‘Hotel Cocaine’ Is Fiction, But Its Setting and Backdrop Are Very Real

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: June 18, 2024 (Last updated: 4 weeks ago)
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Is 'Hotel Cocaine' A True Story? Roman Compte and the Mutiny Hotel Explained
Hotel Cocaine | Image via MGM+

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS

Hotel Cocaine is not based on a true story. But it is based on real history, a real place, and a very real vibe of drug-fuelled late-70s debauchery, so really what’s the difference?

The idea of a “true story” is a pretty nebulous concept these days. Some shows, like Fargo, claim to be based on fact even if they’re not. Some, like Baby Reindeer, try to downplay their authenticity – and miserably fail.

Hotel Cocaine gets the balance about right. Its primary setting, the Mutiny Hotel, was a real place, and its general manager Roman Compte was a real guy. But the specifics of the plot and the characters other than that are all fictional, even if the idea of drug kingpins and DEA double agents wasn’t exactly unheard of at the time.

The Mutiny Hotel Was (And Remains) A Real Hotel

The protagonist of Hotel Cocaine is Roman Compte, the general manager of the Mutiny Hotel which is very real and remains open to this day.

The show’s depiction of this place is, to be fair, pretty close to reality. During the 80s it was a hive of scum and villainy, fuelled by abundant cocaine, funded by dirty money, and packed with eyebrow-raising clientele from celebrities to socialites and drug lords. (In Episode 1, Hunter S. Thompson is there for basically no reason at all.)

The Mutiny Hotel is a 130-room hotel and club, so that’s plenty of room for the kind of debauchery that would give the place a reputation. That reputation attracted all kinds of people who probably shouldn’t have been there, for one reason or another, but you know how these things go.

For more, Robert Farzad’s 2017 book Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami is a useful place to start, and the place has also cropped up in other media, including, for instance, Netflix’s Griselda.

Roman Compte Was A Real Person

As mentioned, Hotel Cocaine revolves around the general manager of the Mutiny Hotel, Roman Compte, who was a real-life Cuban exile turned CIA asset.

Given his… unique position in Miami’s underworld, it’s no surprise that Roman would have been targeted on both sides of the legal aisle, working as a fixer for the drug lords and a double agent for the authorities. This makes him a genius pick for a protagonist, if nothing else.

The show was developed in collaboration with Roman’s son, Maurice, who posted a bit of promotion on his Instagram account:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Maurice Compte (@mauricecompte)

Nestor Cabal Is Fictional

In the course of the show, Roman is strongarmed by a DEA agent named Zulio to reconnect with and spy on his brother, Nestor Cabal, a dangerous drug lord. Roman is forced into collaborating with the authorities under threats to his daughter, Valeria.

This bit is fictional. Nestor Cabal is made up, and Roman didn’t have a brother. As showrunner Chris Brancato explains in a Reuters interview: 

“The part that’s fiction is that Roman Compte did not have an older brother who was Miami’s biggest drug dealer and was not tasked by the DEA with catching said fictional older brother. But the whole backdrop of the show … the setting … is all real.”

However, there were plenty of major drug lords operating in Miami around this time. Nestor Cabal specifically might be a creation for the show, but he’s likely a composite of several similar figures who were active during that time.


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