by HFPA March 27, 2012

  No, this  isn't the Miramar Playa, the luxurious Miami Beach hotel created specially for the new Starz TV series Magic City, which HFPA members visited last year.   Instead it's the famed Riviera hotel in Havana, Cuba, which served as an inspiration for the set designers who created the Miramar Playa.

The Riviera, pictured by Theo Kingma,  came into being in 1956 when then-Cuban president Fulgencio Batista realized he needed an extravagant venue to host the many American gambling guests visiting Havana. He had no problem finding a co-investor in  U.S. mobster Meyer Lansky and together they hired the most famous architects and designers of their time to create a hotel, restaurant, cabaret and casino that visitors would never want to leave.

While the casino rooms and call girls have since long gone and Lansky's private two-bedroom suite, overlooking the Malecon, now rents out as the presidential suite, the Habana Riviera remains a treasure trove for those interested in Art Deco architecture.

Nostalgically, the opening episode of Magic City is set on New Year's Eve 1958 as Havana falls to Fidel Castro's rebel army and the Kennedys, anti-Castro forces, the mob,  the CIA and the Rat Pack all hold court in the Miramar Plaza's marble and terrazzo lobby.