Lotus-Eaters and Literati

Novelist Bret Easton Ellis has skewered the demimonde of Los Angeles and New York City. So what about South Beach?

Brian, it's been four years since September 11. But the party has been going strong on South Beach for at least fifteen years, and we're still waiting for someone to get it down on paper. Bret Easton Ellis managed to capture a slice of L.A. when he was only 21.

"I know," Antoni groans, no doubt visualizing another round of edits on his own manuscript. "But [Ellis] lived in L.A. his whole life before he wrote that book," he parries playfully. "If you lived in today's South Beach your whole life, you'd only be fifteen. Just wait another six years and you'll see that big fat novel you're talking about."

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books and president of the American Booksellers Association, holds much the same outlook, and he expects Miami's answer to Tom Wolfe to emerge any day now. "If somebody moved here in 1995 as a 22-year-old, they're no longer a young person," he had previously told Kulchur. "The fabric of Miami has seeped into them by now.Just imagine the stories they have to tell!"

Cue Gwen Cooper, who is staking her name on just that notion. Whatever else she learned after hitting South Beach as a 25-year-old in 1997, it obviously included a primer in public relations. Earlier this month, Cooper scored a rash of publicity for her manuscript Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves: The Memoirs of a South Beach Party Girl. Deftly orchestrating a faux-scandal around her current position in New York with Wenner Media (home to Rolling Stone), Cooper had the blogosphere, as well as the New York Post's "Page Six" and the Herald, speculating about her book's salacious South Beach tidbits -- and its possible dish on her boss, Jann Wenner. Meanwhile, Cooper's agent was capitalizing on the buzz and shopping her book proposal.

Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves shows much the same savvy, marrying prurience to a veneer of intellectualism, hop-scotching from its Cher-quoting title to a sober Eugene Ionescoepigram, and freely mixing philosophical musings with late-night outings alongside Beach icons such as playboy Thomas Kramerand once-imprisoned nightlife promoter John Hood.

Similarly, in a conversation with Kulchur, Cooper effortlessly shifts from giving props to nineteenth-century social satirist Anthony Trollope to citing her publicist's prior work pushing such post-Sex and the City offerings as Bergdorf Blondes and The Twins of Tribeca.

Hold on. You've got a publicist before there's even a published book? Well, that does seem very South Beach.

"That's not South Beach so much as it is my having a career in marketing," Cooper bristles.

Like I said.


Back at the University of Miami, Bret Easton Ellis is reconsidering. He has just chewed three pieces of nicotine gum in rapid succession, and his synapses are beginning to spark.

It isn't that he's totally disinterested in exploring the qualities that have come to define the Beach, he explains. But "the world has become South Beach now, and it shares its values." Not only the VIP rooms and velvet ropes, the fixation on celebs and beauty -- but also the unabashed solipsism. South Beach's signature spirit is on display around the globe. "It doesn't seem as unique as it may have been if a novelist had caught on to it in, say, 1990," Ellis offers. "You could do 'The South Beach Novel' in any major city now." He leans forward and repeats ominously: "The whole world has gone South Beach."

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