By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
What with Christmas coming up and all, I've been trying to exorcise hatefulness from my being -- without much luck, unfortunately. Leave the house or pick up the phone, and someone eventually pisses you off. At an advanced stage of meanness, you even start to piss yourself off. Over time a steady diet of parties transforms everyone into mere glorified scenery, demanding a survival tactic of psychotic perkiness that would shame even Kathie Lee Gifford (she actually seems to be hating everything lately too). However, the spontaneous combustions of parties do feed the insatiable reactor of fluff-and-fury journalism. And thankfully fate brought a certifiably grand opening to this sandbar of Xanadu, the last great dump of the American dream, the Gilligan's Island of social climbing and twisted ambition.
On Thursday the Hotel Astor debuted with the kind of loopy verve that marks all the better local affairs. The hotel blocked off one side of Washington Avenue for a Sister Sledge concert and additional milling-about room. A good thing, too, since positively everyone -- district pioneers, drag queens, models, Bal Harbour socialites, strippers, club promoters -- turned out for one great hurrah, like the guest stars on the final episode of The Carol Burnett Show. Accordingly, an ugly mob backed up at the hotel's barricades and some society friends -- the sort of people who used to flee from public events -- were struggling to forge ahead in the human tide pool. Normally, it might have been an amusing opportunity for a lecture to these chums on the importance of maintaining class loyalty. But the holiday season can make anyone go soft and sentimental, and so I dragged them and other slummers along.
However, as a civic booster, my deepest affections have always been extended to real estate, the Astor -- owned by Karim Masri -- being an enchanting property that would drive anyone into a horny rut, a refuge of taste in the wasteland of nightclub 'toon town. Just off the Astor's elegant haute-deco lobby, there's a beautiful pocket-size bar with French doors that lead out to a tidy pool, backed by a wall of cascading water. At the other end of the lobby, a spiral staircase descends to the Astor Place restaurant, the newest jewel in the Dennis Max empire. The room groaned with everything from an entire suckling pig (tasty fare, despite Porky's glassy stare of rebuke) to nouveau dishes and liquor that flowed in an epic way. The latter inspired some neophytes to behave like Lord of the Flies children, denouncing my insufficient greed and gratitude in the horn of plenty. Apparently, it's a capital offense now to be a polite guest.
To a professional, the human buffet is always more interesting anyway, and the Astor had a provocative crowd on hand, including a very nice film editor from the Striptease production who looked understandably horrified when I came out publicly as a purveyor of filth: an avowal that's more or less like taking a pride in necrophilia. Bobby Guilmartin, the soul of hospitality in the old Hombre club days -- those flying jism videos were always a wonderful conversation piece -- talked about other tony affairs ("The only two people I'll wait for are Princess Di and Jeff Stryker") and being over the same old district routine. Now a travel industry figure devoted to the erotomaniac/rabid charms of Cuba, the new frontier, Guilmartin announced his weariness of pesky media stalkers: "I'm out about Cuba now, and I don't care who knows it." Sign me up if there's a place for gossip columnists down there.
In an entirely separate category, there was Lynn Goldsmith, the "legendary rock photographer." Even with that billing, I had no clue who the hell she was, but soon enough the moment was all about Goldsmith, the only Masada warrior woman who's ever worn me down to one big shtokh of love and exhaustion. A Detroit native who went on to a festering adolescence in Miami Beach, Goldsmith was in town for her 30th Beach High reunion and some ad hoc promotion of her most recent book, PhotoDiary. It's a kind of sociological study of the Sixties and beyond, all about, as she put it, "relating your life to musicians and men in general and what that all means." Particularly, of course, to this woman's story, from her beginnings photographing the Beatles in 1964 as a teenager with advanced attitude ("For Stones fans, they were goody-goody boys A I didn't give a fuck about them") and an eye for the arcane: "I saw these four pairs of great shoes walking across the carpet, and that's all I took pictures of -- John couldn't believe it. But those shoes were the most beautiful things I'd ever seen, and that was the closest I'd ever come to an orgasm at that point."
From there, other life chapters kept looming up: burning her bra in Ann Arbor; dalliances with Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism; playing with the band Walking Wounded; chronicling everyone from Grand Funk Railroad to k.d. lang. She had an ill-advised affair with Sting during his studiously single period, but really, who could blame her? The Born to Run era Bruce Springsteen flipped out completely during a concert, dragged her on-stage from the audience, dismissed her as his very ex-girlfriend, and then bodily threw her off. And he was one of the nice boyfriends.
Life brought plenty more rock stars, riches, fame, and sex, but the pivotal moment came with the great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, who Goldsmith shot at his Malibu home. He was rude, demanding, and had evil eyes -- his twin brother was even worse -- and over the course of six debasing, mind-fucking hours she almost bailed out, having reached her breaking point: "I thought, 'I own four homes and I don't need this shit.'" At the end of her rope, she finally made a risky bad-ass move and told Miles, "Mr. Davis, you can be a real nigger sometimes, can't you?" With that, Davis sent someone to fetch his horn and blew like Gabriel, in a spiritual epiphany that ended a mutual disrespect problem. I told you she was tough.
By midnight Goldsmith, my new hero of ballistic celebrity coverage, had long since left the party, and the human element had become somewhat problematic. The same woman who earlier had danced on-stage with Sister Sledge was now passed out at a table, resting on a precariously propped elbow. An eerie blonde in a tight leopard-print dress slowly trolled through the crowd, almost as if she were walking underwater -- a true cross-dresser, straight out of Halloween and beyond drag. It was something else, that opening, engrossing even when it took on a They Shoot Horses, Don't They? quality -- the last gasp of the marathon dance.
The weekend brought more joy, glad tidings, and free-floating insanity. At Glam Slam, Mayte -- the dancer and singer who found happiness as the protegee of the Artist Formerly Known as Prince -- performing songs from her debut album, Child of the Sun, including a number called "The Most Beautiful Boy in the World." Mayte, who set a go-go-girl standard by swan-diving into the crowd at the Glam Slam opening, flashed an enormous diamond ring at a press conference at the club, coyly hinting at love-slave status with one of the richest boys in the world. In other Washington Avenue club news, the brewpub Del Sol Brewery will shortly be opening in the old Cactus Cantina space, and the dance joint Pure L'Amour (now there's a novel romantic concept for Miami) is set to take root next to Les Bains. Regine, the empress of the Eighties, has been looking for a spot on Miami Beach for a cabaret restaurant. When she again sets up camp in town, it's either the end or the beginning of the fun epoch.
On Saturday night, Yuca's new outpost on Lincoln Road had a dry-run dinner for the media and favored patrons of the Coral Gables mothership establishment, a killing-me-softly meal of epic proportions: pork tenderloin over congri, and duck sausage in a*ejo rum sauce. Nicely done all around, Yuca owner Efrain Veiga bringing in investor Amancio Suarez for the Beach branch, an ambitious 8000-square-foot effort with chef Guillermo Veloso and acres of Byzantine mosaic work. Upstairs there's a vast lounge/performance area. With Albita in the house, the place would make a handy Cuban theme park for tourists staying at the nearby Delano hotel. In between filling out the management-placed notepads on each table with ungrateful critiques, we drifted into a debate over a juicy Delano rumor. Some far-gone NBC newscaster, according to the gay 411, inadvertently broke popper bottles in his white-on-white room during a party and left a trail of blood, lust, and carnage behind. Now there's an image that's too good not to be true, a Christmas story for one and all.