“I remember the old days,” the man said. “When it was beautiful. Before it was overrun by developers, celebrities and day-trippers.”
It was dusk, and we were on the deck of his beach house, overlooking the water. There was a full moon directly above, and in the distance, just over the horizon, the other moon was starting to rise.
“Mars is finished,” the man announced. “It’s just too damn crowded.”
What follows is 48 hours on Mars, where your diarist was dispatched to report on “The Hottest Vacation Spot in the Universe.”
Friday, 11:30 p.m. Coldwell Banker Real Estate, Main Street, Mars. “Things have gotten crazy out here,” said Hamilton Phobes III, sitting behind the desk in this office that’s open nine days a week, 29 hours a day. “But if you think about it, it makes sense: First they discover water on Mars. And where there’s water, there’s sand. Where there’s sand, there’s beach. And where there’s beach, what do you think that means?” I tried to imagine. “Condé Nast girls?” “Wrong. Beachfront. Beachfront property.” His phone rang; he answered it, listened, then hung up with a smile. “Great news. Jerry Seinfeld just offered Billy Joel $6 billion for his beach house.”
Saturday, 8:15 a.m. The Station . Chevy Chase was waiting for his weekend guests to arrive from Manhattan. “My family’s been here practically since the Big Bang,” the actor remarked. “Back when it was just artists. And writers. We’re not part of the social scene. We stay home, and have a few friends in from the city on weekends.” He looked off, interrupting himself in mid-digression. “Isn’t that Calvin Klein over there?”
Saturday, 11:30 a.m. Outside Della-Catessen . Monte Nova, a First Avenue ophthalmologist, was waiting with his wife Mona, to buy the daily ration of $128,000-a-pound, fresh local lobster salad. “Why did we decide to leave the Hamptons? I think it was the day I was trying to find a parking space in Bridgehampton, and I turned to Mona and asked, ‘Where are all these people from? Mars?’ And she turned to me and said, ‘No. Bay Shore.’”
Saturday, 2:10 p.m. Gibson Time Warner AOL Media Beach . “I hear Jerry Seinfeld just offered $12 billion and his liver for Billy Joel’s beach house,” announced 16-year-old venture capitalist Ivar Hearst-Ronson, snapping his StarTAC shut. The news sent shivers down the beach, where it was already 121 degrees below zero. But 11- year-old Wenner Douglas Karan was unfazed. “Body parts are the next big thing,” she explained. “They’re the currency of the future.”
Saturday, 4:30 p.m. A book party . Faith Popcorn (author, PLANets , Trends in Travel ) was hosting Martha Stewart’s latest effort, Marzipan . “Look, there are drawbacks anywhere you go,” said the editor of the newly revived Orbit Life magazine. “Lyme ticks in Connecticut. New Jerseyites down the Jersey shore. Alec Baldwin on Long Island. So when you think about it, Mars isn’t so bad: Once you get used to the cold, and the carbon monoxide, it’s heaven on earth.” Meanwhile, in another corner of the room, a young editor looked upon Ms. Stewart with awe: “I hear that Martha smashes hydrogen and oxygen atoms to make her own water!”
Saturday, 6 p.m. A Bill Clinton fund-raiser . As Bill worked the planet, raising funds for his race to be First Secretary of the Solar System, a question hung over the air lock: Do you think Bill secretly wanted Al and Hillary to lose?
Saturday, 7:45 p.m. A dinner party on Much Further Lane . The usual suspects, holding the usual conversations, on a red lawn: So what time did you leave? When are you heading back? How’d the new Nick Cage movie do last night on Venus? And, of course, the perennial favorite: Had anyone read the latest issue of Talk ?
Saturday, 9:20 p.m. The Palm . Three garment-district mavens held forth: “Sure, people say you can go door-to-door, Park Avenue to Mars, in 2, 2 hours. But one hiccup, say around Exit 40 at the Van Allen Radiation Belt, and bang!-you’re stuck in the black hole of traffic.” A companion chimed in: “Isn’t that Calvin Klein over there?”
Saturday, 11:40 p.m. The Mars Bar . The music pounded. Security guards searched for illicit chromosome dealers. But all eyes were on the continually updated Real Estate Sales tote board. A gasp went up as the news appeared that Jerry Seinfeld offered $90 billion, plus a kidney, plus one lung for Billy Joel’s beach house.
Sunday 1:10 a.m. Puff Daddy’s Rented Volcano . Gridlock. As Martian valets parked Porsche Warp V’s, Space Rovers, Mercedes Roketts and assorted Space Utility Vehicles, the impresario was circumspect. “I rented for the long season this year,” he explained, wiping some red dust from his white Versace space suit. “I wanted to check it out before I commit long-term.”
Sunday, 8:30 a.m. The Candy Cantina . Bistrian Soloway, a local contractor, looked up with disgust from the New York Times headline, “Mars: The Red Planet is Red Hot.” “My family has been here for generations. But with all this new money, were getting squeezed out, ” he said. “It’s madness every afternoon on Interstellar 27. I have to bring in subcontractors from Venus these days. Sure, the commute is a bitch. But how can you walk away from some Wall Street bonehead who’s willing to pay $38 million to have his faucets fixed?”
Sunday, Noon. Ross Bleckner’s Annual July 32 Brunch and Benefit. “Sure, I remember when it was just writers and artists. But now it’s just really good-looking writers and artists.”
Sunday, 2:30 p.m. The Ralph Lauren Outlet. Ex-Hamptonite and new home buyer Missy White was still smarting about being on the wrong side of the velvet rope at last night’s HBO premier. “It’s just great,” she said bitterly, rifling through the seconds. “We’ve found a whole new place to feel miserable about ourselves on weekends.”
Sunday, 5:30 p.m. The Station . As the news crossed the tote board that Billy Joel sold out to Jerry Seinfeld for $700 billion plus unspecified vital organs, a young media buyer from a group house was sanguine. “I hear all the really cool people are going to Neptune,” he said, then added, apropos of everything: “Will my name be in your article?”