Un Bal Unmasked

Let them wear corsets

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On November 1, churchyards and cemeteries around Europe are filled not only with the dead but the living; All Souls Day is a solemn sort of holiday on the continent, a day for visiting and showing respect for the resting places of the bodies that once contained the spirits of the beloved departed. The French don't celebrate Halloween as Miamians do, as yet another excuse for excessive behavior.

Yet The Bitch wasn't surprised to receive an invitation to something called "Les Bal Des Corsets," which is set to take place Saturday at the Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach. It is surprising, however, that the promoters -- ostensibly Michelle Leshem and Jose "Jochy" Ortiz of SuperMarket Creative (though it actually seemingly takes about 27 marketeers to put on one hotel party these days) couldn't manage to string four words en francais without grammatical mistakes and the revelation of a deeper lack of cultural awareness. First, it's Le (singular) Bal, as in Le Bal Masque, the fete which take place at Mardi Gras in February or March.

The invite contains an uncredited image of Jean-Baptiste-Andre Gautier-Dagoty's painting Marie Antoinette de Lorraine-Habsbourg, as if Leshem and Ortiz had just whipped up a little Rococo magic on the Mac. This miniature portrait, painted in 1775, shows the young queen as the divine mistress of France, a sovereign vastly superior to her subjects (who showed their disagreement with this assessment in 1793). "Les Bal Des Corsets" is an obvious attempt to capitalize on the popularity of Sofia Coppola's new film Marie Antoinette (itself disdained by the French, at Cannes no less), and the invite further advises "Louis XVI attire advised." Again, a confusing, ignorant opposition. No matter how debauched, the ladies of the French court, even the courtesans, dressed in lavish layers of silk. It's a class distinction of South Beach skank culture, not the aristocracy of Cabet, to underdress magnificently to the point of revealing undergarments and back fat. Corsets, which reached their greatest popularity in the Edwardian and Victorian periods during the 18th Century, were used to cinch waists, not cadge drink tickets, and were never seen in public. As to the men who may show up dressed in "Louis XVI attire," well, Louis Auguste was wheezy, overweight, and generally ineffectual, so that could possibly happen, providing it's possible to wear Havianas with lame breeches.

One thing this conceptual party and invitation gets anachronistically correct is the grievous, and growing, distance between party Miami -- don't forget the Hustler throwdown at Mansion this week! -- with its emphasis on no-questions-asked acquisitiveness and oblviousness about the coming real estate crash, and real Miami, a city in which teachers are taking to the streets to protest for living wages, the working poor and middle class cannot afford to remain in the modest homes, and the monarchy, er, elected governmentals, mock their constituents with drunken brawls and phoned-in racial epithets. - Jean Carey

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