Worlds collided at Saturday’s official opening night of Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy, as people who played central roles in the real drama of Miami’s cocaine wars and the story of hitman Rivi Ayala and his boss Griselda “The Godmother” Blanco turned out to see themselves onstage. In the house were retired drug homicide detectives Raul Diaz and Al Singleton; Michael Corleone Blanco, the son of Griselda Blanco; former prosecutors, and more. We asked them how it felt to see their lives play out onstage.
Michael Corleone Blanco, son of cocaine Godmother Griselda Blanco:
It’s very surreal. I couldn’t have expected anything more than what I got. I’m grateful, I loved it. [Co-playwright] Billy [Corben] did a great thing… And Griselda lives. This is our culture. This is what we were raised on… We were all raised on Griselda’s rules. The rules of the pirates. Take what you can, give nothing back… I guess people are fascinated because they were under the impression that only men could rule this world. And this world was created by a woman, she was the pioneer of the cocaine drug trade as we know it. Griselda lives.
Former drug homicide detective Raul Diaz helped bring down Godmother Griselda Blanco
Retired Miami-Dade County Police Lieutenant Raul Diaz, Centac 26:
I would never have expected they would have made a play about Rivi’s confession. I think Billy Corben was brilliant in his writing. It was well put together and very accurate. Brought back a lot of memories of those days. Having [former detective] Singleton sitting next to me, it was like old days. A lot of good and bad memories. They portrayed Rivi and Griselda very well. Rivi was like that. Is like that.
Al Singleton, former drug homicide detective and Raul Diaz’s partner
Al Singleton, former Miami-Dade drug homicide detective, 1978-2003: All the facts were accurate. It was very, very strange to see it so many years later after having lived through that. Now we’re seeing it portrayed onstage, and portrayed very well. [Did they get Rivi and La Madrina right?] Yes they got Rivi because he was likeable and charismatic. They got Griselda – the lady who played Griselda nailed it big time. She was excellent. [Did you tell her that?] I did. Got a hug too.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber was a prosecutor during Miami’s Cocaine Wars
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, federal prosecutor 1986-1994: I remember these cases. I remember the actual characters. I know a lot of the people. At the time we didn’t think it was funny or interesting, we just thought it was life… For me it’s fascinating. It’s sort of fun now, but it wasn’t fun then. We had real witnesses in danger, you had real victims, you had real challenges. Now we look back at it we realize how absolutely bizarre it was that Miami became the cocaine capital of the world in some ways. And almost celebrated it… It was crazy and it was Miami.
Tom Rodgers, opening night audience
Tom Rodgers, lived in Coconut Grove in the 80’s: I was living in Coconut Grove then. I knew two victims of this [crap.] Two friends who tried to do drug deals. They were gonna make a million dollar deal and they ended up with bullets in their head. It was insanity.
Sam Rabin, former prosecutor, headed drug homicide unit
Sam Rabin, former narcotics homicide prosecutor and supervisor of Centac 26:
It captured the essence of what was going on in terms of the investigations. It was fairly accurate in terms of why the case fell apart. [You were laughing a lot.] It’s obviously a serious subject. These were really nefarious people. But every time you tell a story you need to have a little humor. This was an only in Miami moment. I had dinner with Lieutenant Diaz and Sargent Singleton, who are both now retired, before the play. We all remain close friends.
Liliana Camacho, opening night audience, from Colombia
Liliana Camacho, from Colombia:
That subject is fascinating. People love talking about cocaine, drug dealers. It involves danger, killing, drugs – it’s something evil, that’s why people are attracted to it. You see it in my country too, you can see all these TV series – Narcos, etc. As a Colombian it enrages me that people get excited about this. On the other hand I’m also fascinated.
Andrea Blanco, mother of Bryan Blanco, 11, actor in Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy
Andrea Blanco, mother of 11 year old actor Bryan Blanco: There is a huge following for Cocaine Cowboys [documentaries] and the ugly side of how Miami was built. Things have changed. But now we have a government that’s villainizing immigrants. I’m an immigrant and I think that’s really unfair. We need to challenge that message. It’s not those people causing the violence. It’s us. Parkland wasn’t an accident. Our kids live with lockdowns. [Bryan’s] school had one just the other day. It was a false alarm, but still, it’s terrifying.
Miami journalist Tom Austin
Tom Austin, Miami journalist/social observer: It’s the closest thing to the Trump didactic. Everything is a joke now, it’s all a cartoon. Nothing matters. Maybe Miami does lead the way in that sense. I’m not sure that should be applauded.