The Bitch has a confession to make: Since Poplife abandoned I/O for the District some months ago, the club has dropped from her party peregrinations. Although rodent-chasing possibilities abound in the gnarly field-cum-parking-lot near the NE Fourteenth Street club, it's not worth sidestepping cockroaches and crack vials to listen to reggaeton when she need only roll down her window at any Miami intersection to be similarly accommodated.
But The Bitch has a fondness for the property not too big, not too small, with the patio in back that for a few short months each year is bugless and refreshing. Poplife, the hormonal weekly indie rock party, bestowed on the venue an aura of promise, now under new management: Alex Hernandez, whose family has owned I/O since Poplife and before, has stepped back into the business to run rather than just rent out the space.
Hernandez is a native son; he returned to Miami this past November after an eleven-year hiatus that involved a stint in the Marines and some time in New York City. The 29-year-old is going to try something that in the past never quite got going at I/O: rock en español. Every first Saturday, the venue will be given over to bands that sing in Spanish.
"I believe they haven't put a concerted effort into the idea before," Hernandez says of the failed attempts of former managerial regimes. "There are so many local bands that don't get enough air time. I'm doing a big push to bring in more Latin music."
Much more exciting are his plans for Thursday nights. The Bitch is brushing up on her samba and looking for a forr partner to take on quinta-feira at I/O, which will overflow with caipirinhas, crevasse, and bunda-shaking brasileiras. Hernandez hopes to hold weekly samba classes for the hip-movement-impaired, and on April 15, with the sponsorship of Brazilian airline TAM, he plans to fly in the carioca samba school and parade its dancers and teachers down Biscayne Boulevard for Miami's Carnaval. If I/O's sold-out reception of Seu Jorge, the Brazilian musician and actor of Cidade de Deus (City of God) fame, this past September was any indication, Hernandez may have a winner on his hands.
Meanwhile on South Beach ...
Miami Beach bar manager-turned-jetsetter-and-Noah Tepperberg-pal Ben Pundole adds music producer to his chain of titles with the release of a two-disc compilation CD created at the behest of the Morgans Hotel Group (Morgans, you may recall, operates both the Delano and the Shore Club on Collins Avenue). On February 2, Pundole an expert bartender who terms musicology "drinking for the ears" experienced a real-time reaction to his creative process during a "listening party" to celebrate the CD's launch at the Shore Club's Red Room lounge.
People seemed to like the mix, which includes offerings from Moby, Bloc Party, and M.I.A. Or at least they danced to it with abandon, which prompted the downing of many Tiger beers and Red Bull-and-vodkas.
The Bitch also hears from a tipster on the crobar payroll that major changes are in the works for the storied nightclub. Word is brothers Eric, Francis, and Didier Milon of Opium Garden and Prive fame will soon purchase a share in and greatly mess with crobar's current design and party lineup as in: no more Back Door Bamby.
Crobar's current marketing director, Paolo Pincente, didn't return The Bitch's phone calls, but Vanessa Menkes, the media relations person for the Milons's Opium Group, says, "There's an official 'no comment,' but I will gladly give more information when it becomes available, which it will."
Shane Lee, a 26-year-old Fort Lauderdale-based mortgage broker, is scheming to get rich by capitalizing on the silicon mania that has transformed hordes of South Florida chicas into Lindsay Lohan clones and made the unenhanced hound question the adequacy of her four pairs of tetas. His scheme: Launch a Website called BuyMyBreasts.com and sell ad space at a dollar a pixel for a whopping grand total of one million dollars. Lee promotes the venture by blanketing South Beach with flyers. For every $50,000 worth of ads he sells, he plans to donate a pair of implants to a desperate A-cup.
"I figured breast implants would make it controversial and get people talking," Lee explains. "And the more people talk, the more people visit the site." And, of course, the more people visit the site, the more ads he sells, the more money he makes.
Lee copped the pixel-ad idea from Alex Tew, a British college student who, in an effort to avoid taking out student loans, launched a Website and began selling pixels of advertising for a dollar a pop. The up-by-the-bootstrap tales quickly catapulted Tew to semistardom. Before long, companies were clamoring for space on the budding tycoon's site, MillionDollarHomePage.com. He fetched $38,000 for the last 1000-pixel block.
Lee hopes his site, which has received 30,000 hits since it launched last month, will one day look like Tew's packed to the point of psychedelia with brightly colored ads. Well, so far seventeen women have registered for the free-breast sweepstakes and posted their photos and testimonies on the BuyMyBreasts "Contestants" page a virtual pageant of boob-obsessed misery.
"For the last five years it's all I've thought about," writes one Canadian hopeful of her saggy set. "My husband works sixteen hours per day to make our life possible and to live in our dream house," carps a Florida woman. "I need to look better so I can go to work also."
So far, though, Lee has sold only two spots, and those at discount rates. (The larger of the pair, an 800-pixel block, went for $250 to RichJerk.com, a site that features this message on its homepage: "Let's get something straight. I am a jerk. I am obnoxious. I am lazy. And I don't care, because I am FILTHY RICH.")
But Lee says it's too soon too despair. "Every day there are people who are clicking on 'Buy Pixels' and not following through with the order process," he explains. "It's just a matter of time until people start taking that next step."
Only Miami could support a creature as ephemeral as Oscar Romero, an enchanting hair-and-makeup artiste The Bitch encountered at some fabulous soiree or another. Romero, a Nicaraguan native and proprietor of Oscar International, is heartwarmingly earnest in his desire to convey the magnitude of his celebrity clients: "Okay, you wanna know about Spanish celebrities or English?" Both, please.
As it turns out, the list is not quite as especial as the photo on Oscar's business card (wherein the artist, dinner-plate belt buckle gleaming, smiles enthusiastically under a Flock of Seagulls coif while pointing both fingers at the camera six-gun-style). But he has done work for Thalia and often beautifies Univision's on-air talent. "I do a lot of fashion shows, as well," he crows. "I have every week supermodels!" Proof of Oscar's glamorous life is on his Website, www.oscarintl.net, where the "Celebrities" page doubles as a kind of South Beach Where's Waldo?. Each photo shows a celebrity or celebrities (Julio Iglesias, Celia Cruz, Enrique Iglesias) accompanied by Oscar, wearing various guises, from checkered zoot suit to bright red cowboy regalia.
Destroy the Heart
Valentine's Day is fine in moderation. The Bitch is content to receive, say, a nice platinum dog tag in a blue Tiffany box. But overwrought displays are out of order. One such instance of excess caught The Bitch's immediate attention. Chichi o-R-o Restaurant on Alton Road in Miami Beach is offering a very special diamond-and-caviar dinner for two. The evening will begin with a chauffeur-driven ride to the restaurant in a 2006 Rolls Royce Phantom. There a personal server will greet the lucky pair curbside and whisk them off to one of the restaurant's luxurious white ostrich-skin banquettes for a chilled bottle of Perrier Jout rosé. Then they will be served Petrossian Iranian imperial "special reserve persicus" caviar out of a friggin' crystal Fabergé egg. After feasting on oysters Rockefeller, jumbo stone crabs, and three-pound Maine lobster Thermidor, they will, um, climax with a five-tiered dessert made by Cake Designs by Edda.
Guests will want to slice into that confection carefully, because a $75,000 yellow-gold-and-diamond ring will be nestled inside. The cost for all of this fabulousity? A cool $82,000.
This insanely flamboyant evening was the brainchild of hospitality superstar George Slover. He's pulled this kind of stunt before. "I was previously with the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, and I did this last year I think it cost $22,000. There was such a tremendous response to this, so much press and attention, I actually did sell the item last year. Shaquille O'Neal bought it for his wife Shaunie," the fast-talking restaurateur explained. The Bitch had to ask Slover, did he honestly expect to, you know, actually make this ridiculous reservation? "To be honest with you, I do it more to convey the energy of South Beach. And the majority of the proceeds actually go to the jeweler, not the restaurant. Then there's the car and the driver and the insurance and the butler and everything ... so it's not really about making money for my restaurant," Slover said.
"So, George," The Bitch asked, "when you came up with this, were you just laughing the whole time at how ostentatious this is?"
Slover was quick to respond: "I don't even think the word ostentatious! I just think of whatever extravagant, over-the-top thing I can think of.... There are some people in this community who live a very excessive life, so I play to that kind of person. The people who are driving around in their Bentley with their bodyguards, I play towards that. Heck, maybe it's a dream that someone is gonna buy something like that for me!" the witty proprietor responded.
"Well, you never know," The Bitch laughed.
"I think I have a better chance of someone buying me a cocktail," Slover retorted with a note of charming self-depreciation.
In a confessional moment, Slover admitted he hadn't even planned on pulling off this evening of South Beach decadence two years in a row.
Even though o-R-o offers luxurious waterfront dining to fat-pocketed South Beachy types, Slover remains a man of the people. And in such spirit, he has no intention of creating class divisions. "Even though I have this extravagant package, I went the complete opposite direction for Valentine's Day. Most restaurants do a prix-fixe meal for $100 a person. I decided not to do that. People can still come in and have a $16 chicken entrée.
"And will the plebes be sitting alongside the ballers?" The Bitch asked.
"Absolutely, they will be sitting alongside each other," Slover insisted.
"Well," The Bitch said, "thanks for catering to dogs like me."
"Hey, I'm catering to people like me too!" Slover exclaimed.
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