First Words — 27 November 2019
Basking in the glow of newfound celebrity

By Mark Gauert

City & Shore Magazine

Her face was familiar, but she didn’t know any of us at all.

“I just saw a Kardashian!” someone in the crowd said.

“Where!?!” her friend said.

“Well, I think it was a Kardashian,’’ she said. “There’s so many wannabes these days, you know.’’

I do.

But there were so many celebrities to think you saw at the recent grand opening of the 400-foot-tall Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock. So many they were stacked up to walk the stage to be photographed at the $1.5 billion expansion of the resort property on State Road 7 and Stirling Road.

I listened to the crowd, watched the walk of famed that night and thought back to the corner of State Road 7 and Stirling Road the first time I saw it in the 1980s. There was a trailer park here then, a bingo hall and a drive-thru cigarette stand where my boss got his yellow packs of cheap cigarettes. (“If it lights,’’ he said, “I’ll smoke it.’’)

I’ve had some time to think about it, and I can confirm that I never once saw a celebrity here then. Except maybe the Marlboro Man, on a poster at the drive-thru cigarette stand.

Now we were standing under the spectacular Oculus light-and-water show at the Seminole Hard Rock, watching triple-A listers – Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and Joe Manganiello – strike poses in sunglasses on what had once been a trailer park.

“It’s her!” someone in the crowd says. “It’s Khloe Kardashian!”

It was.

This is what it’s come to here, my friend Bill posted on Facebook that night. “Folks who need to wear sunglasses indoors and at night.’’

South Florida was once famous only as a backdrop for movies or TV shows. From Goldfinger to Miami Vice to The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the subject of our interview this issue with star Marin Hinkle.

The opening of the Seminole Hard Rock changes all of that. The people we’re going to get to see, the food we’re going to get to eat, the Parties we’re going to attend or hear pulsating from miles away even through the sound- and hurricane-resistant windows and doors of our homes.

It’s the biggest gift to ourselves this holiday season: We’re not just backdrop anymore.

There’s talk of big-names taking up residencies here, as Madonna – the subject of a story this issue, too – is doing this month at the Fillmore in Miami Beach. The kind of extended engagements you used to expect only on Broadway or the Strip.

Broward was always derided as the place people from Miami-Dade drove through on the way to Palm Beach; and the place people in Palm Beach drove through to get to Miami-Dade. Now they’re all going to be stopping here, getting out of their cars, looking around. (For Kardashians, real or otherwise.)

It’s going to take time to get used to living in a place with so much celebrity. Especially for me.

We never had many celebrity sightings when I was a kid, growing up in New Mexico. Charley Pride. Trini Lopez. Smokey the Bear. At least, we think it was Smokey the Bear – there were a lot of wannabes in New Mexico.

My sister looked up from tying her shoe one day at the Albuquerque Sunport to see Gene Hackman smiling down at her. The Oscar-winning actor lived up in Santa Fe and was passing through the airport on the way home.

“Oh, hello!’’ my sister, Ann, said, struggling a bit with her luggage. “He smiled and helped me with my bag,’’ she says. “I don’t remember any of the conversation – I just remember thinking, wow, in person, he really had charisma!”

So now we, too, are going to have to get used to the possibility we may look up from tying our shoes or purchasing produce or filling the gas tank and see a familiar face who doesn’t know us at all.

The lights are bright now, on State Road 7 and Stirling Road.


PHOTO: Morgan Freeman, Johnny Depp, Joe Perry and Joe Manganiello on the red carpet at the grand opening of the Guitar Hotel at Seminole Hard Rock. (John McCall photo).

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