Every year from 1978 through the 1990’s, there was a black-tie bash in Miami Beach benefiting the Miami Design Preservation League, called the “Moon Over Miami Ball”. This very anticipated party would happen at different hotels in the Art Deco historic district, hosting various legendary entertainers every year.
In 1986, for a real 1920’s flashback, the annual black-tie event was held at the historic Carl Fisher Clubhouse at 2100 Washington Avenue, with Bill Waid’s Swing Classic Orchestra in full jazz mode.
In 1990, the celebratory event took place with white flowing tents connecting the newly renovated Essex House and the Fairmont Gardens Hotel. The Xavier Cugat Orchestra provided big band sounds for the fox-trotting partiers till the early morning hours. The four hundred plus attendees were comprised of preservationists local and international, all dressed in romantic 1920’s-30’s speakeasy attire.
Michael Kinerk, one of the early pioneers of MDPL shared, “My personal favorite Moon Over Miami Ball was in 1992 which featured Cab Calloway and the orchestra as entertainment. It was the block of Lincoln Road at Euclid Avenue. We also had great and memorable balls at the Raleigh Hotel, the Ritz Plaza, the Ocean Front Auditorium, the Carl Fisher Clubhouse near the Bass Museum, and Espanola Way. Also the first MOMB in 1978 was very memorable, at the Edwards hotel, SE corner of Collins Avenue and 10th Street. It is now a senior living center, but at that time it was a hotel and had a large swimming pool on the south side (now a parking lot or addition). That water ballet produced by Rob Slaughter and the Blue Sharkettes, was unforgettable. “
But probably most memorable of all was the Art Deco Weekend 1981, as an ode to the Jazz Age. The grande finale to all that jazz was more jazz on Sunday night with the Moon Over Miami celebration ball at the Victor Hotel, charging only $20 per person. Larry Davies the event coordinator, was a close personal friend of the well known American singer and actress Eartha Kitt. He asked her to perform that night and make the same infamous entrance she made years ago at the El Morocco Supper Club. She agreed and wowed the crowd by walking on stage bathed in pink lights, her train dramatically dragging on the floor. Davies said of her performance, “Eartha Kitt is a legend of the Deco time. We want to show people that we can bring the era back”. Her backup music was William Waid’s seventeen piece swing-classic band. The Victor Hotel bought at the time by “Art Deco Hotels Co.”, managed by Barbara Baer Capitman’s oldest son Andrew, had the goal of resurrecting its faded glamour. They began the $75,000 interior restoration project a few months before the event, directed by Margaret Doyle, graduate of the prestigious Columbia University Graduate School of Historic Preservation. That night while the band belted out Benny Goodman tunes and the young crowd drank and mingled, the elderly hotel tenants watched above from the second floor balcony, reminiscing of days gone by.