“You heard about the designer who was shot and left bleeding out on the curb in front of David & Dash Fabrics? Don’t worry.”

We’re on i-95, JR opens up the center console showing off his Magnum 44 driving south down to Miami, my first trip to Designer’s Row. This is my 35th year in business. My last boss JR- is a narcissistic shell of a man living his glory days as an interior designer on Las Olas Blvd. Telling me crazy conspiracy theories about the CIA, money, finance, gold and cancer research.

All that he said has come to be true. The man drank and screwed most of his clients along with his last design assistant. His wife adores me, teaching me how to run the office, back of the house stuff. I’m grateful she gave me foundational tools to start my own business.

Our #1 client is a drug dealer from Miami, shipping cocaine up from South America in drywall. Clever huh?

It’s Miami, he’s one of the cocaine cowboys.

This coked out client, Mr. CokeHead, arrives at the office with $20,000 in cash to pay for his project. As JR’s design assistant, I do everything. Write up orders. Schlep the coffee. Draft and hand color detailed blueprints copied from old master’s drawings- intricate architectural millwork from colonial times.

That is my boss’s specialty. It becomes mine. Antiques- he collects them. Things I’d only seen in books. Chippendale. Hepplewhite. Reproductions from the finest furniture companies take a year to produce.

“What smells, sells.” JR says, Meaning tacky always is cheaper, so he opts for interior design work he loves that no one else is doing at the time. New products- he’s the first the NY representatives contact. I met some of the biggest names. Many of them died from the AIDS crisis. Living on today in the legacy of their products. I am always on call. Late night binges and jealousy fueled by alcohol, means screaming phone calls. Then one day I couldn’t put the key in the door without being sick to my stomach.

What happens next with JR and me? click here for part 2….