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Glam Rocks

Michele Oka Doner rocks the fashion world, the literary world, and Art Basel
Jonathan Postal

The Bitch is a big fan of the "Look Book" feature in New York magazine; the two-page full-color spreads capturing the personal style statements of sartorially outspoken Manhattanites adorn the walls of her doghouse. So imagine the clothes hound's delight when the November 7 subject was none other than part-time Miamian and all-the-time superstar sculptor Michele Oka Doner, who lives part of the year up north.

Turns out Oka Doner owns a closetful of custom-made gray, black, and white dresses, a few Balenciaga and Hermès coats, and little else in the way of daily wear — high Bitch approval for the simple palette and classic, functional approach.

Oka Doner is best known locally for creating a mile-long bronze-in-terrazzo piece on a concourse floor at Miami International Airport. A Miami Beach native, she was born at the old St. Francis Hospital (now condo Aqua), and her father, Kenneth Oka, was mayor of Miami Beach in the early Sixties.

Doner has a place at 52nd Street and Collins Avenue where she spends occasional long weekends, usually centered on events such as the book fair, Art Basel, and Memorial Day. Her works in stone and brass have nonetheless been fixtures on the New York City gallery and museum scene for more than 30 years. This fall she will unveil a collaboration with Mitchell "Micky" Wolfson Jr. , the rapacious art collector and founder of pioneering museum The Wolfsonian-FIU.

Miami Beach, Blueprint of an Eden, Lives Seen Through the Prism of Family and Place, a memoir she wrote with Beach Brahmin Wolfson, will debut at the Miami Book Fair International this week. The two will speak at 12:30 p.m., Sunday, November 20, at the University of Miami and then will sign books. In addition to regular volumes, there will be 400 limited editions with paper handmade by Oka Doner and "pieces of Miami," such as palm fronds and seashell fragments, inside. The limited editions will sell for $450.

The book portrays life on the Beach between the Twenties and Sixties. Its preface states: "With respect and a great sense of celebration, we share our insights as to what it was like to grow up in an atmosphere that time would render mythical."

The 60-year-old Doner begins each day with a five- to ten-mile walk on the beach. The Bitch recently trotted beside the artist on one of these outings.

How were you selected for New York magazine's "Look Book" section?

I was innocently walking down the street ... and a group of very young, attractive, bright-eyed photographers started making sounds. I don't read New York magazine. I've never heard of it. I wouldn't have done it if I knew it would be a two-page spread. If you're going to have a centerfold, I'd like to at least comb my hair.

What are your plans for Art Basel?

Exhibiting sculpture, including new glass pieces, through the Marlborough Gallery of New York at the Miami Beach Convention Center and also with gallerist Cristina Grajales at Design 05 in the Design District. I'm excited about exhibiting on both sides of the bay and excited about the design emphasis in this year's Art Basel.

After years working with bronze and other media, why did you decide to work in glass?

I work with ideas, and ideas take many forms. I'm not about a medium. I'm about an idea. Art is really about transcendence — to have the viewer be somewhere other than where they start.

In the book's preface, you refer to Miami Beach's past as "mythical." Are those days gone forever?

Certain things can never go. One is the quality of light and the other is this wonderful position we have with respect to the ocean, the bay, and the gulf. The way the light dances on the water is wonderful. People will decide how much this remains an Eden.

Well, thanks for taking me for a walk. I idolize [New York magazine editor] Adam Moss, and I really like your work too.

I like New Times. It's sort of the self-appointed National Public Radio of the media situation.


Littering: It's Come to This

What follows are excerpts from a recent report sent by Miami Beach Police Ofcr. (and hostage negotiation team member) Julian Blanco to James Mazer, code compliance division director of the Beach's Neighborhood Services Department.

"This past weekend, the Police Department made two arrests regarding illegal dumping. A call went out at 880 71st St. in reference to two males dumping illegally. We observed a shopping cart that had been used to dump two large mattresses. Contact was made with the subjects. They were quick to admit that they had dumped the mattresses and that It was not a big deal, yo.'

"Pedro Villarchao was arrested and issued a code violation. Karl Walker was cited for assisting Villarchao in the act of dumping.

"Villarchao asked what the fine was and was told that it was around $100. He laughed, stating that it was cheaper than what it was going to cost him to have the stuff removed ... and on top of that he didn't have to pick it [back] up.'"


Deconstructing Construction

Sometimes The Bitch receives press releases so absurd that printing them verbatim is more effective in demonstrating their utter banality than any commentary she could muster. Perhaps only through this metasarcasm can she forgive the offensive puns, the gratuitous use of intercourse-related vocabulary, and, most of all, the numbskulls who are seduced by such verbal plumage into buying a bidet-adorned unit in a glassy phallus — and thinking themselves clever or important in living there and/or flipping the property to other nimrods.

A good example is a piece of promotional literature emanating from the unbuilt development Jade Ocean. The 51-story Sunny Isles high-rise, whose digitally rendered crown is reminiscent of the rigid double curves of contractured breast implants, promotes what is called "an intelligent home environment," boosted with a "new technology-integrated system" including "personal identity fingerprint access in elevators" and a "technogym."

Perhaps Gattaca wasn't appealing enough to potential buyers — Fortune International Realty needed to add "a new dimension," one that goes "beyond sweeping views from sexy oceanfront towers" to "a designer fragrance to match the lifestyle."

"Buyers at Jade Ocean, Fortune's most highly anticipated property in Sunny Isles Beach" receive "Eau de Jade, Armani's latest demonstration of its fashion 'scents.'" Har har! Get it? "Fashion scents?"

Eau de Jade "bottles the elegance and sophistication of Jade Ocean for residents to experience before their condos are even built." No joke. (Indeed, confirms Natalie Bedoya of Zakarin Public Relations in Coral Gables — part of the condo's PR army — "Truth be told, no buyers have received the gift yet, as they will be getting it when they receive their condo docs, which are going out early next week."

In other words, as The Bitch understands it, after "being gifted an opulent custom package" with the "subtle aromas of Calabrian Bergamot and Bourbon Vanilla," she may be physically in the doghouse and financially in the poorhouse. But spiritually she'll be in the technogym, running to nowhere.


Not Staying on the Porch

The Bitch does not endorse political candidates. She prefers to have them pay for drinks before she eviscerates them in print. But there is one man, a lone candidate who stands out from the hordes like a tarantula on a wedding cake. (Yes, The Bitch reads Raymond Chandler. How else to while away a week sans electricity? And anyway, where else would one find that perfect alchemy of cynicism and righteousness that informs so much of The Bitch's bitching?)

In any case, by the time you read this article, attorney Marc Sarnoff will have won or lost his bid for Coconut Grove Village Council. The Bitch is a firm believer in Sarnoff's agenda, though she knows very little about it. Here's the important thing: The guy not only helped create two dog parks in the Grove, one in Kennedy Park on Bayshore Drive and the other in Sarnoff's (and The Bitch's) own hood on Shipping Drive and Virginia Street, but he also shares his home with four enormous black, tan, and white Bernese mountain dogs. These are massive creatures — the largest, a ten-year-old male named Pistol Pete, is 116 pounds — but they are gentle, dignified, and easygoing. Their serenity is also a tribute to Sarnoff, who decided to feature two of the dogs and his wife Teresa on his campaign posters. "They're my family," he says.


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