Thomas Kramer’s Sober Ride
The legendary South Beach partier now spends his Saturdays sober on a beach cruiser
If you give Thomas Kramer bad news on the weekend, you’re fired.
This is the rule at 5 Star Island. Kramer’s weekend bike tours are his time to clear his head and enjoy the city, not hear about bad news or work.
This morning he is laughing around his outdoor breakfast table as he enjoys a pre-ride meal with his entourage, showing a video on his phone made by a girl who wants to visit the fabled Miami mansion.
“Look at this one,” he cackles in his thick German accent. “She wants to come back here sooooo bad.”
Two of the men at the table are laughing. A third is on his cell phone. He closes it and turns to the man known as TK.
“They’re bitching to me about this roof,” he says. “they’re saying they can lay 35 feet of wiring in there but we need 40 . I’m not sure…”
“Don’t talk to me about work,” Kramer says to him softly. “Tell me about who you fucked last night. THAT I wanna hear about. Work, don’t bother me until Monday.”
MIAMI IS MORE BEAUTIFUL WHEN SEEN SOBER FROM A BIKE SEAT
Kramer is relaxed and clear eyed as he enjoys a pre-ride breakfast. There is little evidence of a life of hard partying and substance abuse for which he became famous. His white hair is still thick and neatly combed. His body is toned and his face looks rested and happy.
This is because the notorious South Beach playboy, known for his Hell Parties and Hellish business, has been sober for almost three years. And these weekend bike rides are a cornerstone of his newfound lifestyle.
Each weekend morning, Kramer takes his custom built beach cruiser across the bridge from Star Island and sees Miami like no one else.
The ride crosses the causeway, turning north through Wynwood and up through Little Haiti. It finishes with a ride down Pine Tree Drive in the Beach before crossing back over the Mac Arthur to Star Island. The 30 mile trip takes roughly three hours.
“Europeans, and people not from Miami, they come to town and they love this,” he says as we coast down the MacArthur. “It’s a way of seeing Miami they’ve never experienced.”
As Kramer glides on his beach cruiser through Wynwood, he seems at peace.
“It’s like a giant outdoor museum over here. I love this place,” he says as he marvels at the graffiti and street art that line Miami’s most Bohemian enclave.
“Come, I’ll show you the best coffee in Miami.”
BEFORE AND AFTER
“I had this picture taken and I looked at it and thought, ‘I look terrible. I don’t want to look like that,’” he says as he shows me an old headshot.
It could have easily been taken at 5 a.m. in County Lockup. His hair is untamed and his eyes look bloodshot and bugged out. He has the dumb grin of someone who just did something stupid but is still intoxicated enough to think it’s funny.
“Now look,” he says as he scrolls to the next picture, his current headshot against a white background. The same face but serious and younger looking, even with his trademark smile.
“Much better, right? I get more done now,” he says as he puts his phone away. “At my party last week, I got two major deals done. I can’t do that when I’m fucked up.”
The party he refers to was his birthday party the previous weekend. But calling a Thomas Kramer event a “party” would be like calling World War 2 a bar fight.
MIXING BUSINESS WITH FANTASY
TK’s parties are the stuff of Miami legends. And travel advisories. The music, dancing, sex and drugs exemplify the South Beach fantasy.
And while his parties are still epic they are now as much about networking and business as they are hedonism.
“I take a guy to a club, and I try and do business, it’s loud. Nobody hears anything,” he says as we get back on our bikes and head up NE 2nd Avenue towards the Design District and Little Haiti.
“I show him a great party like (my birthday) and we can do business anywhere.”
This year’s party was an Arabian showcase unlike anything Miami had ever seen.
Guests dined on a lavish spread of gyros, falafel, cous cous and other middle-eastern staples. The alcohol was free flowing and hookahs adorned the plush furniture covering the back patio at 5 Star Island.
But it wouldn’t have been a TK party without some spectacle.
TK himself arrived on a camel, which almost got him decapitated when it came a little too close an outdoor ceiling fan. Anwar Zayden, a close TK friend, galloped around the property on a white horse. And before the rains came and forced everyone inside, a fireworks display just off TK’s dock was visible to all of Miami.
And of course there were strippers. First dancing topless on the walls surrounding the swimming pool. Then privately for TK and some VIPs.
“When the dancers were there, performing for me, I was sitting down and just thinking ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ I see everything clearer when I’m sober. And I remember everything I do now. That may have been our best party ever.”
Alex Lacayo, who Kramer refers to as his “sidekick,” agrees as he pedals past us.
MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY
Lacayo is not the sort you’d expect to see speeding past anyone on a lengthy bike ride. But he is an inspiration to Kramer nonetheless. The heavyset Nicaraguan has slimmed down to 280 pounds from 350, a feat he credits in large part to the Saturday morning rides. But he admits he still has a way to go.
“My goal is 180,” he says. “Saturday mornings with Thomas have gotten me to where I am. It’s the best part of the week.”
Kramer says what Lacayo has done is amazing and inspiring. In turn, Lacayo maintains that the sober TK is equally as inspirational.
“He’s just got so much positive energy now. Being around him you feel it, you get into it. It moves the whole team.”
And when he says “team,” he means it. Team TK, though often in flux, is a tight knit group on these rides. When Lacayo drops back on the ride, Kramer insists we wait up for him.
“We don’t leave anyone behind,” he says. “Just like the Marines.”
RECIPROCATION IS KEY
As much as TK gives, he expects to receive back. For a man who throws such lavish parties and inspires those around him to achieve, he expects the same treatment from others. Even if they can’t do it on his level.
“I invite you to one of my parties, invite me to something you do. I don’t even care if it’s getting a hamburger at McDonald’s. It’s the gesture. I give people two, three, four chances. But once you’ve proven you won’t return the favor, that’s it. I’m through with you.”
Kramer, for the wealth of stories about him that fly around South Florida is unrecognizable on his bike rides. As we pause at the Marina on 79th street to wait for Lacayo, he starts up a conversation with a police officer monitoring the boat launch.
“You European?” the cop asks him, clearly not recognizing the real estate mogul.
“The worst kind,” Kramer responds. “German.”
“Watch it, so am I,” the cop responds. They exchange stories about German food and some anecdotes about the boat launch.
Lacayo catches up and we bid the cop farewell.
“Are you on Facebook?” Kramer asks. “Add me. Thomas Kramer. And when you drive by Star Island, that red house is mine.”
The cop looks impressed, but clearly had no idea what the name meant. And TK seems to appreciate that fact.
IT’S TK’S MIAMI
TK silently rides south through Miami Beach like he owns the streets along with the towers that adorn them. He breezes through stop signs and only feigns a pause at red lights. And while it may sound dangerous, following behind him you are supremely confident you will not be hit. He’s TK. Nobody’s running him over.
As we roll back into 5 Star Island, TK is upbeat and gracious. The polar opposite of the personality that had some refer to him as a “Nazi” in the media.
“I’m actually happy now,” he said. “Before I was sober, I’d wake up every day and hate everyone. I wouldn’t want to get out of bed, and would want to hide when I was forced to go out. It was this downward spiral of self-pity, and I didn’t like who I was. I’d look in the mirror and hate myself.
“Now I wake up every day refreshed. I want to get up and do things and inspire people.”
But TK is still TK.
After each ride he strips down naked and goes in his sauna, which has a spectacular view of the Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline. He pads around his back patio in nothing at all, going from pool to sauna for the entire world to see.
This Saturday, a boat with half a dozen young ladies on the bow cruises by as Kramer enjoys his post ride ritual. He does not miss a beat.
“Hello, Ladies!” he yells, beckoning them as much with this manhood as with the house behind him. “Come on over! It’s a beautiful day!”
The girls cheer and laugh, whooping it up at the ageless tycoon. He turns away and laughs as he heads back to the sauna.
“You have to love that,” he says. “And you know the best part of being sober?”
“What’s that?” I respond.
“I remember everybody I fuck.”
Even sober and healthy, the icon who runs 5 Star Island hasn’t slowed down his living or his playing. Just now he does it with a clear head, a focused mind, and a perfect memory. Debauched and surreal as it all may be.
PARTY PHOTOS BY NICK AMODEO
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"Thomas Kramer’s Sober Ride"