NY Mirror

Grace Jones appeared in rainbow-colored wings to address us as 'my subjects' while Lee Majors danced wildly with the ballsy puppets.

Sumptuous free press junkets aren't always as great as they sound— I've dodged empty beer bottles in Iceland, vaginal Ping-Pong balls in Thailand, and severe boredom in Russia— but the one two weeks ago to check out the updated Atlantis, a 44-acre resort on the Bahamas' Paradise Island, was gaudy, excessive, and pretty fabulash. The words too much come to mind, starting with the invite, which said, "You will be greeted by the Seven Golden Flying Horses of Atlantis." Six would have sufficed— but I appreciated the extra effort.

Once past that equine statue with the spurting fountain, we were free to "explore the tropical waterscape, brave the five-story Mayan Temple, walk the ancient dig, and marvel at 40,000 fish of 150 species." Most of them on our plate. The gargantuan hotel is a cornucopia of faux seashells and dolphins, mammoth glass sculptures, and a lazy river ride that practically floats you to your room. Taking in the splendor, Carmen Electra observantly told me, "It's like you're in Las Vegas, but you're in the Bahamas!" Except it's easier to get a quickie marriage and annulment in Vegas.

In the style of that desert metropolis, Atlantis has a glitzy casino, bedecked with the usual cigar-chomping cranks and their surgerized floozies. Presenting one of the more surreal visions of the trip, Larry Flynt was positioned alone in front of a roped-off blackjack table, intently playing around with some 2 million dollars' worth of chips. If he had run out of those, Flynt could have always pawned off his glittering diamond watch and priceless Hustler attitude.

Viva Las Vegas: the shrimp cocktail special at Atlantis
Patrick Mcmullan
Viva Las Vegas: the shrimp cocktail special at Atlantis

In another corner, a publicist was hauling in bags of Lalique gifts for Oprah Winfrey and her friend Gayle King. The rest of us got sarongs, bottled water, and a bracelet that admitted us to endless free meals and parties. The first one was a welcoming reception in the Great Hall of Waters— a humble little place with mermaid murals and a ceiling of gold shells— culminating with a concert by Quincy Jones and stellar friends like Patti Austin and James Ingram. And the starry lineup didn't end there. Even my rickety ferry ride to the town of Nassau the next day was celeb-crazed, the two-buck fee covering the tour guide's screamed-out commentary about the stately mansions of local tax exiles like Richard Harris. The town turned out to be a marvel of mixed metaphors, from its T-shirted Santas to its weird mix of Gucci stores for tourists and hovels for natives. Weirdest of all are the exuberant straw-goods sellers who call you sweetie and honey,but when you don't respond, snarl, "Hey, don't you talk English?"

I sported my new Gucci back to the hotel, where Leonardo DiCaprio was nicely letting fans photograph him by the ancient dig, though he wouldn't pose for the paparazzi— just like in New York. And he'd schlepped his huge, exclusively male posse with him— just like in New York. Plus he desperately wanted a CD player in his luxury suite and got what he wanted— just like in New York. ("Get them the fucking CD player!" owner Sol Kerzner reportedly told subordinates.) Still, Leo had brought such magnetism with him that every time he moved, 30 people followed. If he'd dived into an empty pool, there would soon be a pile of idiotic dead bodies in it.

As the weekend's biggest blowout approached, Yasmine Bleeth was coercing hotel store workers to lend her some earrings and a necklace, assuring them they'd get publicity if she wore them. Ivana Trump took hers off to zoom down the 60-foot water slide, which shoots you into a tube that goes through a shark-infested tank. (When she landed, she learned that the Donald was at the proceedings.) And then we all landed at the gala, where we picked lobster claws off the tops of the hoop gowns worn by help dressed as crustaceans.

Carmen Electra was now being interviewed for British TV by two puppets with orbs hanging from their heads, which prompted her to gurgle, "I like your balls!" Just then, the cojones-laden Zula, a large woman in tribal garb, was carried out on a throne by very strong men, after which "the Goddess of Atlantis," Grace Jones, appeared in rainbow-colored wings to address us as "my subjects" while Lee Majors danced wildly with the ballsy puppets. Suddenly, there was a choice between "seafood bounty" with KC and the Sunshine Band by the lagoon, and "rotisseries and Bahamian specialties" with an Albita concert in another outdoor area. While breathlessly running back and forth, I prayed I hadn't missed an Olivia Newton-John rotunda with string cheese.

But the real treat was the concert on the Mayan Temple, which filled up with a 300-member gospel choir and the Winanses, Natalie Cole, Stephanie Mills, and Stevie Wonder,all singing the praises of divinity and Sol Kerzner (who they all seemed to forget was responsible for South Africa's much boycotted Sun City resort). At the climax, black activist Michael Jackson was escorted up to the temple to perform, which he no doubt had agreed to do because the owner's daughter happens to be named Bubbles. He sang "Heal the World." He looked like he needed to heal his nose. After his brief, but freakily compelling performance, Jacko was escorted right out as a man quipped to me, "Make the world a better place— but get out of my way!"

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