When FX’s American Crime Story premieres tonight, Miamians will be familiar with much of the landscape. Season 2 of the hit series explores the assassination of Gianni Versace, who was gunned down on the front steps of his Ocean Drive mansion in 1997
The death of the iconic Italian fashion designer stunned South Beach and sent police scrambling to find the murderer.
The narrative of the nine-episode season follows the search for suspect Andrew Cunanan, a 27-year-old serial killer who became obsessed with attaining celebrity status. Despite his short stay in South Florida, he changed the face of Miami Beach forever. Here are six South Beach spots you’ll see in upcoming episodes:
1. Versace’s mansion. Because Florida legislators did away with film incentives in 2016, much of this season’s ACS was filmed in California. But there’s no way set designers could do justice to Versace’s Ocean Drive mansion with a replica, which is why exterior scenes were shot in South Beach. Versace fell in love with the jaw-dropping estate, also known as Villa Casa Casuarina, on a visit to Miami Beach in 1992 and purchased the property soon after. The luxurious home now operates as a hotel and restaurant.
2. News Café. Every morning, Versace strolled to News Café to grab a newspaper or magazine to read on the beach. Although regulars began to recognize him, staff from the time say he preferred to maintain a low profile. On July 15, 1997, the Italian designer was returning home from the restaurant when he was shot dead in front of his mansion.
3. The Miami Beach Police Department. Miami Beach Police suspected serial killer Andrew Cunanan almost immediately. They’d first heard of him a week before Versace’s murder when a federal agent called about rumors that Cunanan, who had already killed four people, was involved in a secret gay organization in South Florida. After Versace was shot in South Beach, police warned the public that Cunanan was armed and dangerous.
4. Twist. The FX series depicts Versace and his partner, model Antonio D’Amico, hanging out at Twist, a gay nightclub on Washington Avenue. Though there’s no indication from old news stories that Versace frequented the club, the FBI displayed wanted posters in the club’s bathrooms when Cunanan was on the loose. At one point, Twist claimed to have surveillance footage of Cunanan at the club two days before he killed Versace.
5. Normandy Plaza Hotel. As police furiously worked to retrace Cunanan’s steps, they learned he’d been staying at a $36-a-night hotel in Mid-Beach. Records showed the elusive killer had checked into the Normandy Plaza Hotel two months before targeting Versace. When police searched room 205, the only traces he’d left behind were a stack of fashion magazines and an electric hair trimmer.
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6. The marina on the 5200 block of Collins Avenue. The manhunt for Cunanan finally ended July 23, 1997, when police surrounded a houseboat docked at 5250 Collins Ave. After a five-hour standoff, officers stormed the boat and found Cunanan dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“All across the nation, our citizens can stand down and breathe a sigh of relief,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Barreto said at the time. “The reign of terror brought upon us by Andrew Cunanan is over.”
by Jessica Lipscomb – miaminewtimes.com