Never, or Then?

The chief cuts loose, Michy’s opens, Carmel Ophir and La Gata rock on

It is rare for The Bitch to close down any party, let alone one thrown by Ocean Drive, but when the lights came on this past Saturday at the St. Regis Hotel in Bal Harbour, the dog was happy to find her tail wagging right next to Miami Police Chief John Timoney.

Hey! You're the police chief!The Bitch barked to the red-faced man in blue, who was among the guests at the glossy's fourteenth anniversary bash.

"Why, yes I am," Timoney bellowed, extending a hand that was clutching a highball. "And who are you?"

While The Bitch waited for a negative reaction upon disclosing New Times employment, Timoney pumped her paw and shouted, "I love the New Times! I have no problem with the New Times!"

Wanting to take advantage of this postparty euphoria, The Bitch asked whether his job is more politics than policing.

"I was police chief in New York and in Philadelphia, and then I come down here, and it's all about Cuban politics,"drawled an increasingly animated Timoney. "Fuck the Cubans! I've got a job to do!"

The Bitch's tongue was wagging as fast as her tail, but Timoney didn't blink. "It was nice meeting you," Timoney said as he planted a kiss on her cheek. "Have a great night and be safe."

The party's other highlights included the most exceptionally delicious chocolate martinis ever made by a wonderful, friendly, generous bartender named Crystal, a low-key performance by Seal, and a late-night appearance by a ragged-looking Jon Bon Jovi. Then there was the incessant, incomprehensible babbling of DJ Irie, who raved about being king of the world between badly mixed cuts by The Killersand Michael Jackson.And there were people urinating in stairwells and hallways. Of course there was also the predictable drive-by stage wave from celebrity "host" (and anniversary edition cover thing) Paris Hilton, who then retired to a VIP suite with her mom Kathy.

Oh, and there was enough food, and it was pretty tasty.


Feline Goddess

This past Monday night a small but fiercely determined cadre of about 25 bohemians shivered with cold and ecstasy. They were enthralled by 78-year-old tango singer La Gata and her 81-year-old bandoneon accompanist Alfredo "Gardel" Pedernera.

The occasion for the ad hoc concert on the back patio of Gigi's (formerly the late, great 190) in the Design District was a fundraiser for La Gata, née MarĂ­a Angelica Milán, who has stumbled into a bad patch of economic luck.

A modest, cat-painting-covered garage apartment is strewn with sparkly, sequined thigh-high skirts and stiletto heels that hark back to the Argentine's Fifties days in Buenos Aires, Cuernavaca, and Santiago's Bim Bam Bum theater, the spot where Isabel Allende became a famed cabaret habitué. La Gata came to Miami in the Nineties and returned to performing in 2004 after a decade away from the stage.

La Gata's voice, a claxon of keen enunciation, transfixed her audience with "La Cumparasita" and "Malena" — tango classics — but her mere presence and lively banter drew the most laughter and applause.

Artist, poet, photographer, and filmmaker Veronica Milchorena — bundled in brown alpaca and so close to a small bonfire kindled with two-by-fours in the courtyard's center that tiny charcoal embers lighted on her shoes — said she finds both happiness and melancholy in La Gata's performances. "It gives me a feeling that's like memory, but maybe memories of an exciting life in a way unlike my own," mused the Salvadoran expatriate.

The concert was organized by two of La Gata's many friends: Julienne Gage, who has spent two years making a documentary film about the singer (and is also a New Times contributor), and a tall, statuesque Uruguayan with closely cropped blond hair who calls herself Rita.

Defiantly puffing a Parliament as she described an ongoing battle with cancer, Rita turned to tango talk: "There's nothing else in life but love and music, and when you're listening to tango, you've got them both."


At Least Gorgeous

The Bitch stopped by to visit her old buddy Carmel Ophir, creator of Back Door Bamby, at his newest party, Filthy Gorgeous at Glass, adjacent to the Forge on 41st Street in Miami Beach.

Ophir, dressed as always in an it's-wacky-but-it-works brown leather bomber cap and madly patterned canvas jacket, confidently opined, "What I can tell you is that Filthy Gorgeous is going really well; this is going to turn into the same kind of fresh but long-running party Back Door is."

The Bitch, who met some interesting new people and spotted a few of the usual scenesters grooving to the mostly old-school music at the Friday-night bash, thinks Ophir is probably right. But the hottest-coolest dude on the scene was, as always, Glass door guy Felix.


Remote Recording

Recently trotting by the architectural Death Star that is 1 Herald Plaza, The Bitch did a double take. What was a shiny aluminum Airstream International doing in a forlorn lot across the street? Why was this rolling redoubt of midcentury style sitting in the shadow of the hulking, under-construction performing arts center, surrounded by empty sidewalks and smoke-belching buses on North Bayshore Drive?

As it turns out, it wasn't a new home for strays, but an oddly located recording booth on wheels. StoryCorps, a nonprofit national oral history project, was in town. Sponsored by National Public Radio and affiliated with the Library of Congress, the trailer studio has stopped in dozens of cities since its 2003 inception. The self-service studio is staffed by a security guard who allows people to enter; once inside, friends, family members, lovers, and strangers interview each other about their lives. It's in Miami until February 26.

Usually the Airstream parks in "destination spots" with lots of foot traffic — outside libraries, near parks, in pedestrian malls — said StoryCorps spokeswoman Jo Flattery of New York PR firm Dan Klores Communications. When The Bitch told Flattery that pedestrians are a rare breed in the neighborhood around StoryCorps' current digs, Flattery pleaded ignorance.

Unsatisfied, the persistent hound rang up another StoryCorps rep in Washington. "Um [long pause], you're not the first person to make that point; we've been hearing that a lot from people down there," the rep said, after requesting her name be withheld.

WLRN-FM (91.3), the Herald's on-air news partner and Miami's only NPR station, chose the spot. Rick Lewis, executive director of Friends of WLRN, said he hadn't heard any complaints, but acknowledged the location might not be ideal. "There are other places that are probably more generally public in a way," he said. "Most people at least know where [the Herald building] is."

Potential spots in Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and Hollywood "seemed to be less representative of the city as a whole," Lewis said. Anyway, Lewis pointed out, most of the 40-minute recording slots were booked in advance once StoryCorps spread the word to community groups, schools, and churches: "They're not really dependent on walk-in traffic." (A stop such as this one can accommodate about 150 recording sessions.)

The segments will begin running at 5:45 p.m. Tuesdays through March 7.


Craveable Cuisine

Michy's, genius chef Michelle Bernstein's new restaurant on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 69th Street, was scheduled to open this past October, but those plans were squashed — literally — when Wilma huffed and blew the roof down. Damage was extensive and, as Bernstein laments, "We had to start fresh." Easier said than done during the hectic posthurricane period: "Just getting a glass guy took a month."

Michelle describes Michy's as "a neighborhood place, casual and fun. Very bistro. It's got a late-Sixties design." Before taking some time off to plan and work on Michy's, Bernstein was famous for her MB restaurant in Cancun and for bringing Azul at the Mandarin Oriental to international prominence. Bernstein is aiming for something much more personal now. "It's like I'm inviting you into my living room. We bought chairs at a thrift store and painted them ourselves" — "we" being she and other family members, like husband, sister, and mother, all of whom will be taking part in what may be shaping up as the highest-profile mom-and-pop operation ever launched.

The Bitch wonders aloud: Will the restaurant be dishing up some sort of Hasidic-Hispanic fare? Bernstein laughs. "There'll be some Latin things like rabo encendido (spicy oxtail stew), but you can't call it Jewish-Latin." She refers to it instead as "comfort food," which on any given night may encompass dishes such as chickpea stew and fried olives, or an impeccably au poivre'd steak frites, she says. The acclaimed chef herself will be typing up a new menu each week. A raw bar will be a permanent feature, as will freshly cured meats and fish, and pricing promises to be as friendly as the food: "I'm playing with smaller portions — not expensive. Three dishes will be maybe 30 bucks."

Bernstein now pegs Michy's soft opening date as sometime this week.


Rojas Robot

Canine congratulations to Miami-based 3 Second Rule Productions and director/writer Fro Rojas. The 26-year-old Westchester native and his colleagues beat out 160 other crews in the National Film Challenge, in which competitors are given 48 hours to write, film, and edit a short movie.

The competition was held this past October, and winners were announced in January. 3 Second Rule won Best Film, Best Story/Script, Best of the East, and Best Documentary for the Rojas-penned mockumentary The First Robot.

"I always wanted to do a story about the guy who invented the robot dance and how he's angry because he doesn't get any credit," Rojas says. "That's basically what we did. It was a series of fake interviews with the guy and his one dedicated fan. In the end he tries to come up with another dance, but all his ideas are terrible, like 'the toaster,' where he just jumps up and down, and 'the claw,' where he just moves his hand around, making machine noises."

Rojas moved to Los Angeles in 2001 but returned to Miami to raise his fifteen-year-old sister after their mother succumbed to cancer last year.

"When I left, there weren't many opportunities in Miami, but now it's a whole different deal," Rojas says.

Up next for 3 Second Rule Productions: two Miami-based TV pilots.

The First Robot can be seen online at www.filmchallenge.org.

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