Miami-Dade County

Godfrey name closer to disappearing from Miami Beach street

Arthur Godfrey at Kenilworth Hotel
Arthur Godfrey at Kenilworth Hotel

Arthur Godfrey Road is one step closer to vanishing from Miami Beach — 60 years after the broadcaster put the city on the map.

The city’s Neighborhood and Community Affairs committee, composed of four members from its commission, voted unanimously Friday to strip the popular broadcaster’s name from the co-named 41st Street.

The vote is the most recent development in a decades-old effort to rid Godfrey’s name from one of the defining thoroughfares of the city. The commissioner calling for the change says he is not relevant anymore; others allege he was anti-Semitic because of his partial ownership in a hotel with restrictive policies against Jews.

“Arthur Godfrey is no longer well-known or well-regarded in the city of Miami Beach by many,” said Commissioner Joy Malakoff, who proposed the change at a commission meeting in June.

Godfrey was the host of Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, a weekly variety show that attracted viewers nationwide. Godfrey began to broadcast his show from the Kenilworth Hotel in Bal Harbour in 1953, with 54 million people tuning in for the first show.

In 1956, 34 property owners signed a petition to name the street after Godfrey, who had recently begun to broadcast his national variety show from Miami Beach, calling it Vacationland U.S.A.

When asked why he brought his show to Miami Beach, he proclaimed: “When I like something, I like my friends to like it, too.’’

Shortly after 41 Street was co-named, controversy began to crowd the four-lane stretch. Fifty years later, it hasn’t dissipated.

At Friday’s meeting, Commissioner Edward Tobin read into the record an email he received from a resident named Joan Wharton. Wharton asked the committee to rid the street of Godfrey’s name and accused him of being anti-Semitic.

“It makes no sense to name streets for people like that,” the email read. “Time has shown us that it was error and we should remove the name. It assures us that no street will honor a person that played his ukelele into oblivion.”

As coincidence would have it, 41st Street has long been a hub of the Beach’s Jewish community. The neighborhood has had many Jewish business owners; today, the Orthodox community has a large presence there.

Stuart Blumberg, who has lived in the beach for over 60 years, supported Arthur Godfrey Road.

“You’re messing around with history,” Blumberg told the Miami Herald after the vote. “The original premise was irrelevancy. Historic contribution has nothing to do with relevancy.”

Commissioner Deede Weithorn echoed the concerns of some business owners on 41st Street, who say that having the road co-named Arthur Godfrey Road and 41st Street is confusing for tourists and GPSs.

Tobin, Weithorn and Malakoff also approved a motion to curtail the naming of major city roads after individuals.

“Maybe we should not co-name significant streets,” Weithorn said. “As cities mature, it just creates confusion.”

Both measures will come before the full-commission on Nov. 19.