Christmas in Clubland

For most folk the holiday season is a time to spend with friends and family. Gift-giving murmurs in the air while annoying cousins from your father's side of the family come into town. Christmas dinners are stodgy spreads of hams, stuffing, pies, and tender birds. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that good stuff. But in the realm located just beyond the outpost of good taste and social graces -- clubland -- it's a time to schmooze and love thy neighbor, for about a week or so. It is a time for a brief exercise in humanity.

The calendar is filled with charity dinners to benefit one organization or another. Helping kids with disabilities comes in handy when you want to ask the city to lighten up on some of those pesky code violations. The more ghastly the illness the better.

Yes, the holiday spirit brings out the best in the "marvelous" and the hustlers that make up this outlandish and at times celestial population. During the holidays, strangers have been known to greet each other with smiles. No shoving in the lines. No unnecessary wait at the door. Must be the eggnog and rum cake.

What can beat a Christmas morning breakfast under the sun just yards from the Atlantic on Ocean Drive? Oh, holy end of a long night!

But this is hardly a holiday for the players who keep the strobe lights shining bright.

When families gather to gobble turkeys, Lily Zanardi and her Bolero restaurant are working harder than Santa's elves, taking reservations. Christmas at Bolero (Coconut Grove and South Beach) may not be the stuff of Norman Rockwell paintings (think stuffed Maine lobster instead of stuffing), but someone has to feed all those mouths worn out from caroling and ripping ribbons off of gifts.

Nightlife impresario (what an overused term) Gerry Kelly does take some time to celebrate the holiday season. Our well-loved, Irish-born party-peddler gathers his favorite nightlife characters around the hearth and hands out the year's stipend. "I have over about eight friends or so including Persia, the opera singer. She is like my extended family," Kelly reveals. "It's nothing too big."

Kelly also celebrates Boxing Day (the day after Christmas) while visions of his New Year's Eve Stardust dance in his head. And then it's back to work. Much preparation is needed for the upcoming multithemed party that is less than a week away. Kelly's no Scrooge, but somebody has to keep the party going in this town. If not for that dedication, where would we all be come New Year's Eve?

Since moving to Miami's sandy paradise some eleven years ago legendary promoter Tommy "Pooch" Pucci has made it a tradition to hop a sleigh and get back to his old neighborhood of Bensonhurst in Brooklyn. He spends his holiday watching the trees glisten in the snow to remind him that this is indeed the Christmas season. He takes time out to visit old friends, real friends, not the kind you meet during a night's partying and form some pseudo-bond with until the lights come up.

What kind of presents does Santa Pooch leave under the tree? "As far as gifts I am more of a gift certificate kinda person," Pooch laughs.

Mr. Nikki Beach admits that his holiday may not sound as glamorous as his workaday life. "I go to my sister's in Jersey for a few days," Pooch adds. Still he says he is happy to sit down with the Pooch family for a Christmas meal of seafood salad, lobsters, pastas, and baked clams. It's good for him to get away from Miami and spend some time with family, he adds. Granted that time is spent at Ian Schraeger's hotel, the Hudson. But hey, who can blame him for wanting to get away in style?

But Yuletide is no time for lolling about in a manger. As soon as he returns, Pooch, along with partners Eric Omores and Jack and Lucia Penrod, will be busy making his list and checking it twice for New Year's Eve, perhaps the most lucrative night for club proprietors and party promoters. The models and bottles crowd will be pouring into South Beach for the year's last big soiree, threatening to drown out all holiday cheer if clubland isn't ready.

That's why James Cubby, hunky guardian of the velvet ropes at Opium/Prive, journeys 900 miles away from the nightlife carnival to Roanoke, Virginia. But the townsfolk don't need to worry about the fashion industry converging on their Blue Ridge Mountains hideaway. Our man Cubby is just heading home for some Christmas spirit and a traditional home-cooked meal. His family knows nothing of the velvet rope and VIP lifestyle that he has adopted -- and that is just the way he likes it.

"They love me unconditionally and don't care what I do, how much money I have, or how I dress," he offers. That's a sentence that wouldn't fit into any conversation in Miami Beach. Well, at least not during any other season.

God bless the keepers of clubland, every one!

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Lee Williams