Drive up famous Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and you’ll see a wide variety of hotels, apartments and condominiums. From schlock to you gotta go into hock there’s an accommodation that will accommodate almost any budget. Of course with the shitty economic climate, seven plus years of the Bush administration that range has moved higher on the income scale. Even those with champagne tastes on Lager beer pocketbooks could enjoy the surf, sand, women and exotic culture of America’s gateway to Latin America or as some used to call it the sixth burrow of New York.
One of those “Lager Beer pocketbook hotels” sits on some prime real estate. On the ocean at Collins Avenue in the 89’s stands a testament to the bizarre, tacky and ostentatious. Beyond kitsch the Findley Quay Resort and Spa soar 17 stories above the azure Atlantic. To describe the Findley Quay as Art Deco, “Mimo” (Miami Modern) would be dissing those schools of architecture. The “FQ,” the bastardization of the full name is anything but the afore mentioned building styles. The hip locals and the trendier tourists refer to the Findley Quay Resort and Spa as simply “FQ.” Sort of sounds like someone with a foreign accent saying fuck you!
Consistently the “FQ” was in a class of its own. It has and currently holds the dubious distinction of being the bottom rated Miami Beach Hotel. It doesn’t matter if it’s Fodor’s, Michelin, Triple A or the popular web site Trip Advisor! Some of these reviews are legendary in their candor and humor. This property seemed to suffer from a failure to thrive.
It was the beginning of the Golden Age of the United States. World War II was over, GI’s were stateside forging out their futures. Babies were dropping out of mommies like hotcakes. And America was on the move. Detroit was making bigger gaudier rolling land yachts complete with tailfins. And, everyone was discovering America. This included Miami Beach, Florida! Gasoline was like 10 cents a gallon and you could pack up the Packard or Pontiac and escape the depressing shitty winters of New York, Chicago and Baltimore. Some took to the rails and rode such choo choo trains as the Silver Meteor. Those who had money burning a hole in their pockets took to the friendly skies. This was the age of the three tailed Lockheed Constellation and the Douglas DC-7 airliners. You could flip off Dixie while feasting on yummy Salisbury steak, creamed mashed potatoes and bullet peas and top it off with a creampuff or peach cobbler. And in less than five hours you were in the land of the palms and the Atlantic. Well, those eager tourists needed lodging. Miami Beach delivered. During the late 1940s such luxury hotels as the Shore Club, Nautilus and the Shelborne provided a classy aura of luxury in South Beach. The smaller hotels such as the Clevelander, Bentley and Dorchester to name a few were the also ran choices for those on a modest budget.
Farther up the golden shores of Miami Beach large luxury hotels with a European flair opened their doors. If it had anything to do with French culture like the Saxony, Sans Souci and later the Fontainebleau it was a guaranteed hit.
So, it was supposed to be a case of imitation being the best form of flattery when the Pot Pori opened six months after the San Souci in 1948. Wrong!
Leonard Lechter of New York, New York thought he knew it all. A very successful property baron in his home town of New York, Lechter figured he’d be the second coming in up and coming Miami Beach. His wealthy peers (friends and loved ones) were talking up their Miami Beach vacations at the new exclusive high rise hotels popping up along Collins Avenue. In their thick Brooklyn and Bronx accents Lechter’s posse were literally orgasmic about their latest experience as guests in these new palaces of overindulgence. “Oy, Lenny such a beautiful hotel that San Souci! Starting with blintzes at breakfast that were as light and fluffy as butta! Then what a health club they got! A schivtz in the Turkish bath followed by a coconut butta rubdown! And the pool scene with that beautiful ocean! Did ya know the Weissburgs, Shapiro’s; Sanford and Selma Padenda were all there as we played Canasta? Then, ahh lunch by the pool, corned beef and pastrami almost as good as Grebsteins in Canarsi.The girls went to the beauty shop. For dinner, off to Wolfies for stuffed cabbage almost as good as bubbe made. Then we sawr Cid Caesar at the Peacock Grande and we ended off with a nosh at the Saxony with ice cream soders to stuff our poopicks! Sad we had to fly home. When our Eastern flight landed at La Guardia it was back to schlepping.” Mortie Greensperm’s travelogue of his Miami Beach trip sent Leonard and his wife Harriet off to the Eastern Airlines ticket office. The Lechter’s then went on a longer more ostentatious Miami Beach junket to beat the band. Yes indeed, the Lechers had to outdo the Greensperms. Besides Sid Caesar, the Lechters took in shows with such headlining acts as Harry Belafonte, the Ink spots, Jack Benny and Rochester. The Lechter’s trip lasted three weeks compared to the Greensperm’s two week junket. Whereas the cheapskate Greensperms settled on a package deal which gave them a room facing Collins on a lower floor, Lenny Lechter went balls out and booked one of the San Souci premier ocean front suites on the 8th. Floor. Lenny charged to the firm his over the top vacation even hiring a Cadillac Convertible with a driver to take them around Miami Beach and Miami.
A light bulb went off inside the head of Leonard Lechter. Always interested in expanding his real estate empire into vacation areas, Lechter decided Miami Beach was the basket to place his golden eggs. Screw the Catskills! Miami Beach was the New York Riviera. Lenny with his real estate prowess, penchant for dramatic flair and overindulgence thought he could make the San Souci look like a matron cow! Lechter would do the San Souci better with his hotel that would be bigger, better, fancier and even more French! And so it came to pass that North of the Biltmore Plaza and the “restricted” Kenilworth raised from the sand the Pot Pori!
Figuring he could save money by skimping on the architects Lechter hired two has been designers from Pelham Parkway and their not too bright sons the aspiring architects. The results were one of the most laughable exercises in excessive tacky design that was a benchmark for kitsch!
This hotel looked like a giant uncut penis! No joke, the Potpourri looked like a beat up ribbed pecker. The main portion of the hotel is 17 stories ending with a pointed turret that contained the owner’s suite. To the left and right of the towering monument to male genitalia was a pair of two story circular structures which were part of the lobby and mezzanine giving off the illusion of a giant towering erect schlong with a hefty pair of scrotum.
What made the Potpourri look like a penis that saw too much of the rough stuff was the overkill on the intricate design of the structure? A combination of bright raincoat yellow with pink balconies and dark pea green clouds around each window was just too busy and ugly. The closest thing to the Potpourri design was a crappy motel in Ocean City, Md. Called the Safari. This motel has window air conditioners protruding through the wall under each guestroom window. And, you guessed it; a useless design of black clouds bordered each rusting air conditioning unit.
Murphy’s Law bore down on the Potpourri from the day one grand opening like a category 5 hurricane lingering over its point of landfall. Whatever could go wrong did go wrong. Leonard Lechter decided the grand opening of his premier hotel should include a French circus complete with animals. Again to save a buck, Lechter hired a third rate circus from some shit town outside of Paris. Half the performers were alcoholics or narcotics addicts. The other half was a cut above mental retardation. Their animals were unhappy, slovenly, surly and poorly trained. The worst two critters were Toulouse the truculent tiger and Fifi a lackadaisical obese elephant with a weak bladder and irritable bowel. The musical accompaniment sucked. They couldn’t keep a tune if their life depended on it. Things went from bad to worse when Toulouse the truculent tiger saw his first man of color. Let’s just say Toulouse was petrified of black men. Taluses the truculent tiger charged the black janitor running into and knocking over the elaborate spread of French gourmet delights in the garish lobby. The janitor managed chase the tiger away with his wet mop which had Spic and Span soap on it.
Out by the pool designed like a flours de lei was the march of some famous French song muffed up by the crappy musical ensemble and a parade featuring Fifi the lackadaisical elephant with the loose cannon bowel. As the rotund elephant pissed a river approaching the pool a lizard crossed its path. Lizards being original residents of the beach before mankind, thought nothing of sauntering by the hotel’s swimming pool (which to most folks looked like a peeled banana). Elephants are scared of things that slither and scurry about. So, Fifi the lackadaisical elephant with the overactive bladder and irritable bowel freaked out and took off at a fast run. One little problem; ahead of Fifi was the Potpourri’s pool shaped like a fleur de lei. And the deep end was 12 feet. Fifi was wider than she was tall. Fifi stood only eight feet. You do the math. Fifi the lackadaisical elephant with the overactive bladder and the irritable bowel was never taught to swim by the third rate circus that hailed from some shitty little town in the Gallic hinterlands. And so on that sweltering sunny day in early May of 1948 in Miami Beach Fifi, the lackadaisical obese elephant with the overactive bladder and irritable bowel ended her pathetic elephant’s life working for a third rate circus from some shitty little French town in the boonies. Literally scared to death by a lizard who’s habitat is sunny Florida Fifi jumped kankles first into the deep end of the Potpourri’s pool shaped like a fleur de lies (remember this hotel was designed around French culture) drowned and the last thing she did on this beautiful planet was lay a big BM to beat the band at least that out of tune musical section of that third rate French circus from some little shit enclave in the sticks, that settled along with her three ton dead body at the bottom of the deep end of the swimming pool designed in the form of a fleur de lies (remember folks we are talking French big time). On that sweltering Miami Beach sunny day in early May 1948 it was le chaude piss and Lenny Lechter real estate baron from New York, New York and his prick shaped hotel embarked on a journey that could be best described as shit out of luck!