When Naomi Wilzig arrived in Miami Beach at the age of 70 to open her very first business venture – an erotic art museum – many wondered why a wealthy Orthodox Jewish widow was determined to do such a thing. Ten years later 350 guests packed the opulent Miami Grand Theater Saturday night to pay homage to Wilzig on her 80th birthday and thank her for establishing the World Erotic Art Museum, which has become top tourist attraction that has won worldwide recognition.
In those days, Charlie Cinnamon was among those wondered about the new arrival. Wilzig had sought out the new arrival to publicize her fledgling museum. They are now fast friends.
“Naomi Wilzig represents old fashioned chutzpah. She wanted to open an erotic art museum and she took on everybody who opposed her. Now her museum that is known throughout the world,” said Cinnamon, as he joined others in paying tribute to Wilzig on the event venue’s stage.
Garbed in beautiful lace gown, Wilzig clearly enjoyed treating her guests to an unforgettable evening. The event started with hors devours, continued with tapas fashioned from grouper, steak, duck and short ribs and ended with a huge assortment of pastries and French macaroons.
Of course, there was plenty of champagne for toasting and Wilzig, who has often bemoaned the fact that people today really didn’t know what authentic burlesque is, enjoyed creating ‘Naomi’s Can Can Club,’ for Erika Moon to showcase her burlesque reveue, ‘Burlesque Magnifique.'” was performed.
In addition, since it is Naomi Wilzig’s tradition to follow a joyous occasion with one that is charitable, she also held a ceremony the next day to donate a Torah to the Chabad in South Beach.
For Wilzig, the best part of the event was assembling friends from not only Miami Beach and throughout Florida, but also those she knew years ago from her past. This included her friends and business associates from the days when she helped her husband, the late husband Siggi Wilzig, rise from a Holocaust survivor to a millionaire.
Also on hand were friends who lived in the Tampa, Fla., community where Wilzig began an erotic art collection that ended up outgrewing her condo there and was the start of her 20-room museum, which CNN recently called “the most respectable” such collection in the world.
There were also tributes from Wilzig’s children, including one by Sherry Wilzig Izak, Wilzig’s daughter, which drew laughs. She is CEO of Wilshire Enterprises, the real estate company her late father created.
“So a race car driver, a CEO and a guy in a cape walk into an erotic art museum. That may sound like a joke but to us it’s just a family reunion,” said Izak, referring to brothers Alan, a semi-professional race car driver and Ivan, recording artist and songwriter who wears a cape and goes by the name “Sir Ivan.”
“My mother is unique. She is down-to-earth and exceptionally modest. She went from being brought up Orthodox Jewish to riding on a Gay Pride float. Both the Rabbinical Council of America and also the Miami– Dade Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has honored her. Mom, you are in the heart of everyone here because you treat everybody with respect,” Izak said.
For her part Wilzig was clearly touched by the large turnout of guests, who came from Israel, Canada, and across the U.S., as well as Miami Beach and throughout Florida.
“Everyone always asks me what my favorite piece of art in the museum is, but they never ask me my favorite song,” Wilzig told her guests. Well, I’ll tell you; it’s the song ‘Nature Boy,’ because of the final line that says, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn, Is just to love and be loved in return.”
More info: World Erotic Art Museum