Not fornicating with your loved one as often as you used to? Need to Jackie Collins up your love life? Maybe it’s time to blow your tax refund on a long, sensual, high-service weekend at the Ocean Club, the latest resort aimed at spoiled and champagne-flute-wielding New Yorkers. Located on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, this oasis of self-indulgence is as near as any Miami hot spot, but so much more soothing and bourgeois. It’s all part of the 80’s revival–don’t fight it! Leave your street cred at the door, give your shoulder pads a quick shimmy, suck in your cheeks and start channeling Alexis Carrington or Dex! Indulge!
The Joan and Jackie action began the minute my bloke and I slithered into a complimentary white stretch limousine at Nassau airport. During the 25-minute drive to Paradise Island (formerly Hog Island, but renamed in the early 60’s), our handsome, liveried driver divested himself of various Bahamian tidbits, including stories about a plague of predatory parrots. He went so far as to call them “crazy and bloodthirsty” and claimed they rip the gold from women’s necks. Anxiously, we clutched our imaginary pearls and invisible Bulgari bracelets until, with a chuckle, we realized he was saying “pirates,” not “parrots.” Watch out for that lilting Bahamian accent!
With our silvery laughter echoing spookily around the cavernous limo interior, we whooshed, Collins-like, into the magnificently landscaped grounds of the Ocean Club for what was to be the most Aaron-and-Candy weekend of our lives.
Why the rabid enthusiasm? Judge for yourselves from the following highlights:
1. The beach services include “afternoon sorbet and Evian misting.” Is that szhooshy enough for you? Sorbets aside, the beach is gorgeous and the water is perfection. Though signs warned about “thimble jellyfish,” we only swam into them on one occasion and they, like everything else at the Ocean Club, felt somewhat tingly and sensual. The only beach glitch: I had a small canker sore on my lip, and the extra-salty Paradise Island brine made it hurt all the more. You’ll be glad to know the agony subsided after an Evian misting or two.
2. The Bahamian staff, with names like Nevlon and Alcot, are extraordinarily sweet and polite. Only the most rigorous brainwashing and cash inducements would produce a comparable attitude in New York City hotel or retail operatives. I asked Lillian, our jolly chambermaid, about the rigorous staff training which produced this consistently good-natured attitude toward work. She scoffed at the idea. “Staff trainin’? You crazy, mon!” she said. “Dis is me, Lillian. I smile even when I’m mad.” Complaint: Every check has an appropriate 15 percent service charge, but then there is an irritating and confusing “additional gratuity” line below the total. There are no criteria for determining this amount. The result: We funsters are terrified of either insulting or over-tipping. Memo to owner Sol Kerzner: stop trying to guilt trip O.C. guests into augmenting staff salaries with this weird system and simply pay your staff more money. They deserve it.
3. Activities and vigorous exercise are a big part of the Dynasty -Ocean Club lifestyle. While Joan Collins loves her Pilates, I prefer ping-pong and jogging. The weather was much too hot to permit a beach jog, so I availed myself of the treadmills at the fab little gym and found myself next to Wayne Gretzky! And affable Wayne wasn’t the only sporting star in the O.C. gym. Lance Rentzel (a.k.a. Mr. Joey Heatherton) was also in the house–or rather, on the television. The gorgeous N.F.L. great, circa 1970, was being heavily featured in a show about the 60’s and 70’s television actress and singer, Joey Heatherton: The E! True Hollywood Story . And what a fascinating and tawdry histoire it was! Did you know that wide receiver Lance was twice nabbed for exposing himself to young girls? Joey (being Joey) stuck by Lance, and then he dumped her ! This sordid saga kept me on the treadmill an extra 15 minutes. If you missed it, you must bombard Eonline.com with e-mails and beg them for a rerun.
Re: Joey: She is currently having an insanely overpriced yard sale on eBay. My advice for those craving Joey-abilia: leave Joey’s offerings on the virtual front lawn of life and pick up a copy of Lance Rentzel’s 1972 autobiography, When All the Laughter Died in Sorrow (approximately $10 on Bibliofind.com).
Meanwhile, back at the Ocean Club:
4. The food. I lost weight during our stay because that canker sore on my lip turned every meal into an extremely painful S&M session, especially the fine dining at Dune, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s beachfront restaurant. Every salad was drizzled with lemon juice and liberally sprinkled with large granules of rock salt. EEEK! I totally left the planet the day I chomped on a delicious tuna and wasabi pizza, smearing lethal green paste on my sore. My recommendation goes to the buffet-barbecue which is held next to the freshwater swimming pool: The star attraction is a grotesque, giant roasted grouper, which looked like half a blanched donkey but tasted fantastic.
When you’re Jackie-ed out and starting to get mossy from all that Evian misting, take the complimentary mini-bus over to Sol Kerzner’s adjacent $850 million acid trip called Atlantis, and weep. There is no way to communicate the scale and magnitude of this tour de force of fabulous vulgarity–but I’m going to try anyway.
–The water slides, though more woosh than szhoosh, offer a life-changing experience. Finicky about public water? It’s worth getting impetigo or pink eye to rocket down the Leap of Faith and (via a transparent chute) through a football-field-sized aquarium filled with sharks.
–The Atlantis Casino, the largest in the Caribbean, looks like a collaboration between Gianni Versace, Liberace and Dale Chihuly (the Seattle-based glass-blowing artist did actually make the gigantic sculptural light fixtures which dominate the casino).
–The theme restaurants all have plural names (a personal fave of moi ), e.g., Fathoms, Dragons, Voyagers. I would recommend the no-reservations-required buffet at the Market Place restaurant, where an all-day waffle center with a Shea Stadium-sized bowl of cholesterol-enhancing whipped cream (sprinkled with maraschino cherries) greets you as you enter. Need I say more?
–The socio-economic range is greater and far more riveting than the O.C.: e.g., steroid-abusing males from New Jersey with their girlfriends’ faces tattooed on their backs riding jet skis with their mulletts flying. Hot! Or gin-swilling, ruffled, bleached-blond mother-and-daughter look-alikes from the South shooting craps and playing Caribbean stud poker. Hotter!
Warning: returning to the Ocean Club after a night at Atlantis is a bit like going back to the convent after an unsupervised visit to the carnival. The dissonance between the two places forces one to confront the utter pointlessness of good taste. People with no taste get to wear tube tops (and slide down tubes), and they have all the Candies-wearing fun. The Atlantis clientele don’t have Christian Liaigre minimalist decor in their restaurants, and they seem to be happier for it. Think of it this way : The Sopranos would happily stay at Atlantis (albeit in one of the posher suits), but moody Meadow would aspire to the Ocean Club.
Go before it gets too hot–or book for Thanksgiving. For the Ocean Club: call 800-321-3000 and check out http://www.oceanclub.com. For Atlantis: call 800-ATLANTIS and check out http://www.atlantis.com. My advice: stay at the Ocean Club and take illicit daily trips to sassy, fromage -filled Atlantis.
Joey Heatherton isn’t the only one having a yard sale. New York Times fashion chronicler Bill Cunningham is leaving his Carnegie Hall studio, and on May 2 and 3, Doyle New York will auction off his historic collection of fashion photographs and sketches. (For info, call 427-2730.)
I am an unapologetic Cunningham worshipper, particularly his book Facades . The book consists of 200 years of fashion photographed by Bill on a certain Editta Sherman. Ms. Sherman models these period clothes with a chunky verve, while standing in front of a New York building chosen by Bill for its haunting aesthetic parallel to each outfit. Facades , though undeniably camp and hilarious, explains everything you’ll ever need to know about the relationship between fashion and architecture in New York. The Doyle sale will include prints from the Facades project as well as Bill’s archived copies of the Facades paperback, which will be sold at the front desk for $25–just as cheap as on Bibliofind.com.
In case you were thinking of trying to buy that snap of you vamping down Fifth Avenue in a cocoon coat, Bills’ legendary New York Times fashion documentation is not for sale. The Old Gray Lady wouldn’t like it.