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'Miami Vice', 'Scarface' and freestyle: This Miami convention is all about '80s nostalgia

Miami Herald logo Miami Herald 11/25/2019 By Howard Cohen, The Miami Herald

Break out your legwarmers, pastel Armani jackets and Spandex. Miami is in for a totally tubular weekend in the spring.

Manny Ruiz, founder of the Miami-based NostalgiaCon, plans an ‘80s pop culture convention to be held March 28 and 29 at the Mana Wynwood Convention Center.

Ruiz isn’t ready to announce any of the names he hopes to get for two days of retro concerts, ‘80s movies, music and TV star appearances. But he is ready to tout what people might well see like, a “cosplay” where fans can dress up like their favorite ‘80s character (we call dibs on Don “Sonny Crockett” Johnson’s pastel and white Armani threads) and even an ‘80s-themed car show.

Doc Brown’s “Back to the Future” DeLorean on a Miami street?

For sure, a clearly warped Ruiz says in a telephone interview from his home in South Miami.

“Miami will be one of the permanent touring homes for this ‘80s show because the ‘80s were so defining for the city architecturally and style-wise,” said Ruiz, 50, who was “born in the shadows of the Orange Bowl” and raised in Little Havana.

This version of NostalgiaCon follows the inaugural edition held at the Anaheim Convention Center in California in September. That one drew about 2,500 fans to see ‘80s stars like Christopher Lloyd, who brought the DeLorean with him.

But Miami’s edition will be markedly different from the California version owing to the proximity to Latin America and the market. For this spring’s version Ruiz — who with his wife Angela Sustaita-Ruiz, co-founded the Hispanicize Media Group in Miami — plans to make 15,000 tickets available.

“The Latino community found its voice in that decade and made a big impact on pop culture though TV shows and movies and the music,” Ruiz said. “This will be a multicultural show but will have massive appeal to the Hispanic community in Miami,” Ruiz teases without dropping any of the names his people are approaching.

But we can think of several Latin artists who were first fly in the decade of Madonna, MTV and “Miami Vice.”

Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine and freestyle act Exposé, with Miami Beach’s Ann Curless, scored No. 1 pop hits fresh out of Miami in the ‘80s. Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam did similar out of New York.

Actor Steven Bauer graduated from his debut role in the ‘70s PBS TV series “¿Qué Pasa, USA?” to score a film breakthrough in Brian DePalma’s bloody 1983 “Scarface” remake. “Scarface,” of course, was partly filmed in, and set in, post-Mariel boatlift Miami.

The Miami version of this “Ultimate ‘80s Reunion” also aims to reach out to the sports and classic cars communities.

“This was a very important decade for us in sports, a heyday for the Miami Dolphins — Dan Marino and all those stars — and the University of Miami Hurricanes. The Hurricanes were champs in the ‘80s,” Ruiz said.

“We’ll have a throwback cars collection. DeLoreans on the streets in Miami? That’s not a common scene. And a breakdancing competition which will reprise the South Florida version of the [pop up] National Boombox Museum in California,” Ruiz boasts in his save-the-date announcement for Miami.

Yeah, you might want to tell the juiced Ruiz “don’t have a cow” to hose him down a bit.

But then you start to think maybe this dude is on to something.

After all, ‘80s pop culture is all over the place these days. It’s the time frame and setting for one of Netflix’s must-see series’, “Stranger Things.”

FX just finished airing the ninth season of the “American Horror Show” franchise, this one entitled: “American Horror Story: 1984,” which played off that decade’s “Friday the 13th” slasher films fixation and Jane Fonda aerobic workouts.

Don Johnson was even hinting recently about a possible “Miami Vice” reboot. That strategy’s working for other ‘80s shows like “MacGyver” and “Magnum PI” on CBS, after all.

And then you learn that for his first edition in Anaheim Ruiz’s NostalgiaCon company managed to lure some legit ‘80s stars to press the flesh with their fans.

He got Linda Gray and Patrick Duffy of “Dallas” to turn out. Also: Loni Anderson and Howard Hesseman of “WKRP in Cincinnatti,” Val Kilmer of “Top Gun,” a “Goonies” reunion of Cory Feldman and Sean Astin (who co-starred in “Stranger Things,” too) and actor Steve Guttenberg, who starred in one of the “Police Academy” sequels that was filmed in South Beach in 1987.

So why California first for this made-in-Miami mega convention company?

“We did our first show in Anaheim because we wanted to establish a national leg,” Ruiz said. “We wanted to make it clear it was a coast to coast international brand. But Miami will far exceed everything we did in California.

“California was part of the piloting and experimenting. Miami will be what NostalgiaCon shows will be,” the Southwest Miami High grad who split his childhood between homes in Little Havana and Hialeah said.

Ruiz hopes to announce some of the acts he scores soon.

Information on tickets — which he figures on pricing between $55 and $300 for VIP packages — should be posted on the website on Monday.

“We want people to feel the connection to pop culture in a way that is fun, meaningful and as relevant today as it was yesterday,” Ruiz said. “This is not about having something stodgy and old. There’s nothing stodgy and old about the the ‘80s. It was a dynamic and creative decade that deserves a celebration for its fans.”


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