ALEX STILL LOVES THE LADIES, AND THEY LOVE HIM
Alex’s penchant for beautiful women didn’t die when he left office. Quite the contrary, he seems as well attuned to the parade of sex on a Friday night in South Beach as any of my twentysomething friends.
“Look at that, WOW!” he says as a pair or Argentine beauties stroll by in knee-high boots and expensive blouses. “I always loved the Latin women. They’re so exotic, so beautiful.” I told him I did not share his fascination, and he told me I should not be so picky.
During his term as Commissioner and Mayor, Daoud was not opposed to indulging women who thought they might enjoy his company. Despite the fact that he was married for most of that time. (One of his mistresses actually testified against him in his corruption trial)
“I’ve helped more single women in this town than welfare,” he says. “And it’s not because I’m some great magnanimous individual either.” He laughs. I told him I didn’t believe in spending money on women.
“Of course you don’t,” he answered, “you’re young and good looking. When you get old and fat like me, you will.” Unlike Alex’s prediction of my writing a New York Times Bestseller in his autograph of my book, I hope this premonition does not come true.
Despite calling himself old and fat, it doesn’t stop Alex from flirting. He asks the host at Books and Books when a certain hostess will be on, and we go inside and browse until her shift begins. As soon as she takes her post outside by the tables, he goes over, flirts with her, then asks for a table in one specific waitresses’ section. Again, we have to wait until the waitress has an open table before we can sit down. Eventually we get a table in her section, and again, Alex flirts with her throughout the meal.
The waitress, a red-haired 23 year-old from Eastern Europe, seems entertained and slightly flattered at Alex’s inquisition into her yoga practices. She kids with him and does not seem at all offended. Again, this must be why the man never lost an election: he can say things to people that make them smile, when if anyone else said it, it would probably invite a slap to the face.
BUT DOES THE BOOKSTORE MANAGER TAKE BRIBES TOO?
After dinner we continue inside and Alex asks the store manager how “Sins of South Beach,” is selling.
“Real well,” the manager says. “A couple of people came in yesterday and asked about it. We still got it up on display. Edna Buchanan’s book isn’t on display anymore, but we still have yours up there.” Buchanan, for those unfamiliar, is a former Miami Herald crime reporter-turned novelist. Her books do well. Apparently Alex’s is doing a little better. The display will be down the next time we visit Books and Books, but the flashy cover photo of Ocean Drive awash in pink neon is still quite the effective eye grabber.
For his part, Alex Daoud seems content in writing his book and its subsequent promotion. And despite no longer ruling South Beach, he has no desire to return to public life.
“This is what I love about being a private citizen,” he says as he motions to me. “A guy calls me crooked and corrupt, and I can call him up and invite him out to dinner. When you’re in politics, you have to worry about stuff like that.”
Alex, despite having fallen from grace and gone to prison, seems happy with his life. He has two dogs, who he talks about a lot, and enjoys spending his time on the book. And while most people who stroll through Miami Beach’s vibrant nightlife have no idea who Alex Daoud is, or what he did for Miami Beach, they most certainly feel his influence. Alex ushered in the era of change that took the boards off Lincoln Road and moved coke sales from street corners to club corners. Would South Beach be what it is today without Alex Daoud? Probably not. But he is content to let the Beach go on without knowing who he is. Or, at least, he wants “Sins of South Beach” to do the talking for him.
WANT TO BUY THE BOOK?
“Sins of South Beach” is for sale at Borders in Aventura and Books & Books on Lincoln Road. To purchase a signed copy, call Alex directly at (786) 970-0061 and he’ll mail you the book. The price for this hardback edition is only $24.99. You can also buy the book online from Alex’s website.
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"Interview of Alex Daoud: From Disgraced Mayor to Accomplished Author"