South Beach with a Sharpie

Russel Harvey of South Beach Fame
You may be approached by Russel Harvey in South Beach. Listen and enjoy. But don’t dare approach him back.

I’ve already explained how much I love Sharpies and how I used one everyday at work. Apparently there are other Sharpie fans out there as well. We had met such a man on a recent trip to South Beach.

We had just finished our belated Thanksgiving feast yesterday when we decided to hit Lincoln Road  for a little calorie burn.

Our first stop was Balan’s restaurant. We had a drink and sat in some comfy couches out on the street when we met David Spade. Well, Russel Harvey does look somewhat like Spade, although claims he’s taller than the actor.

Unlike Spade (as far as I know), Harvey has a gift for gab and a Trivial Pursuit-stuffed memory. He approached us with a pad of paper and a black, fine-tipped Sharpie and started sketching – all the while peppering us with questions and sprinkling the conversation with a mix of clever and corny jokes delivered with stand-up comedian timing. Unlike several South Beach artists who approach you looking to push their wares, Harvey dove into conversation of substance. And that was refreshing.

He knew nuggets of information most wouldn’t. The photographer-by-day, artist/gabber by night knew Garrison Keillor. He claimed to have met him many times in New York. He knew where KOIN-TV was and quizzed me on if I knew the answer… (Portland, Oregon). He knew cities and towns near Markham, Ontario – where Tara and her parents lived in the 80s and 90s. And as he constantly turned to doodle with the Sharpie, he was quickly side-tracked back into the conversation when a new thought zapped into his mind. More sketching, more stories, more surprises.

Russel Harvey Artist
Harvey’s masterpiece mostly confirmed one thing for me: my wish for a chiseled jaw-line is simply that, a wish. Harvey is a toxic dose of reality. Blah.

After a good 45 minutes with Spade’s doppelganger, it was time to imbibe at the next hangout. The frigid Miami winds were picking up and we were under-dressed (an absolute embarrassment since I’m from Minnesota and could once withstand -25 degree temperatures). Harvey viciously scribbled the last of our portrait realizing he’d done more talking than sketching. But in the end, the cash we gave him wasn’t for his Van Gogh, but for his Keilor-esque demeanor and storytelling. To approach someone out of the blue and captivate them by holding their attention and keeping them engaged for that long is not only challenging, it’s an art form. It’s one that Mr. Harvey has clearly mastered thanks to his years ‘around the block’.

So a tip of the hat to Russel Harvey for entertaining us in while we struggled out of our tryptophan comas.

Upon leaving, Harvey wouldn’t shake hands. A self-admitted OCD germ-a-phobe, he simply bowed graciously as his parting goodbye. And in our photo-op he was sure to keep his distance, as he didn’t like to be touched or approached by anyone – a strange characteristic for a man who does nothing BUT approach people.

Come to think of it, I wouldn’t want many people in South Beach touching me either.




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About the author

Josh Benson


  • He was a very entertaining guy with a gift for storytelling, not unlike yourself Josh as I enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed listening got “David spade” last night.

  • I was approached in same manner on the same Lincoln Road by the same Russ about 10 years ago ! Wise , clever, smart and quiet and armed with the same pad of paper and Sharpie :^)
    I received my draw of course and we stay friends till today. Mostly pen friends but … Maybe someday we will got small brass statue of Russ on Lincoln floor mingling with southfloridians and visitors !
    Greetings Rusty.

Josh Benson


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