By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
By Frank Owen
By Allie Conti
Don't hate Fabian Basabe because he's beautiful. "I don't work, and a lot of people just don't understand that," the 26-year-old Basabe says, sounding genuinely hurt by the less-than-sympathetic response his poor-little-rich-boy persona often inspires. Pausing for a sip of his margarita, he continues: "People focus mainly on the glamour and think that if you're on television and in the public eye, you have a perfect life." Au contraire, Basabe warns. "Most of the time it's great, but it comes with a lot of responsibility."
At the moment, though, Basabe's only responsibility seems to be working on his tan. And perfect or not, it's hard to imagine improving on his present setting: A private ferry ride away from the South Beach skyline that looms nearby, Basabe is enjoying some down time on the rarefied sands of the Fisher Island Beach Club and kicking back at its waterfront bar.
Of course, for Basabe down time is virtually all the time. The son of a successful Ecuadorian-born businessman now living in Bay Harbor Islands, Basabe has become famous for being, well, famous.
Over the past year, he's gone from being just another pretty face in the Nobu crowd to a gossip-page regular. There he is in the New York Post's "Page Six," cavorting into the wee hours with model Karolina Kurkova attached to his hip; the next day he's popping up on the E! Channel, holding court inside a new nightspot's VIP room, or flashing a disarming smile as Entertainment Tonight's cameras glide across the front row of a chic fashion show.
In fact listening to the trials of Being Basabe would be insufferable if he weren't simultaneously so eminently gracious about his newfound fame. While it's easy to think of him as simply this season's It Boy, a male version of Paris Hilton, he shares little of his high-stepping counterpart's open disdain for the Prada-deficient masses.
"I don't understand celebrities I've met who are so standoffish with the public, who don't want to give everyone the time of day. These are the people who are making you famous," Basabe chides. He begins to lay into a certain Mickey Mouse Club dancer turned midriff-baring pop singer, but stops short. "I don't want to say anything bad," he protests as Kulchur pushes for details. "I just don't understand her mentality.... Maybe it's because you're taking them from one life and trying to introduce them to another life they've only seen on television. They're still trying to learn how to adjust."
This friendly attitude is more than empty posturing on Basabe's part. As Kulchur makes his way around the Beach Club, he can't find anyone willing to offer up a sour note about Basabe. Polite to a fault, Basabe has not only his fellow guests singing his praises -- "Fabian's a sweetheart!" gushes one middle-age woman while her husband nods in assent -- but even the club's bartender giving him a thumbs-up.
Miamians are hardly the only ones to have fallen for Basabe's charm. Despite being kicked out of three separate South Florida prep schools ("I was a little bit of a troublemaker"), as well as being dismissed from California's Pepperdine University, he's managed to become a fixture among Manhattan's pedigreed Upper East Siders. Taking a cue from Peter Bacanovich, he's served as the gentleman walker of choice for the city's twentysomething socialite set. And while lending his cheekbones to a flashbulb-worthy gala may not draw a salary, it's also not without its perks.
"I guess it's kind of a paid appearance," he shrugs, referring to cohosting duties the previous evening at Casa Casuarina, the former Versace mansion-turned-hotel on Ocean Drive. That event, a party for Swiss jewelry maker Piaget, drew a well-heeled mix of Bal Harbour shoppers and New Yorkers in town for Art Basel. Piaget was so pleased with the branding opportunity, their resulting gesture still leaves Basabe visibly surprised: "You should see the package they sent me -- öThank you for letting us use your name. We'd like to offer you a complimentary gift of $10,000 toward any of our watches.'"
Not a bad haul for a few hours of greeting friends, posing for Patrick McMullan's snapshots, and hoisting a few cocktails.But is it a career?
Again, if Paris Hilton is any guide for the gilded, the answer is most definitely yes. Basabe says he's currently weighing offers for his own TV reality show. He's also been talking with a New York publishing house about issuing his memoirs under the title Model Behavior.
Informed by Kulchur that author Jay McInerney already used that very title in 1998 for a comic tale of living the high life, Basabe is momentarily thrown. "You can't take the same title again?" he asks, crestfallen, before quickly arriving at his own happy solution: "Maybe he'll like it -- they'll buy his book too, by accident." But first Basabe has to actually write his memoir, though that obstacle hardly stopped Hilton from landing a lucrative book contract before she'd penned a single word of (or if the industry whispers are to believed, had any involvement with) the Simon & Schuster hardcover that now bears her name.