The Taste of Andalucia food festival began auspiciously enough this past Monday evening. Guests streaming through the foyer of the InterContinental Miami Hotel's ballroom were greeted with bouquets of red carnations handed out by mantilla-clad women. David Maldonaldo, a venenciador from Cadiz, drew small but potent sherry glasses of fino from an oak cask and then poured them with a ceremonial flourish from a long-handle brass ladle.
But the rapacious culture of South Florida quickly subsumed that of the south of Spain. The Bitch, who attended the festival opener only to use the surrealism-referencing headline above, was unsurprised by the feeding frenzy. The 400 or so individuals in attendance made short work of a four-foot wide, hundred-pound platter of paella. Trays overflowing with mounds of olives and queso de Aracena disappeared in moments. Pastor Sequeira, sales manager for Miami-based gourmet foods vendor The Best of Spain, sawed desperately at a rapidly thinning hock of jamón Serrano in an effort to keep up with the ravenous demand, but to no avail.
"They shouldn't have invited so many people if they were going to run out of food," groused Eroli Boran, a caterer from Key Biscayne. About an hour into the 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. event, all the "Taste" parts of this Taste of Andalucia were eradicated, even the riñones al Jerez (sherry-marinated goat kidneys ewwww!).
The lack of food did not discourage excessive wine and sherry consumption; during the precision performance by La Tropa Flamenco, some inebriated guests including an elderly member of the popsarazzi who flung his archaic Nikon SLR into the crowd clambered onto the stage in an insurgent effort to join the dancers.
Preparing to depart, The Bitch noticed many of the red carnations had fallen to the ballroom's crumb-free floor. She collected many paws full of the blossoms and escaped the InterContinental without anyone trying to chow down on them.
Who's the One That Sucks?
Michael Bolton is the type of celebrity who gives almost every average human the sense that he or she is incredibly lucky to have no talent for singing. He proves it is in fact not only bearable to have unremarkable mousy-brown or dishwater-blond hair, but also desirable. And he makes clear that for a longtime life partner or casual date, it is far better to be dull than Desperate.
Since the Eighties, when Bolton began inflicting soft-rock standards such as "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" upon "The Rose"-friendly airwaves of FM radio and VH1, the 52-year-old New Haven native has endured a steady stream of critical and popular invective. This kind of talk was normally reserved only for the very most cloying-and-annoying (Celine Dion, Jerry Lewis) and has been limited not only to his artistic oeuvre but also to his hairstyle (once frizzily mulleted, now Seacrested) and his woman (Nicolette Sheridan).
In an effort to escape the hatin' and blend into naturally occurring mediocrity, Bolton is frequently attracted to the turf of the Spam Allstars and Romero Britto he was spotted this past May lurking about the Setai in Miami Beach between stops at SunFest in West Palm Beach and rehearsing for a June 24 concert at Cable Beach in the Bahamas. Bolton has also launched an assault on the classics in a new album, Bolton Swings Sinatra.
Yet the singer is known to millions who have never heard him belt out even a note as the ridiculed object of an indie film construct, much the way Flock of Seagulls is recognized for Samuel L. Jackson's sneering reference in Pulp Fiction.
It was in reverence to this spirit that, electronically wedging herself into a recent teleconference interview of Bolton, The Bitch was able to salvo just one question, which, judging by the length, complexity, and passion of the answer, hit its mark:
Mr. Bolton, how do you feel about being known to millions of people who have never heard your music as a "no-talent ass-clown" as a result of the film Office Space?
"Office Space is funny. I've autographed a lot of those DVDs. But seriously.... First of all, what do you do when someone knocks you when you've been nominated for Grammys Best Male Vocal four times? When you're looked at with respect in the industry? When you write with Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker, Kanye West? The answer is you kind of don't have to be insecure about ever being a no-talent anything. You are light years beyond that possibility. But I admit that sometimes I am a clown.
"One of the things that comes with mainstream success is that people are going to love what you do. But there are also a lot of people who take shots at what you do, people who just don't get what it is you do. Here you've written with Dylan. You've written rock and roll, country, and rap. You've sung with Ray Charles, Pavarotti.... You kind of have to be so grateful about the long list of victories and for the mountains you've climbed that you have to look down from.
"Before you get famous, you don't take heat from anybody. Your rent checks are bouncing; you're a starving artist in a blues band. When I started recording pop ballads, I learned to take the knocks.
"This happens in every great career. They use you to set up a joke in a film. But did I mention that I recorded with Ray Charles and wrote with Bob Dylan? Seriously I'm pretty cool."
No More Flyin' Solo
Every weekend, The Bitch sets aside eleven or twelve hours to sift through the e-mails caught in her spam filter in the hope of finding something enticing, like, say, a Website through which one could purchase pharmaceutical products. Hasn't happened yet. However, the pauper pup may have tapped into an inexhaustible well of financial gain and joie de vivre thanks to Miami-based motivational speaker Bert Oliva.
His May 15 e-mail was in newsletter form, headlined with this blast of knowledge: "Live Life, Don't Let Life Live You! Bert Oliva." Too true! There was no choice but to look further into the self-proclaimed "most empowering newsletter in the world." It didn't take long to find more inspiration. Oliva's empowering letter to subscribers begins, "Dear Friends: Today I was working out at the gym; while I was on the treadmill, I was so empowered that I felt I was dreaming."
What followed was a missive so self-affirming, so goal-setting, so dream-achieving that The Bitch plunged into bertoliva.com in search of Stele of Hammurabi-size enlightenment. The 37-year-old Oliva came to the United States from Cuba at age eleven and was raised in Miami and New Orleans. He claims to have climbed out of the swampland ghetto by "reading as many motivational and self-help books [he] could get [his] hands on."
Today, judging by the photos of him looking extra-empowered in a nice suit, fashionable five-o'clock shadow, and John Rzeznik hair, Bert's many gigs have paid off: He speaks to all kinds of business groups and drives around in an RV with his picture on the side.
Website testimonials include the following from Oscar Peña, a commercial manager at Petrolera Ameriven: "You have that inexhaustible strength and that constant generation of ideas, good ideas, like if you had an infinite flow of knowledge!"
Indeed some of Oliva's infinite knowledge is available for free on his Website. For instance, "Fold your business card in half to win the raffles." (You have to book him for a speaking gig if you want the full thrust of his intellect). And for a measly $9.99, you can purchase Bert Oliva wealth incense. ("Burn in your wealth corner. For best results, use for 30 consecutive days.")
A conversation this past week with Oliva revealed a bottomless well of motivation. The Bitch offers the following sample quotes for perusal by those who, like the narcoleptic hound, suffer from enthusiasm-deficit disorder:
Oliva on zeal: "You should be passionate at all times. I'm passionate when I mow the lawn."
On history: "The past does not equal the future."
On life: "If you do what you did, you'll get what you got."
The Bitch uttered a caninism ("um, okay") and bid Oliva a nice Sabbath, or something, to which the empowerment guru responded in a conspiratorial whisper: "We don't have weekends; we only have strong ends."
A salon called "Stephan, Hairdresser from France" opened this past week on Rice Street and Oak Avenue in Coconut Grove. Incredibly it is owned by a guy named Stephan, who is a hairdresser from France. Stephan celebrated the business's debut on a rainy June 1 evening with a small, typically French party, which is to say there was very good cheese, bread, and wine, and the hosts Stephan, some salon staff, and their intimates weren't particularly interested in the social comfort of arriving guests.
Having satisfied herself that the salon possessed the necessary equipment for canine cuts shampoo, scissors, mirrors, and flea dip The Bitch concealed her Francophone abilities and curled up on a sofa in the corner, quickly becoming enchanted with the largely ignored "live music" performed by an endearingly hardworking pair who call their act IQ Duet.
Adrián Pizzichini played a subdued Stratocaster while Dafne provided everything else vocals, dancing, cueing prerecorded rhythm and keyboard tracks, and a determined, Piaf-like presence.
Rocking a red kimono and white patent-leather boots with five-inch stiletto heels, Dafne gamely worked her way through covers of Macy Gray's "I Try" and "I'm Like a Bird" from Nelly Furtado's pre-ho-storic days. Then the diminutive Italian cut loose with a searing rendition of Jacques Brel's 1953 classic "La Foire."
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Between sets Dafne shared some of her aspirations. "Well, I just came back from [Orlando]. We auditioned for an American Idol-type show there, and we are waiting to see what happens with that," the singer enthused, extracting a demo CD from her fakebook, which she thrust into The Bitch's paws.
It's kind of difficult to launch a music career in Miami, isn't it? This isn't a very ... receptive ... audience.
"Oh, this gig is okay," Dafne shrugged. "Adrián and I just get into our own groove and enjoy ourselves and hope others do as well."
As The Bitch turned to head back out into the wet dusk, Dafne invited her to check out IQ Duet's Web page at myspace.com/iqduet, and revealed a sporting sense of professionalism, calling out in farewell: "My people will be in touch with your people, okay?"