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'Hotel Scarface': ​The Real Story That Inspired A Classic

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'Hotel Scarface': ​The Real Story That Inspired A Classic

The Hotel Mutiny, in Miami, was a pleasure palace where Hollywood royalty and rock stars mixed with America's most notorious cocaine kingpins. It was the inspiration for the famous Babylon Club in legendary gangster film Scarface *Say hello to my little friend*.

Now, a new book looks at life inside the hotel during its Seventies heyday. And author Roben Farzad, who has written the book 'Hotel Scarface', has given us a bit of an idea of all the bonkers stuff that led to Al Pacino and co. making a classic...

New Year's Eve, 1979, and behind the dimly lit bar at Miami's Hotel Mutiny, waitresses, hotel porters and cooks were stacking velvet whiskey totes full of cocaine.

These were the evening's tips at a legendary hotel owned by founder Burton Goldberg.

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Burton Goldberg - founder and owner of the Mutiny until he sold it in 1984
Burton Goldberg - founder and owner of the Mutiny until he sold it in 1984

Sat amid crystal-lined tables were Hollywood royalty, rock stars and models - including Liza Minnelli, Ted Kennedy, Burt Reynolds, Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Eagles. But partying with them - as they did every night at the Mutiny - were America's biggest cocaine kingpins.

It was these who no longer paid staff for good service in currency. They simply - and openly - passed over wraps of drugs worth thousands of pounds.

In the Seventies, cocaine hit Miami with hurricane force and no place attracted the dealers and dopers quite like this luxury hotel in the city's affluent Coconut Grove enclave.

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Among the regular drinkers were such notorious characters as bomber-spy-doper-Nazi-hunter Ricardo "Monkey" Morales, Mario Tabraue, the kingpin with leopards and a pet chimp that drove shotgun in his Benz, and Willie & Sal, the speed-racing 'Boys' who created a $2 billion cocaine empire.

For these men - and their tips - hostesses would always go the extra mile. They would hide weapons in cushions and breadbaskets. They offer discrete warnings whenever the cops were on the premises. One waitress was even adept at clicking her stilettos against new guys on the dance floor to check for an ankle holster on a suspected undercover officer.

Mutiny girls Pammy and Mollie around 1979
Mutiny girls Pammy and Mollie around 1979

How had a respected hotel come to this?

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By 1979, South Florida was a failed state. It was raking in hundreds of thousands of Cuban refugees, including thousands sprung from Fidel Castro's prisons and insane asylums. Hit men were among them, showing up in Miami with their weapons tattooed on the inside of their lips, raring for contract work.

The homicide rate was out of control. The county morgue was so overwhelmed that Burger King had to lease it a refrigerated truck for the overflow of murdered corpses. Race riots left swathes of the city in ashes.

A murder victim in the boot of a car in Miami in 1981
A murder victim in the boot of a car in Miami in 1981

But in its heyday, the lush, members-only Mutiny Club became an oasis within the chaos -- where you would go (if you could get in) to escape the mayhem, even while you were seated among those who were causing it and becoming rich on it.

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The dopers. The beautiful women. The celebs. One hundred and thirty differently themed rooms, based on fantasies like bordellos, Star Trek and Arabian Nights. The Mutiny had it all. It was the Magic City's Studio 54.

Filmmakers Oliver Stone and Brian De Palma knew as much. That's why they themselves stayed at the Mutiny when in town to shoot Scarface, their Miami remake of the 1932 gangster movie.

Al Pacino in cinema classic 'Scarface'
Al Pacino in cinema classic 'Scarface'

Similarly, when Miami Vice started shooting in town, one drug lord scored roles on two episodes, in exchange for quality blow for the cast and crew.

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But what ultimately transpired at the Mutiny was stranger than Hollywood could ever imagine.

In its decade of existence, the hotel was an unprecedented ecosystem for drug traffickers, law enforcement, celebs, spooks, refugees, parvenus, informers, and scammers, playing host to a drama of murder, corruption, betrayal, and recklessness.

It was a surreal free-trade zone, of sorts, where three generations of Cuban gangsters partied debaucherously and plotted their dominance of perhaps the single most lucrative commodity known to man.

But the Mutiny's infamous orgies and hot tubs would ultimately give way to a decade-long pursuit by the Feds. It would turn from pleasure palace to the front line in the war on drugs.

Featured Image Credit: Miami Cops Posing with their haul from a 1978 drugs bust

Topics: Entertainment, Film and TV, Florida, Al Pacino

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