The scene in South Florida was surreal Saturday.
On one side of the MacArthur Causeway, the side where police had braced for trouble, scantily clad men and women poured beer and testosterone into the streets, cafes and clubs, while thumping to the loud, restless beats of South Beach.
Meanwhile, on the mainland side of the causeway, allegedly the quiet side this weekend, a naked man was shot to death by police after he was found chewing on another man’s face.
Under the hot sun Saturday in South Beach, long before the nighttime partying began, revelers took videos, posed for photographs and sipped basketball-sized cocktails, strolling Ocean Drive for the annual hip-hop/rap extravaganza known as Urban Beach Week. The event, which traditionally draws upward of 250,000 people from all over the country and from all walks of life, is known as much for its over-the-top fun as it is for its music and celebrity mix.
Ladies in bikinis, fishnet dresses and barely-there bra tops strolled in throngs (and thongs), some of them daring enough to wear spiked heels. Men with low-riding shorts and jeans mingled on the strip, talking game and getting turned away more often than not.
Police presence was heavy but relaxed. There were officers on golf carts, bikes and atop viewing towers. Throughout the day there were several arrests for minor offenses. Those detained were processed in a state-of-the-art police mobile unit set up on Ocean Drive.
Despite rumors that Beach cops had an arrest quota of 2,000 people per day, there were only 93 arrests Friday. Ironically, though South Beach residents braced for possible chaos as in year’s past, the bloodshed was miles away in Miami Saturday afternoon.
It was there, across the McArthur Causeway, just south of The Miami Herald building, that a naked man attacked another man and allegedly began eating the victim’s face. A woman who saw what was happening first flagged down a Miami Herald security guard, then a Miami police officer who happened by.
Police said the officer approached the naked man, ordered him to step away and when he continued to chew the man’s face, the officer shot him dead. The victim was rushed to the hospital, where he was in critical condition Saturday.
The incident made driving east on the Causeway a traffic nightmare, but the party went on despite weeks of buildup that focused mostly on an intense crowd and traffic enforcement plan that included altering South Beach traffic into a one-way loop and closing the eastbound MacArthur Causeway to one lane.
Though the crowd was thinner than year’s past, it was no less risqué.
“I love sex! I just can’t get enough!” bachelorette Yvonne Sosa, condoms dangling from her veil, shouted into Reginald Allison’s megaphone just after midnight Saturday.
Sosa, dressed in white, was in town from Nebraska, a lawyer getting married in a month partying on along with a half dozen friends, family, and legal clerks and secretaries at the law firm where she works.
Allison, a Morehouse College graduate from Atlanta, was promoting a party bus roving South Beach from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The two converged at 11th Street and Ocean Drive for a classic about-to-be-married moment during a weekend known for raucous parties.
But Allison said raucous isn’t the word that comes to mind.
“It’s real chill,” said Allison, who said he bought the megaphone at a store on Biscayne Boulevard.