Barbidoesmiami

How to Stay Sane in the City of No Shame


5 Comments

Why am I Such an Oxy Moron?

Nothing kills a conversation faster than my introduction at a Miami bling party

Meet barbara, she makes beautiful jewelry from trash she finds on the beach…

I get a wan smile of panic, then the introducee bolts to another circle in search of  meeting star people like J.Lo’s derriere masseur, Lohan’s life coach, Madonna’s  Manolo shiner or P.Diddy’s Cuban cigar lighter…

Its OK

Its Miami

It was, last night, the Barton G. launch party of VAULT, his new magazine, held at The Villa, his new Art of Being Social intimate inn housed in the former Versace Pallazzo

boxing ring location

Barton G., a Houdini who, 20 years ago, took Miami Beach and boiled it down, distilled it, infused it, let it sit and then blew its essence out into  a gawdy kitch trippyness  he branded the Art of Being Social, naming himself the master of ceremonies –  the Jeff Koons of party planning.

We went to snoop.

The book GdeV Studio (husband and me) is  doing on Miami had just reached a point of critical mass – the days that Versace fell in love with South Beach, and built his pallazzo from ruins on Ocean Drive among the  locations trucks, NY models, Jewish retirees and crack dealers…

The VAULT launch party was the perfect pretense to have a mosey

While a boxing ring the size of a  cereal box was being lowered from 11th Street into the infamous swimming pool courtyard by a 100 ft crane (for a 3 round boxing match between a supermodel-by-day/boxer-by-night and an I’ll-fuck-your-face-up-bad boxer, which the spoiled crowd watched with as much fervor as if they were watching Jo Biden eating oatmeal) we wandered into the Villa’s inner courtyard and climbed the stairs all the way to the roof, to Gianni’s lair inside the watchtower  strewn with pillows and overlooking Ocean Drive, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean. When Alastair trespassed further he was confronted by what may have been a ghost of nineties security, a  Men-in-Black guard with the charm of Scarface.

A standoff on the Pallazzo rampart ensued.

Patrolled Versace Villa rampart

The Architectural Critic versus  the Blackwater Mercenary

(Culturally way more interesting than what was going on below in that tiny boxing ring)

I felt a chill and flashed on Alastair being thrown off the roof and me becoming another lonely widow spawned by South Beach debauchery ( Donatella being so much the brand-widow of Versace)

After chest puffing and rank pulling Blackwater won and we descended back down to where the mortals were allowed and found a quiet pocket of civility – a small wood-paneled bar that was deliciosuly air conditioned and served a variety of pink wine and champagne. Only two people had discovered it before us.

Nanci and Louis.

Alastair joked that the palazzo was  ground zero of Miami decadence and Nanci complemented my dress

In typical Miami Beach style, the evening turned on itself.

Degrees of separation were discovered that ranged from Lawrenceville to the Berkshires, high powered careers in NYC,, friends and children and a shared fascination with  life on the beach in all its excesses.

Nanci was interested in my work as an activist designer but then again she was a New Yorker

turquoise monofilament drift rope bracelet

Two weeks earlier I had rushed back from  Eleuthera because I’d been invited to be part of a  Miami Beach sustainable fashion show and award ceremony called Sustainatopia

I had made my “red carpet” dress in Eleuthera and Iona would be my model

But when we arrived it was clear that the event was as awkward as the name suggested

We hung around backstage at the Fillmore for a while but when no one seemed to know about the staging or order of show we turned around and went home. I dont think anyone ever missed us and I’d spared my 15-year-old daughter from an embarrassing cat walk across a vast and empty stage…

I was a bit sad because she looked so beautiful

Iona in the Plastic is Forever “red carpet” dress

But nothing could bring me down from my Eleuthera high and I looked forward to speaking the next day at the Impact Conference, where Pam Longobardi, Cynthia La Grou and I were billed as a panel about Envisioning Alternatives in Social Investing.

What the hell did that mean?

Hadn’t we prepared to each speak about  Driving a New Economy through the Arts, Design and Media and addressing the problem of plastic pollution? John Rosser, the organizer of  the sustainable conference, confessed  he’d  changed our title because he felt he’d  “taken a risk alienating his core constituency on our behalf.”

WTF?

FEAR?

Fear of being too green?

Fear of being too sustainable?

The fear of being unsexy in Miami and being taken for a hippie in this city full of glamor addicts.

But wasn’t he the organizer? If not him then who?

Oh well, for the party after the panel I’d  curated a small show at the Botanical Gardens and about a hundred people came to see…

Pam’s drift web installation in the Banyan Tree

Pam Longobardi drift web made from marine debris. Photo by Myra Wexler

Richard and Judith Lang photographs

red beach plastic tags collected and photographed by Richard and Judith Lang.

My new piece, from neck size to wall size, a large wall installation

rainbow strings of beach plastic

Bucking all sustainable trends like recycling and green design  Miami has turned out to be unexpectedly mercurial

Whereas Eleuthera has been surprisingly supportive and open

Soon I will go north for the summer

But I’m determined to overcome my conversation-killer stigma when I’m back next year …

Beach plastic cross bracelet with grey seed pearls


3 Comments

Away Is Where It’s At…

A Plastic is Forever pop up shop on Friday the 20th of April was the climax of my three week stay in Eleuthera

It was the welcome party for a weekend of Earthday Festivities in Eleuthera and I was the featured guest with a gallery full of Plastic is Forever – earrings, bracelets, necklaces, scarves, tees, kerchiefs, stationary, and even a pair of pants and a “red carpet” dress.

linen “shipwreck” pants hand sewn with orange mono-filament

I took over the Beach House Boutique which belongs to my friend Jude (she had generously donated the space for the day.)  Usually the shop is a cornucopia of treasures, a feast for the eyes, a trove of endless fashion goodies- something for everyone, but I had planned to strip it down to a white, bare, breezy gallery space. A place where the colors of a new generation of beach plastic would speak loudly to an audience that came from all over to celebrate Earthday in Eleuthera.

For starters I needed five sheets of plywood, painted white, to cover the walls, and had located them as soon as I’d arrived in Tarpum Bay. They were stored at the fire station, they were already white, and they were mine for the event, but eventually would end up as the ceiling of a community building. Perfect, no waste, they would be recycled….

On Thursday, the day before my  installation, I drove past the Governor’s Harbour park where Saturday’s festivities would take place. Stalls for local vendors (food, crafts, drinks and community info) were already built around the perimeter and in the middle stood a small hand-hewn stage prepared for the eight consecutive hours of island music  and  speakers.

The white backdrop of the stage looked vaguely familiar. It was made from five sheets of roughly painted white plywood.

Hmm.

Of course I panicked.

But no one else did.

I melted down NYC style. Where TF was my plywood?

Don’t worry man… they laughed…

The next morning between 9am and 12 am ten sheets of plywood materialized. And a jar of white paint. And two brushes. Word had gone out that the lady of the plastic needed plywood…

poster in the Sands liquor store

I was disappointed that the dates of my daughters’ FCA tests in Miami made it impossible  for my family to get to Eleuthera in time for my event.

But.

I was sent three fashion angels… the A-team of style mavens … they arrived from NYC on Thursday night…

Julie Gilhart, Christine Park and Berrin Noorata had planned to spend Earthday in Eleuthera. To help me! After two weeks of lonely nights in my castle I had a house full of women – four sleepovers – I couldn’t believe my luck and they couldn’t believe where they had landed – paradise – a mere five hour trip from Seventh Avenue (same as a trip in the Hampton Jitney to Montauk on a Friday afternoon in July).

We spent Friday hooshing. I laid out the store after the plywood had gone up. Gallery in the front, One Beach  screening room and check-out in the back …

front to back

Julie, Christine and Berrin have worked together for years and easily fell into creating the pop up store.

Together we played shop and it was fun…

Christine hangs the napkin rings

Berrin styles packaging and check out

Julie works pricing

At 3pm a giant inflatable plastic purple foot floated across the deck outside the shop’s window. Barefoot Wine, the sponsor of the One Beach film and the wine sponsor for the event, had arrived for set-up. Erected, right outside my temple against beach plastic pollution, was an inflatable purple plastic palace constructed from enormous Barefoot logo feet.

Hmm.

Those purple bare feet were not walking the One Beach talk. The message about plastic pollution, as in the single-use senseles plastic gifts of purple plastic leis and purple plastic barefoot key rings which were handed-out to our guests, evidently had not trickled-down from Napa Valley to Nassau.

With Miss Bahamas Earth

The welcome party was a hit. Over 200 people attended and we sold a lot of Plastic is Forever pieces.

 

  

 

Eleanor Phillips from the Bahama chapter of  The Nature Conservancy welcomed the crowd, Shaun Ingraham and Michele Johnson introduced  the One Eleuthera Foundation.

I spoke about how Away is Here.

waiting my turn

Wich means that whether we “get Away from it all” or “throw our plastic trash Away”,  Away is the same place – the beautiful beaches of Eleuthera – and how we, visitors, come from societies that litter the oceans. I urged the crowd to take responsibility, on behalf of Eleuthera, the place we all claim to love so much, and  help reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the oceans and on the pristine beaches of Away – Eleuthera, Hawaii, Bali, etc.

Shaun Ingraham introduces the One Eleuthera Foundation. Photo: Azaleta Ishmail Newry

The next day Michelle and Craig Symonette hosted the VIP lunch at their stunning home on Twin Coves. VIP indeed, $600,000 was pledged to One Eleuthera and they were off to a flying start. Shaun was beaming when I handed him my, by comparison, measly check, the % contribution to One Eleuthera from the sales of the previous night. I pledged more to come as a % of Plastic is Forever will continue to benefit One Eleuthera.

table settings with the first ever beach plastic napkin rings

Saturday night was party time in Bayfront Park  with reggae, rap and even a Junkanoo…

  

Sunday morning was very wet as a storm passed over the island overnight but Shelby White who created  the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, in memory of her husband, said it was the best gift mother earth could have bestowed on Earthday – rain was what they needed most.

Shelby White, #1 on Eleuthera’s best-dressed list with Craig Symonette #1 fun host

The afternoon picnic at Coco di Mama hosted by the Urgo family was a windy affair.

Most people stayed indoors and drank.

Mark from the Leon Levy preserve at the Coco di Mama party

Coco di Mama is by far the cutest hotel on Eleuthera on the usually calm and turquoise Alabaster Bay . It has been my favorite ever since it opened. With the Urgo family as its current owners it is poised to expand to 42 rooms by January 2014, which is great news for the island.

Coco di Mama seen from the sea

By the end of the day, thanks to three powerful weeks and Sammy’s cocktails, I was giddy and somewhat worse for wear.

And sad that I had to tear myself away from Away….