"the" Mrs. Astor

Monday, August 31, 2009

My Life is a Drag

Before I left New York, I would often photograph pretty boys as pretty girls.
We spent another weekend drunk with drag queens. My first encounter was way back in Providence when I met Mona, a seven foot black drag queen who once pulled an axe out of her pocketbook and chopped up the Cadillac of a man who dissed her. It began a life-long fascination with drag; here I am deep in conversation with Madame Sobechenskaya of the Trockadero Ballet drag ensemble. She danced from Monte Carlo to the East Village and I followed her to Paris once to document the trip; she gave me a diamond brooch in thanks for the attention.

I would often be offered forbidden fruit, but my interest was solely to photograph and follow my beloved creatures.
Some were masters of deception. During the day he was a New York state judge; by night she was Lady Barbara with a stupendous brownstone in which she hosted parties for like ladies and the men who admired them.
The stunning Catherine Harkness was often a date of mine at parties where no one was the wiser; I mean, she was just Miss Harkness from Queens (and no one go that joke, either).

Another girl who tried to get me to marry was the ravishing Arman Ra.
And for every tragedy....

...there would be one to follow it up. They all fascinate me.

And, then, of course, there are memorable times of myself "dressed"; of note, was in Hitler's bunker in 1945 listening to Russian tanks rumble overhead and helping Martin Bormann into a ballgown. I've had a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I would be negligent if I did not report that Linda has returned to South Beach for the past week. I first saw this vision of freed loveliness three years ago, and--for me--it was like the Miracle at Fatima. "Linda" is a financial officer from the Mid-Atlantic with a wife and family who comes to South Beach once a year to live out her fantasy and walk around town as "Linda". She doesn't wear falsies and always wears flats so that she can do her signature side-to-side hop of a dance. She once told me that South Beach is the only place that accepted her and let her walk around and live as Linda and that she was flattered by the attention I lavished on her. Friends reported that she went to the beach is a bikini, no padding, nothing....just being Linda. We had the honor to see Linda twice this week, and I even got to kiss he lace-gloved hand at Edison's piano bar party at The Ritz Carlton. People like Linda fascinate me. "If you want to sing out, sing out. And, if you want to be free, be free. Cuz there's a million things to be..." Cat Stevens really got it; I wish more people did.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I need to dust the broom closet. We have finally been vindicated by the Dailey Telegram of the UK. In a study just released, men and women over 35 years old have a marked decrease for dementia if they drink 28 drinks a week or more. This has led to jubulation here on South Beach; what about 28 drinks a day? I just knew there was a reason I had total clarity lately.

We attended Edison Farrow's night at the new piano bar in the Ritz Carlton last night, and what a grand event that was. There is not really anything like that here on the beach, and it was well-attended. Somehow, my work at the last mayoral campaign was brought up and we were sitting with a lesbian candidate for the Commission, being pumped by her gay, manager son. It is all so cloudy, but so, so very South Beach. I might have a new mission.

You must, however, never let your guard down. Nefarious, white creatures are always trying to get you when you are weak. Case in point is the Great White Ron White who will always jump in the lap of your Latin baby when your eyes are turned. Fortunately, mine are NEVER turned and I was able to wrestle her to the ground in a move not seen since the early days of the WWE, hog-tie her with a pair of knee-highs, and sit on her until I got a new drink. Hey, I wasn't born yesterday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Speaking of Mr. Clucky, this was to be an important week with a face-to-face meeting with Mayor Matti Bower. Nefarious forces appear to be in action as Mr. Clucky's website has gone down as of last night. This weekend I sent the mayor an email reading this: "Madame Mayor, as you well know, the Mr. Clucky flap has generated a great deal of publicity. Although publicity is the life blood of Miami Beach, this situation is now in a position of going either way. It might become a publicity dream demonstrating how this town thrives on being open, inclusive, and eclectic; or, it will become a publicity nightmare. The greater number of this town's residents own pets, and you know how passionate they can be. And, I know that Mr. Clucky lost the first round with his battle with The Commission. But, knowing what this town strives to be for everyone living and visiting here, I present the following thought: Imagine the praise you, as The People's Mayor, would be inundated with, if you granted Mr. Clucky honorary citizenship in The City of Miami Beach." I left it that simple; I can even imagine Mr. Clucky being given the keys to the city. But, what do I know?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

There has never been any doubt in my mind that Miami (which is not Miami Beach) is the most retarded city on the East Coast. It is a cesspool of corruption and indifference, rogue cops and wacky priests, and nothing that ever oozes out of that city surprises me. The financially challenged Performing Arts Center not only swallowed more than its share of bond money, but the politicians further cemented its doom by not erecting the final building: the parking garage! A new football stadium was shoved down the throats of the citizens only to be followed two weeks later with a report that--yes, indeed--the city was in the grip of financial collapse. Half of the new condos in downtown are empty.

But some things--while not a surprise--can sadden. Sabbath Rescue was set up ten years ago by Robbie Coy on his farm out by The Everglades. He is being evicted under a law that zones the land for farming, but--while you can have as many farm animals as needed--only eight dogs or less can be on the property (a sort of reverse Mr. Clucky problem). He currently has 130 dogs that were abused or abandoned and has rescued and placed more than 2500 dogs over the decade, housing and caring for them and allowing the older dogs to live out their lives there. By law, the mayor of Dade County, Carlos Alvarez, could simply sign a paper grandfathering the needed license, but instead the city has placed a $5,000 lein on his farm. There is a frenzied effort to save the organization, the farm, and the dogs but, my money is on the underlying cause of the eviction, especially after 10 years; the head of the county's Humane Society only supported an extension on Coy's eviction, not much else. There something rotten here, but that comes with the territory of Miami.

Good Lord...you never know when you are going to walk down Lincoln Rd. and run into a pack of Elvis impersonators. It's a jungle out there. Sadly, I did not bring my camera out on our trip on the town tonight; sometimes I just don't want to lug it around, but regret it immensely later. Henrietta's dress was the hit of the evening. Her personal shopper at Neimans had called to notify her of a very special cocktail dress that had come in. It was a velvet, spaghetti strapped bodice with a silver and black skirt with black ostrich feathers as trim; Mamie had expressed concern that it sounded a bit much for the dead of summer, but somehow it worked, and the town paid homage to The Queen. Of deeper concern is the fact that I arrived home at 3 PM relatively sober; that hasn't happened in a long time. I wonder what it means.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Add to the list of dangerous creatures unleashed into the Florida wilds The Green Mamba, native to South Africa. An electrical worker was bitten this week and only narrowly survived, and until some sort of importing laws against creatures like this pops up it will just join the pythons and Nile monitor lizards flourishing here in the tropics. Since Florida has no shortage of crazy people, exotic and deadly species will continue to be introduced to The Everglades. Yet another reason to shun nature.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mrs. Stuyesant-Fish wasted no time in coupling up with Henrietta; so many stories, so little time. One just has to imagine a drag-boy who worked for Meyer Lansky to grasp where we were. I didn't know until tonight that we are engaged with Henrietta for the entire weekend; oh, well, there are worst fates and this is one we are well-versed in. South Beach: Get Ready.
Henrietta was wearing way-too-sensible shoes; we were suspect of her motives.

Baroness Seitzinger sent me this photo of one of her recent purchases; the vulgarity of that woman knows no bounds. In addition, she wiggled out of attending her own execution tonight. The nerve! Henrietta asked me to escort her out tonight. Back in New York I used to marvel at The Walkers: gay men who escorted older women out on the town. This is what I have become, with a slight twist. My poor hubby has to work late tonight, and I truly don't like going out without him; but duty calls and noone says "No" to The Queen of South Beach.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I could devour everything in this picture in ten seconds (or less). This is the agreed recipe for a fun, summer afternoon. Only that crazy bitch, Terry, has an extensive collection of deviled egg plates; yes, deviled egg plates. Some people collect Fiesta ware, some--like myself--fine British and French china, but Terry collects deviled egg plates. Leopoldo turns his nose up on deviled eggs, as does Bob, but Terry and I scarf them down by the dozen as long as there is a bottle of vodka to chase them. Speaking of vodka, Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish has convened a sort of social inquisition for tomorrow; I fear for Baroness Seitzinger's life. In addition, I will not have my consort with me, so I have enlisted the care of a well-known chaperon to make sure my eyes don't stray as Mamie brings down the axe on the poor baroness in a familiar story: Old Money vs. New Money, or How Does Old Money Find The Money To Battle New.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, my...I got so many emails about Felix (I as I usually do), that I must stand up for him t0 say, "Yes, I think he is special..." What a complicated boy...he liked to dress in drag in his teens to tease the Imperial Guardmen who liked that sort of thing, he had more money than anyone of earth, and he determined to risk it all to murder the very most corrupt being in Imperial Russian: Rasputin. Felix knew how to live and make it matter.

Don't email about what you know is true. You waste both our times.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It seems that I spent the better part of last week bickering with Baroness Seitzinger; about what I can't recall, and I doubt that it matters, but it prompted Mamie to issue this public statement:
"Do I need to separate you two? Why do I always have to step in and mediate a facsimile of peace between you? If your brand of lunacy is all I have to look forward to in old age, then I don't know if I'll make it." (I was tempted to take this as a suicide note and have her committed.)

In the end, Seitzinger high-tailed it up to Palm Beach again and proceeded to issue nonsensical statements and photos. At one point she mentioned tiaras or royalty, and I asked, "Do you know that Palm Beach had a member of royalty elected as mayor?" "Was he Roumanian?" (Really, where does she come up with these things?) "No," I replied, "Russian!" Prince Paul Romanovsky-Ilyinsky was elected to the commission of Palm Beach and then was elected mayor for three terms. He was the only child of American heiress Audrey Emery and Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia.
This, of course, is the very Dmitri who conspired with Prince Felix Yusupov to murder Rasputin. The murder probably saved both their lives when they were exiled from St. Petersburg by the tsar (both being way too high on the social ladder to do much else). Dmitri ended up in Persian serving with the British forces there and Felix at one of his distant estates.
Felix is one of those characters in history where only the word, Sensational, sums it up. Born in such extreme wealth that at one time he was wealthier than the tsar, he spent his early teens in drag, had an affair with Dmitri that nearly caused heart failure to Alexandra, and brazenly returned to his palace in St. Petersburg during the Red Terror to retrieve his jewels and Rembrandts. He also married the tsar's niece to even it all out, a great story in his autobiography, Lost Splendor. He lived with his wife in Paris until 1967 although he and Dmitri could not reconcile their differences on talking about the murder in public.

For his part, Paul Ilyinsky, led a rather low-key life, having served in the marines and later becoming a photographer. He never used the title, Prince (or any of the many others he inherited), although I always remember news organizations gushing over them in interviews. He fit right in to Palm Beach society and, when a delegation arrived from Russia after the fall of Communism asking if he would take a position, replied that nothing made him happier than being mayor of PB. He died in 2004, no doubt the only Romanov to have been an American elected official.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

"We don't trust your silence" was the reoccurring message that started flowing last night. It's funny: The paranoia that festers when you don't talk about that flock of magpies that makes up South Beach. Truthfully, my main concern this week has been trying to save my precious garden from the ravages of six weeks of relentless sun and little rain; the water restrictions--and the methods I invent to circumvent them--take up a great deal of my time. Add to this the fact that I returned from Rhode Island to find the towering ficus trees being attacked by the locally infamous White Fly of Asia and you can get a sense of my burden (and my constant fight against Nature). Except for that wild pill frenzy last Saturday--which stretched from 2 PM to 2 AM--I have had only a small amount of time to donate to my favorite charity: Orphaned Bartenders of South Beach.

I haven't yet mentioned the wonderful visit we had with Alan and Darren in Newport on that Sunday, Rhode Island weekend. It started, of course, with morning cocktails on the patio of their Goat Island condo. Summer in Newport is surreal. While sipping drinks we watched sailboats pass between Goat Island and Newport's Fort Adams, which was hosting the Newport Folk Festival's 50th anniversary. The music, the boats....the cocktails were only the prelude to a long lunch on Bowen's Wharf. As we had feared, Terry had to return us to Westerly long before we could tour Newport for Leopoldo's benefit. Alan and Darren are arriving here on Aug. 27 for a two week stay and they have again asked me to host a pool party at The Tides for them. They know what I do best.
In between saving the garden from Nature and trying new recipes for Mr. Astor, the only new thing I learned this week is that is, indeed, possible to text while on the elliptical at the gym. A new world opens.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mr. Astor summoned Society yesterday to attend a surprise event and everyone was given a pill; the result was hilarious. God only knows what today holds for us.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

"The Astor's popped by after the gym. It was, after all, 9:30 in the morning.....what were we to do but have a cocktail." So read Baroness Seitzinger's cable this morning; we would have stayed longer, but the liquor ran out. We had gone to the gym in her building and been invited up to her luxurious apartment; it is decorated in the best taste money can buy. But the real fun will occur at two this afternoon, when Society has been summoned by Mr. Astor to partake in a Special Afternoon.

Friday, August 07, 2009

We all have our quirks. I am petrified of bugs--no matter how small--, will scream or swoon when I see one, but am enthralled by spiders. There is no way I will ever tear down their webs, and if they ARE in the way, I delicately re-direct the web so I can pass. Leopoldo, however, is a little more out-this-worldly; he is obsessed by "The Grays" (aliens). He believes they are behind every plot, every mystery, every missed bus. CNN will report a plane crash and he will mummer, "The Grays"; you tell him you missed a sale at Macy's and he will definitively whisper, "The Grays". Oh, well; we all have our quirks.

The first morning in Westerly we were awakened by noises: chirps, tweets, gobbles...yes, gobbles. A flock of wild turkeys was being chased across the lawn outside our guest bedroom, followed by a fox; but I had been warned about this and didn't stir until Mr. Astor shook me and said, "The Grays are looking in the window." This was enough for me raise my head only to see...
...a row of Adirondack chairs positioned on the lawn outside that window. Poor thing. He was such a fish out of water up there that he didn't recognize the most popular lawn chair of the Northeast. Just makes him that more precious.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Travels Through Westerly were done in that reliable jeep kept here in the winter. In fact, I noted that whether in town or along the coast most people traveled in rugged, utilitarian vehicles; no flashy convertibles or luxury cars were evident. Joy-riding for the sake of showing off is frowned upon, unlike Miami Beach, where it is a life style.
Bob and Terry own a vast amount of land in town, much of which is traveled on roads like this. All I could think of was, "What happens if a vehicle is coming the other way, and how I would be killed on a country road--white gloves on, lipstick straight?" It didn't happen.
We all took a walk through the woods in order to see the salt pond and fend of voracious mosquitoes. This was more nature than I can take; I wasn't made for things like woods unless they comprised something in a fireplace.

It was heartening to see that the last, grand Victorian hotel, Ocean House, is being restored...

...and see old sights like the Granite Theater. It is across from a serene park in which I would often sit under a tree after arriving by train from New York, waiting for my ride.

With all that food to eat and liquor to guzzle, it is a wonder that anything like reading was ever accomplished during our trip, but I did finish Missie Vassiltchikov's "Berlin Diaries", a harrowing account of her life in the Nazi capital. Many times I found it impossible to put down, as this Russian aristocrat chronicled the day to day horrors of the bombing, the hunger, the idiocy of the Nazi officials, and the plot to kill Hitler that she was intimately involved in. Most of all it is an astonishing look at the will to live and thrive in a society coming apart at the seams. Her accounts of attending Chilean embassy balls in order to get something to eat, or downing the Bismark's champagne with a fried potato are fascinating.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Ah, The Great Westerly Trip--like all vacations--seemed to go by too quickly, but we still had time to consume a great deal of local food and international liquor. Leopoldo has always stubbornly refused to eat seafood, his wise Latina mother having convinced him of this without ever having tried any. I once, however, caught him at a party eating appetizers which he took to be chicken and I knew were shrimp; we agreed that he would finally try lobster (a New England staple) and by week's end was downing fresh clam chowder and lobster. Unsubstantiated fears can be so annoying.
We spent Saturday morning waterskiing on Ninigret Pond; then that crazy bitch, Terry, went digging for clams and we had the foundation for Sunday's soup.
The children hit the beer cooler rather quickly...

Except for good-old Bob, everyone's favorite designated driver.

Other households had family rooms of men cheering on ESPN shows; here we have the boys cheering on So You Think You Can Dance.

It was delightful to sit outside, eat, AND be able to breath the air. Less of a delight were the mosquitoes; I will never complain about the ones from Miami again after being bitten by the ones there.

Lots of silliness coupled with liquor...

...some loving...

...and lots of memories.

More to follow, because there is great concern about what our absence did to Twist.

Monday, August 03, 2009

I have been held against my will here in rhode Island with the expressed order NOT to post anything.... It was only today that I was able to convince everyone that I am not a beach person (all that sand getting into places it shouldn't be). Now they are at Weekapaug beach and I was able to chew my way through my restraints, make a pass at the bar, and claw my way up three flights of stairs to this computer. We spent all day in Newport yesterday, but never left Bowen's Wharf; God knows what we did all afternoon, but we got lost in Point Judith and almost had to swim home.

They are not allowing me to attach any photos yet, but we return tomorrow to the land of endless happy hours.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

I am on the third floor of the four floors available; they think I can't hear them.... Hey,this is Rhode Island....we hear everything...

Help me... Mr. Astor is surrounded by white people and seems to like it. Men, women, boys, and girls are cackling like magpies in the late morining with drinks in their hands....and making sense...CQID