Friday, September 22, 2017

Yoga for inmates

As someone who enjoys meditating (while running), I enjoyed reporting this story on a weekly yoga class for inmates at the Metro West Detention Center just outside Miami.

On Fridays, substitute teacher Lawrence Huff, 70, spends more than 2 hours teaching yoga, one class for men and one for women. His aim is to help the inmates stay centered and calm despite their criminal issues and current environment.  And from what I saw by observing the class, the students seemed to look forward to the sessions.
(I snapped these photos while I was there.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Catching up with La Bloga

Thank you Lisa Alvarado and La Bloga for this lovely write up and interview the other day about my new novel Six Neckties. She asked me about the writers I enjoy reading,  the process behind my character development and other things I hadn't thought of before.

As a journalist, I am better asking the questions than answering them. Lisa had some challenging questions that made me really think about my process. I hope my responses make sense to the reader.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Longtime Miami anchor team mark 14 years together

WSVN-Ch. 7 anchors Craig Stevens and Belkys Nerey marked their 14th anchor-versary in August as the station's lead anchor team.

They are the longest-running anchor team in South Florida and their on-air partnership is rare these days in the local TV news industry. I recently wrote a story about the anchors and talked to them about their chemistry and some of the stories they've covered over the years.

(photo from

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Thank you Edge Media Network

A huge thank you to Edge Media Network's Kilian Melloy who recently interviewed me about sixth novel Six Neckties and the inspiration behind that book and gay marriage.

Kilian asked me some thoughtful questions which I took the time to answer. These were some tough questions.

Here's an example:

EDGE: "Six Neckties" addresses the issue of marriage equality head on - not from a political vantage, but from the point of view of Tommy, who feels like he's missing out. He's always a best man, never a bride! Why make marriage such a touchstone for this book? 

Johnny Diaz: I was living in Boston when same-sex marriage was legalized in 2004 and I remember the celebrations and outpouring of love and support. That always stayed with me. But when I moved to Miami, same-sex marriage wasn't legal in Florida. There were several news articles about couples from Key West and Miami fighting for their right to marry. Their stories also stayed with me. And once gay marriage was legalized nationally, I kept seeing couples posting their engagements and wedding celebrations on Facebook. And I thought, how would it feel to be that guy who goes to all his friends' weddings but hasn't found his groom? I also found myself attending a lot of weddings in the past three years and they inspired me to write the book too. I took a lot of notes on napkins. 

The interview was like coming full circle with the books because I remember in April 2007, Kilian interviewed me at The Border Cafe in Cambridge to discuss my first novel Boston Boys Club.  Thanks again Kilian for then and now.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thank you MDC

A big thank you to Miami Dade College for the shout out in The Miami Herald July 27.  In 2010, the college awarded me an alumnus award for literary arts.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The voices behind Power 96.5 in Miami

When I'm not watching TV or running two to three miles, chances are that I'm in my orange Fiat bopping around  Miami and Fort Lauderdale and listening to the radio.

JP and Lucy Lopez host the Morning Show on Power 96.5 FM in Miami.  (Photo /

And during my morning commutes, I tune into the Power 96 Morning show hosted by Lucy Lopez and JP. I was curious to find out who were the voices behind this funny, loud Spanglish-speaking duo so I went to the CBS Radio station and found out for this fun Sun Sentinel profile about the show and its popularity in South Florida.

Monday, July 17, 2017

That time I was confused for serial killer Andrew Cunanan

On July 17, 1997, I was confused for serial killer Andrew Cunanan. This is my story. 

"I am not a serial killer,'' I repeatedly told a seemingly trigger-happy crush of cops as they surrounded me outside a Fort Lauderdale office building.

It was July 1997 and South Florida's eyes were on the lookout for Andrew Cunanan, Gianni Versace's killer.

I had gone to interview a gentleman who may have known Cunanan. But the gentleman mistook my trademark crew cut and thick eyebrows for the real killer's.

He called the cops on me.

And before I knew it, I was standing in front of a small army of men in blue.  I remember inhaling deeply, swallowing my heart (gulp!) back down my throat and slowly flashing a bouquet of IDs.

My press pass, my driver's license, my FIU student ID, even my half-filled Subways sandwich club card - anything that would prove that I was Miami Herald cub reporter Johnny Diaz and not a killer masquerading as one.

It was a simple (and overblown) case of mistaken identity. A doppelganger, a double.

I've been continued for other things, too:  Greek, Italian, even for a girl when I was younger (pre-puberty but that's another story for another blog entry or maybe not.)

But a serial killer has topped them all.

At the time of Versace's murder, fear hung over South Florida like a dark cloud. We were under a police and media microscope. Mass hysteria, a Miami manhunt.

Everyone was looking for Cunanan. So was I as a reporter or anyone who may have known him.

It was after office hours that day in July. The Fort Lauderdale office building at 1975 Sunrise Blvd. was closed.

A door in the back was open so I naturally let myself in. (No one was looking.)

Within minutes, I found myself on the seventh floor asking a frightened-looking older gentleman named Cliff Pettit, "Is this Gamma Mu?" (That was the name of the gay men's organization that Cunanan had allegedly tried to infiltrate.)

"They moved!" Pettit abruptly fired back as he showed me the door.

"Um, thank you and sorry to have bothered you,'' I said to him as I left.

Then it hit me: Where did they move to?

Like I soldier, I turned around. I knocked on the door. But there was no answer.

I knocked harder - the knocks drifted in an echo.


"I know you're in there, let me in," as I continued knocking.

Still, nothing.

With my head facing down, I rode the elevator back down to the lobby.

As I made my way out of the office building, I found myself greeted by the police.

Once the officers realized I wasn't their man, they broke out in laughs. (At least someone thought this was funny.)

"Johnny, you really shouldn't work on this story. You look too much like the perpetrator,'' said one officer, who was still laughing in the elevator.

"Hey, this isn't funny," I told them. More laughs.

They escorted me back to the seventh floor to reintroduce me to the gentleman whom I almost gave a stroke from the big scare.

Apparently, he had met the real Cunanan earlier that year at a party in San Diego where Cunanan sported a white button-down shirt, blue jeans and a crew cut which was the way I happened to be dressed that day.

A few days later, Pettit called me at work and apologized.

He wanted to make it up to me for calling the police and landing me in the news.

From Jose Lambiet's Sun Sentinel story on July 18, 1997:

       Three patrol cars swooped down on reporter Johnny Diaz of The Miami Herald, who admitted he looks a lot like Cunanan
    ``I was trying to interview someone but when I walked in his office, he kind of freaked out,'' Diaz said. ``I walked out but in the meantime, the person had called the police. I'm about the same height and weight as Cunanan and I got the crew cut and the big eyebrows.''

From Fred Grimm's July 22, 1997 Miami Herald column:

Last Wednesday, someone fingered a shadowy Herald reporter named Johnny Diaz. Poor Johnny was among hundreds of supposed Cunanan sightings investigated by police. At least Diaz looks more Cunanan-esque than... 

And there was the interview on NBC's Dateline about mistaken identities.

But back to the phone call from the gentleman who thought I was Cunanan. He wanted to invite me to an upcoming Halloween bash in Fort Lauderdale's Coral Ridge neighborhood.

Just as long as I didn't dress up as Cunanan.

And the story continues. Steve Rothaus of The Miami Herald added this graph to his new article on the rise of the LGTBQ community in Miami Beach during the Versace years for the 20th anniversary of his death.

Until Cunanan’s death, hundreds of tipsters throughout Florida reported to police they might have seen him on the loose. FBI agents even questioned Miami Herald reporter Johnny Diaz, then 24, after a man he tried to interview decided the young journalist looked just like Cunanan, 27.

My former coworkers at The Miami Herald created this side-by-side comparison image below as a gag for my goodbye page when I left the Herald to go the Boston Globe a few years ago. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Thank you Miami Herald

This is the surprise I saw when I opened The Miami Herald this past Sunday. A HUGE thank you to my old paper and Steve Rothaus for the lovely story in Sunday's paper. It captures my writing career that began at the Herald when I was 16 and how I shifted into fiction writing in Boston. He also talked about the movie that inspired my new book Six Neckties and why I called it that. There's even a photo of my parents from one of my book readings at Books & Books in Miami Beach. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Here is the online version of the story.