I remember when South Beach looked like a parking lot for elderly people left there by their rich children. I often cruised the strip with my Yellow Taxi in the daytime, (at night it was too dangerous), and watch the building facing the ocean on the West side of Collins Avenue. From the twenties all the way down to fifth street all you could see back then was a quantity of old people sitting on the outside looking at the beach. Who could have ever imagined that years later this would turn out to be the world’s famous South Beach. Miami Vice was being filmed and the eighties were great years for many.
Also for the druglords, attracted by the temperatures and the free hunting for new places to open their vicious markets. Every day i turned the radio on there was a shooting involving this or that particular mafia. The Jamaicans, the Italians, the Cubans, trying to set their territory from one another.
After the killings, and the division of the territory between the druglords, the big money started to flow in faster than the Gulfstream and they had to be re-invested clean and fast.
Bulidings, hotels banks and restaurants came into life in the next years like mushrooms in the woods after heavy rain.
The Skyline of Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach changed from a quiet simple line to the one we know and see now.
It was safe to drive down the strip anytime day or night. The “old farts” that sat in front of the hotels were dumped somewhere else and the casting companies, the fashion artists, and the movie industry moved in changing the looks and the feeling of South Florida forever.
Hallandale looked like a quiet place to live and I rented a small room on 214 terrace, just east of old Federal Higway.It was just a room, if I needed to take a shower i had to ask the owner to go into the house. It was cheap, that is all I cared for.
All the money I had when I came from a small town of Northern Italy was gone. Three hundred dollars, in one night, in New York, after I decided to stay overnight in Manhattan. It was the day of my twentythird birthday when I landed for the first time of my life at JFK.
October 15 1979. I will never forget that ride on the back seat of a Checker Cab, going into Manhattan I could see the skyline getting closer and closer, like a forest of buildings. The Autumn’ sun right behind the Chrisler looked like a huge organge, and by the time we got into the hart of fifth ave, it was dark red.
So i decided that i wanted to live it up, and ended up into a strip-joint, where my money evaporated faster than the steam from the sewer. My first and last time in such a club costed me three hundred and the (kept) promise to never set my “grease-ball” foot again in a night club.
So by the time I landed into the Fort Lauderdale Airport I had only the emergency money that I managed to save between my sock and my left foot. It amounted to fiftysix dollars.
I took a bus South and when I felt it was right, i stepped out and the sign red: US1 and Hallandale Beach Boulevard.
There was an Italian Restaurant there named Doria’s. Went in and got a job as a salad boy, helping Hassan, the pizza man from Iran who was making pizza faster that any italian pizza-men I ever met.
He was hooked on the dogs. There was a Dog-Track, just a few blocks from the restaurant and it seemed to him that the faster he could make those pizzas, the earlier he could go to throw his money away. Hollywood Dog Track, on Pembroke and US1.
I took that really small room from an old man. He asked fifty bucks for the week. I had to take it, I was broke, after all…I couldn’t excpect to be sleeping at the Fointanbleu, after all.
That night i felt asleep as fast as I layed my head on the bed. The room was just big enough to contain the bed.
Later I found out that it was a tool shack reshaped for the occasion (my lodging)…..to be continued