"the" Mrs. Astor

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

KiKi is Fine (And Himself)

We had to visit KiKi today after that dream I had; plus, Leopoldo had been begging me to take him for another meeting. Twice before, KiKi had embraced Mr. Astor with the very, very rare KISS. As almost all my friends know, KiKi is not a social creature; he is picky, judgemental, and more likely to bite off your toes than a bear trap laid down on Ocean Drive. Yet, he has the charm inherent of a "character", and that he is. Now approaching 19 years old, he is best described as old and grumpy--except toward me, of course, and astoundingly toward Leo.

We stopped by today with a box of freshly roasted chicken pieces topped with garlic and butter and I invited KiKi out to see Leo again. At first sight, KiKi burst into a gallop toward Leo and then slowed down (he can't do it any more). And, in typical KiKi reticent mode, he halted and played "hard to get".

Suddenly, aware of the camera embracing him, KiKi cast an all-knowing glace toward me...

...and did what he has always done: Kiss Leopoldo. Again, you have to know KiKi to understand how rare this is. Even Jeremy never got a kiss. But, as I've always maintained, dogs know much more about feelings than humans do; certainly KiKi knows Leopoldo means a lot to me. (Or he would have bitten off his toes.)

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Scenic" Misery

On Saturday I awoke from a dream in which I was in a room with Douglas (who’s been in South America for a month). The next day he walked into Twist saying he’d been trying to reach me. Last night I dreamt KiKi had been left with a woman in a housing project and when I climbed the stairs she was sitting in the door of her dreary quarters laughing that she had lost him. I ran all around the project looking for him and awoke crying his name out, startling Leopoldo. KiKi’s home and OK, but it set the tone for the day. Some days just start out on the wrong note.

I know where the housing project came from: On the train to the courthouse in Miami to finally put to rest a drawn out traffic issue for Mr. Astor, we passed over some of the most depressing homes and “projects” imaginable. Some genius in Miami government has renamed the Arena stop to be “Scenic Overtown”. Overtown is about as scenic as a concentration camp, but perhaps they refered to the photo opportunities. Yes, that’s what it should be renamed: “Photogenic Overtown”. There is so much to capture with your camera (that’s if it’s not stolen by starving residents). Another genius recently predicted a sharp rise in crime because of “the economic situation”. If that situation means desolate lives like we saw in Overtown then, yes, he is a genius and should get a prize.

I read too many news sites not to be bugged out, but here on South Beach we can always divert our attention to the sun and fun of a small society totally insulated and out of touch. There is always a party to go to, a new outfit to contemplate, and on and on.
So what do I do today to divert my attention away from the woes of the world, but go to one of the most brilliant anarchists I read, Kevin, The Deviant. How right he is to worry about his future, but I doubt if there is one for America. How did we ever get to a rice shortage? Is it The Chinese again? Connie Chung was upset at not being invited to brunch and I explained it was because it was so last minute. Actually, I was afraid she would eat my meal. Kevin lashed out a few days ago with this gem:

"...if you're telling me we're running out of rice then I've officially hit the panic button. He who controls the rice, controls the Universe! I'm very close to just gutting the nearest chinaman and consuming his rice-filled innards. Throw me some poppy seeds or something! I'm feeling rather pinched and I feel its a serious issue that we're RUNNING OUT OF FOOD!"

Oh, well; Mr. Astor is off the next two days so I'm sure we will have a lovely time finding all sorts of amusement. It'll be a little like strolling around the promenade deck of The Titanic.

The Sunday Brunch Must Go On

Just as I left the house a call came and I could see trouble; it read, Geraldine. Ordinarily the sight of her name on the caller ID would be a moment of happiness, but I smelled trouble. Sure enough, she had just opened GEM and found a water pipe had burst; The Girly Brunch was off. I was so sad because the girls had worked so hard, the promotion of it was going off brilliantly, and just about everyone I knew was going to be there. I literally ran back with my housemate Terry screaming, "What's wrong, what's wrong". I told him what had happened and how I had to get hold of about twenty people who were now putting on the final touches to their tea gowns and having the clasps of their pearls fastened. That done, I huddled on the phone with Le Compte La Mot and Mr. Thomas Barker; it was decided to go full speed ahead and divert what eventually became twenty-five refugees to our favorite restaurant Da Leo's on Lincoln Rd; Da Leo's legendary Sunday champagne brunch was going to have quite a surprise. For only $27.50 one gets a sumptuous meal (and they are always good) AND all the champagne you can drink; and with a crowd like this, we really worried about the supply.
It was a table of the Who's Who' of clublife including Barker, Geraldine, FernanDcute, Dustin Refka, the Penny Back Boys, Edison at a nearby table with his entourage, Carl of The Wire and many more. (We convinced Geraldine to stay in character and dozens of tourists loved it, too.) Here the refugees were giving thanks for finding a port in the storm; the singing of "A Mighty Ice Bucket Is Our God" gave way to the French national anthem when a group of French tourists wanted to be photographed with Geraldine.
I remember thinking that the food was great but the champagne was what was going to nourish this teaming mass yearning to be drunk. Jager bombs didn't hurt, either. I don't know how anyone managed to walk away from that table, but most did and went to Twist where we ran into Douglas and Henry fresh from one month in South America. More toasts were ordered.

What can I say?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Girlie Brunch

The Girlie Brunch is the most delightful way to make sense of a Sunday afternoon; hosted by the trio of transvestite madness, Puscilla, FernanDcute, and the incomparable Geraldine at the club, Gem on 6th and Washington, it makes for a zany excuse to combat the boredom of Sunday on South Beach. Tomorrow should be a great second weekend for the girls and the boys who adore them.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I must clear up a grievous error in communication no doubt caused by ever-present villains surrounding our crumbling society. Never, ever, did I refer to my dear friend to whom I am devoted to like a baby to its big, blue, blanket, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish as a “…haughty wind bag”. Scurrilous members of the Chinese press--my new/old favorite nemesis, Yellow Peril—twisted my original statement which was, quite simply, “Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish is the social wind we all sail with confidence with in trouble waters.”

We are, indeed, meeting Mr. Astor tonight for cocktails at seven at Twist. Hopefully, many other displaced members of The Ballroom will join us, and I hope to make it a weekly gathering of fine minds.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Queen Cabaret launched a Sunday Brunch the past weekend entitled The Girlie Brunch and we must have caught the girls by surprise as we arrived earlier than most people who stayed out at Twist as long as we did the night before.

I loved FernanDcute’s coffee mug (although it was never established beyond a reasonable doubt that there was—indeed—coffee in it.

Puscilla wasted no time at all in cozying up to Mr. Astor; a lady of society must overlook things like this. Showgirls will always linger, like a cough.

It was hard to overlook, though, the praying mantis dolls that Geraldine had on her legs under that vintage, patchwork, floor-length skirt. I couldn't help but as just where she had found Cher's thrift store from the Sixties.

The brunch took place a Gem, a beautiful club and restaurant in the long-ignored section of lower Washington Avenue; this area is enjoying a rebirth of sorts brought on by high rents in the tourist areas and the fact that many of these clubs have existing liquor licenses.

The incomparable Geraldine, FernanDcute, and Puscilla did a wonderful job entertaining the varied crowd during this opening brunch, and I was struck at how reasonable the menu prices were considering the propensity to over-charge for everything here on South Beach. Thomas Barker was in attendance with his retinue as was photographer David Lee Johnson with his.

Gem has been renovated and seems to be realizing decent business, much like the nearby Dek 23 where good friend, Dustin Refka, holds his Sunday night party, Click. With several new restaurants and bars now in the area, too, it is quite possible to imagine spending a Sunday on lower Washington (an idea that would have evoked laughter a year or so ago).

Friday, April 18, 2008

It has been a non-stop whirlwind of nightly parties. This is typical of April, the month that Season actually ends; many pack up and ready themselves for the move up North, but not without partying every night. I think it was the French ambassador to Imperial Russia, Maurice Paleologue, who described the final winter season in St. Petersburg by saying the match burns brightest just before it goes out. Twist once again hosted the fact that I was still around another year.

That haughty social wind bag, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish, continued to complain about the 21-gun salute she said awoke her; I informed her that the ship was actually trying to hit her mansion on Ocean Drive.

I love celebrities who try that old ruse of not wanting their photo taken while not actually covering their face. Here, Geraldine arrives, and it is worth noting that she, FernanDcute, and Puscilla are hosting a new brunch at Gem every Sunday, 11 to 4 PM. For some reason (there are many) fun, drag day events faded away years ago here on South Beach.

Scott and Carlos were there...

...as well as that sharp-tounged interior designer, Michael Katz.

I had to stand on a milk carton to plant a thank you kiss on the cheek of Captain Marc of the old Polish guard.

Shenanigans are always in abundance with FernanDcute and Geraldine. We will all be attending the inaugural Sunday brunch at Gem this weekend. It's entitled The Girlie Brunch.

Last year Edison threw his birthday bash the same night as mine; this year we wisely held them two days apart.
I avoided having the obligatory cake and opted for cupcakes, instead. By that point in the evening Kendal was helping hold be up. Others weren't so lucky.

Stephen and Luis arrived early; Luis always makes himself available to help.

The lovely, and kooky, George kept Dr. Brad on a short leash as usual. The gave me a fabulous shirt that I wore the next night to yet another birthday party at Twist.

Miss Vicky drove down all the way from Palm Beach with a delicious blueberry coffee cake, so I let her hug Leopoldo for a while. (I carefully watched that nothing was slipped into his drink as I believe this woman would love to Shanghai him away.)

Mark and Mark (or Mark squared).

And, what could make me happier than having the members of the old, 7th Gay Cavalry together again. Those glory days are long gone, but these guys are not.
The legendary Geraldine was shining--as usual-- all night.

I got many wonderful cards and presents, but the best one of all was the one I picked out myself nine months ago. (I seem to be on tippy-toes for this kiss, too!) Many many thanks to Twist, Henrietta who make some of the most delicious food, and my wonderful friends.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I had just about finished my official birthday portrait when Mr. Astor whisked me off yesterday to my old horror: Downtown. Funny, how it doesn't scare me anymore; there was a time when I nearly jumped out of Ditmar's car when he executed a pretend-engine failure. There were still a few issues I had with the etching; sure I'm a serious sort of gal, but did I have to look so stern?
Meanwhile, yesterday we celebrated our nine-month anniversary, and I had given Leopoldo the new collection from Papi Underwear (the death's head design), and my sweetie took me to Miami and bought me a bolt of fabric to make curtains. Yes, that's how domestic I've become. Your beloved buys you fabric and you gush. Well, today I made those dramatic draperies to much fanfare; the pool boys were awash in compliments, as well they should.
All is set. I just came from Henrietta's apartment carrying off her trademark dishes of crab salad and cheesecake for the bash tomorrow. Twist has once again graciously offered themselves for the marking of the fact that I have, indeed, lived one more year. Was there any doubt?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

What am I do do? Miss Vickie and her legions demand photos of Leopoldo. I can't go out the doors of my ballroom without "great friends" embracing this noble guy. Oh, yes, I put up with it as much as anyone could; but, even I have to say, "WTW". He's got the same delightfully evil grin on his face that won me over that first night. Nothing has changed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

My dear friend Marc asked if I had seen the exhibit of drag queens and kings at the Bass presentation on Miami design, Promises of Paradise and, of course, we had. It left us agog and, had those precious brochures to such loveliness not been behind glass cases, I might just have snatched a few and made a run for it. These delectable pamphlets were of an act known at The Jewel Box, which was formed in 1939 and found great popularity in the playland Miami represented. I didn't mention it because Leopoldo and I had really, really attended the Bass for the architectural aspect of the show; I was also waiting until our weekly date with Henrietta at Twist this Saturday to ask her what she remembered of group. Marc's inquiry made me think of just how much time I've spent over the years enjoying and photographing drag.

Lavern Cummings was a long-time performer in the traveling troupe of The Jewel Box. This was an rather large group of entertainers which traveled around the United States and dispensed the feel of big city nightclub glamor to middle American cities. They weren't exactly playing at county fairs, but it must have brought not a few ideas to curious, male minds. Cumming's career seems to have spanned the post-war period into the sixties if you judge by her clothing and hair (and, you can always count on that barometer). I have a copy of the 1971 photo collection by Avery Willard, "Female Impersonation; it is a slim volume, but striking to leaf through.

Promotional material was quite prevalent, also, although you have to wonder into whose hands these eventually ended up.

If a young boy needed instruction at the art of celebrity and glamor, there were always these, too.

Julian Eltinge was not the first impersonator to wow the stage, that having been done in the hundreds of years females were not allowed to perform on it, but he was the first to make the leap from Broadway to a black and white film around 1915.

This is so precious and is entitled "A flock of lovelies, place and date unknown". My guess is 1963 or 4 and--with a black man enjoying himself too--it must have been a liberal city like San Francisco. Only a guess. A great deal of good, drag fun can be had at the TG Forum, a site I love to wander around. I distinctly remembering my mother showing me a B & W glossy of a group of "girls" surrounding one man. "They are all men," she told me, and was delighted enough to go with my father again to their performance the next night. It was even signed to her. I stared at that for a long time, studying the dresses, make-up, and hair. I don't know if it was The Jewel Box Revue, but it certainly wasn't indigenous to Rhode Island; I never looked again at her wardrobe the same way.
And, as I have wondered: Did traveling drag shows affect middle America in any way?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Poor Mr. Astor has been suffering from a cold for the past few days, allowing me to go into Clara Barton overload: home made chicken soup, medicine, lots of juices, and loving. Today, though, he was well enough to take to the Bass Museum; its exhibit, "Promises of Paradise: Staging Mid-Century Miami" was ending in a few days and if it promised anything, it was a collection of the crazy, mismatched patterns of design scattered throughout the area. It did not disappoint.

Before you entered this exhibit, you were able to view the works--in photographs and drawings--of Lawrence Murray Dixon, the architect of the most famous Art Deco hotels like The Tides, The Raleigh, and The Victor. With this in your belt, it was easier to digest what when on after World War II when the vast expansion of Miami and the Beach gave rise to the fun motels on Biscayne Blvd., the over-the-top Beach hotels of Morris Lapidus like The Eden Roc and The Fontainebleau, and the Fifty's Moderne style of tropical ranch home. If you spend time here the wide variety of architectural design can be dizzying; Spanish Revival rests next to Art Deco which sits next to Streamline Moderne. The War interrupts things for a bit, but the Fifties burst of George Jetson-like design takes hold, MiMo (Miami Modern), and settles into the kooky, garishness of big hotels on The Strip, or Gold Coast. One thing I read at the exhibit will linger in the quest to understand Miami: Lapidus once brushed off the mish-mash of design and--especially--the splendid, if nonsensical aspects of his own. "If Miami is a dream then it doesn't have to make sense."

Sunday, April 06, 2008

That social icon, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish, rang me up today to suggest catching up on gossip over—of all things—cocktails. With my shopping for fresh produce at the farmers’ market done, and my mind keen and worthy of juicy gossip, I immediately agreed to meet her. The gentle lady wanted to meet at the discreet German beer house on the corner of Lincoln and Michigan,. so I presumed her need for discretion was valid.

It turned out she had attended a rodeo in Davie. Now, I know nothing of Davie, Florida but for the fact that it holds a rodeo—a gay rodeo—every year. It seems there is a lot to view and that one can even learn to line dance; in Mamie’s case, it was what was to be seen. She showed me many images of strapping, young men on horseback who dared to wave at her as she flailed her parasol before them. I tried to bring up memories of Imperial Guard officers about to go off to the front, but she brushed them aside. Mamie is so egalitarian that she even engaged a handsome bartender at Halo later in the afternoon about the intricate moves of the cowboy line dance. She is nothing but amazing in the broadness of her horizon. Between her relentless efforts to stomp out illiteracy to her study of folk dances of America, I just have no idea why Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish isn’t the Democratic nominee for president.

The parents finally left, convinced (I hope) that their baby was in good hands. Even if he is younger than his brother by just a few minutes, Leopoldo will always be her "baby boy" and Latin mothers don't give them up easily. I'll never forget the first night as we were saying our goodbye's and his mom asked Leo where he was going. "With Alexis, of course," he answered. She shot a look at me with those ferocious dark eyes and said, "Oh, yes. The roommate." Ouch. But things warmed up and I convinced Leo to leave me at home for several days as they needed time alone with him.

We gave his mother a surprise birthday party (that is why she's so emotional here). For me the amusing thing about the party was that it was held in the home of Leo's friend, Barry, whom the parents know is a photographer and makes movies around the world. I just don't think they know he works with Kristen Bjorn. All around were very tasteful photographs of nude men and the bookcase was lined with selections such as The Young Male Nude and Robert Mapplethorpe. The bathroom had so many striking poses of the male nude that I always forgot what I went in there for. Poor mom and dad; not only did they get to meet the man their baby boy sleeps with, but were feted in an "R" rated photo gallery. (Good thing they didn't pop in one of the Bjorn tapes.)

One day after walking forever to get to Boston Market of all places (there apparently aren't any in San Francisco and mom likes their chicken), mom pulled a sly one and asked to see where Leopoldo lived. She was more than satisfied when she saw her son "...didn't live in a shoe box". Although there were plenty of tears upon departure, mom and dad must have left relatively secure in the knowledge that Mr. Astor and Mrs. Astor are perfect for each other.

So I've met cousins and now the parents. The only hurdle left: Freddie, The Evil Twin.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I've been eclipsed. I am officially "second fiddle", now; Leopoldo has taken over the stage.

I guess it sunk in yesterday; I was strolling down Lincoln Road--parasol in hand--and just about everyone said, "Hello, Mrs. Astor. Where is Mr. Astor?". I arrived at afternoon tea at Twist and the first question was, "Where is your husband?" I walked by the 11th Street Diner and Mark, the bartender, ran out on the steps to ask, "Where is Leo?" Deliveries now arrive marked, "For the wife of Leopoldo".

I suppose this is not a bad thing. There are much worse things in this world. I have Miss Vickie constantly asking for more photos of him; I have a collection of rather racy pictures, but I'm afraid I'd have friends like her scaling the gates if I presented them. Photos like that would not appease this rabid crowd. I've approached Murray The Leash Maker in a futile attempt to keep Leo in check, but Murray turned on me as soon as he measured Leo's neck.

I have created a monster, but I suppose that is not necessarily a bad thing.