"the" Mrs. Astor

Sunday, January 31, 2010

No Rest For The Damned

I really thought I could escape the calamity of this town for a day, but was inundated with cables from The Palace. I had stopped by early to see if riot gear was needed (mine were all at the cleaners), but at 11.oo all was calm. I had a meeting with Jaime at the Diner when cables started to arrive; the police had arrived at The Palace and threatened the management with not only arresting them if a show was put on, but the customers, too. I informed the bar manager that they were talking nonsense, it was illegal, and the best thing to do was to say, "Bring it on", because the publicity would be priceless. Suddenly, Code Enforcement showed up and told the police to go home. How rich: internal struggles mean the queens go on.

In the meantime, who walks into Twist but the Countess du Barry now in The Witness Protection Program as the Countess von Cartier (it would take them a long time to figure that one out, wouldn't it). I mean, she walked in--unannounced--as if she owned the place. When confronted with that, she replied, "I do". Typical Newport; just too, too typical. We had a blast.

Tomorrow, we will have the first of Henrietta's book signings at Twist (7 PM); it's a little too, soon for my thinking, but whatever The Queen wants, she gets.

Then, on Wednesday, we hold the first fund-raiser for the new organization, Yes, We Care at Halo--now Mova. In the meantime, I have two doctor visits for the hand, the liver, the mind, the endless thinking about KiKi, and on and on. Some day, rest will come.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our train pulled into Twist's yearly Warsaw Ballroom party a little early, but the freaks were out in full force. Someone kept shoving drink tickets in our hands; it wasn't long before the night sank into the pit of strippers, drag queens, and dashing young men. I think we made it out of Warsaw and somehow ended up in East Prussia because everyone was wearing spiked helmuts.
George and David (I hope I got those names right) were visiting from Australia and quite dazzled by the goings-on. It just wouldn't be a night out at Twist without meeting some cuties.

Despite the rather terrifying make-up, Karloz was a ssweet as pie.

As usual, we sat with our dear bartenders Nathan and Mario. I asked Mario if someone had to lick off his body paint and he said he was waiting for Nathan to do that.

I swear that you can bounce quarters off of Mario's chest (and his ass, too).

But, the star--as always--was our Queen Henreitta I, wearing a Sixties dress purchased in Mexico. Her book made the rounds and was a big hit. Now, it is back to serious work; there is so much on the table now that I'm losing control of things. I hate that.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The chilly weather has finally abated, but not my lust for luxury. Tonight is the infamous Warsaw Ballroom party and I may need Henrietta's coat for a grand entrance. No; I'm actually a card-carrying PETA member (although I belong to that wing that excuses antique items), and I'll be wearing the other card I carry (thanks to Leopoldo) : PRADA.

Yesterday, I awoke at the unGodly hour of 5:30 AM and made over seven dozen cakes and muffins for a benefit in Bal Harbour for Haiti: there were gigantic boo-berry muffins, raisin bran cakes with granola toppings, supremely decadent chocolate cakes with coconut, and on and on. (I have a habit of throwing anything at hand in my baked goods.) I told Mr. Astor, who gasped when he finally awoke a 10:30 AM expecting breakfast (and seeing six boxes he had to carry), that I was surprised I didn't succumb to spontaneous combustion with all the oven heat. The take for my cakes: over $800. Damn; let them eat more cake.

Next stop on the train to Hell: Warsaw.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Removed from dog fortunes and business torched earth theories, I can now happily say that the second, special edition of Henrietta, The Queen of South Beach book I published is printed and on it's way. My theory was to keep it very simple and very exclusive: Only fifty copies, numbered, initialled by me, and personally autographed by Henrietta will be offered. This edition includes "the early years", and is the only collection of photos from the late Fifties through the Eighties that have ever been released to the public, the adoring public. It is one of my great desires come true: To publish the photos I have taken of the great lady along with personal ones from her private collection. There has been some early maneuvering for copies already (we have orders from Great Britain, Germany, and Australia, already), which tickles both our hearts; we are not out to make a fortune from this, just make it as special for all of us. We initially thought a price of $75.00 would be fair, but I won out by charging $69.00, the age she will celebrate this March. I think all these little things add to the fun.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Full-scale war has begun between The Tides and The Palace. The new owners of each business have unleashed every weapon against each other, to the amusement of all watching in the safety of a bunker.

This is a city where money just doesn't talk, it screams, and The Tides feels that if their guests are paying $1,000 and up (way up) a night, they shouldn't be annoyed by loud music, drag queens, and crowds clogging up the sidewalk, on which they now have set up tables. I would be the first to point out to The Tides that their neighbor was serving up burgers and drag queens when it was a crumbling crack den, but much in South Beach has "turned" to the dismay of old guard that brought life back to the near-empty town. But, money has flushed the town with new ideas and new, more conservative owners; sad, but the way of the world. In the old days, I would have mounted a massive counter-attack, but those times are long gone; the only hope is some sort of mutually agreeable relationship, but don't expect "Peace in our time" soon.

And dear Ruth Remington (the power behind the Dachsund Fest) sent me this note: "For all fans out there, even with this post and photos, Alexis is being VERY modest. People stood on line throughout the 'fest and long after it ended. I told a friend to try Guess Your Age and his response: "But we'll lose our place in line!" I don't know what Alexis tells the dogs, but everyone is mesmerized. He IS "The Weenie Whisperer". " That's sweet of her, but I don't know what really has been happening with that strange little act; perhaps it is the deep love of dogs that binds us, but I have somehow become the Walter Mercado of the canine world.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Out of the blue I received an email from a young man who said he was the assistant of Milan Mahaaney and thought I'd like to get in contact with him. I nearly fainted! Shortly after moving to Manhattan in a kooky building in what was left of Little Italy, Milan moved in across the hall. He was the son of a diplomat who'd had a falling out with his parents and he now had to figure out a way to earn a living. He cleverly realized that his contacts with the sons and daughters of the very rich and very famous could be a great resource and he hooked up with the new owner of Studio 54, Mark Fleishman, and planned a party for a new PBS version of Alice in Wonderland. A couple of weeks before the event, I walked in on him sitting on his living room floor surrounded by scraps of paper containing the addresses of everyone he knew. He was nearly hysterical. "What am I going to do?", he cried. I scooped up everything, brought it back to my apartment and created THE mailing list and from that point on helped with every party. It could be aptly said that I was mad with power, but it was fun and I got to add all the kooks I knew to that list.

It's hard to describe NYC in the eighties, but it was rather lawless and Milan took me on a glorious ride that included dinners with Andy Warhol, Cornelia Guest, Cosima von Bulow, Cecelia Peck and on and on and on. I still think to this day that I survived the Aids-ridden decade because I was too busy with these parties to have sex on the scale of everyone else, and just keeping up with Milan was a full-time job. I learned so much from that crazy guy and love to tell the clubsters here in Miami the crazy stories of the V.I.PeePee room in the basement of Studio where every stall was a mirrored table with two chairs. After those crazy years I realized I had to start photographing everything I saw because no one would believe it; through those cameras I came to know every freak in Manhattan, and all because of Milan. Good to know you again, my dear friend.

I danced around town today and every, gentle soul told us how they missed KiKi and how much they admired our ability to "carry on". Mr Astor had the weekend off and was able to conduct me like a battleship through rough seas. Leopoldo was, perhaps, the only thing that got me through this; every other moment or so, we would look at each other and ask, "What would KiKi say?.....Rufffff, Rufffff.." It always made everyone laugh, and that is what this town is about: Laughing at everythiing. God help us.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

So, yes, it was therapeutic after all to be around all those happy dogs and their happier owners. I kept a photo of KiKi next to the crystal ball and his book nearby, too. Everyone was very thoughtful and kind, and I tried to return it by being the best fortune teller in town. There was an awful amount of press and even one movie maker filming the hold event. And there was a line, a long line for my all-seeing thoughts; there was also a long line of "waters" for me to keep my gray cells pumping. We had a blast.
There was a celebrity appearance by Miss Tiffany (complete with bullhorn to announce her upcoming performance). I told her that I saw her loosing her voice if she continued to muscle in on my act, but was only kidding. I was about to cut out her tongue and throw it to the dogs.

It was heartening to see how much people love their pets.

Children are actually tolerable when they are with their pets; they are mesmerized when you tell them that their little friend is going to be the first dog astronaut or talk show host.

Children are fascinated by a crystal ball; you can actually maneuver it so that actually think they see something. It is one of the most amazing aspects of this little job. I've known Angel and his beloved Lyka for many years; this year I got to meet Lyka's daughter. Life goes on.

For once, Lucy came looking for something other than a treat. Since her constant companion, KiKi, left she's been sleeping in his bed. Lucy want me to contact him to say how much she missed him.

All dogs are welcome at The Weinerfest and Jaime brought his two little treasures.

This group of brothers and cousins not only had their dog's fortune told, but learned that they were destined to become pool boys. You have to always have the future in mind in this business.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Talking about being lost, depressed, and so feeling you want to crawl under a rock and make a nest with a nice snake, I have once again been convinced to contribute my time as a fortune teller to dogs at the Annual Dachshund Fest again. After pleading that it would only be appropriate for me to maintain a life of mourning for KiKi for one year (and then in deep purple for the next), Ruth Remington, one of the most kind people on South Beach convinced me to do it in KiKi's honor. True to form, Mr. Astor and I concocted another turban made of Versace and Hermes scarfs. (We will do it the best, or go down with the ship.)

I have no real plan set for the event; I figure that I might use the old Johnnie Carson slight of hand with the "the envelope please" at time. Fortunately, Leopoldo with be with me this year, and he always makes thing right. But don't worry....I have a secret source of "fortune juice" lined up from nearby bars.

I know KiKi will be looking up to me and saying, "Grrrrrrrrrr"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The affectionate reply from the mayor's chief of staff, Rebecca Wakefield, made me realize a big thing: I feel helpless for the first time in my life. When running popular venues, I was able to do one of the thing I do best: raise money. How much fun did we have after Katrina throwing the benefit for the abandoned pets, raising over a thousand dollars in two hours of drag shows. Here was Ditmar doing his part. We had a good time, especially knowing where the money was going.

I have spent over a year looking for a space for a small bar and kitchen. We had so many close deals and, then, we ran into the law of the town. After World War II, most of the commercial real estate was scooped up by a small number New York families and they dictate everything. Over the past year, one landlord said he wanted a personal guarantee and I informed him this doesn't happen (that's why the LLC was created). Another landlord wanted us to replace his plate glass windows with hurricane-proof ones; I informed him that that was a capital improvement not taken on by the lessee. One after another, we fought with these most vile and vicious businessmen who bond together--funny cap on--with each other.

We all keep looking for the lovely, neighborhood spot, but in the mean time, I am getting cranky, I am sick of attending mindless parties; I need to give them myself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's not often that I wake for a breakfast made for ME; that's more because I forbid Mr. Astor from going near any pot or appliance. But today I awoke to a wonderful plate of my own words. In response to my rantings about the richest town in Florida, I got this on my breakfast plate compliments of The Mayor's Chief of Staff:

It's okay, Mrs. Astor. I like your site. I remember stumbling across it when I used to do a little column for the Sun Post. And yes, Adonis (above with the mayor and Henrietta) is one of the volunteers. I believe it was his idea, or at least so I've heard.

This was after an apology from me when she wrote that a sizable number of City firefighters are using their vacation time to go to Haiti. I need a triple dose of Xanax. Between the death of Kiki, the earthquake images, and all of us here at La Casa not really knowing what the year ahead holds for us, I sort of cracked. I even hit a friend for some loony reason, and everyone knows that;s not me. I've just been cracking...like those walls in Haiti.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Somehow we are getting back to normal here and chief among these signs is the fact that apparently it has become necessary to model the Oleg Cassini 1960's cocktail dress. Lois has so far displayed the best frame for this extraordinary piece of history.
Only this household would have the right shoes for such a unique cocktail gown.

As handsome and nice as he is, poor Dave proved that full-figured gals need not apply.

We spent the night with my old friend, Nathan Smith, at his Monday night video fest. Ever since Backdoor Bamby at Crobar ended, the town has not had the definitive place to go. Well, if there is any doubt about that, just stop by upstairs to see what Nathan creates. After that, you can go down to the bungalow and experience amateur strip night, a notion that has always thrilled me. Last night the boys stripped down and were spanked by the crowd; I love family entertainment.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I miss KiKi...I am overcome by the loss

I've stopped fighting City Hall for the weekend and going back to what I do best: chronicle and adore drag history. This is 1969 at the Fountainbleu's Miss Florida contest. Henrietta is photographed with a German boy. One night, a few months ago, a man came up to us at a bar and exclaimed, "Henrietta!" She looked at him for a second and embraced him; it was the boy, now man, in the photo. This photo reminds me that I made Mr. Astor watch the ultimate 1970's vampire movie, The Hunger; the boy above could be David Bowie.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My battle with City Hall continued late today when they tried to defend themselves with typical nonsense. My second response to the Chief of Staff was:
Sorry, Rebecca, but even Publix had an effiective response going on at every register yesterday. While you toe-dance with "faith-based" organizations, people are dying on television while you dance around The Art Deco Weekend. I know Mattie very well; we helped get her elected. I would hope for a more more direct response than a "faith based" one. Isn't that what G W Bush tried when pressed? Shame.

As crazy as Miami is, one thing it truly is is generous. A massive relief effort has been undertaken by the main corporate entities and religious organizations like the American Jewish Federation, the Catholic Church, and many others. I got a heart-warming email from Commissioner Michael Gongora pleading for help thought the ingenious Red Cross texting effort. But, on a whim, I pulled up The City of Miami Beach website only to find the usual claptrap about Art Deco Weekend and other nonsense. I sent a scathing email to the Mayor's office about how they might be organizing a relief effort from such a rich town and this is what I got:

As you know, the disaster in Haiti is of epic proportions and the appropriate response has to be measured in order to be most effective. The city has been coordinating a response from several faith-based groups operating in Miami Beach. Information about that initiative will be released as soon as it is available.

Best regards,

Rebecca Wakefield
OFFICE OF THE MAYOR , Chief of Staff

My response: Sorry, Rebecca, Publix had an major donation campaign at every register yesterday; with all the overly-paid lackeys at your disposal you can be doing something other than deciding what the weekend will be like on Ocean Drive.

On a lighter note, I have been given a treasure trove of Henrietta photos dating back to the Fifties to include in my second edition of Henrietta, The Queen of South Beach. Here are a few fun examples, with the hunky blond body builder from this 1969 muscle mag sitting on her lap.
Boy, are we going to have fun going through these.

This 1958 photo is probably the last ever taken of Henrietta as a boy. Of course, she is with a Italian stud, a situation that would be repeated over and over through the years.

One year later, a new creature was born and to this day has the same blond swoop and lovely smile. Here she is with her uncle, Mario, who didn't care what she was as long as she was home by eleven. Mario was "an associate" of Meyer Lansky. What I would give for a photo of Lansky with Henrietta!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I started contacting the powers-that-be here to coordinate a fund-raising effort the victims of Haiti. One thing I can point in pride about Miami is that is bonds together in times like these. Many radio and television stations have devoted massive time to efforts for relief; it is times like these that everyone here remembers that they are not natives of paradise, but guests. God help those poor souls down there.

Rush Limbaugh, ever the caring soul of The Middle Ages, announced today when asked about the appointment of Bill Clinton as special envoy to the disaster of Haiti said, "I'm just gonna tell you, if I was named envoy to Haiti, I'd quit government. Envoy to Haiti? You can't even pick up a prostitute down there without genuine fear of AIDS." Well, I guess that tells us that the only reason that the blunderbuss of blatant bluster would consider going to Haiti would be to buy sex. Why didn't his heart give out a couple of weeks ago? Is he just a lesson to decent people everywhere of just what evil in human flesh is like? There will be a special place in Hell for that fat pig.

Interestingly, at 7.30 PM the local stations all took their priorities into account; CBS channel 4 felt the need to report on the newest Kardasian gossip, Fox channel 7 thought their Deco Drive's following of club news was important, ABC channel 10 had to show Jeopardy, while NBC channel 6 devoted the half hour to reports of the Haitian disaster, focusing on the agencies hurriedly organizing help. We all have our priorities.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

This was the sign of the weekend: heat lamps vainly trying to warm customers. Business in a town largely dependent upon outdoor entertainment and dining came to a halt on Saturday. By yesterday, Saks sold out of fur coats, having already been picked clean of leather and sweaters; forget about finding earmuffs as there was no previous market for them. Although all creatures suffered dearly, the only bright spot was that the Burmese pythons causing havoc here were particularly affected; it is hoped that the unheard of week of cold took a great toll on them.

As expected, I felt obliged to accompany Henrietta and Leopoldo on a midnight club hop Saturday. It was excruciatingly cold, but there was a certain camaraderie--much like that during hurricanes--between the night clubbers. It was a haughty, almost desperate, will to prove that nature can't stop the party, not to mention the sudden ability to wear as much leather as the body could possibly hold.
I have to make a point of complimenting the owners of Twist on their new bartender in the bungelow, Patrick. His long hair does not show in the photo, but he was quite exotic: he has a Bolivian father and a Greek monther....and is named Patrick. Too bad it was too cold for a pool party.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

"Hell is freezing over!" was the most often-repeated phrase rolling over quivering lips today. At eight AM I poked my face out the kitchen door to see if the dire predictions had come true; it is unsettling to us on Miami Beach when the first thing you see when you go outside is your breath. Already broadcasting the current temperature at that time to be 45 degrees, the local forecasters were telling us that 45 would be the high for the day and by night 32 would be likely. A cold, persistent rain all day added to the misery and the feeling of impending doom.

Iguanas started to fall out of the trees yesterday; at these low temperatures they go into a suspended state. Most of the friends I saw today were in such a state, but Leopoldo and Henrietta remain hell-bent to take me out on the town tonight. I realize their intentions are good, but practicality has never been a recognized virtue in this town. My opposition to standing on a street corner in this weather waiting for a cab is brushed off; it is almost considered criminal to not want to dress up, go out, and drink on a weekend night (or any other night, for that matter). Life goes on.

Friday, January 08, 2010

There is no better truism than that Life Goes On; it always does. The loss still gnaws at me, but the great, collective response from my friends speaks volumns on how KiKi was adored by me. To all of you, I sincerely send my thanks. The ever-so-kind Countess Bedelia sent my a poem to comfort me. In another world, less melancholic than my present one, I would have found this hokey; but, it made me cry.

The Rainbow Bridge
inspired by a Norse legend
By the edge of a woods, at the foot of a hill,

Is a lush, green meadow where time stands still.

Where the friends of man and woman do run,

When their time on earth is over and done.

For here, between this world and the next,

Is a place where each beloved creature finds rest.

On this golden land, they wait and they play,

Till the Rainbow Bridge they cross over one day.

No more do they suffer, in pain or in sadness,

For here they are whole, their lives filled with gladness.

Their limbs are restored, their health renewed,

Their bodies have healed, with strength imbued.

They romp through the grass, without even a care,

Until one day they start, and sniff at the air.

All ears prick forward, eyes dart front and back,

Then all of a sudden, one breaks from the pack.

For just at that instant, their eyes have met;

Together again, both person and pet.

So they run to each other, these friends from long past,

The time of their parting is over at last.

The sadness they felt while they were apart,

Has turned into joy once more in each heart.

They embrace with a love that will last forever,

And then, side-by-side, they cross over… together.

Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish accused me of having this picture Photo-Shopped. If there is no other reason than this to continue the fight against evil like that, then I will mount the horse again and charge.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Kiki left this world for one of eternal rest today. I held him for the long ride to the vet and as they administered the shot and he gazed into my eyes as his closed. His confusion and suffering is now over; it is the saddest thing I have ever done.

Monday, January 04, 2010

I would go on about the cold temperatures here if the rest of the country wasn't going through worst than this. Over the weekend, life here went on as normal as everyone brought out their leather and fur; it doesn't happen much. This time, though, the deep freeze (the 50's) has grasped the town by the throat. I wore two sweaters today just to maintain the house; I couldn't go outside for more than a minute or two. Saks Fifth Avenue sold out all its leather jackets yesterday as visitors and locals panicked. Personally, I had to open a bottle if vodka kept for emergency to deal with the freeze threat; I'm down to one sweater.

I think I've postponed the final decision for KiKi for a little bit; I've again offered to take him and put up with his craziness.

On the social front, The Baroness Seitzinger has positioned herself again, trying to deal with the well-reported transgressions with transvestites. Her people are doing everything they can to deny, decline, and declare their version of the scandalous episode that made her flee to The Dominican Republic. Mrs. Styuvesant-Fish has returned from her country estate and seems to be quite ready to begin a full-frontal assault on the New Year. Over my dead body....

Saturday, January 02, 2010

I knew the first emotional challenge of the new year would be KiKi's health and being, and I was right. It is now up to ME to decide what is best for the most loyal friend I've ever had. Is it best to put him down because he is lost and bewildered? Most of my friends would fit into that category. There is the quality of life issue; he lived a privileged life and now he can't walk much and has developed open sores common with old dogs. We are not sure he knows us anymore and is totally deaf with his eyesight failing. Our friend Gary asked me yesterday if we put down people who are deaf and blind or old people who walk in circles, further confusing me. He has reached the equivalent of 101 years, the old 7 to 1 principle being much too simplistic. I don't think I'd be happy at that age. When Kiki goes, so will a great part of me.

Friday, January 01, 2010

I've always said, if you can survive the last two weeks of December--and especially the one between the two holidays--you can make it through anything. Although it is not over yet, it would appear that we got through it handsomely. The decorating, gift-giving, and holiday parties went of without incident. One can only hope it is a sign that this year will be better than last.
At 10 PM we joined a large group of friends sitting outside on Ocean Drive; the dollar bills were for drag queens performing on the sidewalk. It was fun to see a parade of queens prancing between wide-eyed tourists and families.
Henrietta was absolutely radiant in a custom-made sequined gown and a new diamond necklace. "I look pretty, damn good," she quipped, "for an old broad." Last weekend we went out on the town with her and marveled at how she passed out hundred dollar bills to the bartenders at Score and Twist. She told us that night that she had spent over $30,000 on jewelry in the past six months. "I figure, I can't take it with me," she laughed. I figure Henrietta pumps enough money into the Beach economy to warrant Woman of the Year, by The Wire.

Alan and Darren, along with their friend Andrea, were in town all week having escaped the winter horror of New England. They hosted party after party, and Alan acted as my personal physician for my hand accident. You really don't realize how many objects your hand touches or bumps into until you break a bone in one. I was, however, able to take off the splint for the evening; unless I Bedazzled it, there was no way it was going to compliment black Armani.

We ran into good ol' Thomas Barker all over town last night, too, towing along a cute Latino (the accessory of note in this town).
And, it wouldn't be a night on the town without getting to know another possible pool boy.

Like many an end of The Eve, there were no cabs in sight. We had to walk home past crowds on every street corner seeking transportation, endless bottles, and even several bodies in the gutters being attended to by police. We made it, though, without incident although Mr. Astor has no recollection of the trip home. I awoke to a bedroom that looked as if a bomb had gone of in the Men's Department of Saks and soon our housemates and guests were drinking by the pool. Like Mrs. Stuyvesant-Fish, I maintain long-standing standards that decent society waits until 1 PM to open a bottle, unless--of course--it's just a nip of brandy to keep you warm on a winter morning.