There are so many rude and incompetent public relations professionals (and of course many thorough, decent, and rigorous agents) right here in South Florida it is shocking to The Bitch that anyone would look beyond our area to obtain what is so readily, locally available. Yet at least briefly, incoming, much-anticipated restaurant Table 8 (eventually to be housed in the Regent Hotel at 1458 Collins Ave., Miami Beach) contracted with some folks from the big city to promote its inaugural event.
The new Table 8 will be the first satellite of the Los Angeles namesake, and its chef, the dreamy, dreadlocked Govind Armstrong, has already become quite the person about town, hanging out here and there with fellow celebrity chef (who will also open a Beach-based eatery this winter) David Bouley. So The Bitch was semi-excited to receive an extremely ornate vellum-and-cardboard invitation to a preopening tasting to be held Tuesday, November 7. An RSVP to the designated flack, Pamela Wittman of Manhattan-based Millissime Ltd., generated the following query from Wittman: "How did you find out about this event?"
In response, The Bitch took a photograph of the square-foot swatch of origami clearly bearing her name and address and e-mailed the image to Wittman and to Table 8 general manager Nick Fielding with her normal notation in such circumstances: Nice manners, babe!
Not content to let matters lie with face-saving silence, Wittman pressed forward: "Your name and your publication are not on my lists!... Because of Table 8's INABILITY to get permits for the opening, the event has been moved to VICK'S [sic] at the Victor Hotel anyway!"
Fielding, a soft-spoken, exceptionally congenial Englishman and hospitality professional who has lived in Miami Beach off and on for a dozen years, was brilliantly conciliatory under what must have been excruciating circumstances.
Fielding noted that Wittman's connection to Table 8 was through one of the restaurant's liquor distribution contracts and that "I have not had the most pleasant experiences dealing with her either."
But what about moving the tasting party?
"Due to permitting issues and an untimely gas leak, we are unable to do the party at Table 8 and it has been moved to Vix at the Hotel Victor," Fielding conceded. "This was a situation far beyond our control and something that we did not anticipate."
The Bitch thought about the situation for a bit. Her track record for getting into events at the Victor, the restored luxury hotel at 1144 Ocean Dr., is poor; events manager Victoria Prado normally meets the dog at the door with a rolling pin. The Bitch decided to stock up on bruschetta beforehand at Grazie on Washington Avenue, where Abitare Italia, a group of European furniture purveyors from Dania Beach, was having a strategy session about how best to invade Art Basel. (The tactic: Flood the market with $3000 red granite countertops.)
Upon the hound's arrival at the Victor a bit after the appointed time (7:00 p.m.), though, there was no hassle. Prado has moved on, leaving the appropriately named Victor Zaroli in charge of lobby access. Wittman, whom The Bitch had greatly anticipated meeting, was not to be found, nor was much of any food (though there was plenty of off-label champagne), nor any sign of Fielding or Chef Armstrong. For that matter, the actual chef at the Vix, James "The Spiceman" Wierzelewski, was also AWOL, having announced apparently that very day he would not return to the Victor's kitchen, only not in those exact words.
Wierzelewski didn't return The Bitch's phone calls inquiring about what he'll do next.
The Victor was rumored to be both the hotel of choice (though the band actually stayed at the Standard) and the site of the post-Bang party for Duran Duran on Saturday night, which the music festival-weary dog didn't investigate. Instead myth-debunking energy was devoted to deconstructing the purported "final appearance" of French electronic act Daft Punk.
Turns out the duo's announced swan song was an illusion promulgated by concert promoter Alexandra Greenberg of MSO PR in Sherman Oaks, California. "Sorry about leading you to the wrong info," Greenberg shrugged once the fake data had been successfully planted (in this publication as well as VIP concierge Michael Capponi's high-res packaging).
Location-based services, global positioning, and metamessaging have been embraced by two normally disparate groups: white-shirted corporate fleets who require constant and uniform contact, and the teenage tech lovers who are the logical descendants of the hackers and phreakers of the early Eighties. South Florida, surprisingly, has shown a fair amount of forward-thinkingness when it comes to officially embracing the new-school gadgetry already favored by its mobile, international, ceaselessly communicative citizens.
This week the City of Miami sponsors a geekily prescient workshop at the Riverside Center on SW Second Avenue called "Mapping Your Community to Serve You Better," starring a team of National Geographic urban explorers demonstrating how a GIS (geographic information system) works. (The digital-imaging tool overlays natural and humanmade landscape elements such as buildings, streets, sewer systems, sea-level elevations, power grids, and waterfronts to create a survey of what's going on in a given area. The generated data is viewable and available on the fly on screens as tiny as a cell phone's.)
Even more promising is Miami-Dade County's recently announced strategy to go "beyond e-mail" with the purchase of 600 wireless handhelds for its emergency services staff. Devised by Angel Petisco (who bears the cumbersome county title assistant director of technical services for the Enterprise Technology Services Department), the system Onset's METAmessage software running on Research in Motion's BlackBerry hardware will allow the county to exchange messages, documents, and other information with those in the network regardless of working e-mail infrastructures. In other words, if there's a communication-disrupting disaster, the wireless systems will still work.
"Miami-Dade got a dependable emergency communications solution up and running quickly," Eyran Blumberg, Onset's vice president of products, says. Had MDC blundered into a deal with Verizon Wireless, that would have rendered the PDA much less useful. Officials acknowledged, though declined to elaborate, that the county had terminated discussions over wireless services with Verizon in favor of the Onset system.
But private citizens who subscribe to Verizon Wireless services (it's Florida's largest cellular provider) have no such options. Verizon is the only SoFla provider to offer the latest BlackBerry hardware the 8703 model yet the company won't support RIM's nimble architecture; in fact Verizon blocks two of the BlackBerry's best functions: GPS and WAP Web pages launched through the Opera browser, which is specifically designed for handhelds. User-enabled GPS would provide clients not only with real-time navigation (similar to the automotive world's OnStar guidance system) but also with superspecific coordinates about the operator (and can be turned off with a wheel-click for those who wish to remain incognito). The Opera browser (which operates on every single wireless system except Verizon's) is a software patch that, finally, scales Web pages to a BlackBerry-screen-size aspect ratio, meaning it's finally practical to use the Internet from a handheld.
So what's Verizon's deal? Chuck Hamby, the company's Miami spokesman, knows. Kind of. Hamby actually had such an entertaining array of explanations that The Bitch sort of just wanted to let him yack on and on ...
"Well, you know, people these days can do crazy things with computers," Hamby said. "They kind of just slip in there and do things, and if they get into the network, there's no telling what could happen. We have to take every step to protect the integrity of our network."
(RIM's development director, Greg Wade, responded in a recent Web posting: "The BlackBerry platform is entirely secure and used by huge numbers of executives who have to have remote access to critical, confidential corporate data.")
The Bitch pressed Hamby for further information.
So the lack of support for GPS and Opera is a security issue? You mean one nutty Opera user could disable Verizon's entire Florida network?
"Well, it's not really that, though our engineers aren't really satisfied with the security they offer. Those systems would require a certain capability that doesn't exist today."
But they do exist! RIM made BlackBerry specifically to function with location-based networks!
"Well, the other concern is customers' privacy. We're trying to do as much as possible and do the right thing for as many customers as possible. We're going to err on the side of caution."
But people don't have to turn the GPS on if they don't want it.... What about Opera? There's a message on its homepage lambasting Verizon for not being compatible with the browser....
"We're working with Opera. That situation will be resolved ... soon. There's been a lot of dialogue about the Opera incompatibility."
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So other people have complained about it, I guess. Why would Verizon lock down the new-model BlackBerry market and then disable some of its critical features?
"Well, a lot of people have complained about it. You're the first reporter who has complained about it, though.... As to the BlackBerry issue, we're working with RIM. The BlackBerry is a fabulous product that has existed for many years and serviced generations of customers...."
Um, maybe not generations.
Hamby denied that Verizon is stepping on RIM in the interest of driving commerce toward products sold exclusively by Verizon, such as LG's MP3 player/cell phone dubbed Chocolate, which was launched in the Miami market (and you don't need The Bitch to explain why this device is foundering).