9780307346285

Fool's Paradise

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780307346285

  • ISBN10:

    0307346285

  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-12-29
  • Publisher: Broadway Books
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Summary

From the acclaimed bestselling author of Philistines at the Hedgerow comes a remarkably revealing profile of the Miami Beach no one knows, a tale of fabulous excess, thwarted power, and rekindled lives that will take its place among the decade's best works of social portraiture. Created from a mix of swampland and dredged-up barrier reef, Miami Beach has always been one part drifter-mecca and one part fantasyland, simultaneously a catch basin for con men, fast-talk artists, and shameless self-promoters, and a Shangri-La for sun worshippers and hardcore hedonists. In Miami Beach it's often said that "if you're not indicted you're not invited." But the city's mad, fascinating complexity resists easy stereotyping. Fool's Paradise is more than just a present-day profile of a dark Eden. Gaines journeys back into the city's social and cultural history, unearthing stories of the resort's past that are every bit as absorbing and jaw-dropping as those of its present. The book begins with a snapshot of the city's current excess (this is, after all, a sun-washed hamlet that boasts, on a per capita basis, more bars and breast implants than any other place in America), then plunges into the Beach's origins, chronicling the audacious rise of such hoteliers as the Fontainebleau's Ben Novack and the Eden Roc's Harry Mufson, the sharp-elbowed tactics of Al Capone and Frank Sinatra, and the Mac-10 shooting sprees of the Marielito and Colombian drug lords. From there, the narrative shifts to two wildly eccentric souls who gave their lives to preserving the city's architectural dazzle and creating its color palette, introduces us to "the Most Powerful Man in Miami Beach," and arrives finally in the modern day, where we meet, among others, a kinky German playboy who once owned a quarter of South Beach and publicly flaunts his sexual escapades; a fabulously successful nightclub promoter whose addictive past seems to have given him a portal into the night world's id; and a gaggle of young sexy models, dreamers, and schemers on a mission to achieve significance. Evoking the Beach's surreal blend of flashy Vegas and old Hollywood glamour, as well as its manic desperation and reckless wealth, Gaines persuasively demonstrates that though the Beach is in the words of its most famous drag queen: "an island of broken toys . . . a place where people get away with things they'd never get away with anyplace else," it casts an irresistible spell.

Excerpts

One

Socialites

Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.

--Oscar Wilde

EVEN IN A CITY WHERE RESTRAINT IS NOT CONSIDERED A VIRTUE, AMBER RIDINGER'S BAT MITZVAH PROMISED TO BE SOMETHING SPECIAL.

It was a balmy Saturday night in November, with air so soft and sweet you could almost taste it, and a big, chalk white moon hung over Miami. Outside of The Forge restaurant and Glass nightclub on Arthur Godfrey Road four klieg lights on the back of a flatbed truck were making loopy pink circles in the sky, part of a pastel halo that seemed to float over the city like the aurora borealis. Miles out to sea, the light show was visible to the thousands of passengers aboard the city-size cruise ships that had disembarked from the port of Miami an hour or so before, all in a line, bow to stern, heading off to the Caribbean like a string of diamonds on a navy sea.

The pink spotlights were part of the hoopla heralding the thirteenth birthday party of Amber Ridinger. At a cost of over $500,000, it was said to be the most expensive coming-of-age celebration ever held in Miami Beach, and the biggest party of its kind since Henry Ford's coming-out gala for his daughter at the Bath Club. More than two hundred guests were expected to attend, including New York Mets catcher Mike Piazza and his wife, former Playboy Playmate Alicia Rickter, who'd given Amber a $10,000 Cartier Pasha white-gold watch for her birthday. Even that largesse was surpassed by the singer and actress Jennifer Lopez, a family friend of relatively recent acquaintance, who presented Amber with the most lavish birthday gift of all--a $100,000, 30-carat diamond bracelet. Rap stars Ja Rule, Omarion, and Marques Houston were expected to entertain, and Amber herself was going to provide divertissement by introducing her own line of clothing called Gossip in an elaborate runway show. The music would be supplied by the superstar disc jockey DJ AM, best known to readers of Us Magazine as Adam Horowitz, the studly serial dater of Paris Hilton's posse. The bat mitzvah girl was also going to introduce her own signature fragrance, Amber No. 13, packaged in custom-designed crystal bottles with Amber's personal logo, each gift-wrapped in pink bows and placed on every table for the guests to take home. The New York Post's gossip column, "Page Six," which doesn't do much bat mitzvah reporting, ran an item saying that Amber, an eighth-grade student at Miami Country Day School, was expected to wear a $26,000 purple-and-silver Dolce & Gabbana gown to her birthday party.

Amber was in "Page Six" because the bat mitzvah also had a publicist, Tara Solomon, of Tara Ink. Ms. Solomon, who hailed from Fort Myers, Florida, was herself a local celebrity and nightlife fixture, a bosomy version of Gidget gone awry, who also wrote an advice column for the Miami Herald called "Advice Diva." Ms. Solomon alerted the gossip columns and sent out press releases about the bat mitzvah, one of which was headlined butterflies and bling--it's a bat mitzvah thing! The press release noted that "a limited number of escorted cameras will be allowed inside the venue," which is why the night of the bat mitzvah there was a wolf pack of jostling television news cameramen, reporters, and paparazzi in front of the faux eighteenth-century French facade of The Forge, attacking en masse every time a stretch limousine or lollipop-colored muscle car pulled up to the VIP carpet to disgorge guests, mostly local Miami Beach celebrities such as Dr. Jeff Kamlet, the town's busiest addiction doctor; Thomas Kramer, Miami Beach's scandal-plagued Bad Boy real estate developer; Michael Capponi, the nightlife uberpromoter and his model girlfriend Erin Henry; Elaine Lancaster, a staple of the social scene and beloved drag queen who is over seven feet tall in her wig; pop singer Vanessa ("A Thousand Miles") Carlton; Irv Gotti, the for

Excerpted from Fool's Paradise: Players, Poseurs, and the Culture of Excess in South Beach by Steven Gaines
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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