"the" Mrs. Astor

Wednesday, February 28, 2007


...and even though no courtroom he's in would ever have to ask him to repeat a statement, Riley seldom has to bow over to be heard.
In the non-stop, hedonistic mood of the city, Twist employed their ususal gaggle of midgets for the yearly Warsaw Ballroom party.
Over and over--perhaps because of the problems of others--I ask, "Should I feel guilty for living this way?" Is an over-riding urge to see a drag queen jump through a hoop of fire be the inspriation to get out of bed? If I could have my wish and produce mock sea battles, would we be better for such an action or condemned? Does seeing homeless freaks dressed in pink dresses with hand-made sun hats make me complement them sincerely? Will I be gobbled up by all of this?
So many questions.


...of picking up doctors' files and trying--fruitlessly--to get a glimmer of hope. I am putting all the files together (the big controller in action) for tomorrow's visit to Baskin Palmer, probably the best unit of it's kind in the nation. Still, the comment by today's doctor to Ramon that it might be "blindness or death" didn't exactly set the stage for a June Taylor dance number. He's turned over power of attorney to me, nothing I ever wanted unless there's a billion dollar baby involved.

Monday, February 26, 2007

No one will ever tell me that Thomas Barker doesn't know how to work a situation, especially one like the Wine and Food Festival. Somehow, after ingesting enough alcohol (God forbid he should try some of the food) to bring a horse to it's knees, he mustered enough decorum to pose with Martha Stewart. When asked if she "...would like a photo with Thomas Barker", Martha replied, "Uh, why not?".

Indeed; we love you, Thomas. (Too bad Martha couldn't get a chance to see the meals being eaten off your body almost every other night!)

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Don't let anyone fool you; even me. Distraction is always just a stone's throw away, and even the most pressing problems can dissolve into the background in an afternoon on South Beach. Eating and drinking yourself into oblivion on beaches of The Atlantic Ocean is one way to assure that.

The rich, the famous, and just about anyone with taste trudged through the dunes to get to the Wine and Food Festival. The Saturday Grand Tasting has gotten to be the best way to forget everything and just indulge your senses on a grand scale.

Just five years ago you couldn't convince anyone that a bachannal of eating and drinking on the beach would gather such momentum and become a national event. Today, 30,000 people swarmed on to South Beach to engage in a particularly blatant form of conspicuous consumption.

My date this year was the vivacious Patrick, assistant director of The New World Symphony. A veteran of many a Mardi Gras from New Oleans, he taught me a thing or two about "elbowing" your way through a crowd. One of the most endearing thiings about Patrick is the way his gracious, Southern voice can turn into a growl when cutting through the masses; he always looks back to make sure you are safe, and following.

Warm breezes, fluffy clouds, and an overwelming amount of distraction made the afternoon dance on by.

If your mind wasn't making sand castles, there was someone who would.

TV anchoman, neighbor, and friend, Craig Stevens (blue shirt) with Patrick. We laughed about being right across the street from the up-coming 4PM drag show; diversion of all types exists just a step away.

Perrier Jouet's "table" embodied good taste.

Of course, Patrick agreed with our established rules of drinking: champagne is NOT alcohol when consumed in the day time; it is a mood enhancer. He kept me sober because he was conducting tonight and giving a recital at 4 on Sunday.

Back at The Palace, Jeremy was cuddling with an adorable boy from El Savador, Federico. Federico was impressed at one point when I remembered his name while introducing him to members of Court. (It is really quite hard to do that with Jeremy's cortesans.)

Donnie and Jay. I was compelled to re-establish Jay as Court Favorite. That didn't take much thinking on an afternoon like this. And, I can't seem to get through a weekend without the tech support of everyone's favorite Asian, Donnie. My grandmother used to say, "A family needs one doctor, one lawyer, and one auto mechanic to get through life"; I have to add "One Asian to advise you on how to operate your camera." (They can also walk on your back when needed.)

Even Riley gave himself over to the madness of a warm afternoon in February.

His pierced nipples acted like a lightenig rod.

It was still Ricky's birthday weekend, too. (I told him that anyone who served in the Spanish-American War should not lie about his age.)

And--in the end--perhaps dancing in the afternoon is not such a bad idea. There was one period there where nothing seemed to be wrong and everyone was happy.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Every day gets worse; I'm lost, but know that Everything must go on.

And, the Lord came down and said, "Here is a press pass." That Lord is Carl from the Wire.

However, the most important aspect of a day that I was so down for, but so driven to make right, was Ricky's birthday. Ricky missed the "Tiaras at The Palace" party, so I presented the oldest person we know with a "Tiaras at Jurrasic Park" party. It seemed so natural.

Thomas Barker once again gave up his very-limited reputation to belly shots again; it is so often repeated that he is offerring very little left to eat off of.

Geraladine performed "Big Spender" for Ricky. I realy thought she meant to sing "Old Timer", but might have gotten the wrong program notes.

Ditmar and Emiliano protected us with their "Visigoths On Your Doorstep" look. It always works.

I'm so glad we are always able to get together and help each other through these times. God knows, these guys have been there recently for me.

Nothing would be complete without The Fisher Twins, Anna, and Will. I thank you all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"Nothing is Done In Miami....

...unless it's overdone." So wrote Gianni Versace, and who better than Gianni to know about being over-the-top. The South Beach Wine and Food Festival stretches across the street from his mansion as if in honor to him. And there was no better way to take one's mind off of things than to go for a walk on the beach (even if you don't like sand).

As you cross the dunes, the immensity of the Grand Tasting becomes clear; tent after tent, pavilion after pavilion are all connected to provide access to the representatives of the finest restaurants, distilleries, and distributors.

The tents are open to the Atlantic to catch the sea breeze and reflect light.

The north end of private tents where cooking demonstrations and the display of everything associated with consumption in general gives the beach an almost Arab feel, something sandy and bazaar-like.

Yes, we KNOW it's sold out. I won't even go into what tickets are being scalped for, but somewhere--coming from heaven--is a press pass with my name on it.

I was an hour and a half late for Jesse's send off on the roof of Cafeteria; I am never late and took my body's warning not to go near the bar. Edison Farrow graciously greeted every guest; what a pro.

The roof was packed and the the mood festive. The cold snap is finally over, it was 70 degrees at 11PM, and nothing makes the residents of South Beach as happy as when they can be in short sleeves (or backless dresses). Everyone talked about taking it easy this week and, yet, there they were sipping cocktails and comparing beads. Ironically, while discussing the question, "Do you ever feel guilty about the utterly shallow existance we seem to lead", I was looking at Carl Fisher's office building, the site of The Van Dyke restaurant. I could see the penthouse he used to bring prospective land buyers up to in the 20's. The answer was simple: Carl never intended this island to be anything else than a non-stop party. How you handle it determines if you survive.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Favorites; what would the world be without them. Tonight is Jesse's last night here until he takes over Jeremy's apartment in a month; so, in accordance to accepted South Beach custom, we will send him off in style with a rooftop party.

My dear, friend Mamie stopped by yesterday after an arduous afternoon of lunching at the new, Sardinia restaurant. Flush with food and spirits, she accused me of using Jesse as "white bait", a term meant to use an innocent lamb like Jesse to lure in Latinos. I was shocked and admonished her abruptness (while reeling Jesse in with quite a trove of fresh snapper).

Today I had the opportunity to go for the throat. After doctor number 12 in just this month, Ramon told me they were referring him to one more. That was it; I called the office, introduced myself, and only had to mention the term "insurance fraud" once before the doctor came on and assured me we were one step away from action. I assured HIM, I was, too.

"I'd Like To Kiss You, But I Just Washed My Hair"

or..."Fasten your seatbelts; it's going to be a bumpy night.

My mother, a formidable force in my life, once said, "Never get off the horse. If you fall off, get back on; no one will notice as long as you are back on it." She was wonderful. Her whole life was given over to one cocktail party after another. As I worry about Ramon, I will follow her dictate and charge through this week of parties in her honor. Sunday was wonderful; Bryan, here's some more pictures.

Monday, February 19, 2007

There was no reason--given my mood--that I should have gone out last night except the compelling notion that it was Bryan's birthday, and Bryan is one of those rare Creatures of the Night who never, ever, asks for anything. He's sweet, quiet and--quite frankly--humpy; I loved the fact that his mother and sister attended.

That was special, like him. I giveBryan a glimpse of how wonderful his night was.

I love you guys; you've made our Sundays.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

I went to see KiKi today, brought him a hearty lunch, and that picked me up.

I noticed that the Stuyvesant Fish mansion was for sale for 50 million dollars; while not the most expensive home in New York, it has one of the richest histories: that of being the residence of the "holy terror of Society", Mamie Stuyvesant Fish. Mamie comes up every now and then with me because she was so much fun, and I crowned my friend, Jason, with her name at our court for having the same sharp wit, money, and utter disregard for convention that the original Mamie had.

Mamie was a close friend of both Caroline Schermerhorn Astor (The) and Alva Vanderbilt, bitter rivals in the stratified social world of The Gilded Age. Mamie's position as one of the Dutch "patriarchs" suited Mrs. Astor just fine, and Mamie was a tough, independent woman who would later fund and promote the suffragette movement with Alva. But most of all Mamie thrilled society by thumbing her nose at it; and in an age when convention ruled, she was the most unconventional figure around.

Some of the great stories I remember reading about her include inviting Newport society to a dinner honoring a foreign prince; when the eager guests arrived they found a monkey in a tuxedo. When Grand Duke Boris visited Newport, he was prevented from attending her reception for him when tied down at the nearby Oelrichs mansion; undaunted Mamie announced to the 200 waiting guests including, J. Pierpont Morgan, that none other than the tsar himself was about to arrive. Two taps sounded on her ballroom doors and her butler announced, "His Imperial Majesty, Nicholas, Tsar of All The Russias!" The entire room curtsied and bowed and when they lifted their heads, they saw Mamie's buddy in social pranks, Henry Lehr, dressed in a robe and crown. The newspapers vilified her when she threw a luncheon for dogs and gave her own a $10,000 collar; she didn't care because she didn't have to. When she wanted her guests to leave, she had her musicians play Home Sweet Home. And my favorite: Mamie never liked the stuffy afternoon string quartets and was way ahead of her time when she introduced that period's version of show tune music. When asked by a reporter what her favorite instrument was, Mamie replied, "The comb".

You have to find humor somewhere to survive.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


It just happens. I was overcome with melancholy today, knowing that no matter how much you give, how much you care, there are times it doesn't help. When I found myself snapping at dear friends, I knew it was time to remove myself from the scene. I ran into Thomas Barker, who also wasn't up to snuff. We commiserated over his dozens of drink tickets at Twist and at one point looked at each other and said, "I'm not having fun" at the same time.

I rounded the corner from where he lives onto the block I live on and thought about one of my favorite movies, "The Garden of The Finzi-Continis", the story of a family in Fascist Italy who followed the rules and thought their guarded lives would never be affected as long as they lived behind their walls.

Of the ten homes on my block, most exist behind gates of some sort. We never see or speak to each other unless we are walking the dog; that ended for me some time ago, so I just walk quickly to the gate and close it behind me.

Maybe it was the cold that snapped us out of the cocktail-induced LaLaLand today. Perhaps the thousands of visitors shopping for million dollar toys at the Boat Show irritated us. I walled myself up early in the afternoon, hoping to escape everything, but couldn't.

If I had one more person say, "You are not yourself" I might have screamed. There is never any noise, voices, or music coming from behind these gates; The City will never raid any of us.

I listened to opera when I got home, the ultimate mistake. Our neighbor's gate is made to withstand tank assault (but fell over during Wilma).

This is the gate that couldn't help me today.