Miami: "It's A Continuous Freak Show"

There's no doubt that South Beach can be a little foreign to visitors, so author and Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen stopped by The Early Show for some local guidance.

People keep pouring into Florida, and Harry Smith asked Hiaasen what the attraction is.

"I think there's a morbid fascination to it," Hiaasen said. "It's a place that I have described as relentlessly interesting for writers – whether you work for a newspaper or here as a tourist. There's so much going on. It's a continuous freak show which, of course, we are very proud of."

Cuban television showed some pictures of ailing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro earlier in the week, and the city said that it would open the Orange Bowl stadium for a party whenever Castro died.

That wasn't a surprise for Hiaasen. "Let's get this party started is our attitude," he said. "I am surprised it was just the Orange Bowl. I think they are going to need a little bigger venue for it.

It's one of many examples of why Miami is an amazing place, Hiaassen said.

"A couple of days ago we had a disgruntled cartoonist take over the Miami Herald building," he said. "In every other area they would just draw an unhappy cartoon for the day. In Miami he takes over the newspaper building. It's a magnet for all kinds of characters. That's why there are so many writers here."

And what should tourists from Chicago or Indianapolis bring with them if they're heading to Miami for Sunday's big game?

"They should bring their concealed weapons permit you do have to have it on you if you get stopped," Hiaasen said.

The other suggestion: "Sun block."

Miami's a great city, Hiaasen said, because it's so different. "Do they have a bikini boot camp in indianapolis?" Hiaasen wonders. "I doubt it."

Smith asked if many Miami denizens were paying attention to the global warming summit in Paris, where it is expected that the majority of the world's scientists will say that climate change is a man-made threat. If dire climate predictions are correct, much of Miami could end up under water.

"Apparently the real estate brokers do, they are the only ones who know," Hiaasen joked. "But for a lot of people who live here they feel sort of submerged all the time anyway. I guess the pitch you could make is 'see it now before it's under water.' I guess that could be the next slogan."

Downtown Miami's building boom hasn't been slowed by worries about the weather or anything else.

"This is much bigger than the cocaine construction boom of the 80s where half the skyline was built," Hiaasen said. "This money may actually be legitimate, we're tracking it now. There's a rumor it may be legitimate. I have never seen anything like it."

But is it possible that the real estate market has collapsed with all of those new buildings?

"It's very possible you will have no trouble finding any space for the 2010 Super Bowl – whenever the next one is – theere may be a lot of room here at very good prices," Hiaasen said. "I have never seen anything like it. I don't understand it when the rest of the market is crashing."

Hiaasen lives in Vero Beach, north of Miami, which has been hit by two hurricanes in the last couple of years, and he said it has had a counter-intuitive effect on real estate prices.

"Doubled immediately," he said. "It's more desirable when places get hit by hurricanes – nothing makes sense in South Florida. That's why we are all here."

Hiaasen's 11th novel "Nature Girl" is a tale about one woman's quest to rif the world of dinner time telemarketers.

Click here to read an except of "Nature Girl."
  • James Klatell

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