SoBe, as South Beach is often called, provides the engine that drives tourism, a 24-hour-a-day place where supermodels, actresses and hip-hop stars rub shoulders with visitors from Sioux Falls, S.D. Its exclusive strip of sand supplies a place to see and be seen; preen and be preened.”Outward appearances really matter; you want to look your best all the time,” said my friend Michelle, a former Southern Californian who moved to Miami a few years ago. “Everyone’s on parade, from the dishwasher to the senior executive. And everyone notices what you’re wearing: the shoes, the purse, the fragrance.”She went on to tell a story about her first Miami job interview. “Lovely dress; too bad about the shoes,” an employee told her while she waited, implying they weren’t trendy enough.
The heart of SoBe – and one of the best places to people watch – might be along a 10-block strip of Ocean Drive from Fifth to 14th streets. The best-known spot is the News Cafe, a 24-hour diner and newsstand at Eighth Street and Ocean, one of my first stops.”Any celebrities here this morning?” I asked the waiter.”No, it’s still early, but I waited on Queen Latifah yesterday,” he answered.”What did she eat?” I asked, wondering about her status as a Jenny Craig rep.The waiter raised his chin smugly. “She ate lightly,” he said, with the air of a man with a secret. “Very lightly. And she tipped well.”
SoBe locals like to drop names, and the list seems endless. Among the luminaries who own Miami-area homes: Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, Matt Damon, Lenny Kravitz, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Enrique Iglesias and Anna Kournikova, Ricky Martin, Shakira and Gloria Estefan. Oh, and we probably shouldn’t forget O.J. Simpson.Visiting stars rate their share of publicity, too. During my stay, Pamela Anderson, Justin Timberlake and Miley Cyruswere in town, according to gossip blogs.Some well-known entertainers launch their own Miami businesses. Actor Danny DeVito and a couple of partners opened a pricey chop house last summer called DeVito South Beach. It draws tourists in search of the 5-foot-tall boss and fellow stars in search of a good meal.