A leggy blond in a curve-hugging pink dress stretches out on a leopard-print couch, her eyes shut and her face relaxed she's oblivious to the very public arena of Tantra (1445 Pennsylvania Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-4765). Her suit-clad suitor obediently kneads her bare feet, sliding his fingers up and down her ankles and calves. To the couple's left and right, people are nestled in cozy wooden booths and tables, ingesting delectables such as mint-and-mango Moroccan spiced lamb.
In another room, Jenna Jameson, dressed in a sleek black belly-baring top, her long platinum-blond hair hanging in a flattering frame about her tan face and kohl-lined eyes, sits in a booth that's invisible from the main entrance and dance floor. Her entourage of four beefcakes sandwiches her.
Barbie-doll look-alike Desiree, wo-manning the bar about ten feet away from Jameson's table, says she has never before seen the world-famous porn star at Tantra. But she met her once in Phoenix. "When they're out and about, they don't like to be bothered," she says.
1445 Pennsylvania Ave., Miami Beach, 305-672-4765
There aren't a lot of them in Arizona, Desiree's home state. She came to Miami about a year ago for a change of scene and has been at Tantra for eight months. Perhaps because of her blue eyes, mannequinlike physique, and perfect, Chiclet-toothed smile, she's well liked in this den of decadence and sensuality.
One patron is a particularly big fan of Desiree's. Michael, a fortysomething from Hollywood, has planted himself directly across from the 26-year-old blond at the bar, and orders appetizer after appetizer to keep her attention.
"This girl is the best," he slurs. "She's so genuine!"
When asked if perhaps he's had too much to drink, Michael says, his jovial face taking a turn for the serious, "I always talk like this. I swear! You think I sound drunk, huh?"
Just a little.
"I'm sober as a stone. But ever since the accident ..."
He explains he has trekked across the country on his motorcycle countless times, and on one unfortunate occasion, he took a spill that left him comatose for a few weeks. In the middle of his story, he suddenly quiets down and stares into his jumbo shrimp cocktail.
"What is it?" I ask.
"I'm just thinking about my girlfriend," he says. "I love her so much."
"Why isn't she here?"
"I needed to come out on my own and think."
"She's pregnant," he says. "I've already got a family. I haven 't even finalized the divorce yet."
Out on the main floor, fusion drummer Javier Sainsbury is pounding out an Afro-Latin rhythm to accompany the eclectic mix that DJ Louis Dee is spinning. The crowd looks like one smiling mass of sweating, gyrating, amped-up party monsters. On the north wall of the club, a subtle waterfall flows into a bed of lilylike flora.
Javier times his percussion outbursts carefully, letting the crowd get absorbed in DJ Louis's computerized mix of house, trance, and experimental music before throwing in a deafening, overpowering surge of drum blasts. Up front, a spiky-haired hipster in a black suit jacket that can't possibly be comfortable in the sticky air of the now-thriving dance floor bounces opposite his petite brunet cohort. When Javier's drumstick makes contact with the drum set, however, his face contorts into an expression of what can only be called glee; he pumps his arms back and forth, lurches toward his partner's face, jumps away, flips up his collar, and performs a shoddy rendition of the moonwalk.
The rhythm has a primal appeal. Indeed Javier, a handsome and flirtatious Venezuelan, claims that on a recent Monday night, actress Tara Reid, appearing quite drunk and euphoric, made a grab for his drumsticks. "I didn't know who she was! I'd heard of her but never seen her before. She was with these two muscular six-foot-seven guys, but I thought the one was her crazy boyfriend or something."
The musician contends he overrode his fear of the brutes and maintained possession of the sticks until he found out who she was. "A manager came up to me and said, 'What did she want? You know that's Tara Reid! If she asks again, you better let her play the drums!' She did, and I gave her the sticks."
That's star power for you.
Desiree is busy as hell, pouring cocktails for dozens of patrons, including Lisa, a doctor from northern Florida; and Michael, a television producer from L.A. Lisa tells me she and Michael met when his cousin married her sister, and so, she says, "Technically we're related by marriage."
Lisa and Michael say they hit it off well, talked on the phone a lot, and eventually decided to take a little vacation to Miami together, but so far it's totally platonic.
"I'm trying to figure out if he's gay," Lisa says in a stage whisper, tossing her long blond locks.
Responds Michael, an oval-faced 40-year-old with thinning curly brown hair, wearing a standard button-down shirt: "She's the coolest human being I've ever met in the world. She must know I like her. I hope things get romantic on this trip."
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Soon an exotic beauty in black hot pants and a belly-baring half-top is dancing on the bar to my immediate right. Her smile is intense, reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell, as she flails her legs and arms while miraculously maintaining a sort of grace. "Yes, occasionally they knock over a drink or two," Desiree says, referring to the club's paid dancers.
I pull my vodka-and-soda a little closer.
Tantra's "mantra," according to the club's Website, is as follows: "Why Tantra? Because ... Tantra teaches that the senses can be harnessed and used as a liberating energy, that they can be used as tools to help attain transcendental wisdom and enlightenment in this materialistic era, and that can be used to shortcut the process of spiritual evolution."
Tara Reid, Jenna Jameson, relationship angst, and a sprig of middle-age romance. Spiritual evolution indeed.