Florida Guide > Days Out
Miami - Home of the Rich and Famous
Although we love the fun and excitement of Orlando, and especially being at our villa, we often fly into Miami, and try to fit in a couple of days in this fascinating and diverse city.
Like us, many people love Miami – the rich and famous – both past and present - have made their homes here. It is a cultural centre, and a Mecca for music and fashion. Not only do celebrities make their homes here, but many people retire to this sunny and warm destination. It is often said that living in Miami ‘keeps you young. ’ In fact, Miami used to be called ‘God’s Waiting Room’ because of the number of octogenarians spending their last days in the sunshine.
Many famous singers have beautiful homes in Miami. Enrique Iglesias, the son of legendary singer, Julio, grew up in Miami, and has a home in an area called Sunset Island. His famous tennis playing girlfriend, Anna Kournikova, also lives in Sunset Island. Shakira, whose Latin music has won her a Grammy and two Latin Grammys, is another close neighbour. Gloria Esterfan, however, spent her childhood in Miami, when, at the age of 2 she left Cuba for a new life in the USA. It was after she fell victim to an accident which nearly killed her, and which could have ended her career, that the people of Miami took her to their hearts. She in turn supported the city when Hurricane Andrew struck in 1992. She arranged and performed a charity concert which raised millions of dollars for the victims of the destruction. Gloria lives on Star Island.
It is not only pop stars and singers who have made their home in this melting pot of cultures. Janet Reno, the former Attorney General of the US under Bill Clinton, lives in the Kendall area of Miami. She made an unsuccessful attempt to run for governor of Florida, against Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother. Oprah Winfrey, the well known talk show host has a vacation home in Miami Beach and is often to be seen around and about. A less popular figure, since his acquittal of the double murder of his wife and her friend in 1994, is OJ Simpson. The former National Football League player has a house in Kendall, and after his career ended he tried his hand at acting and sportscasting. Matt Damon, Billy Joel and Sylvester ‘Rocky’ Stallone have also bought luxurious homes in Miami.
Sadly, Miami has also been the final resting place of many famous people – Versace, whose magnificent mansion was in South Beach, was gunned down outside his home, Casa Casuarina, on Ocean Drive. You can still walk past his house, but it is now an exclusive hotel – yours to experience for a mere $2000-$6, 000 per night! Bought for a mere $2. 9m in 1992, it was purchased for $19m after his assassination.
Not many people realise that the brutal Chicago gangster, Al Capone, ended his days in Miami, following his incarceration in Alcatraz. He settled in Miami in 1940, and died there, in his Palm Island palace, at the age of 48, from a heart attack.
But the most outrageous owner of a Miami mansion has to be the German shepherd dog, Gunther, who owns Madonna’s former 8, 432 sq ft eight bedroom Mediterranean style home. The father of this pampered pet was the sole heir to the $65 million fortune of the late German countess, Karlotta Liebenstien. Gunther, of course, gets Madonna’s old bedroom overlooking a luxurious pool, and Biscayne Bay. But I doubt if he is overawed by this luxury, as he owns several homes in Italy, and the Bahamas. In fact his minders made an offer on Sylvester Stallone’s mansion the year before!
But Miami has attracted entrepreneurs for centuries. The famous Henry M Flagler, an oil magnate who created a vast empire with John D Rockefeller, was one of the first to develop the east coast of Florida, starting with land and hotels in St Augustine. He started a railroad system which eventually extended all the way to Miami and beyond to Key West. Today, if you walk around South Beach you cannot fail to amble down the famous Collins Avenue. It was John Collins, together with Carl Fisher, whose vision resulted in present day Miami Beach. He took on the daunting task of transforming the mangrove swamp – much to the amusement of his critics. But he had the last laugh – it was a difficult task but he succeeded, and he ended up laughing all the way to the bank.
If you would like to see some of the homes of the rich and famous then take yourself down to the Bayside area and book a trip on one of the boats, which take you through the intercoastal waterways and past the magnificent mansions that look out over the water.
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