If the Pied Piper attracted all those who heard him with a flute, it was Louis Canales’ keen eye for visual drama and social genius that brought the kind of magic to South Beach that set it ablaze. With a nimble mind and a love for the kind of ambience and dynamic that makes people gather and celebrate, the public relations guru, club promoter and soft-spoken elder statesman of the South Beach scene managed to take the sleepy beach town from a neglected region on the mend to a sublime world-class destination.
After almost two decades of parties, galas, openings, celebrity intros and nights of otherworldly buzz with some of the most beautiful people on the planet — present precisely because of his mastery at conjuring that elusive scene — Canales remains unassuming and downright charming in his modesty. And maybe that’s the lure.
“It was unexpected,” he says of his Pa’Lante Award, the Gay8 Festival’s recognition of those individuals who have moved Miami forward. “I’m grateful for the acknowledgement of the work. It’s an honor.”
The mission of the Gay8 Festival — “to build a lasting bridge that will bring all of the city’s communities together in celebration and forge a union that will unite us all as proud Miamians for generations to come” — is in perfect harmony with Canales’ life work and his general philosophy. “It’s a party, which is great because Miami is a party town,” says Canales. “This festival, which is going to be great and grow, reinforces values and transcends labels. It’s all about people.”
Having watched South Beach develop and evolve, he says he feels this kind of early effort at uniting a community in transition is absolutely essential. Little Havana is at the heart of the city, and, as a historic neighborhood, it will always have its place. But, he says, helping it move into its next act is about finding balance — emerging without displacing.
The man who feels he’s live a charmed life, not just because of his experiences, but because he says we’re blessed to live in bubbles in places like Miami, New York and L.A. is excited about attending Gay8 this coming Sunday.
“I know many old timers,” he muses. “Once upon a time, we were called pioneers. We all worked very closely to make it all come alive.” And for that Mr. Canales, we are eternally in your debt.