The Bitch has many times professed her love for the Sagamore at 1671 Collins Ave. in Miami Beach. It's a long-held infatuation based on admiration for the open-to-the-public Taplin art collection in the boutique hotel's lobby. But lately the dog-museumette relationship has been strained, owing to a sudden increase at the Sag's intimate Video Lounge of skankitude, a B-minus-list population seemingly attracted more to the late-night open bar than Massimo Vitali's photography or Christine Borland's pedestal-topping head sculptures.
Fortunately emergency therapy was initiated by Nick D'Annunzio of TARA, Ink., who recently took over promotions and events organization for the storied structure. The Bitch is hopeful this will usher out the "ho" part of the hotel, and judging from a party this past Wednesday at Social Miami, a new restaurant on the second-level lobby, the upgrade is in action. Social Miami offers a menu of tasting plates from a nonexistent Atomic Age cookbook think deviled quail eggs topped with caviar, nori'd tuna cubes matched with watermelon, martinis strained through guava pulp dreamed up by Miami's own Michelle Bernstein and executed by the litigious Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill and Rocco's fame.
Around 9:15 p.m., glancing up from a mango cocktail laced with serrano pepper juice, The Bitch was pleasantly startled to notice a steady stream of people with whom she would fearlessly shake paws: Us Weekly scribe Linda Marx, SoBe Social Club founder Edison Farrow (the only man in the world who can pull off a fauxhawk), MTV president William Roedy, the Ocean Drive girls, and author Brian Antoni.
Leslie Armstrong, the psychologist who hosts the "Meet the Shrink" segment of Howard Stern's Sirius Satellite Radio talk show, sauntered up, dressed in a shockingly short Chloé chiffon wrap-dress, the cost of which exceeds The Bitch's student loan debt. A scene possible only in South Beach ensued. "Do any of you have the phone numbers of any celebrities I can interview?" purred the red-haired, suspiciously full-lipped Armstrong. Instead of the downcast eyes and headshakes such a public inquiry would generate elsewhere, a feeding frenzy of fame ensued.
Piped up one diner: "I've got ... let's see ... Jay McInerney."
"Do you want Stephen Dorff? I have Dorff! Here's his number," echoed another voice from across the room.
"Susanne Bartsch ... how about Susanne? She'd be crazy!" essayed a gentleman surveying his jammed digital Razr phone book.
The names and numbers Hearsts, Vanderbilts, Entrekins, Culkins came in a torrent (faster than The Bitch could memorize and transcribe in her own cellie).
Armstrong finally gazed at The Bitch. "Do you know anyone?" the shrink demanded. Before the dog could consider the ramifications of answering, the psychologist stormed downstairs to play pool in the hotel's library.
"Well, I only had Jack Schaefer and Barry Scheck anyway," The Bitch admitted later.
Taking the stage around 10:30 p.m., headliner Trent Reznor plowed determinedly through the Nine Inch Nails set list, desultory renditions of songs old and new from the current "You Know What You Are" to Nineties dance-floor standard "Head Like a Hole." But the crowd that had waited since noon to see the industrial deity at Saturday's Global Gathering in Bicentennial Park remained stiff. The new, buff, drug-and-drama-free Reznor, despite a few perfunctory mike-stand tosses, was in good voice but not energized enough to deliver a galvanizing "Closer." Even hard-core fans seemed not to feel it.
That's the only bad news from the inaugural GG in the U.S. The good make that great is that Sasha and John Digweed absolutely killed it in their mid-evening set on the Bacardi main DJ stage. This pair is beloved among house enthusiasts for good reason, but something about this set the cool night, a happy but not excessively E'd-out crowd, the stellar sound system made the two-hour marathon that included a remixed remix of Depeche Mode's "Enjoy the Silence" and an extra-long version of "Age of Love" the best the electronic-music-loving Bitch has ever experienced.
The Bitch witnessed only one tweaking puker: a linebacker-size girl who bumped into the dog with such force that a five-dollar Diet Pepsi went flying profusely, and then sincerely apologized.
Tim Schmand, executive director of the Bayfront Park Management Trust, says the number of "paid tickets through the gate" equaled 13,480, plus a couple thousand more bodies' worth of media and comped attendees. "The show had a great vibe, and the production was first-rate," Schmand observed the Monday after the event. The Bitch agrees.
It's a Condo Party
Although The Bitch usually burrows under a blanket and watches The Shield reruns on F/X on Friday nights, the promise of a Saks Fifth Avenue gift bag this past week was too much to resist. So she and the pack ventured north to 17181 Collins Ave. in Sunny Isles Beach for the condo sales opening of Jade Ocean.
"This party had better be good," growled one grumpy work-week-addled entourage member from South Beach as they passed the halfway-point of the Bal Harbour Shops. "And there had better be no parking hassles."
When The Bitch pulled into the valet parking line, she wondered whether the crumpled Hamilton hidden in her glove box would be enough to retrieve her car at night's end. "It's complimentary," assured the valet as The Bitch handed him the keys. A good sign.
A tray of champagne-based mojitos greeted the pack at the entrance. Another auspicious tiding. And then adorable servers with trays of food began passing by (as they continued to do all evening), while trash and empty glasses were picked up with Disney World-custodial-cast-member efficiency. When The Bitch confessed her love for Parmesan-dusted shoestring potatoes to one server, a Greek hero named Achilles, he made sure to find her every time he exited the kitchen with a fresh tray.
The gigantic chocolate-dipped strawberries emblazoned with tiny J.O. s, the twenty-piece orchestra, and the fireworks were classy additions, and the coffee cart and Krispy Kreme doughnuts were a welcome nightcap. But the pack agreed something must be done about DJ Irie, who ushered the guests into the lounge phase of the party. There should be no mercy in this DJ-rich town for a dude who gets a party started with Cheryl Lynn's "Got to Be Real" and can't be bothered to beatmatch "Billie Jean" to "Tainted Love."
University of Miami president Donna Shalala has been widely and publicly rebuked for her perceived insensitivity to that school's striking janitors and gardeners; grumbling continues despite Shalala's belated offer of 25 percent higher wages and healthcare for the laborers. But controversy and struggling workers weren't enough to dampen the UM Arts & Sciences Dinner, which took place a couple of weeks ago at the Shalala estate. Invitees mingled with wine and hors d'oeuvres before sitting down to a dinner of pan-roasted halibut with pink peppercorn beurre blanc, horseradish-crusted filet mignon, herbed Peruvian potatoes, and a medley of seasonal vegetables. Desserts, served in the foyer, featured mini-versions of tiramisu, chocolate mousse cake, and strawberry shortcake.
While on a quest to snare some haute doggy-bag scraps, The Bitch couldn't help but overhear guests ruminate about the ongoing strike. No, they weren't calculating how many years it would take an employee earning $6.70 per hour to afford a family dinner as lavish as those routinely served at Shalala's Shangri-la. They were whining about the inconvenience of life without janitors and gardeners. On the other hand, at least they still had waiters eagerly refilling their glasses of crisp Chardonnay.
Pimp My Bus
The Bitch learned this week that a mutant, pimped-out form of Greyhound bus would be cruising the peaceful streets of Miami Beach. This particular Greyhound is nothing like the creeping, cross-country movers of yore. The colors are wrong black and silver, not classic blue and white. It looks menacing, like the Oakland Raiders team transport.
It turns out the "Greyhound Unleashed" which will be in town for spring break is part of the "Unleashed Tour" through Panama City, Daytona, and Fort Lauderdale. The bus has also traveled to historically black colleges: Prairie View A&M, Texas Southern, and Southern University.
"We're trying to target urban youth," said Anna Folmnsbee, a spokeswoman for the Dallas-based company. That's marketing-speak for "black college students." African Americans are 31 percent of Greyhound's clientele, said Folmnsbee. A quarter of the buses' customers are 18 to 25 years old.
In thinking about ways to "reach out to urban youth," Folmnsbee said, the company has been trying for the past several years to get street cred. Said Folmnsbee: "So many of our riders love hip-hop."
So earlier this year the Greyhound people contacted Funkmaster Flex, a hip-hop DJ in New York City. Flex, who owns a car-customization company, enthusiastically pimped out the bus (hip-hop exterior, lots of bling inside, flat-panel TV sets, PlayStations, womp-ass speakers). He also cut a track and agreed to party with guests as part of the "Ride. Win. And Party with Flex in South Beach" promotion. The bus transports no passengers and charges no fare; it's strictly a marketing vehicle intended to catch the eyes of spring breakers who are invited to tour it and take in the coolness of long-form mass transit.
Locally the partying with Flex will take place April 1. "It's so college students can see that Greyhound is just the affordable option. It's the cool option," said Toby Purdy, another of the marketing minds behind this scheme.
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.