On a recent episode of The Sopranos, coke-snorting Christopher Moltisanti pestered Sir Ben Kingsley. The beleaguered mobster tried in vain to persuade the knighted actor's character to help him snag some swag from the Chateau Marmont's "Luxury Lounge." Free shopping sprees available only to celebrities are part of perk lore, and the gifting party for musicians at this past week's Billboard Latin Music Awards was old-school.
The party was thrown Wednesday, April 26, the day before the awards show, by Karen Wood of Backstage Creations, who claims to be the inventor of the luxury lounge concept. It was wedged into a windowless green room in a small wing of the labyrinthine Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
Around 1:00 p.m. Wood handed the dumbstruck Bitch a bowl of water while event manager Janice Rosas sandbagged performers Wyclef Jean, Luis Fonsi, and the members of La 5a Estación with Harley Davidson boots, cases of Fiji water, clothes, and perfume. "This is big," said Rosas, sweeping an arm across a counter display of finely woven cotton Divina T-shirts. "But we also do the Screen Actors Guild ... so we're quite used to having things run smoothly."
If only the same could be said of the rest of the Billboards. The show and its attendant parties and concerts were divided in an odd and inconvenient way, with the award rehearsals and show at the Hard Rock, and the performance showcases where the really good music happens and industry deals go down scattered about Miami Beach clubs and hotels.
On Wednesday at the Hard Rock, reggaeton sensations Wisin y Yandel slipped unnoticed through a busload of blue-hairs debarking from Ocala. "We come to Florida all the time, of course," said Wisin, looking askance through a cloud of casino-permitted cigarette smoke at the HR's décor of guitars autographed by Peter Frampton and Korn's Brian Welch. "We mostly only get to Miami, so, uh, we really didn't know this place even existed."
The same day, through the casino, down a maze of hallways, and past a Rovian security cordon on Hard Rock Live's stage, another reggaeton duo, Angel y Khriz, patiently rehearsed take after take of the hit "Vamos Perros" (a song highly approved of by The Bitch). The lighting rigs, a squad of dancers, and taped backing tracks weren't in synch. Standing at the rear of the seating area, a show producer pressed thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose and muttered, "This is so boring. And it's going to go on and on like this."
By 11:00 p.m. the evening before the awards, performers, promoters, managers, and journalists from as far away as Madagascar (Malagasy music's Ian Anderson) had made their way to South Beach. A small audience convened at Hotel Victor for what turned out to be one of few Billboard Awards week highlights, a concert by Venezuelan singer-songwriter Jeremias.
About the same time, the "official" reception was held at the Ritz-Carlton at 1 Lincoln Rd. and proved a total debacle. A door policy so exclusive that almost no one could gain ingress caused La Secta Allstar to perform for an audience of about a dozen who seemed to be mostly band parents. When La Secta vocalist Gustavo Laureano set down a bottle of Heineken on a table reserved for some fast-food executives, a Billboard apparatchik chased him down, handed the bottle back, and uttered the immortal line: "I'm sorry, but you can't leave that beer on the Burger King table."
Bartender Avila Camara shook her head and said, "Oh my God.... This is a mess."
At the awards Thursday night, which was broadcast on Telemundo, Shakira looked, for once, less than a mess, with her hair straightened into a ponytail and makeup applied with something smaller than a trowel. "Wow, thank you," smiled the Colombian enchantress in response to her sweep of six Billboard Awards. "It's been a journey."
Shakira probably wasn't referring to the treks back and forth from Miami-Dade to Broward, but Billboard spokeswoman Lila Gerson was when she concluded, "Splitting up the events was a bit of an obstacle. We'll see what happens next year."
Design for Drinking
The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse at 591 NW 27th St. in Miami threw open its doors last Thursday evening in honor of the first anniversary of Ocean Drive magazine offshoot InsideOut. Guests were required to sign releases saying they wouldn't bust up the stuff or hold the Margulies family responsible for damage caused by falling art installations or by falling down after drinking too many alcoholic beverages. The latter was a distinct possibility, because the event was sponsored and well stocked by Bombay Sapphire gin and Salonga vineyards.
"Would you like a martini with gin?" a Ukrainian bartender prodded The Bitch as she admired a panel of photographs by On Kawara.
Um, don't they always come with gin?
"My name is Alex, but there's no X in it," the bartender rattled on as The Bitch drummed her paw on the bar. "It's spelled with a C and K. It's Alecks. A-L-E-C-K-S."
Mmm hmm, got it.... Are you by any chance making drinx? Or drincks? Can I have one?
The anniversary issue of InsideOut contains, incidentally, an article about the growth of the Burmese python population in the Everglades, and wildlife biologist Skip Snow's attempt to beat back the snake invasion with the help of one of The Bitch's distant cousins, a beagle named Python Pete.
Pete's human, National Park Service wildlife technician Lori Oberhofer, was much ballyhooed for her efforts to teach the beagle to sniff out snakes. But like The Bitch, the scent-hound prefers a life of leisure, and it seems the pupster has virtually retired at the young age of eighteen months. "I've managed to take him out on some good python sightings," Oberhofer reports, "but found each time that Pete was leading me to heavy brush piles."
Large Feline Predator News
Downtown condo megadevelopment Everglades on the Bay doesn't have mangroves or herons, but when completed, it will include 870 residences, more than 1000 parking spaces on six levels, and a tiki bar on the eighth-floor "amenity deck."
Just like the Everglades, right? Playing on the name and all the threatened wilderness it represents, Tinsley Advertising devised a print ad for the development at 244 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, that stretches even The Bitch's threshold for crassness. In it a plaintive-looking panther sits on a pool deck high above Biscayne Bay. A sun-tanning chica's manicured paws dangle over a lounge chair nearby. "Hurry," the ad urges, "before this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is extinct."
The ad, which was first published in the Miami Herald's April 16 edition, will run in the Herald and various magazines, according to Rick Balter, executive vice president of Tinsley.
Unsurprisingly, Balter and Dorn Martell, the agency's creative director, are unapologetic. The ad copy is simply a play on the condo's name. "The name of the property is Everglades," Martell said, pointing out that he and others involved in its creation are "environmentalists" and even have a few panther-theme license plates among them.
Martell said he had heard no bad reactions to the ad and doesn't expect anyone to take exception to the word extinct. "I think in this market it's not going to be controversial. I don't think people are going to pick up on that."
The Bitch pondered attending a party last week at her beloved Sagamore Hotel on Collins Avenue, but then her pack reminded her of the previous event sponsored by Singapore's Tiger Beer. "We couldn't find the free beer," one salty dog complained about the Chinese New Year party, which was held at SkyBar in January. "And there was some dude running around in a tiger suit."
Still The Bitch hoped the Sagamore environment would provide an uplifting evening, and was looking forward to chilling with some snacks and a brew.
Chilling was definitely not an option. Perhaps inspired by Singapore's noted reputation for being a non-fun-tolerating society, an annoying drum circle prevented anyone from talking, let alone relaxing, by the pool. Although the less-than-romantic music didn't discourage a couple from swilling bodily fluids in a papasan chair like two post-prom teenagers going at it in the back seat of a Kia.
The Bitch finally situated herself away from the drums and the STD-swapping twentysomethings and found a spot right in the line of the spring roll-toting servers.
"Hey, is that a real tiger?" a friend asked while piling his napkin with empanadas. The Bitch spun around to see a young tiger cub restrained by two leashes, his paws desperately clawing the sand as he tried to pull himself away from the drumming and partygoers. Camera in hand, The Bitch was ready to document another wild animal suffering for the sake of a soiree (See "Destruction Boom," July 28, 2005.)
"You'll need to get closer to him if you want to take a photo," one of the handlers said as he struggled to keep the cub from running back to his cage. The Bitch snapped a few shots of the scared and squirming cub before he zeroed in on a toddler and his mom. "Oooh! Look at the tiger!" the woman cooed as her 25-pound towheaded progeny reached out his tiny hands to the wildcat.
"Um, is that really a good idea?" The Bitch asked one of the guys, in an attempt to avoid a mini-Siegfried and Roy incident. "We've got him," the handler replied with a smirk as he pulled the cub toward another crowd of camera-ready revelers. "Come on, let's go," he told the tiger.
Yeah, let's go.
Tiger Beer's Mara Siegler, the event's planner, at first told The Bitch: "I had no idea there was going to be a tiger at the party, and was quite surprised to hear about it. We have never had a live tiger at any of our parties before. "
Later Siegler coughed up the hairball of data that Vanishing Species www.vanishingspecies.net had provided the small big cat and that Tiger Beer has donated money to the group before. Still, for a conservation group to bring a tiger to a party, and for the hotel not to know better, is way uncool.
Plum Sykes's newest addition to chick lit, The Debutante Divorcée, was welcomed with the intellectual gravitas its content deserved at a book-signing in the Oscar de la Renta store at the Bal Harbour Shops last Thursday.
The Bitch felt pale and extemporaneous, growling from a corner and lapping champagne. Then she was disturbed by the Easter egglike rainbow of spring pastels and heavy makeup that surrounded her. She spoke briefly with a professional fisherman in lavender gingham and lime green. "It's almost time for marlin season in the Bahamas," he droned as The Bitch watched Sykes smile over his shoulder, proof of her British heritage.
Waiters circulated with empanadas and dumplings. "Chicken won ton?" one of them offered to two socialites in sundresses.
"No thanks," said one, wrinkling her nose.
"They're so big," commented the other, grabbing an approximately two-centimeter won ton with resignation.
It was time to go. Plum would not be sharing her literary fruit, just signing books.
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