It was nearly 31 years ago this week that Miami Vice debuted with the effortlessly cool Crockett and Tubbs (that would be Don Johnson and Phillip Michael Thomas, not Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx) riding into the unknown as Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” blared in the background.
And for all of it’s genetically perfect human specimens, its (artificially) white sand beaches and brightly pastel art-deco architecture, Miami has a dark history that continues to rear its ugly head to this day.
In honor of all the crime Crockett and Tubbs stopped in their fast cars and perfectly tailored Italian suits, here are five tales from Miami’s dark side.
1. Miami was the murder capital of the early 80’s.
Miami’s been attracting gangsters since the 1920’s when Al Capone took residence in Miami Beach, but thanks to fictional films like Scarface and non-fiction realities like Cocaine Cowboys, Miami of the early 80’s had the dubious distinction of being the murder capital of America.
1980 saw 573 deaths, followed by 621 in 1981 and again topping the charts in 1984. 1985 was also a rather impressive year as far as drug seizures go in South Florida. The DEA got its hands on 50,000 pounds of the powder stuff worth over $9 billion dollars.
2. Miami is home to Hollywood-inspiring shootouts.
After NYC, Miami is America’s second largest banking hub. It should be no surprise then that it’s also the scene of one of the craziest bank robberies in FBI history. In 1986 two serial bank robbers, Michael Lee Platt and William Russell Matix, got in a shootout with eight FBI agents.
Though outnumbered four to one, the robbers easily outgunned the officers, who packed revolvers and a couple shotguns. Ultimately both Platt and Matix were killed along with two agents, but the incident helped pave the way for law enforcement’s move to semi-automatic weapons. Rumor has it this was also the inspiration for the shootout scene in Michael Mann’s Heat.
3. Miami is where fashion icons and serial killers cross paths.
Gianni Versace played an integral role in 80’s fashion and as a consultant for Miami Vice helped establish the rolled up suit sleeve look that epitomized the time.
It’s hard to believe almost twenty years have passed since serial killer Andrew Cunanan shot the fashion icon on the steps of his Ocean Drive home after a morning walk. Cunanan ultimately shot himself in the head on his boathouse eight days later, and Versace’s home is now a popular tourist attraction.
4. Zombies run wild… sort of.
In May of 2012, Miami police responded to calls of a naked man eating another naked man’s face while high on bath salts. All of this took place in view of passersby on the MacArthur Causeway. When police confronted the cannibal he growled at them. After a single shot had no effect, Police ultimately opened fire and killed the drug-raged naked zombie-man. Thankfully, the victim survived.
5. You can even pay to sleep with the fishes.
Whether you’ve gone out in a blaze of glory, or just quietly in your sleep, if you’d prefer a sea burial over one in the ground, Miami has a guy for that. In 2013 The Miami New Times reported on Eugene “Jobie” Steppe, who drove around in a white van with a sign offering $500 sea burials.
For that nominal fee he’ll happily wrap your body, weigh it down and drop it into the murky depths below. But since the EPA requires it be 3 miles from shore at depths of at least 600 feet, don’t expect many visitors.