Story and Photo: LoAnn Halden
When I moved to Florida, South Beach's Lincoln Road pedestrian mall was still under construction and you had to walk on plywood planks to cross from side to side. I was here for the heady days in the '90s when Madonna had a mansion on Biscayne Bay and celebrity sightings barely caused a blink on the beach. And I've been part of the chorus of moans in recent years that the gay scene is over, swept away with the gentrification that brought Pottery Barn to Lincoln Road.
Which is why it gave me such a jolt of hometown pride to bask in the buzz that accompanied the re-launch of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach last month. It's been ages since Miami felt so on the map. They spent $1 billion to expand and remodel the 1954 Morris Lapidus-designed icon into a Vegas-worthy convention-size showcase for 21st-century hotel bling: The Bleau Bar, with its illuminated floor; the 20-inch iMac on the desk in each of the 1,504 rooms; and the gorgeous oceanfront pool, an abstract take on the bow-tie pattern seen in the lobby's black-and-white marble floors, are a few of my favorite things. (A Fontainebleau debuts in Sin City in 2009.)
The star-studded unveiling attracted Robert Duvall, Russell Simmons, the Estefans, Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, Debbie Harry, Mario Lopez, Kyle MacLachlan, a couple of Kardashians (who can keep up?), Sean "Diddy" Combs, Chloe Sevigny, Seal -- and those are just the famous faces I spotted at the Veuve Clicquot-soaked opening party and the following night's taping of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. I was behind Martha Stewart in the shellfish buffet line, for god's sake! Oh, and Mariah Carey performed (photo above) in the Sparkle Ballroom, which actually brought the gay man across from me to tears as he sang along with every word.
Whether the hotel recaptures the cachet it had in its Rat Pack heyday remains to be seen, but it was one heck of a party. And for that weekend at least, sexy was definitely back in Miami.
What was the most memorable hotel stay that you had in 2008? Send your stories to email@example.com and I'll incorporate some of the best ones into a future "LoAnn Loves…" column.