The Fontainebleau Hotel is the place to be in Miami Beach. The glamour and glitz are still over the top–even in the midst of an economic meltdown. Renovating the resort cost a billion dollars and featured Heidi Klum modeling lingerie for Victoria’s Secret. Somewhere Ben Novak is smiling. The Fontainebleau is back.
In its heyday, it wasn’t just the playground for the rich and famous. For Miami Beach kids like me who lived in its shadow, the hotel was our playground, too. The best place to swim, best place to ice skate, best place to meet boys vacationing with their parents over Christmas vacation.
Years after I went to the Fontainebleau for bar mitzvahs, I went there as a Miami TV newscaster to cover a press conference. Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone, and Mel Brooks were attending the National Organization of Theater Owners meeting at the hotel. My station had also arranged a private interview for me with Mel Brooks.
After the interview, the guy with Mel handed me his card and asked me to send a videocassette copy to him in Los Angeles. I assumed he was Mel’s publicist. As a young woman in TV news, I was used to guys like this. I figured either he wanted to represent me, or he was hitting on me. Pretty soon I had my answer. And somehow I found myself agreeing to meet him back at the Fontainebleau for a drink, after I finished the late news.
“I couldn’t think of a fast excuse,” I told my producer when I got back to the station from the interview. “I’m not gonna show up.”
“You should go, ” my producer urged me. “Maybe Mel will be there, too.”
I didn’t care. I met plenty of celebrities on the job, the Fontainebleau was a half hour from the TV station, and this Hollywood guy wasn’t even my type.
But he called to confirm the date, and caught me off guard as I was heading for the studio to do the 11 p.m. news. Now I couldn’t stand him up. So after the news, I headed back to the Fontainebleau.
The Hollywood guy was waiting outside the hotel, and he climbed into my car. He had already made plans to go to a popular nightspot a half hour away. In the car, I found out he was Mel’s personal manager. And that Mel had invited himself on our date. My producer was right.
Mel arrived at the club soon after we did and held court for several hours, completely charming me and everyone else in the room. He was hilarious, witty, and everything you’d expect Mel Brooks to be. Mr. Hollywood and I barely had a chance to say two words to each other once Mel showed up.
When we finally got up to leave, it turned out that Mel had dismissed his car and driver. So at 3 a.m. we headed back to the Fontainebleau in my car–with Mel in the back seat continuing his patter as I drove towards Miami Beach.
Suddenly Mel leaned forward, and stuck his head between the two front seats. “So. You got a boyfriend?” It was the Jewish inquisition.
I hesitated. “Um. Kind of.”
Mel was in Jewish father mode. “You don’t sound very excited. Why don’t you dump this boyfriend, marry my manager, and move to California.”
4 months later, I did.