MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Many people in South Florida are mourning the loss of Charlie Cinnamon, a major force in the South Florida theater, music and arts scene.
The legendary publicist passed away Thursday morning, just two days shy of his 95th birthday.
Nobody was more plugged into South Florida’s art scene than Cinnamon and he’s credited with creating some of Miami’s finest and longest-running cultural events.
He was a South Florida fixture since 1953 and was completely plugged into South Florida’s arts scene and continued to work until just weeks before his death, following a stroke.
“The faces and the names and the events that man created for us since the 1950’s, that can never happen again,” said the Miami Herald’s Howard Cohen, who worked with Cinnamon on countless entertainment stories.
In 1983, Cinnamon received the Carbonell Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, now named the George Abbott Award.
CBS4 News entertainment reporter, Lisa Petrillo, met Cinnamon when she was a cub reporter.
“He took me under his wing. He guided me through it. He helped teach me about the arts,” Petrillo said.
Cinnamon, a native New Yorker, launched his career as Public Relations Director for Miami’s Coconut Grove Playhouse moving directly into a 26-year professional relationship with Broadway producer Zev Buffman. As National Press Representative, he led promotional efforts for the touring series Broadway Across America Miami, Broadway in Miami and Broadway in Fort Lauderdale, as well as the Cleveland Orchestra in Miami and with Judy Drucker’s Concert Association of Florida.
Cinnamon is also credited with creating Miami’s now internationally famed Coconut Grove Arts Festival and soon after, the Miami Beach Festival of the Arts, which is now a nationally known event. He also successfully launched the national campaign which brought the NBA franchise and the Miami Heat to Miami, and brought Elizabeth Taylor to South Florida for the Community Alliance Against AIDS first fund-raiser which resulted in $2.1 million for AIDS research.
Cinnamon also orchestrated the Royal visit of Her Serene Highness, Princess Caroline of Monaco to benefit the Miami City Ballet and the Princess Grace Foundation-USA; was Publicity Chairman of the Miami Centennial Ball; designed and executed “A Tribute to Ted Arison” which raised over $5 million for the New World Symphony and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and for which, in 2006, he was press representative of NFAA’s 25th Anniversary “An Affair of the Arts.”
Cinnamon has through the years been frequently acknowledged by the community as a major contributor to the arts. He has been honored by the City of Miami Beach Fine Arts Board as “Man of the Year,” was the first to have his footprints placed in the Jackie Gleason Theater’s “Walk of Stars,” and was later to receive a Proclamation from the city in honor of the Festival’s 10th Anniversary.
His list of awards and honors goes on and on including Best Cultural Ambassador in 2006 by the Miami New Times.
Cinnamon, who brought the spotlight to South Florida, avoided the limelight himself.
“You would see him at openings all the time, but he was not the star, and he was fine with that,” said the Herald’s Cohen.
While Cinnamon rubbed shoulders with the rich and famous, he was known to be gracious and kind to everyone.
“He wanted to talk about my family, my kids, he was warm and loving and he loved life and all the beauty in life and the arts were such a big part of it,” said Petrillo.
The youngest of eight children born to Jewish Polish immigrants, Cinnamon worked directly under famed General George Patton in World War II and helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp.
Writing Cinnamon’s biography for the Herald fell to Cohen – 60 tear-filled column inches.
“I’m not embarrassed to say I lost it. He was a wonderful man. He was a friend,” Cohen said.
All agree Cohen would not want tears shed for him, but rather his passion for the arts to go on.
“That’s what he would want. Take that torch and run with it. Be positive and do the best you can for your community, because that’s what he did,” said CBS4’s Petrillo, through tear-filled eyes.