Sleepless Night Miami Style (Photos)
ABOVE: Sleepless Night took place on Saturday, November 3, 2007. (See: Photo Gallery)
Spring forward, fall back. The old adage is a reminder that once a year in the US, people set their clocks back an hour to adjust to the shorter days. Naturally, in the Fall, that means an extra hour of sleep—or partying—if you’re in a hedonistic capital like Miami Beach. This year, the Miami Beach Cultural Arts Council, in effort to make good use of the extra hour, took a cue from other world cities like Brussels, Rome, Madrid and Toronto, holding its own Sleepless Night: “13 hours of free music, dance, comedy, theatre, art, fashion, film and more.”
The evening celebrations kicked off at 6 pm, and would keep going until 6 the following morning. For the purposes of this event, the city was divided into four zones: North Beach, Collins Park, Lincoln Road, and Ocean Drive. Free shuttle service (I later learned) was provided between each of these four areas throughout the evening.
Zone 1 comprised the North Beach neighborhood (around 71st St to 73rd), with events taking place at the North Beach band shell, the Normandy Fountain, the Tamarind Thai Restaurant, Sports Lounge, the Byron Carlyle Theatre, the North Shore Youth Center and the Normandy Park Pool.
In Zone 2 (Lincoln Road north to 23rd St.), the Collins Park neighborhood, the festivities included Collins Park Lawn, the Rotunda, the Bass Museum of Art, the library, Miami City Ballet Studios, 21st Street Beach Boardwalk, Shelborne Beach Resort, the Sagamore Hotel, National Hotel, Pilikia Restaurant and bar at the South Seas Hotel, and Talula.
Further South in Zones 3 and 4, the Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive neighborhoods presented a full menu of options, most notably in Flamingo Park, along Lincoln Road, Lummus Park/Ocean Drive, and along Washington Avenue, at such locations as the Wolfsonian Museum, the World Erotic Art Museum, the Jewish Museum, and the Art Center.
The evening promised to be novel on many different fronts: one, the idea of actually meeting and socializing with your neighbors; two, the idea of getting something for free in a city where expenses accumulate like time on a taxi meter, and three, that “culture” thing—something always present in the periphery, but usually a dim echo compared to the din of thousands of slicked-up Saturday night party-goers out to score their appointed booty calls.
Since zones 3 and 4 were the most convenient for me, and appeared to be suitably abundant in cultural offerings, I decided to concentrate my efforts there. Here were some of the memorable events.
As I arrived shortly before 7 pm, Spiderman was waving to the kiddies from the back of a pick-up truck outside Flamingo Park pool. The pool itself would stay open till midnight, so it was unfortunate that Aquaman couldn’t be there as well to join in the fun. On the grassy fields further north, small groups of people were gathered in circles, strumming guitars, while out on the baseball diamond, a giant inflatable movie screen offered films to a growing audience. I continued along my way, eager to see what was going on further up on Lincoln Road.
The popular pedestrian mall was abuzz with people of all ages and descriptions, as live music serenaded them with tropical rhythms from the platforms in the center. To one side, a group of children stood around a brightly lit table, racing miniature cars along a track. The atmosphere felt somewhat carnivalesque, but a little more family-oriented….more Disney than Mardi Gras....fun, but definitely rated PG-13.
Crowds gathered around the Art Center, gazing at abstract offerings on display.
The Colony Theatre would be my main source of entertainment that night: among other spectacles was a screening of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, and a 1 am (or was it 2?) stage performance by (move over Dame Edna) drag sensation Harriett Levy (Todd Waddington), a verklempt Jewish matron who delighted in showing videos of her cross-country antics and doing a lot of (rather flat) singing, which unfortunately sent droves of people running from the audience whenever she’d momentarily disappear to do a costume change.
JACKIE GLEASON THEATRE
The recently refurbished Fillmore Miami Beach offered a special open house party from 6 pm until 12 am. Festivities included live music and behind-the-scenes tours. When I arrived, the band was performing sound checks, but I was able to snag a free cup of champagne while I gazed at another attraction: walls of historic posters of concerts past. Interspersed among the posters were photographs of the “Great One” himself: Jackie Gleason and a slightly pudgier Art Carney, post-Honeymooners, but still donned in his Norton suit, which gave the place an almost ghostly feel. Nonetheless, after I finished my poster tour, I was ready to make like Elvis and leave the building. It felt like although things promised to get really hopping at some point in the not-so-distant future, it wasn’t quite there yet, and there were other spectacles in full-swing which I was no doubt missing out on. This was a feeling which remained with me much of the night, in fact, as I hopped from locale to locale. I took a peek at the nearby Botanical Gardens, but they were still geering up for the 9 pm extravaganza, so I opted to head south to Ocean Drive.
OCEAN DRIVE/LUMMUS PARK
This was another hotspot of activity: two more inflatable movie screens projected films to enraptured audiences camped out on the sand. Nearby, local artist Steve Gagnon was exhibiting his pièce de résistance: Time Machine. A 1930 Model A Ford Sedan sat roped off on the grass; its windows served as makeshift screens, with images and film of 1930’s Miami, as a looping audio voice read letters written by Gagnon’s grandfather in 1935-36, which depicted his observations of life on the beach at that time. Gagnon’s grandfather spoke of the annoying drivers who would ignore traffic laws, zooming through intersections (at speeds of 40 mph), a building boom in which scores of new hotels were being built to keep up with the growing population, and the high cost of winter housing. It was funny to see how little things have changed.
Next to Gagnon, a performance art venue called “I Dream: Caution: Humans Sleeping” started up at 4 am. Street performers manned a series of beds scattered along the lawn, as fearsome creatures of the night chased and hounded them with nightmarish sounds and movements. In the middle of this was a trampoline, which the performers would randomly jump on amid all the squawking and torturing. Meanwhile, visitors were handed pads and pens and told to write down their dreams.
Española Way, Lincoln Road’s even trendier pedestrian-friendly cousin, is home to many galleries, restaurants, and Cinematheque, a space set aside for the screening of films outside the mainstream. Tonight, Cinematheque had cordoned off a large section of the Plaza de España for the purpose of screening silent movies. The unfortunate part was that the movies served merely as background for poetry readings and performance art. As we endured a silent Russian piece about life on the high seas, a man read selections from his poetry while a woman did something resembling the jarabe tapatio in tap shoes, prancing back and forth in front of the screen. Afterwards, they grew weary of this, and, sitting on stools placed on the stage to either side of the screen, began passing a ball back and forth. I’m sure the ghosts of film directors past must have been fuming.
At 2:30 am, the Botanical Gardens livened things up with a fire dancing ceremony. A couple of girls in harem-type outfits and candles sashayed around a grouping of strategically-placed tee-pees while a jazz band provided a little mood. I’d been expecting something more along the lines of the ecstasy-enhanced glow-stick spinners so common during the early morning hours on the beach, but this seemed rather tame by comparison….yet entertaining, all the same.
WORLD EROTIC ART MUSEUM
The one ingredient lacking among the venues I saw was true eroticism. For a slumber party in one of the world’s most sensual cities, things seemed rather mundane. I was expecting less artsy frou-frou and more Burning Man, I guess (Now that’s culture for you!). Just when I thought all hope was lost, enter Naomi Wilzig to save the day. Naomi, as proprietress of the World Erotic Art Museum at 1205 Washington Avenue, has one of the world’s largest collections of erotic curios. Figurines from times and civilizations gone by, the place is packed with not-so-subtle reminders that our ancestors had more on their minds than family values. Among the stand-outs at Naomi’s hot-blooded hacienda? The Kama Sutra bed: an enormous poster bed with four immense, hand-carved wooden phalluses rising on each side. I was fortunate to visit early in the evening before the crowds arrived—later on, I saw them lined up halfway down the block, proving that sex does sell—even if you’re giving it away.
13 hours later, the sun began to rise over South Beach, and the creatures of the night scattered for the cover of darkness. Lummus Park was a good a place as any to wind down, I thought, with a complimentary breakfast (which I unfortunately happened upon too late) and yoga to send the weary revelers off to slumberland. They say the best things in life are free, and it was refreshing that for one night at least, Miami Beach was willing to take that advice. Being able to freely explore its cultural offerings made for an interesting, more multi-dimensional evening, even if some of the performance art was a little too…experimental…in places, for my taste. The Beach’s attempts at ushering in cultural awareness seem part and parcel of a city eager to reinvent itself from a public perception of superficiality and horniness. Yet maybe it’s possible that horniness need not be superficial and that there is room to incorporate a little Rio Carnivale into the experience. In its enthusiasm to take on a new identity as a cultural mecca, the city would do well to hold on to its sensual roots—and, even more importantly—to keep the restrooms open a little later!
(Note: SoBeKristi, her husband and their almost-2-year-old daughter also explored the festivities. Take a look at her colorful photographs here!)
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"Sleepless Night Miami Style (Photos)"
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