Who we've talked to...

We’re not sure if it’s the salt air, a bit too much sun or the distance from the mainland, but Miami Beach has an attraction for the notorious and the creative, those looking to reinvent themselves and those who just want a beautiful place to live. “What happens in Miami stays in Miami” reflects an attitude that defines the free-wheeling nature of the Beach and also speaks about those who came and then stayed.

 

Visual Memoirs Interviewees

When Steve Adkins decided to leave the corporate world in California and come east, he chose Miami Beach because it was more laid back than New York, had better weather and had a reputation as being gay-friendly. Steve is the President and CEO of the Miami-Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, an organization which has been at the forefront of creating Miami Beach’s openness and welcoming to sexual minorities. Steve talks about how this welcoming atmosphere evolved and the role the gay community has played and continues to play in making Miami Beach one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

David Wallack is the proprietor of the world famous Mango’s Tropical Cafe, what the Miami Herald once described as an “open air version of a late night Vegas club.” Mango’s has become the focal point of the night scene on South Beach, ironic since it was previously a home for the elderly called Eastern Sun, which offered holistic health care in a Zen atmosphere. Mr. Wallack was also the proprietor. In telling the story of the metamorphosis of Eastern Sun into Mango’s, he finds no irony. He maintains that he is still in the business of taking care of people and making sure they are happy. Mango’s is one of the top ten restaurant/night clubs in the United States.

Mr. Wallack talks about his early life as a youth on Miami Beach. His family and he arrived in 1955. His father was in the real estate business, which is how they came to own the Mango’s building. He talks about the establishment of the Eastern Sun, the first commercial ACLF (Adult Congregate Living Facility) on Miami Beach, which operated for 12 years. The care and treatment of the elderly was so exemplary and innovative, Mr. Wallack became an international consultant and lecturer on the Eastern Sun practices and philosophy.

He also talks about the club scene and the struggle to keep the night life viable — the on-going conflict between the tourism business and local residents.

This interview was recorded October 3, 2017, in Mangos on Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive.

Steven Haas probably knows better than anyone what draws people to Miami and Miami Beach and what will keep them coming. He just stepped down as Chair of the Greater Miami Visitors and Convention Bureau. His forté is hospitality, especially in dining. So naturally we met up at Jack’s Home Cooking, a new place in the Design District area he is helping birth. The man who invented Miami Spice started working in his father’s deli as a youngster and eventually became general manager of The Forge, Miami Beach’s famed luxury restaurant, frequented by the famous and the infamous.

She started covering crime on the police beat for the Miami Beach Daily Sun. She moved on to The Miami Herald where she made a name for herself covering murders. Now she’s one of the best-known crime fiction writers around. This interview was filmed in Books and Books on Lincoln Mall in September of 2016.

The interview with JoAnn was recorded in June 2012.

Artist Michele Oka Doner, sitting under a tree she used to climb as a child on Miami Beach, talks about the retrospective of her work currently exhibited at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. She tells how she chose pieces for the exhibit, many of them artifacts from her childhood collection. Michele was born and raised on Miami Beach. Her father served two terms as Mayor. She recalls the lessons in life she learned from her grandfather and the small town community that was Miami Beach in her growing up years.

This interview was recorded May 26, 2017, in the Gross Miami Beach home.