Luxury Lounge

Mad swag, flaunting felines, and Burger King as haute cuisine

On a recent episode of The Sopranos, coke-snorting Christopher Moltisanti pestered Sir Ben Kingsley. The beleaguered mobster tried in vain to persuade the knighted actor's character to help him snag some swag from the Chateau Marmont's "Luxury Lounge." Free shopping sprees available only to celebrities are part of perk lore, and the gifting party for musicians at this past week's Billboard Latin Music Awards was old-school.

The party was thrown Wednesday, April 26, the day before the awards show, by Karen Wood of Backstage Creations, who claims to be the inventor of the luxury lounge concept. It was wedged into a windowless green room in a small wing of the labyrinthine Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.

Around 1:00 p.m. Wood handed the dumbstruck Bitch a bowl of water while event manager Janice Rosas sandbagged performers Wyclef Jean, Luis Fonsi, and the members of La 5a Estación with Harley Davidson boots, cases of Fiji water, clothes, and perfume. "This is big," said Rosas, sweeping an arm across a counter display of finely woven cotton Divina T-shirts. "But we also do the Screen Actors Guild ... so we're quite used to having things run smoothly."

The Ritz-Carlton's Billboard Awards bash was a royal scam
The Bitch
The Ritz-Carlton's Billboard Awards bash was a royal scam
Unfortunately the baby tiger did not devour the ugly shoes
Lyssa Oberkreser
Unfortunately the baby tiger did not devour the ugly shoes

If only the same could be said of the rest of the Billboards. The show and its attendant parties and concerts were divided in an odd and inconvenient way, with the award rehearsals and show at the Hard Rock, and the performance showcases — where the really good music happens and industry deals go down — scattered about Miami Beach clubs and hotels.

On Wednesday at the Hard Rock, reggaeton sensations Wisin y Yandel slipped unnoticed through a busload of blue-hairs debarking from Ocala. "We come to Florida all the time, of course," said Wisin, looking askance through a cloud of casino-permitted cigarette smoke at the HR's décor of guitars autographed by Peter Frampton and Korn's Brian Welch. "We mostly only get to Miami, so, uh, we really didn't know this place even existed."

The same day, through the casino, down a maze of hallways, and past a Rovian security cordon on Hard Rock Live's stage, another reggaeton duo, Angel y Khriz, patiently rehearsed take after take of the hit "Vamos Perros" (a song highly approved of by The Bitch). The lighting rigs, a squad of dancers, and taped backing tracks weren't in synch. Standing at the rear of the seating area, a show producer pressed thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose and muttered, "This is so boring. And it's going to go on and on like this."

By 11:00 p.m. the evening before the awards, performers, promoters, managers, and journalists from as far away as Madagascar (Malagasy music's Ian Anderson) had made their way to South Beach. A small audience convened at Hotel Victor for what turned out to be one of few Billboard Awards week highlights, a concert by Venezuelan singer-songwriter Jeremias.

About the same time, the "official" reception was held at the Ritz-Carlton at 1 Lincoln Rd. and proved a total debacle. A door policy so exclusive that almost no one could gain ingress caused La Secta Allstar to perform for an audience of about a dozen who seemed to be mostly band parents. When La Secta vocalist Gustavo Laureano set down a bottle of Heineken on a table reserved for some fast-food executives, a Billboard apparatchik chased him down, handed the bottle back, and uttered the immortal line: "I'm sorry, but you can't leave that beer on the Burger King table."

Bartender Avila Camara shook her head and said, "Oh my God.... This is a mess."

At the awards Thursday night, which was broadcast on Telemundo, Shakira looked, for once, less than a mess, with her hair straightened into a ponytail and makeup applied with something smaller than a trowel. "Wow, thank you," smiled the Colombian enchantress in response to her sweep of six Billboard Awards. "It's been a journey."

Shakira probably wasn't referring to the treks back and forth from Miami-Dade to Broward, but Billboard spokeswoman Lila Gerson was when she concluded, "Splitting up the events was a bit of an obstacle. We'll see what happens next year."

Design for Drinking
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse at 591 NW 27th St. in Miami threw open its doors last Thursday evening in honor of the first anniversary of Ocean Drive magazine offshoot InsideOut. Guests were required to sign releases saying they wouldn't bust up the stuff or hold the Margulies family responsible for damage caused by falling art installations — or by falling down after drinking too many alcoholic beverages. The latter was a distinct possibility, because the event was sponsored and well stocked by Bombay Sapphire gin and Salonga vineyards.

"Would you like a martini with gin?" a Ukrainian bartender prodded The Bitch as she admired a panel of photographs by On Kawara.

Um, don't they always come with gin?

"My name is Alex, but there's no X in it," the bartender rattled on as The Bitch drummed her paw on the bar. "It's spelled with a C and K. It's Alecks. A-L-E-C-K-S."

Mmm hmm, got it.... Are you by any chance making drinx? Or drincks? Can I have one?

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