It's Dec. 31, 1958.
The Kennedys and the Lawfords have just canceled on attending his daughter's bat mitzvah, but hotelier Isaac "Ike" Evans has bigger problems: Workers are demonstrating for the right to unionize; the Cuban kitchen staff is worried about what's going on back in their homeland as Fidel Castro closes in on Havana; a mobster partner wants more of the action in the ritzy resort; and Frank Sinatra himself is scheduled to perform two New Year's Eve shows and nobody wants him upset.
It's all part of the first episode of Starz's newest series, "Magic City," set in the legendary Miami Beach of the late 1950s and early '60s - where the Rat Pack, other celebrities and politicians rubbed elbows with wiseguys and gamblers.
"I grew up thinking it was the most glamorous, swankiest place ever," says Mitch Glazer, who created the series that debuted April 6 and has already been picked up for a second season.
It stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan ("Grey's Anatomy," "Watchmen") as Ike, the owner of the Miramar Playa hotel, a fictionalized version of the many Jewish-owned hotels in South Florida during the era.
Glazer's father was an electrical engineer who did the lighting for the hotels at the time, and as a boy Glazer hung out in their lobbies.
"This is a story that I've been wanting to tell for a long time," says Glazer, who was born and raised in Miami.
"My high school when I was growing up was 60 percent Jewish, 40 percent Cuban, and Mickey Rourke," he jokes, referring to the Oscar-nominated actor who is a couple of years younger.
Glazer first pitched the series in 2007 to CBS, even before AMC's "Mad Men" came on the air and made the era hip. Though the network was interested, it ultimately passed on the show. Probably just as well.
"Magic City" has cable written all over it because of the territory the show ventures into.
"The cool thing was, besides the aesthetic and the beauty and the glamour and how gorgeous the time was, there were also really amazing things happening in the world," says Glazer. "So I felt that if I could tell a story of this family under siege in this time in this beautiful world, I could also funnel these great stories that were happening then, from the CIA and Cuba and civil rights."
Morgan says it was a "no-brainer" to do the show, though he wasn't looking to do a series. In fact, his agent told him when he was to meet with Glazer that it was a miniseries. But even after the writer-producer informed him otherwise he was set to do "Magic City."
"Usually, I just get one script to look at when they approach me. Here I got three, and they were great," says Morgan, noting that Glazer wrote all of the episodes without a partner.
Plus, after being in a number of action movies, the 45-year-old actor was ready to be a "guy."
"I'm getting a little too old for the action stuff," he says.
One look at him, though, and you know that's not true. At 6-foot-2, Morgan has the rugged good looks and build to look both suave and dangerous, attributes that serve Ike well.
"It's not that Ike isn't a live wire and there aren't moments of physicality," says Morgan about his character.
In "Magic City," Ike is a guy who has made it up from the streets. In fact, he's referred to as a "cabana boy" by his former sister-in-law (Kelly Lynch, Glazer's wife). But getting his dream has proved costly, and he owes a lot to mob boss Ben "The Butcher" Diamond (Danny Huston).
Ike's wife, Vera, is a former showgirl played by former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko. His children are all from his first marriage to Molly, who died. Besides his daughter, he has two grown sons. The older, Stevie (Steven Strait), is more of the bad-boy type, being groomed by his father to take over the hotel. But he's headed into shark-infested waters with eyes for Diamond's sexy new wife, Lily (Jessica Marais). Danny, a recent college grad, is in law school and ready to work for John F. Kennedy when he announces his presidential campaign.
While everything is placid and fun-loving on the surface - clowns and cha-cha lessons during the day at the Miramar - at night there are escort girls and other temptations.
"Ike is a complex character with incredible pressures on him, but as he walks through the casino with this really charismatic smile he has to be that guy," explains Glazer. "As with the city itself, there are darker things happening."
To re-create the Miami Beach of 1959, a 200,000-square-foot set was built for "Magic City." There are also blocks of the old Miami Beach deco still there, Glazer says, though you have to "digitally erase light stanchions and all that stuff."
Glamorous clothes were another way into replicating the era.
"It's probably the most beautiful style in history, the '50s. It looks so elegant," says Kurylenko, who is actually in a bath towel when we first meet her. "Everybody looks so classy, beautiful."
"There is not a sexier era," adds Morgan. "I'm the ugliest person in the show."
In the first season, while you will hear Sinatra sing the show avoids depicting major historical figures like Ol' Blue Eyes, but you will meet his right-hand man, Jilly Rizzo, and Dave Powers, who was JFK's top aide. Frankie Avalon, Ike's daughter's favorite, had been written into the show but "We took it out because it just didn't cut it," says Glazer.
On the other hand, the producer-writer has been thrilled that Starz has been willing to secure so many tunes from the era.
"There is no more efficient time machine than period music," notes Glazer. "There's a moment in our show when Jessica Marais' character is coming out of the pool by the patio and Bobby Darin's 'Beyond the Sea' is on the soundtrack and you know, and you are right in that moment."
Sometimes that moment is where you started. For one scene in the show, Glazer returned to the Deauville Hotel, where he saw the Beatles in 1964 for their second appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and later worked as a cabana boy.
"At one point they actually set me up in an office to write on set," recounts Glazer. "And they took me into this room, and I realized it was the same room I had hid in as a cabana boy so no one could find me. I was like, 'I'm back here again? This is insane.'"