By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
The "SOS Hurricane Victims Recovery Fund Raiser and Auction" at Turnberry Isle Resort & Club, involving some 60 restaurant chefs from around the country, stuffed with all the right ingredients -- gourmet food, Turnberryesque flash, shorter driving time. Turnberry, after an extensive renovation, gleaming with a kind of faux Palm Beach look, a long way from the days when pop-up girls of the Donna Rice ilk hung around the pool in a feeding frenzy, preying on the rich and horny. A truly frenzied quality to the party though, everybody pawing at platters of couture food -- uptown crab cakes, duck confit, raw tuna in coconut milk, and all manner of other delicacies -- as emblems of the luxe life paraded past on-stage. A cast of thousands in the ballroom, lots of older men trying to keep up with a mutant strain of hyperchic bionic women: models, young long-legged girlfriends with Joey Heatherton hair and leopard-print tights, first wives of the I-still-got-it-baby school, oysters on the half-shell decolletage spilling out like uncontrolled lava. Money may not buy love, but it can buy good looks.
The chefs -- people like Jan Jorgenson of Janjo's, Ron Hook of the Doral Saturnia Spa, Mark Militello of Mark's Place, Debra Ponzek of Montrachet in New York, Mark Ellman of the Avalon Restaurant in Hawaii -- remaining preternaturally pleasant in the crush, guests scrambling for forks and plates, making pleasantries along the order of, "Oh my God, what is it? Can I have more?" An insane madhouse, just the kind of thing to perk up a Friday evening. Interesting people all over the place: organizer Cheryl Stephenson, society caterer Gene Singletary, and Debbie Ohanian of the boutique Meet Me in Miami. Miss Fun opening up a hair salon in her shop with stylist Joseph Tridenti, along with an erotomania store upstairs, Sex Sells, specializing in "fetish lingerie, soft-core adult toys, body oils, whips and chains for that special person in your life who needs discipline." A category that, unfortunately, includes just about everybody.
Trolling down to The Forge later that night for a "Hurricane Relief Celebrity Gala Auction," featuring an assortment of major jewelry, Billy Joel's vintage racing motorcycle, and the .44 magnum from Dirty Harry. The Forge itself a masterwork of Beach exuberance -- huge Chinese vases, California Medieval lighted ceiling panels, a chandelier that would shame the Palace of Versailles, born-to-be-bad art exemplifying the two overwhelming concerns of the Beach -- sex and extreme sentimentality. The crowd made up of more sex kittens in Lycra jumpsuits, National Guard troops, a blonde almost worth getting a real job for, a pair of club owners who've stretched the concept of open marriage to the breaking point, and comedian Paul Rodriguez traveling en entourage: "Yeah, she's going to be real impressed when you pull out that little Oscar Meyer wiener of yours." Kewpie-doll newscaster Sally Fitz backing off from the very nice but stupifyingly out-there Claudine Smurfit and her rhinestone-encrusted military-cut jacket, the sort of thing a Latin American dictator of a drag bent might wear. A covey of socialites also on hand, women we knew from our days covering Arcadian adventures among the idle rich, people with private bowling alleys and bathrooms the size of South Beach apartments. Fortuna, lately, spiraling ever downward. Eleanor Kosow giving $10,000 in honor of a celebrated weatherman and bachelor-of-the-moment. Martha Mishcon, bravely facing another season, and Kathy Simkins, looking healthy, wealthy, and wise after a recent divorce: "Life is good."
Back down to the more tenuous society of the district, where life is often bad and poor. A meeting of The Bravo Bunch, the young professional support group for the Great Artists Series, at I Tre Merli. The bunch -- encompassing people like Tara Solomon, director of marketing for the Concert Association of Florida, Tim Warmath, director of regional programs at the University of Miami, Louis Canales, and Kenny Scharf -- evidencing a becoming whimsical streak, considering that someone of our limited caliber is actually on the board. After a bit of conversational foreplay -- who's sleeping with whom, who got comped to the most glittering event, who's most over-it-all -- it's on to more important matters, the membership-ticket selling party at Van Dome on Thursday, October 8, "Vanity" night. Tara outlining an interesting program, commencing October 28 -- American Ballroom Theater, Red Star Red Army and Chorus, Andre Previn Jazz Trio, James Galway Pops Orchestra -- and the utter reasonableness of all that culture, what with seat upgrades, two-for-one series subscriptions, and free apres-concert parties. Individual performances about the same as two drinks at Van Dome, and have to be slightly more enriching.
Culture of the downtown variety running amok here and there. A "Silence of the Lambs" theme party at Cassis, the latest installment of the restaurant's bimonthly Tuesday-night parties. Mr. Out-Every-Night, Rony Seikaly of the Miami Heat, looking a little dazed in model land. Host Tommy Pooch hyping up Saturday nights at The Whiskey, along with his acting school and soon-to-open restaurant, Zio Luigi. Jason Binn of the SoBe News, the new monthly South Beach-oriented publication set to debut December 3, working all the angles: "We're going to have a circulation of about 40,000, distributed free all over the city, like New Times. Fashion, clubs, gossip, really easy to read."
From there, a semi-natural segue to clubville. The Bar'ock team -- Daniel Ward, Cynthia Fenner, Eric Omeres, Heather Smith -- working on a deal to take over Kaos in South Miami. Ward, a former disc jockey at The Garage in Honolulu, planning to operate five nights a week, with mixed music every night: "Sets of progressive, house, techno, hip hop, alternative music like The Smiths and The Cure, maybe some campy TV themes. Lots of video and art. We're attacking the student crowd."
Stars, a new 7000-square-foot dining/dancing establishment for the 25-and-up crowd, opening up at Sixth and Collins, in a re-converted Jewish temple owned by Miami Beach Commissioner Abe Resnick, who also owns the Van Dome building, another former temple. A temple/club empire in the making, deep in the shadow of the Holocaust Memorial. Stars, according to a spokesperson, will debut November 12 with a benefit for the Children's Cancer Caring Center. Empyrean, the new incarnation of the Butter Club opening this past weekend, a club called Polyester going in next door shortly. Low-purpose stuff compared to the hurricane relief beat, but then, it's an easy-reading kind of town.