Steve Satterwhite

How Sweet It Was

The first hint the ladies at the Lido Spa pick up on is the men coming to measure. Strangers, in a place where everybody knows everybody, taking tape measures to everything: the lobby; the swimming pool; the walkway along Biscayne Bay; the individual guest rooms reserved for each lady who comes here to escape the cold weather up north for a few weeks, a few months, or even the whole winter, year after year ...

Such a lovely place. Such prime real estate. Who can blame Mr. Edelstein if he should sell the property after 39 years? The ladies agree: Everything has its price.

But when Terry Ross asks Chuck Edelstein about the measuring, he shrugs thin shoulders beneath his sport coat. Gangly and good-looking at 67 years old, Chuck can put on a stammering Jimmy Stewart charm when he wants to. He can play dumb.

"Measuring?" he asks. "Where?"

"You're full of shit," Terry says.

Seventy-eight and six feet tall in her size 11 1/2 heels, Terry Ross can stand up to her boss. A World War II Navy nurse and a postwar Borscht Belt vet who's played every hotel from the Catskill Mountains to Miami Beach, she's earned the right to speak her mind. As the social director at the Lido Spa for the past 35 years, she knows Chuck's shtick.

So when an article comes out in the Miami Herald on November 22, 2002, suggesting that the Lido may already be under contract to be sold to Andre Balazs, the fellow who recently bought the Raleigh Hotel on Collins Avenue for $25.5 million, Ross confronts Edelstein again.

The boss insists: "I didn't commit to anything with that man."

Meanwhile the ladies are in an uproar. They surround tour operator and fitness instructor Gerda Rosner after chair aerobics class. The ladies demand to know: "Where are you taking us next year?"

After 30 years of building up business for the Lido Spa, where else could Gerda bring her more than 100 elderly but active ladies for the winter? The Palm Aire in Pompano Beach is too pricey; Canyon Ranch in Tucson and the Berkshires is for a younger set. "I can't think of any place with the same price," Gerda admits of the packages she offers for $73 to $99 a night, double occupancy, meals, exercise, entertainment, and daily massage included. "Here they have what they need at their age."

Betty Grynwald, one of Gerda's ladies who has been coming every winter from Montreal for the past eleven years and has every intention of coming for a twelfth, offers Mr. Edelstein an ultimatum. "I hope next year I have a place to come to," she smiles, batting thickly coated lashes. "Otherwise I'm going to come live with you."

"Oh, my God," Edelstein groans. "You and my wife?"

Typical Chuck, but not exactly reassuring. So last week, when a letter finally went out to the Lido's employees, confirming that the hotel is under contract for sale, no one was exactly surprised. Who can blame Chuck for wanting to retire? But that doesn't make anyone feel any better. The Lido is the last gasp of the old Jewish retirement hotels that once thrived on Miami Beach; when the Edelstein family pulls out of the hotel on June 1, there will be no place like it for the elters to go. "It's like when someone in your family is very sick and you know they're going to die," says Terry Ross. "When they actually pass away you're so bereft you can't even lift your head up."

Yet the Lido Spa Hotel itself will live on, carefully restored as a chic boutique spa under the ownership of celebrity hotelier Andre Balazs. He's the one who revived the Chateau Marmont, old Hollywood haunt of Humphrey Bogart, Rita Hayworth, and Greta Garbo. With an ironic wink, he transformed the Fifties world headquarters of Standard Oil in downtown L.A. into one of his style-on-a-budget Standard hotels. A spokesperson for Balazs's company Hotels AB confirms that the Lido will be another Balazs restoration. The 106-room property will retain its original Sixties façade and original function as a spa.

But for the past 39 years, the Lido has been more than that. For hundreds of lovely Jewish ladies of a certain age and the faithful staff who serve them, the Lido has been not a hotel, but a second home. A family.

Way back when

When Balazs gives a chin tuck to the Lido's aging façade the triumph of youth -- or at least its pursuit -- will be complete on South Beach: Botox, Viagra, and breast implants über alles ... The Morris Lapidus design will be marvelous again, reviving the Miami Modern or MiMo style made famous by the architect's bigger hotels along Collins Avenue -- the Deauville, the Eden Roc, and the Fontainebleau. Savvy students of design will dig the gold columns lit up against that crazy pink backdrop at night and love the neon glow that spells out L-i-d-o S-p-a H-o-t-e-l. Hummers and Escalades will idle on the semi-circular drive where the old Lido vans used to load up the ladies for sightseeing tours. Models and club kids will meet beneath the sea-green-and-blue mosaic carport where long-time guest Millie Schiller used to sit, still smoking after nearly 92 years.

Gone will be the salt-free, sugar-free meals ordered one day ahead with stubby pencils set on long communal tables and deposited by familiar waiters at each lady's assigned seat. In their place will be the whimsical inventions of a young star chef, more than likely recruited from one of those resto-lounges on Lincoln Road. Gone will be the bridge games, nature walks, cash-n-carry bingo -- all replaced by video installations, performance art, and cocktail lounges.

No more will Terry Ross sing Broadway hits or Hebrew blessings in the third-floor auditorium, her soaring soprano suddenly swerving into a sing-song rasp. No more will Hy Siegel's Orchestra play big band standards on Saturday nights while hired host dancers invite ladies with walkers out on the floor. Instead there will be DJs spinning in the lobby and maybe even a series of CDs capturing the spa's new youthful vibe. Out with Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra; in with Ursula 1000 and Groove Armada. Out with the old, in with retro.

Over the course of the past decade, Balazs has redefined the overnight stay by catering to hip young travelers with a strong sense of style. Over the course of four decades, Mr. Edelstein has refined the nostalgic seasonal stay by catering to elderly ladies with intense demands for service ("Fifty goyish women in rooms, no problem; fifty Jews, everybody wants a room change!" he jokes). But so well does Edelstein satisfy his guests that the Lido's season has grown steadily longer, from six months in the early years to an almost completely sold-out seven-and-a-half months this year.

When the Edelstein family bought the 2.5-acre property tucked away on Belle Isle at the eastern end of the Venetian Causeway in 1963, the Lido had already gone bankrupt twice in the two years since opening. "It is very easy not to run a business well," observes Edelstein. "You have to be dedicated and passionate about what you do."

Although he has about 80 employees, Edelstein's hand is in everything. The Lido does not have what is known as a food and beverage manager; the owner himself is out every day to buy exactly the provisions the kitchen needs to fill its orders checked off by guests one day ahead. And when he sits in his office overseeing operational details, he's not above answering phones, checking in guests, even lugging bags to rooms.

Chuck thinks his older brother Bernie, who runs the family's other hotel, a Best Western up in Surfside, has it easy. If guests drop in for a week, and something goes wrong, you're not necessarily going to hear about it. But when guests come for months, they make their gripes known.

"A spa business is very service-oriented," Edelstein points out. "You're dealing with women who are very demanding." Without dropping the serious tone, he can't resist a joke at the expense of the mysterious creatures he serves. "You have a woman and you're not feeding her," he says, as if this is the source of all his woes. "She's on a diet!"

The ladies at the Lido may have asked for a lot over the years, but they never asked for luxury. Although meticulously clean, the rooms offer fewer amenities than you might expect. There is a television, a queen-size bed, and an extra-large walk-in closet. There are freshly washed towels and turned-down sheets, but no hair dryer, no little soaps, no tiny bottles of shampoo. There is no décor to speak of, either; but step outside and there is a breeze wafting in from the bay, sun shimmering on the water, the smell of the sea.

And there is Chuck Edelstein, seeing to it that the staff gives each guest what she needs. "I think it's very interesting I've had help for so long," says Edelstein. Many employees have worked at his hotel for ten, twenty, even thirty years despite what he calls "average pay" and the "uncertainty" of seasonal work. To say nothing of the owner's personality. "It's my way or the highway," he boasts.

Driver Gary Alimo has been at the Lido for ten years too, even though his favorite phrase is "I can't take it anymore!" He takes the ladies sightseeing, shopping, to doctor's appointments, and the drugstore. No one needs to tell Gary twice what has to be picked up from Walgreens. If he's going out to get face cream for this one, he'll remember that he got adult diapers last week for that one, so she could probably use another pack by now. And not only does he know who needs diapers, but who likes her diapers with those little tabs at the crotch called "wings."

Likewise, after twenty years in the dining room, no one has to tell Ernie Fernandez what a woman wants, either. Even when a first-time visitor, like me, quietly picks the olives from her salad at lunch and builds a discreet pile on the saucer beneath her coffee cup, Ernie notices. She will never, from that meal forward, find another olive among her greens.

And Ernie knows better than to clear the plate of Mrs. Juci (pronounced Yoot-see) Horsky of Montreal, a winter resident at the Lido for 21 years. Instead he indulges her by helping wrap leftover food, even though the hotel rate includes three meals and a late-night snack every day. Mrs. Horsky packs dinner rolls and grapefruit and the remains of a chicken hamburger in the basket seat attached to her deluxe walker, careful, always careful not to stain the white envelope she keeps there; it's stuffed with black-and-white photographs taken in Budapest in the late 1930s.

Everyone on staff has seen Mrs. Horsky's pictures. Here is her only son, a toddler on a tricycle. "You will never meet him," she says. "He was killed by the Nazis." Here is her first husband, who lived with her for only fifteen months. "They killed him right away." Here is her uncle, aunt, and niece. "All killed in Auschwitz." And here is Juci in happier days, a salesgirl in a jewelry store. Here is Juci's second husband, dead after fifteen years of marriage. "He brought me to Canada." And then number three, who lived with her for 30 years.

"I have lost three beautiful husbands."

For Mrs. Horsky, who has no living relatives, the Lido Spa is the only family she has left. At 84, she doesn't get around as well as she used to; for the past nine and a half years, shower room attendant Elizabeth Montes has bathed her every morning before her massage. "For me it's not really a job, it's fun," Elizabeth smiles. "With Mrs. Horsky, we even have a joke. Every day she says, 'Are you going to wash my boobies now?'"

More recently

Terry Ross is broiges. She's pissed. Usually the February in-house talent show is one of the biggest nights of the season, but not this year. Some of the regular singers among the guests have passed away. Well, you can't blame them for that. But others who are alive and in relatively good health just don't want to do it this year. Terry already knows what she will say when she scolds the audience: Maybe you're all just getting too old.

That's what she's taken to saying these days whenever any of the guests threatens to spoil the fun. Like Nettie looking down her nose at a joke Terry told in the water aerobics class last Wednesday. What was it? Oh. Why is a man so much smarter when he's having sex? Because he's plugged into a genius. "Whatsa matter? Are you so old you can't laugh at a joke?"

As the social director, you gotta be tough, especially with this crowd. "If you don't let them know who's the boss," she says, "you lose control completely."

In Yiddish, Terry Ross is a tumler, a scrappy entertainer hired once upon a time by the hotels in the Catskill Mountains to teach guests how to have fun. From the end of WWII through the 1970s, the New York State vacationland once known as the Jewish Alps filled up with hardworking immigrants, eager to stay Jewish while becoming American. "Leisure vacations were something that only the wealthy took in Europe," says Vassar historian Donna Dash Moore, currently visiting faculty at Florida International University. "Taking a vacation was considered very American."

The Catskills summers ran into Miami Beach winters. Hotel owners, guests, and the migrant workers known as mountain rats packed up and moved along with the season, carrying with them what Brown University sociologist and former mountain rat Phil Brown calls Catskills culture. Because the immigrants didn't know exactly what they were supposed to do on vacation, the hotels employed tumlers to teach card games, give dance lessons, take guests on nature hikes. At night they put on variety shows.

Catskills culture not only made Jews more American; the nightly shows actually changed the face of popular American entertainment. Known as the Borscht Belt, the hotel circuit gave a start to some of the most influential performers of the Twentieth Century: Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Eddie Fisher, Shelley Winters, Jerry Lewis, Buddy Hackett, Henny Youngman, Jackie Mason, and Joan Rivers.

As the first social hostess at the Lido Spa, the Edelsteins hired Bea Kalmus, a singer and popular New York radio personality. A star's life can get crazy, though, so after a few years the hotel and the diva parted ways. Sometime around 1967, Terry Ross heard through the grapevine that the spa was looking for a replacement.

But by the late 1960s business on the Beach was failing. Terry needed a winter job. So she marched into Mr. Edelstein's office and recited her résumé. "I don't just stand there onstage" -- like Bea Kalmus, she meant -- "I teach handicrafts. I do nature walks. I sing. I'm an entertainment director."

Terry Ross was hired as a tumler and she's kept everybody at the Lido Spa busy for the 35 years since, even as the old Jewish hotels in the Catskills and on Miami Beach shut down or sold out. For practically every hotel that went under in South Florida, a condo colony went up. The old Catskill comics and sing-ers (say it with a hard 'g') found work on the condo circuit, hired for a gig here and there by this or that social committee. But the days of the tumler are over. Alav ha-shalom, Terry says whenever she mentions the name of one of the dearly departed colleagues, rest in peace.

"We're a lost race," she says. "I'm a survivor."

That's why everybody feels so bad about disappointing Terry with the talent show this year. That new girl from New York, Mimi Goldfinger -- bless her heart, she can hardly stay on her own two feet -- has volunteered to tell a few jokes. And Norma Pearl from Montreal, with her sweet apple doll face, has offered to sing "Shine On, Harvest Moon," if nobody minds that her voice is a bit shaky these days. That's a start.

At least some of the bridge players are feeling guilty enough to come to the show. Usually Terry has to spook them away from the card tables, sneak up from behind and shout, "Showtime!" But tonight a few of them are already filing into the rows of banquet chairs by the back door. While the band is still setting up, Mrs. Horsky, as she always does, wheels her walker/chair to the empty space reserved for her in the center of the front row.

There's enough time for Terry to scare up a few more acts while the Hy Siegel Orchestra plays and the boyes invite the ladies to dance. That was another problem this year. As happened with the singers, Terry lost most of her regular boyes over the summer. Alav ha-shalom. She put an ad in the paper looking for gentleman dancers at $15 a night but nobody wanted the job. Finally she had to rely on her remaining host dancer Frank Fitzgerald, a boy singer at Irish pubs in Philly in the 1940s, to bring in new blood. Frank found 78-year-old Tommy, who looks smart in a navy sport coat with gold buttons, and Simon, a bassett-faced 85-year-old who fought with the Red Army in Manchuria. Then there is David, whose wide-open eyes at 88 can look a little lost, but still he has a way with the fox trot. If anyone complains about the boyes, Terry snorts, "So what if they're not gorgeous. You're gorgeous?" Besides, she knows her boyes have made a lot of her goils very happy.

The auditorium is a shimmering tropical wonderland. Every year on New Year's Eve, as the regular guests begin to arrive, Terry brings down her kids or, lately, her grandkids to help decorate for the rest of the season. The theme this year is MIAMI BEACH. Teal and purple streamers caress swaying cutout palm trees. Yellow-orange-green cardboard fish dart among paper flower garlands and enormous silver stars hanging from the ceiling. Strings of glowing pink flamingo lights festoon the grand piano. Stretching from ceiling to floor behind the bandstand shine the numbers 2003.

Dressed in a crisp dark suit and red tie, Hy Siegel hunches over the microphone like Beaky Buzzard in the old Warner Brothers cartoons. Boy, oh boy, can Hy blow that sax, but his singing voice ain't so steady. Kicking off the next number he shouts, "How do you feel about a cha-cha- chaaaaaa!?!"

To the sensuous strains of the Dean Martin hit "Sway," Frank takes the hand of Mimi Goldfinger, the joke-telling New Yorker in a stylish short-sleeved melon sweater, oversized silver earrings, and close-cropped blond hair.

"That frail one," whispers one of the bridge players in the back. "She nearly fell in aerobics today. Doesn't know when to take a rest."

Simon partners up with another New Yorker, the mousy-haired Gladys Kozinn, who gets a charge out of introducing herself with: "My name means happy bottom! Glad-ass!"

Oh, but Gladys's dancing is a scandal. Quarrelsome and vulgar ("Screw you!" is her favorite challenge, followed by the devastating, "You're too fat for anyone to screw!"), Gladys is already the pariah of the Lido Spa; crazy, everyone says, meshuggeneh. But to see the Happy Bottom wiggling away while her poor husband is laid up after a fall at the spa earlier in the week is too much.

"Just look at Gladys," a second bridge player sneers. "Having the time of her life and her husband sick sick sick in the hospital."

At that moment in walks one of the few fellows at the Lido who can qualify as this season's Ladies' Man, a jovial silver-haired golfer escorted by his paramour du jour, an owl-eyed matron with a blond chin-length bob.

"He comes here with one woman and not a day after she leaves takes up with this one," whispers bridge player number three.

"I can't stand to look at him," gasps number one.

As the dance floor fills for "Bye Bye Blackbird," Hy yells, Oh, you're having too much fun! We've got to put a stop to that!

When time comes to start the show, Terry is so upset about the paltry lineup she skips her usual intro. "Don't get too comfortable," she says. "You'll be out of here in ten minutes."

Yet the show does go on, and at some length. Tour operator Gerda Rosner is a good sport, opening with an inspirational reading. "No chair aerobics now," Rosner warns an audience more accustomed to seeing her in the gym than onstage.

At 81 years old, Gerda is a fitness celebrity. A few times a week, at spas across North America and Europe, her classes fill at least 50 chairs with men and women who are most comfortable exercising sitting down. For $25 you can take home a video recorded at the Canyon Ranch that shows her doing exactly the same exercises you'll see in class: lifting and twisting with the long baton; pulling and pushing elastic bands; stretching not-so-elastic muscles.

Three mornings a week during the Lido season, competition for chairs gets fierce. Gladys fires off "Screw you!" Her foes fire back: "You give aspirin a headache!"

In the back of the gym, the Ladies' Man and his owl-eyed lover duel with their batons.

Always right up front, ready to pass out elastic bands or switch the background music, is David Nencel, Gerda's husband of twelve years. A retired jeweler born in Poland, Mr. Nencel survived Auschwitz and at 87 is so hale and hearty he may well outsmart old age itself. Fed up with dating after thirteen years of widowerhood, David declared he "did not want to know from women" and fled New York for Czechoslovakia on one of Gerda's Jewish history tours. He fell in love with the German-born tour operator and has been arranging the music for her chair aerobics classes ever since.

This is not the tale Gerda tells at the talent show. Instead she reads the published memoir of a widow who finds a new husband on a cruise ship. "This is not my story," she clarifies, "but it could be." More important, she wants the single people in the audience to know that someday it could be your story too.

"Never ever give up," she says to the singles.

Bridge player number one harrumphs, "Easy for her to say."

In an exaggerated falsetto, Terry calls from offstage: "You mean there's still hope for moi?"

Owl Eyes leans a little closer to Ladies' Man.

Meanwhile Mimi Goldfinger, waiting her turn to tell her jokes, drifts off to sleep in her chair and scatters her note cards across the floor.

The biggest hit of the show is the comedy team of newlyweds Morris and Louise Cohen.

"Look, I'm a man of few words," says Morris, setting up a gag with Louise. "Do you or don't you?"

Louise gives Morris the once-over.

"I don't, but you talked me into it."

Bridge player number one rolls her eyes: "They're very sexy, these two."

"Yuck," says number three.

At the end of the act Morris, his thin hair standing in tufts all over his head, stumbles over his George Burns finish. "Good- good- night," he falters, then recovers with, "Say 'Goodnight,' Gracie."

"Goodnight, Gracie," Louise smiles.

But the act does not end there.

"This is not in the script and even my darling doesn't know what I'm going to say," Morris stammers, tugging at the bottom of his navy blazer. "Three years ago we were here and I proposed to my darling on Valentine's Day. I had a little ring. I thought it was very simple. If she says yes, I'll give her the ring. If she says no, I'll return the ring. But she said maybe. So I gave her the ring anyway."

Now, Morris wants everyone at the spa to hear him tell his wife he loves her again.

Even the bridge players are won over.

"Never give up," they nod. "Never give up."

Still, it's in the air. These are clearly the last days of the Lido.

Only yesterday

For example: Every year Terry celebrates her birthday at the gala Celebrity Night show. But this year she somehow feels her 78th birthday will also be a goodbye party. Even though she has three closets at home in North Miami stuffed with costumes, Terry goes dress shopping. She splurges on a long lavender gown with a broad flower brocade and lace at the cuffs, telling herself: This will probably be your last gown gal, make it a good one.

Up since New Year's, her Miami Beach decorations shimmer beneath the air conditioning vent like Biscayne Bay at sundown. Her old pianist and dear friend Laura Fisher will join the band, feeling better tonight and looking lovely as ever after a long illness. Everything is as it has always been. Except that behind the bandstand, the big 2 of 2003 has fallen over and is leaning against the 0.

Many, many of her old friends drop in to wish her well after tonight's headliner takes a bow (a big hit from the cruise ships: the very talented violinist and "little Japanese lady" Julie Okah). The best acts who have played the Lido over the years will return, performing for nothing but their love for Terry and whatever liquor and snacks Chuck supplies for the green room. Chuck doesn't come to Celebrity Night anymore. He doesn't come to any of the nightly shows nowadays, except for New Year's Eve. But his big brother Bernie always shows up to give a little speech in Terry's honor.

"Terry's been with us 35 years now," begins the elder Edelstein. "We've grown up together, raised children together. She's family."

Terry picks up where Bernie leaves off: "People always say to me, How can you stay in a job for 35 years? Well, this is not a job. This is my house. I sleep in North Miami and I visit my kids in the summer, but these are my friends and this is my house."

Just when Terry starts to get sentimental, she sees a guest shifting in her seat. "Don't prepare to go anywhere," Terry warns the audience. "I'll be standing in the hall with a stick."

She cajoles the bridge players in the back to move up to the front.

"I'd like you to sit up here so the performers can see your faces," she tells the crowd. "People ask how do you do it? and I say, you have to see my audience. I want you to know that this ... has been ... my calling."

Suddenly the whole lavender hulk that is Terry begins shaking. Her big brassy bass breaks up. She gulps, "It isn't easy."

The audience lets out a collective "Aaaaah."

"It's a bigger comfort for me to walk into a room like this than to walk into the front room of my house," Terry says, wiping her eyes and straightening up on her stool. "Even though I have lots of photographs on my wall, pictures can't take the place of flesh-and-blood people. You are the Lido Spa."

The last waltz

"The party's over!" yells Tommy to the rest of the boyes. "No more dancing," mutters sad-faced Simon. It's a few weeks later and the first show since the bad news broke about selling the Lido. The atmosphere is funereal.

The musicians are arguing on the bandstand as they wait until it's time to play.

"Are you telling me that Mr. Edelstein has a health problem?" Hy Siegel challenges his drummer, Danny Perez.

"No," says the drummer defensively, "I'm saying that Terry says Mr. Edelstein says he got tired."

"He got a good price is what he got," speculates Hy.

They're both right.

Chuck Edelstein looks much younger than he is, but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel the years wearing him down. "You don't have the same energy once you hit 63 or 64," he warns me, trying to explain why he let the Lido go. "Before I could work 'til nine o'clock and then take my wife out dancing. Not anymore."

So when Hotels AB comes along promising to maintain the property and offering him millions of dollars (neither party will disclose the amount, but a former real estate developer estimates the figure at "around $12 million," based on the $25.5 million Balazs spent for the better-located Raleigh Hotel on Collins), Edelstein says, "Why not now?"

By the time the letter went out on March 13, notifying staff of the sale, most of the snowbird regulars had already flown back to the north, hoping against hope they'd be back another year. Now the spa is packed with the South Florida condo dwellers on three- and five-day packages, who will be the Lido's "business" for the rest of the season. The staff can't afford to get weepy.

But the few remaining regulars are heartbroken. Mrs. Betty Grynwald and Mrs. Juci Horsky sit miserable by the front door on March 15, waiting for a ride to the airport at the end of what they now know is their last season at Lido. Juci is wearing two beaded necklaces she made in handicrafts; she will never make such a necklace again. In mourning, Betty wears a long black dress and long black jacket down to her ankles. An elaborate black bow pulls back her hair.

"They're going to cater to the young, not to us," Betty says stone-faced. "There is nothing, nothing that will ever replace the Lido Spa."

When she sees Mr. Edelstein come out of his office, Betty throws her ample arms around his skinny waist, trapping him in a hug. "I'm not going to let you go," she shrieks. "You're not selling this place."

"Let me go," Edelstein urges, wriggling free. "There are people stuck in the elevator!"

Mrs. Horsky says goodbye to Ernie Fernandez at breakfast, flagging him down as he dashes through the dining room to the condo dweller chorus of "Ernie! Ernie!"

"Ernie, I'll kill you," she yells as he passes her by again.

Finally he has a chance for a quick peck on the cheek. Asked what he will miss about the Lido Spa, a frazzled Ernie replies, "Having a job."

Mrs. Horsky shares a sweeter sorrow with Elizabeth Montes, who comes down from the shower room to say goodbye.

"Don't cry today," Elizabeth begs her, through her own tears.

Mrs. Horsky sobs, "Who will wash my boobies?"

Gerda Rosner and her husband rush through the lobby after chair aerobics class. As soon as Gerda saw the letter, she ran to Chuck's office and cried in his arms. Now she's off to an appointment at another hotel, hoping to negotiate a package to bring her ladies back to Miami Beach next year. "I will try to re-create exactly what we have here," says Gerda, unvanquished. "It will never be the same, but I will certainly try."

Terry Ross points to a line in the letter that says employees will receive a generous bonus commensurate with length of service. "After 35 years, short of giving me a wing of the hotel, I don't know how generous a bonus it can be," she says. She has already picked up a few condo gigs, assuming that Andre Balazs will not keep her on as social director.

But then you never know, says Terry the survivor. "If they called me back in a year or two ... I get along well with younger people." Why not? Balazs is famous for hiring performance artists to work in his lobbies. What better way to preserve the spirit of the Lido Spa than a weekly show or two by one of the world's last tumlers?

"Hell, if you have to go," says Terry Ross, "why not go out having a good time?" That reminds her of a Hebrew phrase: Echron-echron chaveen. The last, the last, is the sweetest.


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