"the" Mrs. Astor

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I had a lunch time cocktail with an old friend who was briefly visiting and we talked about politics and current events with emphasis on fringe elements of the world like Kim Jong Il, a favorite stage actor who employs half of the world's elevator shoe makers. My friend worried aloud about North Korea having the world's third largest army, and I waved my hand saying that Iraq did too; now they can't get ten policemen together to save themselves. "Well, look at that North Korean army and all those generals", David said. "THAT is impressive." "No", I replied, "That's just the Sukhomlinov Effect", which drew the most lost gaze I've ever seen.
The Sukhomlinov Effect was termed after the Tsarist Minister of War in 1914, Vladimir Sukhomlinov, who guided the massive Russian army at the start of World War I into a stunning loss. The Effect dictates that the army that looks the prettiest is doomed to lose because it places style before performance.Examples of this would be the stunning Red Coats of the British Empire who marched into the snipers of America's ragtag army in 1776, the elegant French army which were slaughtered by the grey-clad Prussian army in 1871, and even the Nazi's, whose stylish officer corps crumbled before the khaki-clad officers of Eisenhower.

Vladimir Sukhomlinov was a perfumed, gold-braided dandy with enough medals to sink a ship; his supremely elegant cavalry rode directly into the German machine guns in the Battle of Tannenberg. Interestingly, while the American army was battling the pajama-clad Viet Cong during the Sixties, General Westmoreland was voted among the Tens Best Dressed Men in the United States. I'd like to add that goose-stepping on an empty stomach doesn't help either, but the Sukhomlinov Effect has a long, proven record. Kim will never be the problem because he doesn't want to rock the boat, but look out for the son.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Well, if The Condemned are those who look forward to starting their evening at midnight on a Sunday, then Miami Beach is The Village of the Damned. It did seem like it was pushing the envelope a little, though; Mondays can be so cruel. We all had fun, although it shocked not a few people that Henrietta and I did not drink; both of us were a bit tired, me from the flu and Henrietta from cooking for a hundred or so. Both Mamie and The Baroness had rampaged through the town earlier in the afternoon; peasant villages were still smoldering. I kept getting cables like, "Mrs Fish out of control, again!". What do these law-abiding citizens expect me to do, gallop down there and hog-tie her with her triple strand of pearls?

This is going to be a week of politics; the election is not that far away and we have a lot of work ahead of us with Mayor Bower and the one gay and one lesbian running for commissioner, fortunately for separate seats. I really don't like politics anymore, but it's better than dealing with the White Fly.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It has begun already, and I never seem to have gotten my restful summer, most of which I spent battling the ficus-eating White Fly and the unnatural drought. It is supposed to rain just about every day in summer, but all we got was a relentless, baking sun. After hiring a new gardener, I was about to take a three week rest when the call came from one of the mayor's closest confidants: Would I be ready to escort the mayor again on the non-stop gay express? I had forgotten that election day is not so far away. Personally, I think Madame Mayor is a shoe-in, but I agreed to start next Friday. Pressing the flesh has always had a nice ring for me...

More pressing, though, is Henrietta's 51 st anniversary on arriving on South Beach and we had a hilarious happy hour with her yesterday. The party will be Sunday night at midnight at Twist's Bar 5 (what a convenient hour). There is already a lot of buzz about who is wearing what and just how many jewels are coming out. For one, I know I'm wearing my vintage Pierre Cardin Nehru jacket with a vintage ruby watch and matching ring (Henrietta has already dictated that rubies are the rule). We both agreed that I will start taping her stories soon. I pressed her on more information about her glorious uncle, Mario. He started out as a young boy working for Al Capone and in his early twenties agreed to take the hit for a crime someone else committed in return for about a million dollars; once out of jail he invested in Miami Beach business and real estate ventures and took in his strange nephew/niece with the understanding that Henrietta could do anything as long a she was home by eleven. The fact that Meyer Lansky was an friend and neighbor solidified Henrietta's unique status as "untouchable"; the rest is history. Her arriving at clubs in her uncle's white Rolls, her friendship with the chief of police, Rocky, the body in the back yard; it goes on and on.

Bar 5, Sunday at midnight; it will be memorable.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It all began as a mistake by T-Mobile. We instructed them to allow UPS to leave the new phone on the door step; much more expensive items have been left there without peril, but they screwed it up and demanded a personal signature. Calls to UPS got nowhere and notes ignored. The phone was returned to some UPS center in Miami for pickup and we duly set out yesterday by friend's car only to end up at the airport UPS center after two hours of searching to find out it was not the one. Repeated calls for help in directions were fruitless; the 800 number somewhere in plains of Nebraska could do nothing but tell us it was on Eighth St. of which we found three. To my dismay W. 8 th St. was two mile east of E. 8th St; crossing Lejune Rd. at 79th St. found us on E. 26 th St. How tourists find their way around is a mystery.
We decided to give the friend a break and go home, but within a half hour Leopoldo was telling me he was going by bus to what we had now figured out was the actual home of the phone: North Hialeah. Telling him he was not going alone, we set out and finally reach 79 th St. and E. 8 St. (which is west of W. 8 th St.); there we found out that only in Miami could 60 th St. be North of 79 th (with another 60 th St. South of it). We went North and finally got there. While Leo was retrieving the phone I stared at a bronze plaque of Amelia Earhart stating that on that very site she started out on her last voyage. This confounded me as I thought she had flown out out of San Francisco. At home I looked up the story of Amelia Earhart on Wikipedia and sure enough she started out at first from San Fran to Hawaii only to have the plane have trouble and have to be shipped back to Oakland. Then she flew unannounced to Miami and declared the new attempt in the opposite direction because of wind changes. What would we do without Wikipedia?

And special note should be made of First Annual Brooklyn Bridge Pup Crawl, which should not be confused with Thomas Barker's annual Bar Crawl, will take place on Sept. 26 and benefit animal shelters overcome by abandoned pets especially heightened by the foreclosure crisis. KiKi wishes he could attend, but can hardly walk around the block anymore. He will, however, address the crowd by satellite hook-up.

Monday, September 21, 2009

It never seems to end: The Herald reported today that another species of python is thriving in The Everglades. It is the African Rock Python and makes the Burmese version look like a cuddly kitten. At this point the rangers patrolling the great swamp are swamped themselves with tracking released creatures which never should have been allowed into the country in the first place.
On the other hand, I got to spend an afternoon with "El Tigre", my beloved KiKi. He seems to be coasting along toward his nineteenth birthday very nicely and had just had a bath and was all fluffy. He was much livelier than on my previous visit, we played "Tarantula" (he won), we wrestled (he won), and he gave lots of kisses. He is still a little batty, but I wonder how many people say that about me.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We finally hired a new gardener yesterday, and not a moment too soon. In my never-ending battle with Nature, Nature was winning. Not the least of my mistakes was climbing the White Bird of Paradise tree to saw off a sad-looking limb. As I began sawing I noticed tens of thousands of tiny, translucent bugs swarming out of the tree and then all over me. It was like a horror movie. I jumped down, threw my phone on the grass and jumped into the pool, removing everything in the water. I was fishing out sunglasses, shoes, and many other items later (after a long shower).

But the best event this week was Twist's yearly Turnabout Night where all employees must "turn" and dress in drag. Sadly, I disappointed the owners by not dressing this year.
The first superstar we ran into was the notorious Peraldine, or Thomas Barker as he usually is known.
I just love tables of drag couples; it's so Wiemar Republic.

I was looking for our friend Karloz, but could only find this beauty behind his bar.

I wouldn't want to run into this girl in a dark alley.

And, to our great surprise, none other that that old scoundrel, Karl, showed up fresh off a flight from Puerto Vallarta. He's started after hours at his bar there and is eager for season to start again (amen to that). Twist still hosts the best parties in town.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mrs. "Mamie" Stuyvesant-Fish, Social Iconoclast

Everyone knows my adoration of Mrs. "Mamie" Stuyvesant-Fish. A stellar member of "The" Mrs. Astor's 400 list of acceptable people allowed into Society, Mamie did everything she could to turn New York and Newport society upside down. She loved pranks, especially when it was the very members of the 400 who suffered. She once invited all of Newport to greet The Prince del Drago, and all of Newport dutifully showed only to find the "Prince" was a monkey in a tux. She once announced to a stunned ballroom that Tsar Nicholas II was about to enter. Two taps of a staff and the double doors of the ballroom opened. Everyone including Senators and Wall Street bankers deeply bowed and curtsied. And, of course, there was her infamous party for Newport dogs where she gave her own pooch a diamond necklace priced at $10,000; when asked by the papers if she worried about the negative publicity, she answered, "I don't have to care."
Crossways was her summer "cottage" in Newport, home of wild parties; she even gave a barn dance once a year in her stables. The house still stands and is privately owned.
Less known was a cross-country trip she made in 1903. In the Palestine Herald she mocked The Four Hundred. "I am disgusted by this new fad, Conservatism. That is aggravated snobbery".

And, still, I get emails and notes about this magnificent woman, including some charming notes from her great-grandson Chris, who's daughter is named Mamie. And, just this week I got this question: "A friend of mine owns the 50 inch opera pearl and diamond necklace that mamie owned. She has a picture from Vogue magazine with mamie wearing the necklace.Would you have any idea who designed the piece?"
I would give anything to have been a friend of Mamie. Of course, I have my own Mamie here, and she's a big hoot and a great friend on whom I can always count on to surprise our own Four Hundred. We have a lot of fun playing out that game.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I was thumbing through one of Leopoldo's many fashion books and found this photo of his parent's 25 th wedding anniversary. How fabulous; here we have his evil twin, Freddie, pictured in the mid background. These were the days when the twins like to play "tricks" on people, by running into the bathroom, changing shirts, and go back to make out with each other's boys. In addition, their mother Consuelo in wearing not Balenciaga but a gown designed and sewn by Leopoldo.

Monday, September 14, 2009

VMA Gone Wrong

Wow. The only thing that Kanye West did for everyone was to reinforce the fear of cornered whites of The Takeover. And there was the lithe, pale girl taken off her platform by a dark force. If anyone wonders why middle America is stirring with fear, THAT played out the drama deeply embedded in their minds. You couldn't have asked Central Casting to send a better message.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Children's Museum, to me sort of a vanity project of the wealthy Potemkin family here, celebrated its sixth anniversary today with a circus. I'm sure they wouldn't have been so foolish to have animals, but in the ad for the affair there were rides and amusements galore promised. It's always seemed so unlikely placed, on an island between the mainland and the beach with the McArthur causeway zooming right through it; it's not a place you'd hop on a bus to go to. But the most amazing thing about the ad was the admission: $50 per adult and $35 per child. Now, let's be realistic and just discount the poor people (a sizable majority of the mainland)because no one cares about them anyway. But what about the middle class, one struggling with things like foreclosures and jobs? At $35 a child they'd better not have more than one or two, and only one parent can probably come along at $50. I'm sure I'm just being hysterical as usual, but it just doesn't seem right. I'm sure it's me, but just what does the popcorn cost?

I've been working in the garden all morning and rushed in to clean up What Would Brian Boitano Make. I'd love to talk, but later....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Labor Day I came down with something that was part exhaustion part retribution for a weekend of excess; I have taken to my bed most of the week reading cables from well-wishes and watching the Food Network. A box of cream-filled chocolates so thoughtfully sent by Mamie was given to a roving band of gypsies; it was so sad that they died soon afterward. Mr. Astor did make me keep a promise to attend with him the Wednesday performance by the Pet Shop Boys at the Fillmore, and what a delight that was.

They are still immensely entertaining and the art direction was as effective as it was simple.

The were enthusiastically received by a packed house.

The vast crowd made me think: What would happen if a bomb went off that night. Certainly most every middle-aged gay man in South Florida would be gone. Wilton Manors, the gay-owned gay-governed, enclave in Ft. Lauderdale would be a ghost town. The over-the-top Magnum's restaurant would have a few aging women around the piano bar. Pink Palm wouldn't have anyone to sell saucy greeting cards to. George's Alibi would be a lesbian bar (no difference in beer sales there, though). We all survived, fortunately, and business will go on as usual; I, however, must return to my Cleopatra couch. The Barefoot Contessa is coming on and tomorrow I have What Would Brian Boitano Make?. Now, THERE's something to live for.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Life for the two of us has returned to nomal, whatever that means. Mr. Astor went back to work at the store and I went back to the garden. It's hot as Hell today.
But we had a deliriously fun time at Alan and Darren's pool luncheon at The Tides yesterday.
Miss Tiffany, here as Henry, made a celebrity appearance, but we didn't have any shows this time. It was enough just keeping up with the constant arrivals of food and drink to watch a show.

Henrietta told many, many stories, familiar ones about her uncle and his relationship with Meyer Lansky and new ones about the gay "caberets" that dotted the town in the sixties, a time when it was illegal for two men to hold hands. She, of course, had protection and there were times when a club was raided, but she was driven home by the police captain. Power has privileges.

And, our delightful new friends from Berlin were able to pop in, too. Those girls are too much.

I totally love this new look of boy/drag.
And, I will never forgey my devotion to "totally fabulous".

And, we met Debbie, who drove for two hours to attend the kareoke night at Score; her son is the manager. And, I was enriched with our meeting.

Some things don't change though, like friends. We motored through the afternoon and there was not one thing in our path. We were a sort of Panzer Division that plowed through the known world. Call me Rommel if you want (or CoCo on the right day). We know how to have fun.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

At this moment, I am too impaired to report much about the great Tides pool party given by Daren and Alan. For now: It was over the top.

We crawled in at 5 AM after a very full day out with two girls from Berlin, friends of my little baby, Jacob who now lives there. The tall one is not a real girl, of course, but that's what made the day fuller. Now we are ironing feverishly in prep from Alan and Darren's pool party at The Tides, which promises to be another wonderfully attended event. Pics to follow.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sometimes it's the little things in life that gets us excited. Terry found this pen and pencil vintage set in the Charlestown flea market. I gagged when I saw them and Leopoldo swooned when we were told they were never used and only ten dollars.
Bob on the other hand said that they were "nice", but couldn't grasp our elation. Poor Bob; I often think he's a little straight.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I have seen many unfortunate drags in my time; I've even been one or two. But this takes the cake. Darren, I love you, but don't do drag; please. You look like Mona Lisa gone bad. Even I can capture the femine look every now and then; you, however, should aspire to other things.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

I've had many incarnations. There was a time when I was good....
...and a time when I was bad. I don't know what I liked more.