When The Bitch was a puppy, she spent hours listening to ad hoc lectures about the ancient world by her trusted advisor Sheramy Bundrick, an art history professor at the University of South Florida and former antiquities curator for the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. One of Bundrick's areas of specialization is the rituals attendant to the Bacchanal (studying them, not participating in them); she recently published a book titled Dionysian Themes and Imagery in Oliver Stone's Alexander.
But to The Bitch that seemed part of an idyllic long-ago life. That is, until recently. This past week, on Thursday evening at the ArtCenter Gallery at 800 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach, about 30 people and one dog (hey, it's a beginning) gathered to soak up a wine-saturated talk by charming art historian (and one quarter of the artist collective Kooperativa) Armando Doulers. Doulers, it turns out, is also a Bacchanal expert (and The Bitch thinks in this case the experience is a little more, um, hands-on), and his humorous, ribald, insanely informative talk churned through 1600 years of Greek and Roman mythology, with nice nods to some rarely seen kylikes and volutes as well as arcane asides about Nijinsky, Picasso, and Karl Rove.
Doulers, a tall, blond, thirtyish Venezuelan, was peppered with questions from the crowd.
"Why was there so much alcohol consumption at these Bacchanals when getting drunk has a negative effect on men's ability to stay hard?" called out one satyr from the audience, which consisted mostly of nymphs and maenads.
The Bitch winced, but Doulers quipped back, "They had better wine back then."
A woman from Georgia with a distinctly Field Mob-like twang gave her thoughts about the relationship between the depiction of snakes in Roman art, the rite of fertility associated with the Maypole, and, um, other types of rods.
"I grew up Episcopalian," said the woman whose name, of course, is Morgaine "But I used to threaten my parents, if they wouldn't let me do what I wanted, that I'd go Pentecostal and start falling on the ground and speaking in tongues and handling snakes, which is what we do in the South."
Wow! The Bitch joined in the chant with about ten glasses of wine, which happened to be conveniently on hand, as Vine, a wine store on Biscayne Boulevard, partially sponsored the event.
Future topics to be covered in the fledgling lecture series include another famous artistic imbiber, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and The Bitch's very favorite anarchy-nipping movement, Dada.
Beneath his joviality, Doulers, like many art historians, grieves the loss of so many priceless antiquities in the continuing destruction of the Middle East. "I was watching the recent coverage of the fighting in Lebanon ... there's always a reporter from CNN or CNBC standing on the beach in Tyre. I've stood on that beach. When I lived in Lebanon, I thought, These treasures have been here and safe for so many thousands of years ... I will be able to come back and see them again. But now I think, No one will see those artifacts again."
The Bitch never ceases to be amazed at the noblesse oblige of the Ocean Drive magazine family. The publishers of meteor-size photo books have undertaken a new altruistic pursuit, that of informing far-flung suburbanites of the wonders of civilized culture in the general vicinity of the 33139. To wit: the launch of Ocean Drive and Ocean Drive Español "lounges" at Dadeland Mall and Town Center at Boca Raton.
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Jennifer Diliz, ODE's director of marketing, promised The Bitch a "high-end shopping oasis, complete with couches, chairs, and complimentary copies of the magazines for shoppers to read." Hmmm. Publisher Jerry Powers wouldn't speak with The Bitch about this adventure into bridge-and-interstate territory, but he couldn't prevent her from going to Dadeland Mall (though the large Romero Britto sculpture at the adjacent Metrorail station is usually deterrent enough) to investigate on her own.
So on a recent Sunday, The Bitch located the lounge area near the Macy's Home Store end of the mall and settled down to catch up on Fangoria while doing some photographic recon. The promised seating was set atop some earth-tone plush throw rugs upon which were towering stacks of this month's Shakira-decked ODE issue. "We have significantly increased our circulation by more than 25,000 copies," Diliz had reported. "All of our loyal readers, along with this new readership, will have the magazine available, free of charge!"
Printing might have increased by 25,000 copies, but perhaps the Venn diagram overlap of bargain-hunting, stroller-pushing mall customers, and people interested in local designer Julian Chang's Lista de Placeres (#8: his Land Rover) is smaller. As the quickly-becoming-agoraphobic hound began twisting nervously on the green pleather loveseat, she took note of a group of high-noon silver-hair mall walkers using the lounge's high-back sofas to stretch their leathery calves. Daniel Bechtol, a German tourist uniformed in Tevas, socks, and lack of a smile, reported he was waiting for his wife, who was picking up some lotions at Bath & Body Works; he sat down, crossed his arms, ignored Shakira's honest hips, and stared off into the mall's fluorescent chasm. Becky Charry ("Don't I look like a Becky?") sat down next to The Bitch and began reading aloud from the New Testament and that doesn't mean the Book of FLASH Miami.
Diliz who is very nice and seemed genuinely eager to see the burbs touched by glamour had said, "We are soooo excited about the lounges.... It will definitely raise the magazine to a new level, providing incredible exposure to our magazine and advertisers alike." Maybe only the cynical hound would prefer nonoffensive coverage of pseudo-celebrities such as Kashia Orlando (nice Edie Brickell homage in the photo spread, babe!) to remain confined where it belongs, between 5th and 41st streets.