Listening to History

Over the years, Close-Up Productions has interviewed some very interesting people whose personal recollections of the time they lived through are worthy historical footnotes. We'd like to share their stories, hoping you enjoy these personal reminiscences as much as we do.....

Head of Mitchell Family
Recalls the Town of Cutler

In a 2001 interview, Florida Pioneer Thomas Mitchell talks about how his grandmother settled in South Florida in 1896, arriving at the pier in the settlement of Cutler, near the site of the present day Deering Estate.

Tragedy Drove Famed Photographer to the Swamp

We traipsed into the Big Cypress with world-renowned photographer Clyde Butcher for a profile for PBS. A personal tragedy led him to seek solace in one of the most desolate and beautiful spots on earth, the Florida Everglades.

MLK's Dream Speech in Miami First

Miami civil rights activist A.D. Moore led Miami's chapter of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality and was CORE's national treasurer. He heard Martin Luther King give an early version of the I Have a Dream speech at the Hampton House motel in 1960, 3 years before MLK delivered it in Washington, leading to the historic designation of the Hampton House.

Watching History

When we got a grant to create the Miami Beach Visual Memoirs Archive, we knew it would be fascinating. We had no idea how much fun were were going to have. We've listened to the personal stories of entertainers, former mayors, former cops, impresarios, preservationists, architects, bar owners and band leaders. Working with our partner, the Miami Design Preservation League (MDPL), and our funder, the Visitors and Convention Authority of the City of Miami Beach, has been a pleasure. Our work is on display at the Art Deco History Museum on Miami Beach.

Michener Never Forgot His Past

James Michener researched and wrote his last "big book," Caribbean, while living in Miami. In an excerpt from our documentary, Michener at Work, he talks about how his poverty stricken childhood affected his life and work.

Famed Storyteller Had Much to Overcome

We went into the mountains of North Carolina to interview a national treasure, storyteller Jackie Torrence. She performs one of her "Jack Tales" and tells how she overcame shyness and a stutter to become one of the most beloved storytellers in the nation.

Micky Saves History a Piece at a Time

Mitchell Wolfson, son of the founder of Wometco Enterprises, has been a collector since childhood. He acquired so many paintings, posters, and objects of decorative arts and design, he bought the warehouse where everything was stored and turned it into one of the most unique museums in the country - The Wolfsonian. And he is still collecting.

#1 National Bookseller was Raised on Miami Beach

Mitch Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, grew up on Miami Beach in the 1960s. The influx of Cubans changed Miami and Miami Beach forever. Even local baseball games were never the same.

Growing Up on the 5th Street Pier

Robert Bowman grew up on Miami Beach helping his mother, known as "Fish Mary," sell fishing bait on the popular South Beach pier. The pier is gone now and so are the fishermen (and women).

Building a Beach Park for the Disabled

Sabrina Cohen was a self-described "beach girl," a member of her high school swim team and a surfer. When she was 15, a car accident left her paralyzed and despondent. Not a quitter by nature, she is a nationally-recognized advocate for stem cell research and accessibility for the wheelchair bound. She's now fundraising to build an innovative park which will give people in wheelchairs full access to the beach and the ocean.

Real Estate Mogul Started as Bookkeeper at the Fountainbleu

Russell Galbut, a 5th generation Miami Beachite, made his considerable fortune converting old hotels and residential buildings to upscale condos. As a teenager, he worked at the famous Fountainebleau hotel, which set him on his path.

Vestiges of Shtetl Life Found in Lithuania

Several years ago, after eastern Europe became more accessible to visitors, we explored Lithuania and Latvia to locate wooden synagogues which had reportedly survived the Holocaust. We found ten, still standing in remnants of former Jewish shtetls. Our film, The Lost Wooden Synagogues of Eastern Europe, narrated by Theodore Bikel, had a special screening at the U.S. Holocaust Museum. In this excerpt, survivors recall the magnificence of the folk artistry of the interiors. 95% of Lithuania's considerable Jewish population was wiped out in the war. There is no one left to claim the surviving synagogues.