Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed bestselling author of Philistines at the Hedgerow
comes a remarkably revealing profile of the Miami Beach no one knows–a tale of fabulous excess, thwarted power, and rekindled lives that will take its place among the decades best works of social portraiture.
Created from a mix of swampland and dredged-up barrier reef, Miami Beach has always been one part drifter-mecca and one part fantasyland, simultaneously a catch basin for con men, fast-talk artists, and shameless self-promoters, and a Shangri-La for sun worshippers and hardcore hedonists. In Miami Beach its often said that "if youre not indicted youre not invited." But the citys mad, fascinating complexity resists easy stereotyping.
Fools Paradise is more than just a present-day profile of a dark Eden. Gaines journeys back into the citys social and cultural history, unearthing stories of the resorts past that are every bit as absorbing–and jaw-dropping–as those of its present. The book begins with a snapshot of the citys current excess (this is, after all, a sun-washed hamlet that boasts, on a per capita basis, more bars–and breast implants–than any other place in America), then plunges into the Beachs origins, chronicling the audacious rise of such hoteliers as the Fontainebleaus Ben Novack and the Eden Rocs Harry Mufson, the sharp-elbowed tactics of Al Capone and Frank Sinatra, and the Mac-10 shooting sprees of the Marielito and Colombian drug lords.
From there, the narrative shifts to two wildly eccentric souls who gave their lives to preserving the citys architectural dazzle and creating its color palette, introduces us to "the Most Powerful Man in Miami Beach," and arrives finally in the modern day, where we meet, among others, a kinky German playboy who once owned a quarter of South Beach and publicly flaunts his sexual escapades; a fabulously successful nightclub promoter whose addictive past seems to have given him a portal into the night worlds id; and a gaggle of young sexy models, dreamers, and schemers on a mission to achieve significance.
Evoking the Beachs surreal blend of flashy Vegas and old Hollywood glamour, as well as its manic desperation and reckless wealth, Gaines persuasively demonstrates that though the Beach is–in the words of its most famous drag queen–"an island of broken toys . . . a place where people get away with things theyd never get away with anyplace else," it casts an irresistible spell.
"As two of South Beach's famous ladies (the Hotel Fountainbleu and Madonna, respectively) reinvent themselves yet again, this sour-sweet city history exposes scandal, intrigue, sex and drugs in the sun-drenched social spot. Gaines (Philistines at the Hedgerow) doesn't let a garish outfit or randy dialogue escape: 'they were an odd sight, Barbara Capitman in her frowsy clothes, Leonard Horowitz in his hand-me-downs; Barbara buttonholing people on the street to tell them about Art Deco preservations, Leonard spouting sexual come-ons to passing gay men like he had Tourette's syndrome.' The author rounds up the usual suspects: the hotelier, the mobster, the model, the other model, the night club owner, Frank Sinatra (in his greatest real-life hoodlum roles), and a chorus line of backstabbers, petty criminals and reformed drug addicts, all attracted by the wealth and possibility of South Beach. Gaines is more gossipy tour guide than investigative journalist, and readers will rightly suspect that most of the characters would revel in his nastier descriptions. Nevertheless, this book is perfect reading for a lazy afternoon in the double-decker cabana." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
With the eye-opening insight that comes from having an all-access pass, the bestselling author of "Philistines at the Hedgerow" captures the endlessly fascinating bad behavior of the rich, famous, beautiful, and self-indulgent in South Beach. 8-page full-color insert.