Contemplating a second home in Florida? Struggling to decide between frowzy Palm Beach and freaky Miami Beach? Let me add to your confusion.
My husband Jonathan Adler and I spent last week in Florida, commuting back and forward between Palm Beach and Miami Beach. We are more than familiar with Palm Beach, owning, as we have for the last two years, a dreamy 1970’s condo on what is known locally as the Gaza Strip. The unprecedented number of trips to Miami were occasioned by the fact that my Jonny has just opened a store selling his wares on Lincoln Road. These daily commutes afforded the perfect opportunity to compare and contrast the two places.
Here are the major conclusions of my in-depth, week-long probe: Palm Beach and Miami Beach are more insanely polarized than ever. As Miami Beach gets progressively more louche, Palm Beach gets snottier and snootier.
Let’s start with Miami Beach.
If you combined the hip-hop shenanigans of Eighth Street with the homosexual bacchanalia of Eighth Avenue and threw in the bumper-to-bumper traffic of Sixth Avenue, you would have a tepid approximation of the torrid mayhem that was Miami Beach last week. In other words, you might just as well stay here in grungy Manhattan. It was an especially skanky week due to the annual Winter Party. From what I hear, a good time was had by all-“all” being a bunch of skimpily attired blokes who poured in from all over the globe to have sex and snort crystal meth.
Meanwhile, up the coast in Palm Beach, people may not be having much sex, but they are definitely snorting-mostly with indignation. The incomprehensible snobbery that is so legendary is still alive and well. Last week, my Jonny and I sampled it firsthand.
Here’s the story: A Jewish friend, who “passes” in WASP society, had somehow managed to finagle a week’s membership to the legendary Bath and Tennis Club on South Ocean Boulevard. (Not the place where C.Z. Guest was banned after bringing Estée Lauder to lunch-that was the Everglades Club. This one is even worse!) This Secret Jewess rashly invited us to break bread with her and her “sponsor” at the B. and T.
My Jonny and I are the anti-WASPs : We, like Mr. and Mrs. Federline, are nouveau riche and proud of it. The fetishization of everything WASP-y in Palm Beach is a source of great amusement and fascination (not to mention creative inspiration). This invitation was an opportunity for us to peek inside one of the great bastions of gentile elitism and observe these bizarre white-bread people on their home turf-and, one hopes, to confirm our belief in the utter pointlessness of good taste. Would we find them to be as worthy, fabulous and generally superior as they seem to think they are? Our knuckles were white with anticipation.
We also saw this lunch as being a bit like a Survivor challenge: Whichever one of us was strong-armed toward the exit first would forfeit immunity.
“You’re so obviously Jewish, and you’re gay,” I said confidently. “You’re never even going to make it across the threshold.”
“You’re such a big screaming queen,” countered my Jonny, “you won’t last two seconds-unless, of course, they mistake you for a woman, which is a definite possibility.” Grr!
Our dates, the Secret Jewess and the WASP Sponsor, swung by to pick us up at the appointed hour. The WASP Sponsor took one look at my Dolce and Gabbana mandals and said, “Hmm. You know what, the B. and T. is just so damn formal and stuffy, why don’t we just go to the Four Seasons instead?”
The WASP Sponsor then promptly sent her nanny and kids to the B. and T.-I guess it wasn’t too formal for them-and off we went to enjoy the alleged informality of the Four Seasons.
We’d been punk’d by a WASP.
Later that day, we checked in with our Secret Jewess, who confirmed our darkest suspicions: The WASP Sponsor had apparently retracted the invitation as soon as she saw us mincing toward her vehicle. “I could get one of them in, maybe, but two? Not on your nelly!”
As a consolation prize, our Secret Jewess gave us a card that was handed to her at the club while she, sloppily dressed, was enjoying a bowl of macaroni and cheese:
“YOUR ATTIRE IS NOT APPROPRIATE TO THE STANDARDS OF THE CLUB AND WE ASK THAT YOU PLEASE CHANGE PROMPTLY.”
I’ve made copies of it and am handing them out as I see fit.
Despite the archaic inhospitableness of certain Palm Beach institutions, I would still pick P.B. any day over M.B. The junk shops are better, the eateries are better, and we can take our dog on the beach. Without the distraction of crystal-meth orgies, I have masses of time to read.
While in Florida, I enjoyed an astoundingly sizzling page-turner. If Iris Murdoch was reincarnated as a punk rocker and living in contemporary Japan, she would be the acclaimed authoress Natsuo Kirino, and she might have written the gripping and appalling Out ($9.71 for the Vintage paperback on Amazon), a crime novel about four women who work in a boxed-lunch factory. This book is so entertainingly vile that it gave me anxiety attacks-similar, I imagine, to those experienced by the gays on their crystal-meth comedowns.
Anyone for tennis?