Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the narcos in the Miami of the 80s

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It was a symbol of the cocaine years on the beach and inspired the movie Scarface. He opened his doors and his membership club in 1969, uniting the jet-setter with crime, undercover agents with athletes, and musicians with politicians

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in 80s Miami

Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer in a scene from Scarface at the fictional Club Babylon, inspired by the Mutiny.

The Mutiny Hotel is a tall building in Coconut Grove,near downtown of Miami. At first glance it seems like just another building that inhabits the city. However, an approach to the history of the place reveals the chilling events that it hosted in the seventies and eighties, when drug trafficking grew in Florida and the Mutiny became the main scene of its protagonists.

Both the hotel and its club —exclusive, with membership— were inaugurated in 1969. Since its inception, it has attracted the attention of celebrities from sports, movies, music, and politics. And the drug dealers. And the undercover agents.

The creator and manager of the place, Burton Goldberg, devised a space where any fantasy would be possible. And realizing that many of his clients were nouveau riche who came to Miami from Colombia, Venezuela, Cuba and Central American countries, he decided that his business should captivate and seduce the Latino macho .

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in 1980s Miami

Entrance to the Hotel Mutiny, which today functions as a condo-resort in Coconut Grove.

Its colorful and glamorous installations were a never-ending party. They all wanted at least a little of the indoor fun, not suspecting that soon the hotel would owe its celebrity to something more than dancing, sex, and luxury.

“If the walls could talk, ours would tell an epic story,” recalls a plaque at the hotel. And yes, there is a lot that those walls would count. The story of table 14, the one that the drug traffickers occupied every night to close deals or plot new deliveries. The prostitutes who hid their clients' weapons when the police knocked on the door of the room. The times two drug dealers clashed in the hallways. The controversial career of Ricardo Monkey Morales. Or the night a bathtub was filled with champagne.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the drug traffickers in the Miami of the 80s

The designer Caroline Robbins was at charge of creating 130 different themes for hotel rooms.

Or the coveted Mutiny girls, hired by Goldberg. They were women envied for their beauty, their access to money and the biggest tycoons of those years.

This atmosphere is brilliantly recreated in the movie Scarface, the classic 1983, written by Oliver Stone, directed by Brian de Palma and starring Al Pacino as Tony Montana. fictional Club Babylon that appears in the film, is inspired by the Mutiny.

The stars of Miami Vice also felt the gravitational pull of the Mutiny. Don Johnson partied there, and Philip Michael Thomas moved in with his family and insisted on parking his imitation purple Ferrari on the curb. The creators of the hit show studied the agents and capos in the Mutiny; a cooperating drug lord even managed to make it to two episodes.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in 80s Miami

Caption: The Mutiny Girls were envied for their beauty, their access to money and the biggest tycoons of those years.

The Mutiny Hotel embodies the greatness and decadence of the South Florida cocaine world. No other place has attracted dealers, models, businessmen, politicians and superstars so much.

The waste of money was something singular. Just to have access to the facilities, a membership was necessary, it cost USD 75 and consisted of a metallic card with the symbol of a winking pirate. That was the entry pass to other passes —less childish— that were inside.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the drug traffickers in the Miami of the 80s

Membership card of drug dealer Nelson Aguilar.

There was so much speculative money circulating in Miami that the Mutiny sold more bottles of Dom Pérignonthan any other establishment on the planet, according to the champagne distributor, whose executives visited the place, in disbelief, in the early 1980s. A hotel suite was turned into a giant walk-in fridge; women danced in bubbling cascades across the table with stacks of goblets; consumers brought bottles home, and management often took the Mutiny's private plane out at the last minute to buy even more champagne in other cities

The Mutiny was the nerve center where, in addition to famous artists or athletes, politicians, drug traffickers, arms dealers, hitmen, prostitutes… gathered to drink, bottle after bottle, endlessly, in marathon days that included orgies and drugs. Many times shamelessly, at the bar tables; others in one of the 130 rooms decorated as in a fantasy book.

The Mutiny's business card, next to the address, invited to obtain the “guest privileges in the club chicest private in Miami”.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in Miami in the 80s

And Nelson Aguilar himself with singer Rick James at the Mutiny hotel club.

The history of the hotel fascinated the writer and journalist Roben Farzad, author of the book Scarface Hotel: where the cocaine riders would party and conspire to control Miami, who in an interview with the BBC said that the Mutiny “was a paradise in the middle of hell”.

Internationally wanted hit men and mercenaries had fun at the Mutiny. Frequent visitors hid their guns in cushions and boxes of cash and cocaine in their rooms. Bullets flew on occasion. Bullies got caught. Refugees slipped in. Many policemen received bribes. Many dealers were recorded. Pilots were hired. Prices were put on their heads. Plots were hatched.

Among the cocaine cowboys in attendance were Francisco Condom-Gil, Nelson Aguilar, the brothers Raúl and Rafael Villaverde and Monkey(whose fame as a double agent preceded him) or his partner Carlos Quesada. Those and other names left a wave of terror that turned the city —where many old people once spent their retirement years — in the national capital of murder.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the drug traffickers in the Miami of the 80s

Burton Goldberg, creator and manager of the Mutiny, sold the hotel in 1984 for $17 million.

The splendor ended in the mid-1980s, after someone murdered Margarita, one of the Mutiny girls. . Violence in the Magic City reached unprecedented levels. Since then, the authorities have put more and more pressure, and together with other events, such as the appearance of AIDS and frequent fights between drug traffickers, the hotel has been losing its clientele.

Customs, the DEA, the FBI and other federal institutions deployed against drug trafficking in Miami, which at that time was a troubled city and wars between gangs were the order of the day.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the drug traffickers in the Miami of the 80s

The party began to fade as violence grew in the city and authorities went to arrest suspects at the Mutiny.

Even Time magazine, in its November 23, 1981, had an unusual cover and questioned, referring to South Florida: “Paradise lost?”.

After years of waste and opulence, in 1984 Goldberg sold the hotel for USD 17 million, and the building was abandoned until the mid-1990s, when a hotel chain restored it and put it back into operation, this time for a completely different purpose than original.

Currently the Mutiny works as a hotel-condominium, where you can rent short-term apartments. Although it is no longer the crowded building it once was, and the scandal has left its premises, the place still retains its sex appeal.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in Miami of the 80

The party at the Mutiny never ended on the nights of the seventies and eighties.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of the narcos in the Miami of the 80s

The Mutiny was promoted as "the most chic private club in Miami".

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in Miami in the 80s

The story of the Mutiny is told in "Hotel Scarface", the book by Roben Farzad.

Hotel Mutiny: the sandbox of drug traffickers in 1980s Miami

The years of the Cocaine Cowboys brought crime to Miami, as reflected "Time" in 1981.

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