When a crime happens, best to make a beeline for the motive. Who profited from the crime? Which is why, I fear, the Great Maracas Caper of 2009 may never be solved. It was a crime -- fraud, I think -- that seems to have had no motive.
Maracas, the Mexican restaurant on Federal Highway near Oakland Park Boulevard, is owned by Ed Lafaye, who was in New York this past week presiding over his restaurant there. Meanwhile, his Oakland Park restaurant received a visit from a man who Lafaye's employees would later describe as a "'70s hippie looking guy." The man sidled up to the bar and ordered a $3 margarita. Then he told a member of the staff that his people -- famous music people -- would like to have a big soiree at the restaurant Sunday. Specifically, James Taylor, the Steve Miller Band, and the Gin Blossoms, all of whom were scheduled to play at next week's SunFest in West Palm. This sounded like a big deal. Staff suggested he talk to Lafaye, who was quickly put on the phone with the hippie, named John Knight.
"For an hour and a half he had me write up three contracts specifying exactly what liquor he wanted, what food he wanted in the buffet," says Lafaye. It would have to feed at least 200 people. There was one prominent guest who insisted on a huge inventory of Maker's Mark whiskey. An ample supply of Bombay Sapphire and Grey Goose vodka was also necessary. "And one of them had to have fresh fruit," says Lafaye.
Whatever. These were eccentric musicians, and the contract was forged to accommodate their tastes, about which the hippie, Knight, seemed to have vast expertise. Knight gave Maracas staff his cell phone number and told them he'd be staying at the Yankee Clipper on Fort Lauderale Beach, with the musicians and their people. For their trouble, the Maracas staff would get some tickets, even backstage passes.
Then he walked out of the restaurant. He hasn't been seen since.
Knight was supposed to come back to Maracas to put down the deposit for the party. When he didn't show, says Lafaye, "We called the cell phone, but the person who answered said they'd never heard of him."
Then the restaurant called the Yankee Clipper. No guest by the name of John Knight. In the same visit, Knight had mentioned another party he was organizing at a local club, but that club had never heard of him, either. On the other hand, the bands really were all in town, and it made sense that Sunday would be their day to relax, as that was an open part of the schedule.
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Still, Maracas pulled the plug. Fortunately, before ordering the food, though not before placing an order for some $2,000 in Maker's Mark. "What boggles my mind," says Lafaye, "is that he didn't get anything out of it. It would be one thing if he had a $200 dinner and walked out without paying -- but he had a $3 cocktail."
Lafaye vividly recalls talking to the hippie about the New York rock scene in the Seventies. Knight regaled him with stories of gigs at the Beacon Theatre and seemed to know lots about the bands.The best explanation that Lafaye can manage: "Maybe he's a drugged-out ex-band member who misses his glory days of feeling important."
And yet there's another distinct possibility: that this is a drugged-out ex-band member who doesn't know his cell phone number, forgot which hotel he was staying at and even forgot the location of the restaurant he booked for the bands' party. "My greatest fear," says Lafaye, "is that four buses pull up on Sunday."
If so, they will be disappointed with the buffet. On the other hand, local lovers of Maker's Mark had better keep an eye out for special deals at Maracas.