CLICK HERE for more Steve Ralls
Copyright 2009| Ambiente. Do not reproduce without prior authorization.
www.ambiente.us SEPTEMBER | SEPTIEMBRE 2009
Karen Brown | The Voodoo She Does So Well
By Steve Ralls
Don’t ask Karen Brown to reveal the secrets of her voodoo rituals at The Angler’s
Resort in South Beach, because she won’t divulge a thing.
When a guest recently broke a mirror at the posh South Florida resort, Brown was
called in to do “a reversal of misfortune,” the details of which remain a mystery.
“Don’t ask,” Brown said when I asked her to describe the most recent, strangest
request she’s received at The Angler’s. “Cause I can’t tell.”
For Brown, who moved to Florida from Oklahoma when she was just six months old,
such details are part of her daily routine. As the mistress of The Angler’s, which has
won raves for its posh rooms and decadent service, she has become a bit of an expert
in the ways of “service with a smile.”
Brown, who oversees both The Angler’s and its sister property in Atlanta, The Artmore,
has learned a thing or two about travel . . . and shared some of her insights in a recent
interview with Ambiente.
“A fabulous bed/sleep experience” is the one luxury she says every hotel must indulge its
visitors with. Then, she advises, go shopping.
“Choose wisely where you spend your money and where,” she says, and “support
businesses that support our community. We are powerful!”
Brown says “our” because, in addition to her duties at The Angler’s, she is also an
increasingly visible member – and leader – of the South Florida LGBT community. She
has been active, over the past few years, with groups such as The Miami Gay & Lesbian
Film Festival; Power Up; Dade Human Rights Foundation; Women’s Fund of Miami
Dade County; Care Resource; The White Party; and The Winter Party.
“There are lots of ways to get involved in this town,” she says, “and it’s a great way to
support our community.”
Last year, Brown was honored with a community volunteer award from the Aqua
Foundation. The award “was such an honor,” she told Ambiente. “To be acknowledged
by my peers, in my community . . . it felt great.”
In fact, Brown has many fans in the community. She has built up a long list of admirers
and fans, who appreciate her humor, her activism and her gorgeous Angler’s rooms on
“Karen is a force of nature,” said Audrey Denson, founder of
Denson Design, a South Florida graphic design firm. “She has the
best advice about almost any city, the best property in Miami
Beach and the best sense of humor you can imagine.
She’s funny as hell.”
buildings. Two new buildings were approved by the city, and now we have a gorgeous
mix of Spanish Mediterranean and Miami Modern architectural styles that blend quite
“Both Allan Shulman and Ralph Coeff,” she adds, “created the enclave, and Wallace Tutt
did the guest room interiors.”
But the ambience and opulence seem to be pure Brown. And it’s a craft she’s been
practicing for many years.
“I have been in the hospitality industry since age 14, when I answered the phones at the
local pizza joint,” she recalls. “I loved the relationship with the customers and making
sure they were happy. It’s the same today. I have been in the hotel/hospitality industry
for going on 18 years. I think a quality that serves me well – in both business and in my
personal life – is having a sense of humor and the ability to make others feel at ease.”
Which may explain why Brown also moonlights – on occasion – as a stand-up
comedienne . . . though it’s a label she doesn’t completely see as fitting her.
“People think I am a comedienne because I have been an emcee for the past several
years for the Aqua Girl Comedy Show and, on occasion, they find me funny.”
And the funniest thing about her day job?
“Hotels introduce you to a variety of people and situations on a daily basis,” she says. “It’
s never dull.”
Nor is her travel schedule, which takes her regularly to the property in Atlanta, and to
other enviable destinations across the country.
“I enjoy New York and Los Angeles,” she told Ambiente, “and Chicago of course,
In fact, Denson has been so taken by The Angler’s – and Karen’s attention to guest
details – that she recently moved in for a long weekend of work . . . and pampering.
“Anything you do will be done better at The Angler’s,” Denson said.
The Angler’s, you might say, has a history of inspiring transitions. The property, a long-
time resident told me on a recent visit, was an abandoned and condemned building.
“This is true,” Brown confirms, “and one of those fun and weird facts that people find
hard to believe once they see it now. It sat vacant for over a dozen years, maybe more. It
was a parcel that had some land to it and two old, dilapidated
but I recently discovered The Hamptons, and enjoy the village feel filled with a
But it’s Atlanta – and The Artmore – that have become her second home. Both there, and
in South Florida, the staff Brown works with try to be part of the community and give back
to their LGBT supporters.
“We have a great executive team in Atlanta who are mostly gay as well,” she says. “One
serves on the board for the Atlanta Gay Chamber and we have hosted them at the hotel
It’s a perfect destination, she insists, for the LGBT crowd.
“The Artmore is a recently renovated . . . hotel,” she told me. “It’s hip and friendly and the
location is in the center of the arts and culture district with museums, theatre, art . . .
What’s the LGBT traveler not to love?!”
And, she notes, there’s plenty for the LGBT community to love about Miami Beach, too.
“I see people hand-in-hand on Lincoln Road, next to families with strollers, and no one
bats an eye,” she says. “It feels quite inclusive and people from small towns across the
U.S. are just not used to that kind of freedom.”
Travelers who hit town at the right time might even get to see Brown perform for the
public. This year, she helped to emcee Miami Beach Pride and is on the Entertainment
Committee for next year . . . “to make sure some fabulous people will be here.”
The fabulous line-up, though, may just start with Brown herself, who reminds us to tell
our readers that all of her properties “strongly support” their LGBT associates and
“It’s not a marketing niche for us,” she told Ambiente. “It’s who we are made up of, and
what makes the hotel so welcoming for all kinds of people.”
The welcome mat will even be out, she assures us, for those who want to do that voodoo
they do – and Brown is happy to help with – so well.
MIAMI RIVER INN
Worlds Oldest &