The first annual Memorial Fest began as an awesome day of music and fun in the blazing heat. Lady Saw's performance was as wonderfully explicit as The Bitch had anticipated filled with advice for females who want to beautify and "bling out" their nether regions. Cocoa Tea was absolutely amazing, and he stuck to his Rasta roots, delivering ditties that touched on current events. The most strikingly odd appearance of the evening came when Hulk Hogan, in an awkward performance with his daughter Brooke Hogan, introduced Paul Wall with an expletive-filled encouragement for the crowd to scream as loud as they could. Of course, Hogan then saw fit to tear his trademark red muscle shirt open, revealing his now-aged, still-barrel-shape chest.
But The Bitch had come to see Buju Banton, who began an unbelievably energetic set with some hard-hitting dancehall classics, whirling frantically and working the audience into a frenzy before switching into more spiritual, soothing songs such as "Hills and Valleys" and "Til I'm Laid to Rest," which he converted into a ballad about the persecution he has faced as an artist. Banton had the crowd singing along as he delivered heartfelt messages about unity and love. But then he flipped, beginning what is sadly his most famous song, "Boom Bye Bye," before abruptly stopping the band.
He said, "People ask me: 'Buju, don't DJ "Boom Bye Bye" anymore.'" He then delivered a snarling, scary freestyle chant that ended with the line, "There is no end to the war between me and faggot," and stalked offstage momentarily. Banton's homophobic rant received a loud affirmative response from the crowd.
It was disappointing that an artist with so many positive things to say could reveal such close-minded hypocrisy. The Bitch was further surprised when Miami Herald music critic Evelyn McDonnell glossed over Banton's outburst in her Monday concert review, instead offering the comment: "Buju Banton withheld from gay-bashing in a performance that was stirringly passionate and soulful." Perhaps McDonnell missed the words war and faggot or couldn't decipher Banton's patois.
After a performance by her crush, Damian "Junior Gong" Marley, The Bitch left, tail between her weary legs, unwilling to stay to listen to Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, and Shabba Ranks all promote the same hatred.
Shopping in South Beach can offer a sense of both compelling desirability and beguiling allure. One-of-a-kind boutiques such as Brownes Apothecary on Lincoln Road currently the only place in the world offering a stock of discontinued Stephane Marais cosmetics attract a discerning clientele having the wherewithal to know about, and acquire, such rarefied items. Yet some purveyors of exclusivity are spurning the overt profligacy of the Beach in favor of more subtly luxury-loving environs.
Tourneau, the Geneva-based timepiece chain with twenty U.S. stores, opted for a spot in the expanding Aventura Mall. Tourneau already has outposts in the Bal Harbour Shops and at the Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, which is where The Bitch met with the chain's southern district regional manager, Martin Bassoff. "We're looking for a certain type of customer the type of customer who wants to buy a watch," says Bassoff, who resembles a more streamlined version of actor Donald Pleasance (Dr. Sam Loomis to fans of the Halloween movies). Speaking softly in an alcove of the store that smells strongly of leather despite the absence of such except on a few Cartier bands Bassoff does all the right "dog management" tricks making good eye contact, deploying the solicitous shoulder touch and is smart enough to realize that glib patter isn't enough to satisfy The Bitch.
"When we select a store location, we desire someplace that allows our upper-demographic client to feel a certain level of reputability," Bassoff concedes. "But we also, like any other store, need traffic, just numbers, to get people through the door. So we decided upon Aventura for its delivery of an affluent consumer in high numbers."
Bassoff insists he's speaking only of class as defined by manners, not as a euphemism for race. "Our very busiest store, in terms of revenue and number of sales, is at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, which, I don't have to tell you, is a very diversified ethnic area," Bassoff says. "People can be extremely sweet or outlandishly demanding anywhere. I just moderated a situation where a woman who felt slighted wanted the offending associate to meet with her, me, and the entire staff of the store and to offer her a public apology. Then she wanted the associate fired in front of everyone. We always try to please our customers, but ... we didn't do that."
Cindy Barshop, owner of Manhattan's Completely Bare Spa, did an intuitive type of market research when deciding where to open her first Florida salon, which heretofore has had only a few satellites in the five boroughs and Scarsdale. "I looked around on Ocean Drive in Miami Beach," she says, "and I thought, The only people who'd come to a spa here are just waiting to pose for a magazine cover, not my clientele at all."
"I'm not South Beach; I'm Palm Beach, I realized," continues Barshop, seated on a white recamier in the foyer of the new spa, which opened May 15. Indeed the salon on South County Road just over the bridge from mainland Palm Beach fits seamlessly into a row of understated boutiques that whisper rather than scream money. Barshop is very much a product of her low-key service, which headlines the hair removal department but includes laser skin resurfacing and conventional facials. A tawny 38-year-old with a shiny brunet mane and amber eyes, Barshop is a no-nonsense entrepreneur who leaves client-pampering to aesthetician Lisa Ciampa, a sun-drenched Boston blond with a charming Chaucerian gap between her gleaming white teeth. This pair is so much more individualistic and striking than their silicloned South Beach sisters. Ciampa lights scented candles and plays Enya-esque tunes in the all-white room where she works on her clients, but her own iPod is cranked to the Allman Brothers' Seven Turns. The Bitch beamed at Ciampa when she noted the hound's aversion to the sun: "Wow, I can really tell you use your sunblock!"
"People think of Palm Beach as old," Barshop says. As if on cue, two geezers totter by with walkers. "But it's not; it's getting younger all the time," she continues firmly. "We've got everything we need here: great shops, interesting people, a civilized way of being. To me, those girls who strut around Lincoln Road hanging out of their string bikinis that's what's old."
Fly Spanish Catches Latin Honeys
For only one day this past week, the rainbow-bright blight normally associated with Carlos A. Navarro's Pop Suave Gallery at 266 Miracle Mile in Coral Gables was thrown aside in favor of the welcome duochromatics of Target. The department store chain, one of The Bitch's favorite dog-mascot-employing retailers, took over the gallery space for a product-placing bombardeo aimed at Latin consumers.
The Bitch didn't think attracting such individuals would be difficult in Miami, but Victoria Portugal of Valencia, Pérez & Echeveste Public Relations the South Pasadena, California-based firm given this task explained. "Imagine you're trying to get successful second-generation Cuban-Americans who are affluent and educated to register with Target Weddings, one of our house brands," exclaimed Portugal, a stunning 23-year-old with long black hair; a deep, deep tan; and startling blue contact lenses contrasting her all-white suit. "I mean, having your wedding registry at Target? It's not an easy sell."
Isaac Mizrahi's fall fashions which include some basic black party dresses ("inspired by Isaac's love of Audrey Hepburn," according to Portugal), butterfly-print skirts, and tulle-trimmed, fitted denim jackets are probably less sell-resistant. At a glance, it is difficult to tell whether the pieces came from the Anthropologie at Merrick Park or the Target at Dadeland Mall. And there's a price point: Mizrahi's black tissue mohair tunics are only $19.99.
While Portugal pointed out more autumn-debuting wares from house lines of cosmetics, kitchen ware, and furniture, The Bitch noted how nice the gallery space looked stripped to wood floors, white walls, and a few red-and-white Target logos.
Portugal described the space-preparation process. "A crew came in at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday morning and worked through to 7:00 a.m. today, clearing some white space and then setting up our displays and racks," she said. "Tonight at 5:00 p.m. the same thing happens in reverse."
The Bitch had time to ask Portugal two very important questions.
Those television commercials for Choxie, those Target candies ... what's up with those?
"Oh, well, Target's always trying some very innovative types of advertising.... You noticed them, right?"
Yes, but dogs don't eat chocolate. So you and your agency specialize in marketing to ... a certain demographic. Which is the preferred term: Latin or Hispanic?
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"Well, it's different from place to place," the born diplomat answered. "I've done a lot of product tours in New York City, and there Latino is used a lot. In California, where our firm is based, we usually say Hispanic. So generally I'd say Hispanic is more common, but both are okay."
The Bitch was about to observe that this is precisely the reverse of what she hears in South Florida, but just then a journalist from Casa & Estilo Internacional (which, for the record, calls itself a Hispanic lifestyle magazine) ducked in from the rainy boulevard. "This place is great," he said, looking around, apparently unclear on the visiting-marketing concept. "When can I bring my friends back here to shop?"
Portugal concluded her work marathon with a Thursday-night flight home to Los Angeles. "People in L.A. won't believe I came all the way out here and never saw Miami Beach," she mused.