A poet, an accountant, a cremation urn salesman, a carpenter, a nuclear physicist, a janitor, a yacht captain and a bus driver walk into a bar.
Sounds like the set-up for one heck of a Playboy Party Joke.
Instead, it was any Thursday afternoon at Mac’s Club Deuce just about a month or so after the cast and crew of Miami Vice held its fifth and final season wrap party in 1989.
“I’ve been coming to this toilet for 26 years,” the urn salesman said in an aptly titled Miami Herald article, All Kinds Make a Merry Mix At Mac’s Club Deuce in June 1989. “It’s gone from good to bad to good to bad to good again. I was a bartender here in 1980 and we used to kick out more customers than we served.”
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Fifteen years later, owner Mac Klein called his dive bar at 222 14th St., “the Shangri-La of Miami Beach. Someone can leave here for 10 years and come back here and nothing has changed.”
Klein, who bought the bar in 1963 and added “Mac’s” to its name, hadn’t changed much either. The beloved bar owner still worked daily there in his signature Hawaiian shirt right until his end. Klein died early Friday morning at 101, “comfortably and surrounded by people he loved,” his daughter Zina posted on the bar’s Facebook page.
“He wanted celebration, not mourning, because his life was one of great love, friendship and success. He lived every moment. My father was a charitable man. He did so in a way to always maintain a person’s dignity and help them realize their own value by giving them the tools to do the work. … My dad got his true joy at the end of the day when he returned to the beautiful home he shared with his soulmate Mary and sitting outside surrounded by his animals.”
His daughter went on to call her father, “a simple man with great ambition.”
This simple man, however, turned a Miami Beach bar into a nationally known hot spot. The bar was first opened as Club Deuce in 1926, when Calvin Coolidge, the last sitting president to visit Cuba before President Obama, was in office.
Stars of Hollywood, including Cameron Diaz, John Travolta and Matt Dillon, all came here. “The bar’s real treasure is the spell of friendship it casts,” Fringe Florida author Lynn Wadell wrote in a Miami Stories feature published in the Miami Herald in 2014. “Mac…was 95 when I met him and looked as if he could take a man 20 years younger.”
Chef Anthony Bourdain featured Mac’s Club Deuce on episodes of his Travel Channel show, No Reservations, and CNN’s Parts Unknown.
NBC’s Miami Vice filmed a scene for its Hard Knocks fifth-season episode inside Mac’s Club Deuce in January 1989. Cast members often found themselves grabbing a drink at the bar to rub shoulders with the poet, the accountant, the cremation urn salesman, the … well, you get the idea.
“I never did drugs; did booze, that was legal, and hung out, series co-star Michael Talbott recalled of Club Deuce in a 2014 Miami Herald story.
Klein, who lived through the Depression, served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and became a founding member of Mount Sinai Medical Center, welcomed everyone into his bar.
He had only a few rules: no fighting, no betting, no loud cursing or drugs. Don’t come in drunk and expect more booze.
Time magazine picked Mac’s Club Deuce as one of its Top 5 places to visit in Miami. “The Deuce is a dingy, black-tiled bar that has seen better years, and those years occurred a very long time ago. But in a town where hot drinking spots come and go like the tide, the Deuce still stands alone,” the magazine opined.
On his 100th birthday, Klein told Miami New Times, “Follow your dream and if you lose the first time, try again and again. I have no regrets for the simple reason that everything that happened to me led me to where I am: a very happy 100-year-old man.”
There will be no service, his daughter, who survives him, along with his wife Mary, wrote on Facebook. She suggested donations in his honor to Heifer International, a charity that seeks to end hunger and poverty.