By Charlotte Libov….
Revelers were whisked back in time as the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce presented its 89th Annual Dinner Gala and Silent Auction, to pay homage both to the city’s fabled past, and also to Miami Beach business and community leaders of today.
The event, entitled “Live from Miami Beach,” attracted a record attendance of 1,100 guests, who filled a Miami Beach Convention Center that was transformed into a glittering black-and-white 1950s extravaganza, made alive with performances by Jackie Gleason, Marilyn Monroe, and, a live auction, and many other surprises.
“I am so proud and honored to have had the most successful dinner gala in its 89th year with the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce membership, businesses and Miami Beach residents all coming together to celebrate our outstanding leaders from this community,” said Jason Loeb, Chairman of the Board.
“I am thrilled at the success of the gala, it speaks further to the tremendous leadership of the Chairman, the entire Board and the Executive Team. It was a wonderful evening and our greatest gala ever. Having the opportunity to recognize the important accomplishments by the honorees in their careers was a privilege,” said Immediate Past Chairman & Gala Chairman Aaron Perry. “We can’t give enough thanks to Miami Beach Convention Center General Manager Bob Balsam for his efforts in making this a world class event. His entire team including Paul Ramstetter, General Manager of Prestige Audio Visual did a spectacular job transforming the venue to accom- modate the Chamber’s throwback to the 1950’s theme”, said Perry.
“The creative use of the menu to turn back time from the “Lucy I’m Home” appetizers, to the “Away We Go” entree and the spectacular array of retro-desserts served in the City National Bank Poodle Lounge transformed by Social Catering Sales Director Bruce Townsend was a tribute to Chef Jonathan Barnett and the Centerplate team capably managed by Nick Tierno”, stated Ceci Velasco, Chamber COO.
The program was highlighted by the awards ceremony, in which the Chamber honored four of the most accomplished people in the community for their contributions.
Miami Beach City Commissioner Ed Tobin paid tribute to Barth Green, M.D., who was given the Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding work in Haiti. Green, who co-founded Project Medishare in 1994, has worked tirelessly to bring bringing medical care to the earthquake-ravaged country. In accepting the award, Dr. Green also paid homage to the people of Miami Beach.
“When you are in Haiti, the ambulances you see are from the City of Miami Beach. We have a hospital that is due to Miami Beach. We are so grateful for all you have done to build a new Haiti,” Dr. Green said.
Next came the new Hi-Tides Outstanding Achievement Award, which Jorge Gonzalez, president and CEO of City National Bank bestowed upon Brett Ratner. The award, which will be presented annually, pays homage to Chairman of the Board, Jason Loeb whose mantra, “hi tides raises all boats has become an integral part of the chamber’s day to day philosophy.” The Chamber’s leadership is so pleased to have the opportunity to recognize Jason for all of his accomplishments during his 15 years of service to the chamber and community at large”, said Chamber Executive Board Member and Vice Chair Stephanie Ruiz.
Ratner, now one of Hollywood’s most famous director/ producers, could not attend in person because he is finishing his latest movie, “Tower Heist.” However, he appeared live on screen, to trade quips with Loeb, who is one of his oldest childhood friends (To prove it, Ratner held up to the camera a photo of both boys, taken at Ratner’s bar mitzvah, which was held at the Eden Roc hotel.) “My success is really because of my growing up in Miami Beach. It is the greatest place in the world,” exclaimed Ratner. He also exclaimed, “I loved you guys,” and introduced his grandparents, who were seated with him in Los Angeles.
William Talbert III, President and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, presented the Excellence in Tourism Award to Bill Johnson, Port Director, who he congratulated for helping to make the Port of Miami successful and “sexy.” In accepting the award, Johnson said, “I am privileged and honored to be serving this community. Clearly, I love Miami Beach.”
And last, but certainly not least, came one of the evening’s most awaited events, the presentation of the Lifetime Achievement Award to City of Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower. In making it, Miami Beach City Manager Jorge M. Gonzalez noted that Bower is affectionately nicknamed “the People’s Mayor,” and he added that she is “the heart and soul of this community.” In accepting the award, Bower said, “I have loved this community ever since I moved here with my husband. Miami Beach is different from any other city in the world.”
But the true emcee of the evening was Jackie Gleason, who is embodied by officially sanctioned Gleason impersonator Michael Walters. His capering, along with the sultry tunes of Marilyn Monroe impersonator Camille Terry, delighted the audience, especially when she headed into the audience to serenade “Mr. Miami Beach” Michael Aller with a honey-dripping rendition of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy.”
Adding to the evening’s excitement was a live auction, conducted by DJ Jeffrey Greene, of 84 West Studios, for the one-year lease of a brand-new Jaguar XJL from the Warren Henry Automotive Group. And, after the dinner, the fun continued until past midnight, as the guests headed into the recreated “Poodle Lounge,” to dance the night away.
Major benefactors American Airlines, City National Bank, Miami Beach Convention Center/ Prestige AV, Centerplate, Premier Beverage/ Eristoff, CBS Outdoors and Warren Henry Automobiles, along with a host of other sponsors and supporters, made the event possible.
Writer Charlotte Libov, whose work appears in Ocean Drive magazine and many other publications, provides corporate, public relations and other writing services. She can be reached at email@example.com. Photos courtesy of Henry Perez Photography, a fullservice firm providing photographic services to corporate clients, as well as covering public events, private parties, portrait and nightlife photography. Contact Henry Perez Photography at 305-908-2768 or firstname.lastname@example.org.