By Michael E. Miller
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Like a comet passing through Miami on its way to Los Angeles, Carlos Arias creates a trail of glitzy stardust. The aggressively ambitious scion of a well-to-do Key Biscayne family is a connected nightclub promoter and insurance broker on the cusp of realizing his dream of becoming a Hollywood producer. Noblesse oblige isn't in his vocabulary. Arias always wants more, and he always wants it now.
But this is not the story of a tumble from the top and of subsequent enlightenment. In the age of Who Wants to Marry a Billionaire Fear Factor Dad, of fame without reason and super-superficiality, Arias has stumbled onto what it takes to propel himself to an even higher profile. Naturally, a deal for a reality television show is involved.
First, a little background.... Rewind to spring. The Arias Show starts a little after 2:00 a.m. on a Friday at Mansion, the South Beach nightclub where he occasionally promotes parties and schmoozes with A-listers. Too bad there is no one filming the scene. In the rear of the roped-off VIP section The Simple Lifestar Paris Hilton is sobbing, frantically searching for something. Arias hands off his drink and grabs a flashlight from a bouncer. Seconds later, skinny, fair-skinned, five-foot-nine Arias is in a scuffle with a giant bodyguard. This attracts the attention of the entire room.
"Paris is crying because she lost her purse, turns out it's a family heirloom. To me, it's an opening to meet her. But the bodyguard grabs me. I convince him I'm with the club, then I get on my knees and clear all the beer bottles from under the couch. Everybody's staring. I'm thinking, You better find this purse man, you're totally making a scene," Arias recalls.
He does find the handbag, wedged way back near the wall, thus catapulting himself into the warm embrace of Hilton and her entourage, which includes pop star Nick Carter (now her ex-boyfriend), and Nicole Richie, her rambunctious Simple Life sidekick. Arias takes advantage of the opportunity to lay his line on the celebutantes. "I got this project I'm working on, it's called Miss University, and it'll be the hottest beauty pageant ever aired on television...."
Carlos Arias is a throwback. He prefers conversation to e-mail. He exudes a manipulative charm that arrives on a personality traveling ten feet in front of him. He communicates with jazz hands, always pointing and waving, maintains unnerving eye contact, and there's the bold, over-confident walk and talk about him, all of which underscore the pursuit of his dream. Arias barely has his foot in the door, yet he hardballs Tinseltown heavyweights as if he already is one. He even turned down an offer for Miss University.Most people in his position would have grabbed it, but Arias wouldn't accept a rookie split.
"I come from the nightlife industry where I've seen every kind of crook and shady move. The entertainment industry, though, is absolutely gangster," Arias says. "But I will win this Hollywood game."
Growing up in the affluent community of Key Biscayne and promoting various events since he was 17 have a lot to do with Arias's knack for networking. He gladly goes on about the dynamics of making first impressions, such as the one he attempted to leave on Hilton and her friends. "Nobody remembers the typical öHey, how you doing? I'm so and so.' You've got to make a memorable intro, calculate, come off a certain way from the get-go, and always put people on a pedestal, never pass up a chance to throw someone an alley-oop," Arias says with an I-got-it-figured-out bravado.
Though only empty promises and a closer proximity to fame came of his encounter with Hilton, Arias remains firm about keeping the "right people" in his crosshairs, much as he did while working as a promoter for infamous Liquid nightclub owner Chris Paciello.
"I was given the keys to social Miami at Liquid, greeting VIPs and celebrities, and hooking the important people up. Those were ösocial investments,'" Arias recalls.
After Liquid closed, Arias coordinated various ventures, from weekly club gigs to amateur basketball tournaments. He published a swimsuit calendar featuring University of Miami women that sold 3000 copies in two weeks.
"I grew up around rich kids, and my family has flow, but it's not like I always had all the money I wanted just handed to me. I always had to come up with schemes to make change. Luckily, a lot of them worked," Arias explains, reclining in a large leather chair inside the sleek Coral Gables office of his family's company, Aristar Services, where he sells commercial insurance policies by day.
Arias came up with the idea for Miss Universitythree years ago, while watching what he saw as an out-of-touch institution, beauty pageants. "They lack the sexy style and demeanor of today's young women, at least the ones I'm used to. When I watched Miss America with female friends, we all agreed that the long gowns, one-piece swimsuits, elevator music, and drawn-out Q and A portions were lame. A pageant should be closer to a video, with hip music acts, hot dance numbers, young, confident women, the works."