South Beach: Florida's Gayest Beach District Gets Yet Another Second Wind

By Appell, David | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), November 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

South Beach: Florida's Gayest Beach District Gets Yet Another Second Wind


Appell, David, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Just as the revived charms of South Miami Beach started seeming a tad tired following the go-go 1990s and the post-9/11 doldrums, this sexy, glamorous slice of quintessential beach city has managed to evolve and reaffirm its spell once again over sunseekers, glamour hounds, celebrities, and muscle boys from the world over. Pedestrian Lincoln Road, with its eateries, boutiques, and circus of humanity strolling, biking, and Rollerblading; the chicly rehabbed deco hotels of Collins Avenue; the bars and clubs of Washington Avenue; and that famous white beach along iconic pastel-hued Ocean Drive-they're all pumpin' harder than ever.

By now, the riches-to-rags-and-back-again saga of South Beach is familiar to many. The areas first real boom got rolling in the Mafia-fueled Roaring Twenties, and all those sophisticated art deco buildings of the 1930s were built for a Jewish clientele driven uptown. By the '70s the deteriorating deco district had become known as "God's waiting room," full of old folks, crime, and drugs. Preservationists and farsighted developers launched a heroic revival in the late '80s, with an assist from NBC's Miami Vice, and voile, a sun- and sex-soaked hot spot was born, christened South Beach.

Reinvention continued unabated in 1990s South Beach, now notorious as home to the planet's wildest, most innovative nightlife (as one newspaper recently put it, "when drag queens ruled the world") and an avalanche of painfully trendy eateries and boutique hotels. In this wild decade the mayor was jailed, Versace was shot, and Nathan Lane and Robin Williams limp-wristed it as Ocean Drive drag club owners in The Birdcage.

After a short slump, South Beach has come roaring back yet again. These days it's a year-round area with an increasingly stable population of permanent residents. Still, tourists abound, and even in sticky August we locals are inundated with Europeans enjoying their monthlong vacations and strong currency. …

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