The Bitch regrets everything about 2005, regrets it the way the recently RIPped Stan "Tookie" Williams regrets saying he didn't much care for The Terminator movies. Thus she is all wags and wiggles in greeting 2006 — and so far, at least The Year of the Dog has not disappointed, beginning with madcap South Beach New Year's Day morning, uh, revelry.

Mischa Barton from The OC was cohost of the party at the Victor Hotel. Her boyfriend, Cisco Adler of Whitestarr — a new "band" that has deployed the strange strategy of looking like The Mars Volta and sounding like the Black Crowes — was on hand for a midnight performance. After the set, about 1:00 a.m., the recently hooked-up lovebirds got into a huge fight, hollerin', carryin' on, and finally suite-door-slamming. (It should be noted a plume of nontobacco smoke seeped out from under the door.)

Apparently Adler wanted Barton's undivided attention, while the increasingly tiresome Keds spokeswaif wanted to mingle with never-tired Miami scenester royalty, including José "Jochy" Ortiz, Tara Ink's Nick D'Annunzio, and Sabor owner Mike Heller. As The Bitch looked on in incredulous glee, Barton screeched, "These are my friends, and I want to have fun!"

At that moment Nicole Richie fled Mansion, where deputized Bitch spies had spotted former Richie fiancé DJ AM chatting up less emaciated girls, and hurtled into the Victor. Lionel's hija gathered up Barton and they peeled out together in Richie's ride (SUVs and fur-trimmed boots apparently being the night's statement accouterments), heading for the Setai. This left behind at the Victor hotpants-lovin' tween star Amanda Bynes and Heatherette designer Traver Rains (the one in the Brokeback Mountain hat).

At the Setai's penthouse, a Mynt party attracted Leonardo DiCaprio (while it's true The Bitch prefers the chocolate to the golden lab, even after seeing The Aviator in person, she just doesn't get what the Titanic fuss was about), Molly Simms, and Vin Diesel.

First the xXx star entertained the Setai's guests and kitchen staff with some drunken antics. Then, at the Shore Club, a visibly wasted and obnoxious Diesel was seen dancing with a group of retired pole kats to a DJ set by king of crunk Lil Jon, who was equipped with his own diamond-studded bottle of Patrn tequila.

The Bitch then crossed the bay to take over the DJ booth for a spell — and to wax barf etiquette for the cracked-out revelers attending the soiree at the District's Poplife party. But all was not revelatory. Apparently a rookie imbiber had failed to make it to the bathroom and left behind a pool of regurgitated hors d'oeuvres and alcohol on the glass-top bar.

The salty dog then spotted her very favorite celebrity, Tara Reid. Reid was on her way to see Patrick Demarchalier's new photo decoration deployment at Mynt, but as always the sweet blonde had time for a canine hug.

Bailey Creams the Courthouse

Miami's criminal justice scene just got saucier thanks to a blog launched in mid-November by an anonymous local defense attorney who has borrowed the name — and the mischievous persona — of fictional British barrister Rumpole of the Bailey. As first reported in the Daily Business Review, the anonablogger — who posts via factory text-farm, thereby thwarting those who would seek his identity via InterNIC or — tirelessly lampoons denizens of the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building.

But amid Rumpole's satire lurk nuggets of news. He recently broke the story that Miami-Dade chief public defender Bennett H. Brummer paid $200,000 to settle a suit brought by an employee who claimed he was canned for supporting Gabriel Martin, Brummer's loquacious, combative challenger in the 2004 election. That item unleashed a furor. Current and past employees of the PD's office flocked to the blog to air their own accounts of bullying and coercion. "If you come out openly and oppose [Brummer], you'll be screwed," griped one staffer. "Every single one of Martin's supporters was demoted, fired, or strongly forced out."

A few readers responded that the problem wasn't only Brummer but also his staff of lazy discontents: "They got people who haven't tried twelve cases since Miami Vice was a TV show," wrote one detractor.

Brummer's response, according to some staffers, was to cut off access to the blog from in-house computers. (He didn't respond at all to The Bitch's three requests for comment.)

"I started this blog, and this entire undercurrent of hidden feeling toward Bennett Brummer came rushing out," Rumpole marveled during a phone interview. (To retain his anonymity, Rumpole always phones The Bitch from pay phones and stuff.)

"While I'm sure your motives were pure in creating this blog," opined one poster, "it is clear that it has dissolved into a haven of petty sniping and the opportunity for people to take anonymous potshots at anyone they feel may have wronged them.... I wonder how long it will be before someone makes truly unseemly and unfounded allegations."

Check out the melee for yourself at

Restoration Hardware

The Bitch loves sniffing out dirt in Miami's art world, but not all of it comes from the scene's skyscraping egomaniacs.

Case in point: Rustin Levenson, a renowned art conservator whose Pinecrest home was recently littered with sooty, sandy, and moisture-damaged masterpieces, including a few Salvador Dalis.

Levenson is an artistic alchemist. Miami collectors, area museums, and connoisseurs from around the world seek her out when their priceless Monets and Picassos need a touchup. The 58-year-old removes dirt but won't dish it about well-known clients who include Madonna, Sylvester Stallone, and the late Malcolm Forbes. "I think you could say I work for a lot of museums and collectors, and they send lots of interesting pictures," she demurs.

Dressed in Birkenstocks, black jeans, and a checkered shirt of rainbow hues, the gray-haired, curvaceous Levenson recently pored over a century-old landscape painting in her modest — if well-alarmed — home studio. She described how she approaches each artwork, testing first behind the frame to see if her solvents will shrink the canvas or alter colors. She looks for clues to what caused the painting's deterioration. She tries to decipher what the artist intended. "It's telling you things artistically and chemically. You're listening to the artist."

Then, over a course of hours, days, or even months, Levenson uses a cotton swab to clean every square centimeter of the painting's surface, bringing new life to long-darkened colors and buried meanings. Sometimes she turns up big surprises. "I was working on a Picasso," she says by way of a conversation starter. "When I took out the lining, there was a whole other painting." Several years ago, Levenson famously discovered an early sketch by the artist, which included a valuable list of artists with whom Picasso had collaborated early in his career.

As head of Rustin Levenson Art Conservation Associates, Levenson spends a good bit of time shuttling to her studio in New York and lecturing or consulting in places like San Francisco, South America, and Holland. She recently spent time in France helping restore the Matisse family's collection. Trained at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum, Levenson has worked at the National Gallery of Canada and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She recently coauthored Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies, which has received art world plaudits if not breathtaking sales.

The Miami Art Museum was so smitten with Levenson's conservation work, which she donated to the institution, that it recently placed her name on the lobby wall. Normally she charges $750 for a day's work — pennies compared to the six-figure price tags attached to many of the paintings.

Levenson insists she's unfazed by the responsibility of handling priceless masterpieces. "The ones that scare me the most are the Dalis," she says. The flamboyant surrealist apparently left detailed descriptions of how he had crafted his paintings — a potential gold mine for future art conservators.

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