NY Mirror

South Beach just played host to Fashion Week, the Winter Music Conference, and spring break all at once, and if you weren't there, you were either unfashionable, tone-deaf, or doing your term paper. Some man-tanned crashers even got into the act. The second I arrived at the Fashion Week tent—having been sent down by the organizers—the very first person I saw was that Chia Pet-like SHAGGY creature! Horrified, I immediately called everyone in New York to say, "You're safe this weekend!"

But it's no wonder the SoBe fashion experience has officially become something worth crossing admission lines for. Even if the clothes were a mixed bag, the body parts weren't, from the six-packs (Sean John) to the almost exposed nipples (Dragana Ognjenovic) to the Dusica Dusica shoe show trotting out dozens of leggy models in skimpy outfits that almost let you see if they had doucheica-doucheica-ed.

The toned-and-flaunting-it town itself has also been so converted and refurbished that even your Cuban sandwich seems to have a new attachment every time you look down. In fact, now that his noncompete contract with IAN SCHRAGER has run out, PHILIPPE STARCK is redoing the Ritz Plaza, right across from his original masterpiece, the Delano, and I hear Schrager is as thrilled about it as JACKO was when the old diddling allegations became admissible.

Where to go till it's ready? Well, the Raleigh had all the hardcore music people, Mark's South Beach served the most aesthetic food, and KEVIN AOKI's Doraku had the most civilized placement in the otherwise crazed-with-guidebook-zombies Lincoln Road mall. But the campiest nosh is still Miss Yip Chinese Café, via JENNIE YIP (a/k/a Jennie from the wok), a blood-red den where our waiter heard one of us say the refurbished Hotel Victor looks like a high-end whorehouse. "High-end whorehouse?" he chirped. "I used to run one!"

Being a high-end whore, I worked the streets and ran into DJ PETER RAUHOFER, who recently stormed out of his Roxy booth and into a new gig at Spirit. "No matter who's at Roxy, nothing really changes," Rauhofer griped to me. "You get stuck in a loop. A little risk is good for me." For me too, so I hopped a car, a ferry, and a shuttle bus to get to the Fisher Island party for the NASDAQ-100 Open 2005 players hosted by Ocean Drive (which I write for). At the beachside bash, I found a girl spinning fiery hula hoops, some wildly famous athletes even I'd heard of, and people begging us to go on their yachts. I adore SoBe—especially since the crashers had already been overnighted back to Gotham (no signature required)!


Eventually, I was too, so I could throw on three sweaters, force-withdraw from hedonism, and catch up with Broadway's latest problem play—Doubt, which needs my validation like PAULA ABDUL needs another prescription, though I'll give it anyway. It's a drama based on blabbing more than doing, but I found it cracklingly good, with towering performances by CHERRY JONES as the steely nun with a habit of conclusion jumping and BRIAN F. O'BYRNE as the suspected pedophile priest who wants to update the Christmas pageant. The period story—a boy reeks of altar wine (you know, Jesus juice) after an encounter with a grown-up he trusts—certainly has contempo relevance, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

Doubt is being turned into a career move with Sweet Charity's we're-closing-no-we're-reopening spectacle, the season's most feel-weird development of all. My reaction? Well, Charity's a purely lovable show, but it's always depended heavily on Bob Fosse's genius staging and an incandescent star as the high-end 'ho. With neither, it's like a fully clothed porno movie. At a press sampling in January, adorable CHRISTINA APPLEGATE danced well, but failed to wow the assembled observers with her singing or acting. We cut her a break and figured she might improve on the road, which she supposedly was doing, but then she hurt herself and they brought in CHARLOTTE D'AMBOISE, who's a total pro but couldn't instantly become a superstar just because the WEISSLERS needed her to.

With the box office phones ringing off the hook—for refunds—the Weisslers promptly pulled the plug (and at least they didn't do a Terri Schiavo's husband and say, "Charlotte looks so serene right now"). I started to think they should have stuck with an earlier choice, JANE KRAKOWSKI, but you'll remember she told author NEIL SIMON he needed to make the dialogue more contemporary and feminist and he furiously showed her the door, then rewrote the dialogue to make it more contemporary and feminist! Anyway, in a plot twist right out of 42nd Street, spunky Applegate's now back aboard, checkbook out, for an official May opening (d'Amboise will do some of the previews), and all we can say is, "Don't break a leg, darling!"

The other big Broadway mishegoss is the firing of La Cage aux Folles' DANIEL DAVIS for being such a meanie weenie, and I'm appalled. This is the musical that aims to show the tourists how sweet and loving gays can be, and now it's ended up proving what vicious old bitches we really are!

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