"the" Mrs. Astor

Monday, January 30, 2006

Favorite quote of the weekend: "I've been drunk every night for the last two years; why would I want to sober up now?" Miami Entertainment Columnist, Thomas Barker

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The need for extra protection in the face of rumored peasant revolts and the ever-present threat of court intrigue has lead my beloved Jeremy to begin the formation of a new armed guard, The 12th Lifeguard Regiment. His new recruits seemed to have the enthusiasm necessary to protect The Palace and I could only embrace that fervor.

The Year of the Dog

I tagged along with Carl of The Wire to Jenny Yip's Chinese New Year dinner at her appropriately-named Miss Yip restaurant. Our table included Carl, entertainment columnist Thomas Barker, promoter Edison Farrow, and WSVN anchorman Craig Stevens among others. There was so much gossip traded at that table I thought could hear the closing bell of NY Stock Exchange.

Another thing we discussed, again appropriately, was our slavish devotion to our dogs. All of us agreed to being doggie-whipped. Thomas admitted to caving in constantly to those hurt eyes when he leaves the house, Craig confessed to guilt about reasoning with his dog, Jack, on not getting on the sofa, and I had to admit that KiKi will often ignore the meal I prepare for him unless I pretend I'm going to eat it, saying, "Yummie, yummie."

The sumptuous feast was topped off by the classic dragon dances and a barrage of firecrackers. (Memories of New York's Chinatown danced in my head as well.) When the almond cookies were gone we all headed upstairs to Jenny's surprise birthday party hosted by her partner, Amir, and Ian Schrager at Buck 15. I always get a thrill out of events like this; the exciting atmosphere of New York is easily found in a town of so many transplanted Manhattanites. I gleefully trotted up the trendy, graffiti-painted staircase with our table companions and met up with an old friend from those reckless summers in Westerly, RI, Alan, who is working on the Palm Beach lawsuit Mrs. Henry Ford has filed against the contractors of her latest vacation home (there are seventeen lawyers involved).

I was surprised when Alan's email arrived and asked how he found me. Alan explained that he had been in a Boston bar when he noticed a cute red-head giving him "the eye" and in the ensuing conversation learned that the cutie was from New York. Alan said he used to visit the city every weekend way-back-when and would go to Mars nightclub with his friend, Alexis. The red-hed stared at him and said, "I speak with Alexis almost every day." Alan stared back and screamed, "Lahoma van Zandt!". Upon returning home he googled Lahoma and found my birthday tribute. Thus, fifteen years later, Alan, my housemate Bob, and myself were reunited and having a viscously good time; all three of us agreed that--amazingly enough--none of us had aged a day, while the same couldn't be said for our contemporaries.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

We were handed red envelopes into which a small amount of cash was put and then fed to the dragons for good luck. The dragon on the left nearly took my entire forearm, too.

Water, Water Everywhere

Just WHAT do you do with 3,000 gay men?

In the old days I wouldn't be writing about it, but I'm engaged and oh-so-happy to stand back and watch (at least until that email-order whore/bride arrives in March). For the past two days, The Palace--ever the port of call--has endured a tsunami of men because of a gay cruise leaving later today on The Atlantis. Last night I found myself trapped in a corner of Ditmar's bar with Palace owners, Douglas and Henry, and Wire Magazine owner, Carl Zablotny, as cruise boys swirled around us.

An audible gasp emitted out of Henry at one point and he pointed to a tall--very tall--guy and said, "I need to buy him a drink". I jumped into action, introduced myself to the handsome giant, and said, "The owner wants to buy you a drink." "That's OK," giant said, "I'll get one myself." To which I replied, "When the owner wants to buy you a drink, you drink it." (I don't know where I get balls like this; I'm rather mild-mannered.)

He smiled and turned with me toward the bar and my friends, introducing himself as Paul (with a very complicated Polish surname) from Chicago. Polish from Chicago, I thought, how unique. We were all getting a stiff neck talking with him when I had to ask, "Paul, just how tall are you?" He was six foot five inches and all of us kept looking him up and down with our eyes like a searchlight (borrowed from The Woman, I know). I asked him to bend over--not like THAT, you pigs--so that I could take a photo of him with Henry. "A little more," I asked, "Bend over a little more". And finally he managed to get his handsome face to a level that did not require me to be in a cherry picker.

I wonder if he has ever been on a cruise before as the cabins are not exactly made for sweet giants like Paul. Oh well, maybe he'll be on all fours for most of the trip. I couldn't give him a peck goodbye when I spied an escape route; my tip-toed lips only reached his shoulder. I could have asked him to "Bend over", but I'm engaged.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Drag By Day Can Be Lovely, Too

Elaine Lancaster has always been a class act. During my years here on South Beach (and especially when I worked for Gerry Kelly at Level nightclub) Elaine has been the embodiment of Hollywood glamour, always shining and sparkling in the seas of a dark club like the lighthouse at Alexandria. I watched her descend the astounding, Art Deco, circular staircase one night at Level in a white beaded gown and thought, “That is what fog would move like if it had a beaded purse to match.”

There is no lip-synching to songs, no fancy dance steps, and certainly no jumping through a hoop of fire (a feat I once videoed in a Lower East Side dive) for Elaine. She graces an event with her appearance, style, and wit. I’m sure all this comes with some envy from the other entertainers in this field; from the safety of my bunker (the camera) I note that this group is always on a setting of DefCon 4.

This leads me to ponder the opportunities and pitfalls of appearing in drag at high noon. Anyone who has been to Wigstock easily sees the danger inherent in day drag, although there is a safety-in-numbers factor which would be difficult to replicate anywhere else. If evening drag is a snap in the face of society, day drag could be the tweak of the nose.

A week or so ago Elaine attended one of those benefit lunches that are ubiquitous at this time of the year on South Beach and I marvel at her approach. A gown of the type she wore for the White Party at Vizcaya--a stunning white lace number with a tulle fish tail--can’t be taken seriously at noon unless you are passed out in it on an expansive, manicured lawn (preferably with a fountain in the background).

Here is what Elaine did:

She shelved the Lana Turner glamour and substituted the Palm Beach Matron look by wearing all Chanel, and good Chanel at that. She opted for a low profile but-still-luscious hairstyle instead of the towering ones usually atop her already tall stature; it’s one thing to loom over people of the night, but you really want to level the playing field during daylight. And lastly, she followed the old dictum, “If you are going to be photographed between two damn good-looking celebrities, you’d better be fucking good-looking.”

I wish someone like Elaine would give classes in subjects like Daylight Drag to all the upcoming entertainers in this world. She could be a visiting professor at a college devoted to the drag studies, its history, place in modern society, and the applied sciences.

Monday, January 23, 2006

I Didn't Let The Dogs Out....

**Click image to start download Video

No, it was beyond my control, but not beyond my boyfriend's. He's such a Smart Ass. I don't know what to do with him; he continually shows me up with his ability to promote any idea or promotion. I guess I'll just have to live with it.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lahoma, Older and, Well, Older

I must stop going on about dog pageants, my boyfriend, and my own society wedding for a day to pay a birthday tribute to the legendary Lahoma van Zandt. She turned 83 yesterday (I remember that because she is 52 years older than me), but is still alert in mind and spirit.

Ciphering aside, it seems like only yesterday when we met at Mars. I was a young, impressionable photographer who became captivated by a real star, a star who always told me in those early days, "You're so sweet, I love you". I believed it and had "Lahoma Fan Club" T-shirts made to prove my love for her. Of course, the ecstasy didn't have anything to do with this mutual adoration society.

Those were heady days for me as Lahoma invited me to climb on the merry-go-round of her life complete with the most extraordinary collection of freaks ever assembled. I followed her from one gutter to another snapping away furiously and usually ended up at her home watching Queen Bee or some other bizarre movie. How I ever stayed up all night and kept my job is still a mystery; how we all survived that period of nuttiness is another.

What I do know is that the merry-go-round was coming to a halt (they always do). Michael Alig had murdered his drug dealer and we all knew it;we had celebrated it with him at Disco 2000's Blood Feast. Funny, you know the police are about to come knocking when you've killed someone and throw a party celebrating the fact. It was also time to clean our bodies of the dissolute lifestyle we had become so accustomed to; I moved to Cozumel for six months to dry out and Lahoma stopped wearing a dress and got a real job. Through all the changes we never lost touch and whenever I see a sock puppet I remember the 5:00 am shows at her home.

I hear they let her out of The Home to get fresh air every now and then and that aging dignitaries she once entertained sometimes stop by to remember the good old days. I'm honored to have been so trusted a friend that all I had to say was, "Go ahead, Lahoma. Climb up on that statue of Ghandi so I can take a photo. Don't worry; if you fall, I'll catch you." She climbed up, held the flower, and said, "You're so sweet."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Long and Short of It

One of our favorite events of the season is this Saturday's 4th Annual South Beach Dachshund Winterfest, which is sort of a Woodstock for weenie dogs and their people. The funny, little dogs and their equally funny owners and admirerers will gather across the street from The Palace at 12:00 Noon, mingle for a bit, and join in The Grand March to the elegant Tides Hotel where the Mayor or some other City official who is a little short himself of important municipal matters to attend to will present the Dog Keys to The City (to whom, I don't know yet).

The group--and I kid not, because it is too silly to make up--will then sing The Dachsong; and, after that, the real fun begins next door at The Palace, which has hosted the "afterparty" these four years. There will be a VIP dog area in out outside bar, hot dog specials, and plenty of Ditmar Dachshund Drink concoctions. I think I'm going to title the event, "Show Your Weenie at The Palace"; that would make it not altogether much different than any other weekend afternoon.

KiKi was helping me plan the afternoon last night, barking out ideas here and there, when he stopped, looked up at the ceiling in one of those mysterious gestures of his and muttered, "I wonder what the poor dogs are doing." We looked at each other and howled with laughter.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Art Deco Weekend packed Ocean Drive; I met Deco enthusiasts from Chicago, California, Britain, and Italy and The Palace was overflowing with these visitors, our fanatical regulars, and--of course--The 7th and my beloved Jeremy, their captain and my protector.

I was totally involved with design ideas when into my office stormed Jeremy, Matt, and even Tiffany. They politely demanded I appear in the main bar. I bid a temporary farewell to my sweet and walked out into the usual frenzy; the packed bars and restaurant were joined by a huge crowd gathering in anticipation of Miss Tiffany's show. I've always been amused by the general public's fascination with drag. At Monday's birthday party for Tiffany one Venezuelan family in particular was enthralled by the six-foot three-inch entertainer wearing a floor-length ballgown and a tiara. When Tiffany approached them and began singing an impromptu pop song without the benefit of musical back-up ,the children (quadruplets, no less) started dancing in a circle around her. It was surreal.

Similarly, she danced with and teased men yesterday in the middle of Ocean Drive who would ordinarily never think of associating with a gay man, but who were more than happy to do the Bunny Hop with a drag queen. A regular ambassador of fun, Tiffany even manage to entice a number of them into our bars for a drink; I overheard one guy tell a buddy that he would let a drag queen blow him, but never a guy. My head spun.

Also heartily enjoy on that brilliant Saturday afternoon was the first-ever "Arf" Deco Dog Promenade, The Miami Dance Machine's performance of ballroom dancing for children, and The Argentine (!) Tango champions Colette and Richard who performed on a specially-constructed stage. I was exhausted by the time I arrived home to KiKi.

And it is all about to start again on another spectacular winter day on South Beach.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Art Deco Weekend

I have had enough of this low-brow bro-ha-ha about sequins and focus now on tomorrow's opening of Art Deco Weekend. Ocean Drive is closed for four days and booths selling everything from Erte' prints to Fiesta teapots spring up for the thousands of visitors.

It is not a natural setting to be able to stroll down an avenue and feel that you are in a Hercule Poirot, deco-inspired drama, but every day I do. Yes--of course--I invent most of the drama myself, but it would be for nothing if it were not for the setting. At any moment I can stop, look at my watch, and expect Hastings to say, "Quite right; there's a race forthwith." The deco portals of sleek-faced buildings might even produce the smug face of a Miss Lemon, if the sun was in the right angle.

All this would never have been the case if it were not for a fiesty grandmother named Barbara Capitman.

In 1976, with South Beach and it's deco-era hotels (then old aged homes) in decay, an insidious group naming itself the Miami Beach Redevelopement Agency and headed by two schmucks named Abe Resnick and Dov Dunevsky, proposed to level everything from South Point to Lincoln Road and build a condo complex that "mirrored" the canals of Venice. Hmmm; 1976 style mixed with the classical styles of Venice: A success story in the making for a few New York weasels out to demolish history for profit.

Barbara was no match for The Agency and its paid-off cronies in City government. She immediately enlisted the gay Dade County design community and convinced them of her vision to preserve every building from the Deco period from destruction. She sought the Carter administration's interest in historic preservation and--to the horror of the City powers-that-be and The Agency--got the entire district named a National Register of Historical Places. Still, the jackal, Abe Resnick, blatantly tore down the striking New Yorker Hotel and was quoted in The New York Times as saying, "If I owned the Mona Lisa, wouldn't it be mine to destroy?"

The national outrage that followed this heinous remark was all that Barbara needed to convince the city residents, the State, and the nation that the preservation of a piece of world, long-forgotten and caught in a time warp, was in the interest of humanity.

Tomorrow we all celebrate Barbara Capitman and--maybe more--the notion that a good idea, adhered to and promoted tirelessly, can take hold, change the landscape, and alter history.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Cease! In the Name of Decency.

Like all conflagrations it began--and was regarded as--not all that important, a fleeting misunderstanding, a gentle error in judgement. While decent people took tea and talked about the weather, dark forces swirled beneath their linened lives. What was initially thought to be a brisk breeze turned out to be The Storm.

My point? I did not think and at no time thought of wearing a sequined shirt on New Years Eve. I would sooner saw off my arm and lipsync Olivia Newton John to a gathering of Southern Baptists. But, somehow the rumor has taken hold.

The first reports of this surfaced within my immediate family, after sending copies of myself on NYE to Jesse. Jesse replied something like, "and someone certainly knew Fashion by wearing a sequined shirt".

I brushed off this remark the way I would a piece of lint on my blue, cashmere, drop-waist, winter luncheon suit, but before I knew it others picked it up and ran with it. Suddenly I was being sent images of sequined halter tops, sequined sweaters, and sequined clutch purses (I bought one of these). "Almost strangers" stopped me at The Palace to say, "I loved the sequined shirt." THERE WAS NO SEQUINED SHIRT.

The shirt in question was from the 1999/200 collection of Nicole Miller; my initial response to blow it off ("It's LaCroix, sweetie, LaCroix") back-fired and only reinforced the sequin story. True, the silver champagne glasses on the shirt might lead the unassuming fashion parvenu to think of sequins, but REALLY. I am as likely to wear sequins as Barbara Bush is to wear a thong.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Happy Birthday Miss Tiffany

The warm weather has returned to embrace the town after a weekend of nail-biting temperatures in the upper 40's. This is when tourists stick out; I arrived yesterday afternoon on Ocean Drive wearing four layers of (fashionable) clothing and ran into plenty of visitors in shorts and T-shirts. Truthfully, locals will not leave the house when it gets so cold; it's not as if their radiators are frozen, their minds are. I came home Saturday to find KiKi chopping up furniture and building a bonfire to keep warm.

Tonight we will do what we do best: throw a party in celebration of soemthing, anything. Tonight is our very own Tiffany's birthday party and there will be plenty of surprises for all.
Chief among these will be one black drag queen impersonating Tiffany and her act. I don't know what laws of the universe this might violate, but I'm going to give it a try. Happy birthday Tiffany, and thanks for all the great shows.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Devil Finds Time.....

We had nothing better to do than to be mischievous. Celebrity bartender, Ditmar Perner, was about to arrive for his shift and we were joking about the constant hand-wringing by Douglas about the over-pouring and giveaways at Ditmar's notorious bar. One of the regulars ran up to a specials board and scrawled this.

A minute later Ditmar bounced into the bar in his usual upbeat way and greeted everyone. "You just missed Douglas," I said. "He was looking for you." "Really!" Ditmar replied, "This early?" and went about preparing his bar. The smug expression on our faces should have given us away, but it wasn't until a minute later that Ditmar glanced up at the chalkboard.

An ear-piercing scream came out of everyone's favorite hun. The pidgeons in St. Mark's Square were startled into flying away and elephants in Ceylon stampeded while we giggled like school girls as Ditmar leaped over the bar to erase the incriminating "special".

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

I've Become a Jewish Mother

Oy, it happens.

I've had custody of KiKi for ten days now. His "mysterious" illness was tracked to poisoning by a neighbor of my ex in an effort to get the apartment. My immediate effort to call acquaintances of mine in the police department were thwarted by the ex in an effort to leave the building for another one owned by the same real estate company. I was going to have that piece of rafter shit hauled to the Chrome Detention Center; all anyone had to do was see KiKi throwing up chemicals and dizzily walking to want to kill that foreign trash. But since we are to be calm, KiKi stays with me, which brings me to the Jewish Mother thing.

Jewish mothers are always worried about their sons, and one of those worries seems to always have been centered around the Perfect Passing of Poo-Poo. PPP is very important to good digestion and good health, and after the poison, KiKi developed constipation (said by a vet to be dehydration). For ten days I have followed him around on our walks closely observing the attempted function; add to this KiKi's dislike of anyone watching him and you can imagine the tension. I often have to seem to look at a bird in a tree or glance at my imaginary watch while he struggles.

I took the afternoon off to enjoy the exemplary weather with KiKi and we were nibbling on lunch outside when I noticed his ears stand up. "Do you want to go for a walk?" was all I had to ask to have KiKi jump off the deck chair and ran to the front. (A fastidious dog, he doesn't like to do it on the property.) Out on the sidewalk, KiKi got into position and so did I: I kept repeating "poo-poo", my plastic-gloved hand behind my back while bowed like a butler to watch the glorious event when out popped my neighbor for no apparent reason than to walk to the street and back. (Unless they are gay, neighbors are regarded frostily.)

She actually uttered a slight "Oh", as if she had stumbled in on her son abusing himself, and I could bring myself to no more than a half-hearted snarl/smile. She didn't realize that she had ruined the moment; KiKi was no more going to do the PPP in front of her than he was the Pope and we sadly walked back in. I took off the plastic glove and pet him; he knew that Momma was there for him when the time came again.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sunrise on a New Year

Don't ask me how I was up early enough to walk to Ocean Drive to watch the sunrise this morning; this is a shot from The Palace's patio. I guess not drinking cocktails out of glass slippers all night long helps, as does being just very content, relaxed, and happy.

We are enjoying dry air and warm temperatures this week. It was odd to be dining outdoors at 10pm last night and listening to people complaining about being "hot". This afternoon it was indeed warm enough to make me turn on the A/C; KiKi is out by the pool sipping a Bacardi CoCo and I'm picking out something very light to wear upon my return to the festivities at The Palace because it IS hot today, and The Countess can't be a sweaty mess when she greets Jeremy and his men.

The crowds on South Beach have been overwhelming all week, enough for the police to have halted traffic coming from the mainland (we hate those people anyway). The hotels on either side of us charged $1000 per person for New Years Eve dinner (we charged $49 and were sold out an hour after the ad in The Wire came out.) I'm not a miserly person, but for $1000 I would expect a solid silver noise maker and a blow job, and we were offering the latter for free anyway.