Swelter 12

And so we all go, to and fro, talking of Michelangelo and the Delano, the media locusts drifting momentarily from the Hugh Grant mess to little old Miami, always good for a junket and a breaking trend story. The phoenix of fashion mutating into a new incarnation of tenuous postcoital allure, freshening up after a dalliance with the sordid. In tune with the mainstream press, resolved to be equitable and enthusiastic, positively nice for once, basking in a city we dearly love to loathe. After all we're no fool or hindrance to pop history, and glamour remains good for business. Appropriately, the week building steam with the evolving Albita Rodriguez saga, the newest installment played out in the megahomes-rule section of Tahiti Beach, formerly a teen wasteland haunt for Coral Gables youth. In the early Seventies, an invigorating mini-wilderness ideal for jeep racing, skinny-dipping, funneling beers, and chasing the sweet nectar of oblivion. Times definitely have changed.

Now, as a purveyor of other people's dreams, pulling up to the house of developer Pedro Garcia for the CD release party of Albita's No se parece a nada like a voyeur-for-hire, conscious of peeping protocol. In the three-story living room, photos of Albita mixed with those of the host's children, the fandom connections amplified by Albita's manager Miriam Wong, who once did construction work on the house. As usual, studiously ignoring the buffet and bar -- infested by every known local and international journalist -- and culling column fodder. Albita set for Vogue and various European glitter-beat magazines, and more than likely, the Des Moines Register one day will send a photo crew down. For the summer, promotional tours of London, Paris, Madrid, Puerto Rico, Panama, and Colombia, along with appearances in New York and at L.A.'s House of Blues. All the obligatory Thus-Spake-Albita effects in place: smoke machines; star-shape lights beaming out over the mangroves, mosquitoes cowed into submission by the tony surroundings; the faux-Havana effect of a clothesline laden with brand-new undergarments, trailing back from the stage.

The guests, happily enough, authentically Cuban, everyone talking at once and intent on being the most stunning thing imaginable. The truly focused Emilio Estefan, kicking his Crescent Moon Records label into overdrive. Musical legends Olga Guillot and Cachao, icons of the holding-on school. Totty Saizarbitoria, of Centro Vasco, the sweetheart from Albita's stomping grounds. At the peak of mingling fever, Miami's first star of the next epoch bounding on-stage in a white guayabera and dark pinstripe pants, charging through a few neoclassics with her band, then changing into a gold brocaded vest for visual values. Gloria Estefan standing in the crowd -- no obvious security, no reserved tables, no fuss -- and singing along, the pampered hips of Latin socialites breaking into the great sashay of Cuba. Seemingly, everyone also bringing their aunts, grandmothers, and third cousins, the congestion making for great scenery, our buoyant mood nearly dashed by a noted Anglo ethnoculture-vulture journalist, dismissing the party as "too Cuban." Talk about missing the point.

And then it's Friday night, the debut of the Delano, the Albita of hotels. As with the glitz-meets-publicity fest surrounding the Fontainebleau opening in 1954, variously derided as an architectural abortion and figurehead of civic rebirth, the Delano becoming an instant locus of hope, hype, and controversy, as well as the cruel beast of status, a touchstone for how the city regards itself. An epic two years in the making, the team behind the property casting a pall of major-league hipness, on the tip of the cutting edge. Co-owner Ian Schrager, whose curriculum vitae of chic includes the iconographic Studio 54, the New York hotels Morgans, the Royalton, and the Paramount, as well as the Mondrian in Los Angeles. His wife, Rita Norona Schrager, a hometown Cuban girl who'll be opening the women's spa-health bar Agua this Friday. David Barton's ground-level gym, located in the site of the old Beirut nightclub, a popping little joint in the pioneer days. Madonna teaming up with Brian McNally -- Indochine, 150 Wooster, the Royalton's 44, among other hallmark watering holes -- for the Blue Door, the hotel's lobby restaurant. The designer Philippe Starck, fueling the hotel-for-the-next-millennium chatter with grandiose pronouncements about Miami's devotion to the tired, the tacky, and the downright vulgar: hardly news and points well taken, to our way of thinking, despite coming from an overwrought Frenchman.

Predictably, the promotional circus helped along by lingering provincialism, Babbittesque chest-thumping, and denunciations of Manhattan's cultural imperialism, the same influx that inspired the original South Beach resurgence and reams of great gush copy. That said, the Delano, in the end, seems right in step with local civic culture, more about real estate than anything else. Perfectly theatrical, in the light-opera sense, the renovation encapsulating the workings of style: a denial of what is -- flying in the face of local realities -- accomplished through sheer artifice and talent. Like Starck himself, the hotel occasionally over the top, a surrealistic blend of aesthetics: a little bit of this, a lot of that, and everything works. A true resort, the kind of refuge that makes you feel more fabulous than you really are.

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