“The historic Deauville Beach Resort in Miami Beach is set to be demolished after the city’s building official issued a final demolition permit Wednesday. The shuttered hotel, at 6701 Collins Ave., will be brought down by implosion and conventional demolition, according to a Thursday memo from City Manager Alina Hudak to the City Commission. A date for the demolition was not provided.”
—The Miami Herald,
March 10, 2022

Every fall, the streets of my hometown flood from the King Tide (high tide, new or full moon), a precursor to Miami Beach’s inevitable climate-change drowning. Still, rents and luxury-real-estate sales explode in a lunatic, multi-billion-dollar game of musical chairs. The very modest house I grew up in, the home my grandfather built with his own hands in 1956 for $23,000 (including the price of the landlocked Hibiscus Island lot), sold in 2021 for $2.3 million. (Unfortunately my parents had left years before.)

Miami Beach has always been a city that eats its own architectural history. If the heroic Barbara Baer Capitman hadn’t led marches, weathered arrests, and chained herself to condemned Ocean Drive hotels in the 80s, the town fathers would have eagerly razed the 23-block Art Deco District, now a Miami Beach tourist engine.

In the early 60s, my family had a summer cabana in the original 1925 gold-domed beachfront Roney Plaza Hotel. The grand Roney, a style sister to the baroque Breakers Palm Beach, had spires and turrets, wild parrots flying through ornate gardens, President Eisenhower’s footprints outlined in gold in the lobby, and was, of course, demolished in 1968 for a Russian-cell-block-design condo.

The scene outside the Deauville before the Beatles’ appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 16, 1964.

And now the wrecking ball tolls for 1957’s “Hotel of the Year,” the epic midcentury home to the Beatles, the Rat Pack, J.F.K.—the Deauville Beach Resort. The current owners deny they are letting the glorious Deauville rot and die so they can demo and cash in on the $100 million land value, but that is exactly what is happening. That is the Miami Beach way.

The Way Things Were

Nineteen fifty-seven. I am five, sitting atop my father’s shoulders as he navigates the Deauville’s construction site. He proudly describes the swanky lighting he’s designed for Miami Beach’s newest palace.

The Deauville is the Camilla Parker Bowles of Miami Beach midcentury hotels, queen consort to the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc, the Morris Lapidus–designed kings of Collins. Designed by architect Melvin Grossman (Miami Beach’s Seville Beach Hotel, Imperial House, Doral Country Club; Caesar’s Palace, in Las Vegas; and the Acapulco Princess), the hotel is a 540-room city, from the lower level’s beauty salon, coffee shop, radio station, and luxury-clothing stores to the grand marble lobby and the vast chandeliered banquet halls and nightclubs.

Sam Cohen, who would later serve time in a Nevada prison for skimming $14 million from the former Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas (now the Flamingo Las Vegas) on behalf of Meyer Lansky, was the Deauville’s titular owner. As journalist Jack Anderson wrote in a 1972 Washington Post exposé, “The Mafia’s Ties in Convention City”: “It’s no secret that the crime lords and their reputed associates have a penchant for the luxury hotel business. Records show, for example, that the fabulous Eden Roc and Deauville are partly owned by Sam Cohen and Morris Lansburgh, who are awaiting trial in an organized crime case.”

Poolside at the Deauville.

At Cohen’s request, my father’s engineering firm air-conditioned the Deauville to meat-locker temperatures so the ladies could descend the lobby’s stairway-to-nowhere in their furs.

The Deauville is the Camilla Parker Bowles of Miami Beach midcentury hotels, queen consort to the Fontainebleau and Eden Roc.

February 16, 1964. I am 11, protecting my younger sister, Amy, from the mob surging outside the Deauville as we wait to see the Beatles on the live Ed Sullivan Show. Weird, older con men scurry through the roiling crowd, selling Beatles wigs and scraps of fabric guaranteed to be Deauville Hotel bedding that the Beatles have slept on. As the crowd rushes for the entrance, someone near us is shoved through the coffee shop’s plate-glass window. Amy and I are in the eye of full-blown 1964 Beatlemania as it hits the Deauville.

My memories of that Sullivan show are a blur: the scale and musty smell of the vast Napoleon Ballroom, some gymnasts on a live feed from central Florida spinning from a pole, Mitzi Gaynor’s improbably oiled and hypnotic cleavage, and then, finally, as my sixth-grade brain is about to implode, the Beatles!!!

The Beatles would be forever linked with the Deauville, the historic Miami Beach hotel.

I am laser-focused (a rock writer in training) on George’s hands/chord changes, Paul’s left-handed Hofner bass, and John’s surprisingly Irish-looking hair, unexpectedly red beneath the spotlights. Very hard to hear anything at this point, in the jet engine of pre-pubescent girl screams. (I actually consider strangling Amy, who seems to be shrieking the loudest.)

But I do hear and I know, instantly, that seeing the Beatles in my Deauville Hotel has changed everything.

July 1973. Cohen is, I believe, serving his prison sentence, and I’ve just returned from my college junior-year-abroad program in London to a Deauville Hotel job that my father’s arranged through Jerry Winters, Cohen’s son-in-law. I’m to be an “assistant engineer,” which seems to be a janitorial gig: my first weeks are spent pulling down the acoustic-tile ceiling in the Deauville’s kosher kitchen and watching the Black hotel baker braid and bake dough for the guests’ fresh challah.

I find a conference room tucked away in the bowels of the hotel to hide from my boss, Louie, and read Rolling Stone, NME (New Musical Express), and Music Maker magazines. One day, crossing the pool area, the head cabana boy (a suave god at the Deauville) stops me. Somebody has quit, he’s understaffed, and right there, next to the shuffleboard court, I get my field promotion: the assistant engineer is now a Deauville Hotel cabana boy! My sword-in-the-chaise moment.

The author during his cabana-boy summer, 1973.

I spend my days setting up mah-jongg and card tables, moving chaises like sundials for guests to catch every last possible ray of scorching Miami Beach sun. The fierce and tiny bubbies, the cola-brown Raisinettes, grab my wrists with painful, vise-like intensity, bully me in gravelly Harvey Fierstein growls: “My grandaughtuh is coming down from Colgate! You will love huh!”

That summer of ‘73, I am the Flamingo Kid of 67th and Collins. I love and remember every detail and, 38 years later, write it all, use every memory, to create my TV series Magic City.

I know, instantly, that seeing the Beatles in my Deauville Hotel has changed everything.

July 2011. We are shooting the extravagant New Year’s scene for Magic City’s debut episode in the Deauville’s Le Jardin nightclub, the very same room that Tony Bennett crowned in the late 50s. Our tuxedoed and gowned cast and a full house of glamorous extras await our “Frank Sinatra” to ring in 1959 with “I’ve Got the World on a String.”

Between shots, I have new pages to write, and I’m led down to a quiet room in the basement to work. The double doors open, and I am standing in the exact same Deauville’s conference room that I hid in to read rock magazines when I was an assistant engineer in 1973.

For the next two years, I am back in the Deauville Beach Resort to shoot every Magic City pool-and-cabana scene, even to film a boxing match in the Napoleon Ballroom, where Amy and I had seen the Beatles.

A scene from Magic City, on location at the Deauville.

I could see, a decade ago, the shabby neglect of that once great beauty. Every single surface we used had to be repainted; our late, brilliant production designer, Carlos Barbosa, even built new, period-correct balustrades. The Deauville I had known intimately when it was young and glamorous and confident was now just big and sad. The Deauville was dying. And that was 10 years ago.

February 16, 2022. A band of Nautilus Middle School 13-year-olds, the Sunset Four, play Beatles songs across the street from the condemned Deauville Beach Resort. These North Beach kids celebrate the 58th anniversary of the Beatles’ Ed Sullivan Show appearance at the Deauville. The music lives, but the swaggering structure that held it and so many other seminal cultural moments is dead.

Mitch Glazer is a Los Angeles–based writer and producer. His TV series Magic City, set in Miami and filmed in part at the Deauville, is available for streaming on Peacock