A combination of earlier magazine work and new blog posts

The Princess and the Editor

Tina Brown’s new book, The Diana Chronicles, documents not only the life and death of England’s most beloved royal but also the evolution of celebrity culture itself.

August 31st will be the 10th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana. It will be marked, in part, by a slew of new books on Di hitting stores. But the one that has created the most buzz is The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown (Doubleday, $27.50). The British-born magazine editor ran Tatler before taking over a moribund Vanity Fair, increasing its monthly circulation from an anemic 200,000 to more than one million. (Among other triumphs, Tina was the one who put a naked, seven-months-pregnant Demi Moore on the cover-an iconic image that has been copied dozens of times since, but never as well.) Then, after making Vanity Fair the hot mag of the moment, she took control of the venerable New Yorker. Founded in 1925 and an institution of literary achievement, it nevertheless was foundering by the early 1990s. Tina turned the magazine around, making it readable, lively and timely, and in the process took its circulation from a weekly 175,000 to 1.1 million, the largest increase in magazine history. During her time at Conde Nast, Tina cultivated writers who went on to luminous careers, including Dominick Dunne, Jeffrey Toobin, Lawrence Wright, Connie Bruck, Maureen Orth, Sidney Blumenthal,

Ken Auletta and Adam Gopnik, and also tapped into established authors such as John Updike and Norman Mailer. (David Remnick, one of her early writers at The New Yorker, now runs that magazine.) And Tina also knew how to corral the best photographers, from Annie Leibovitz to

Herb Ritts and Helmut Newton.

In August 1999, with partners Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the owners of Miramax Films, she launched her own magazine, Talk, a general interest monthly. My husband, Gerald, had written for Tina at Vanity Fair and The New Yorker. Now he had a broad investigative article on the death of Princess Di for Talk’s premiere issue. And we were both there when the magazine had its opulent launch party – a multimillion-dollar extravaganza for which Tina took over Liberty Island-loaded with celebrities, politicians, business tycoons and literary giants. The fireworks display rivaled New York’s annual Fourth of July spectacle.

When the Weinsteins pulled the plug on Talk after two years of enormous distribution but no profits, Tina went on to host her own CNBC talk show before taking a leave of absence to write The Diana Chronicles, for which she received a seven-figure advance. Ocean Drive is one of a small handful of publications that had an advance peek at the book before it was published last month.

Tina was in South Beach recently, and Gerald and I joined her for dinner. We were surprised to learn the woman-who was awarded CBE (Commander of the British Empire) from the Queen of England and is married to the legendary newspaper and book editor Sir Harold Evans-had never been to Miami. She was in for a weekend visit with her 21-year-old son, George, and staying at the Delano, the hotel that had been owned by her very close friend Ian Schrager. But then it seems everyone is a close Tina friend. When former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visits New York, he stops at Tina and Harry’s East Side home for dinner. Bill Clinton stops by for drinks. Norman Mailer takes the kids out for a play day.

So, between lots of sushi, sake and wine, we had a chance to catch up with what is happening in Tina’s world, aside from the fact that she looked as great as when we saw her a few years ago (she has always been a mix of Princess Di and Diane Sawyer, and with a super brain to go with it). Our wide-ranging conversation covered everything from her book to what was new in her life to our celebrity- obsessed culture. She is never without a strong opinion: Her willful nature got her expelled-”for insubordination,” as she calls it-from three English boarding schools before she finally settled in at Oxford. And we also learned some new personal info.

Her father was a prominent figure in the British film industry, producing the first Agatha Christie mystery films (he had briefly been the first husband of actress Maureen O’Hara). And Tina’s mother was the personal assistant to actor Laurence Olivier before becoming a hugely successful columnist-”she was the Maureen Dowd of her generation,” says Tina.

And while few people think of Tina as anything other than an iconic editor, early in her career she was an award-winning journalist who worked at both The Times of London and the Telegraph, and had a regular column at Punch, the esteemed magazine of humor and satire. Now her career had seemed to come full circle, as she returned to her writing and journalistic skills with her Princess Di book.

“The favorite part of the book for me was reporting, I just love that,” she told us at China Grill. “I always loved it and missed it enormously as an editor. I love going down a rabbit hole and into that tunnel, having it take you somewhere you didn’t expect. Once I got into the real swing of it, and found my voice, then I was excited. It took about three months until I felt it was right.”

Why Diana, I asked her? “Well, I had all this material since I was at Tatler, the 10th anniversary was coming up, and everyone has two or three books they want to do, and it was now or never to do this one. I also liked the idea of exploring London society and how it crossed with celebrities. It’s as much about celebrity culture as it is about Diana herself.”

Was the book more difficult than expected? “I did enjoy some of the writing, and about halfway through, you realize there is a real book there and you just want to finish it. Harry and I stayed in Quogue [their country home on Long Island) and declined every invitation from October to January. You can't even go for a drink. I didn't get dressed for three months."

So what about Diana herself? Tina had once said that when she initially met Di for lunch she thought the Princess was a little too tall and a tad too blonde. Although she was far too kind to say so, those of us who knew Tina gained the distinct impression that she thought Di clever and calculating, but not the brightest bulb on the chandelier.

"Actually, I've finished this book liking her a lot more than I expected to," Tina told me. "She was a deeply flawed individual, but what she was up against was so much more formidable, and she got an extremely bad deal from the royal family. But she would not back off. I really came to admire her very much. She refused to go under and decided instead to fight. At times, she could be melodramatic or immature and she fought with whatever weapons she had, and those were her image and the media. She became a really quite important figure in the end."

Diana came from an aristocratic family and knew the rules of the game, even though she was only 20 when she married the British heir to the throne, Prince Charles.

"The royals completely underestimated her, in part because she had an academic transcript the size of a postage stamp," said Tina. "But she had a tremendous media savvy, and street smarts. She learned so fast how to make the media work for her."

Many of us related to Princess Di precisely because she wasn't perfect. She complained about her loveless marriage in a BBC television interview, an airing of royal dirt that was considered scandalous at the time. She had affairs with everyone from an army officer to an Indian doctor. She suffered from bulimia. Diana might have been set to become the next Queen of England, but she was battling her own demons. Still, at the same time, she was the first royal to hold an AIDS baby, she went to Africa to help fight leprosy, and she made the removal of land mines her own personal campaign. That sense of compassion made her far more than a stick figure in a diamond tiara.

"She had a unique gift for connection," Tina told me. "On a global screen it was magnified. It was like the Pope's. But she was also in many ways a girl who was always going to be a fragile thoroughbred. If she had not married into the royal family, she would have had a house in the country, a flat in London, two kids, a life just like her sisters."

It seemed to me that much of the problem in the Di and Charles marriage was that they had not married for love, but rather because Di could pass the elitist society standards set by the royals and also be a virgin capable of producing an heir to the throne.

"No, Trisha, I don't actually think that is right," Tina said. 'They shouldn't marry for love. The best thing someone like Prince William can do is to marry a simple plain duchess. If you are pretty, you are like Di, and that is the problem that came up with Kate Middleton [William's last girlfriend]. She was a pinup royal. It is the pressure of our celebrity culture. She couldn’t take it, it was frightening for her. This type of pressure can make you go off the wall-look at what happened to Lindsay Lohan.”

From Tina’s research, it was only near the end of Di’s life that she realized how much Charles actually meant to her. “She would have gone back to Charles in a heartbeat,” said Tina, “if he had wanted her. She finally came to understand her role. If he had met her at 30, she might have even been able to deal with the Camilla thing.” And Charles thought Di was a wonderful mother, even though they had little in common. She had zero interest in pheasant hunting or his organic gardening, and he hated the limelight and the paparazzi-packed openings that she relished.

“She did not want to blow up the monarchy,” Tina said. “She did not want a republic, and she very much wanted William-who is as traditional as his father-to one day be king. She would not have been happy that William and Harry are out boozing every night. I mean, that’s how they lived during Henry VIII. She would have put a stop to that. In the end, William is his father’s son: He is a Windsor, and not a Spencer.”

So The Diana Chronicles is on its way to being a major best seller (note: when it was published it spent several months on the New York Times bestseller list). What is next for the iconic editor and writer? Another book?

“I would want to start up a national magazine,” she said, ” but it takes five years, a tremendously hazardous business unless you have enormous big- company backing. The media is so relentless about profits and making them fast. I am a great believer in magazines, but there is no magazine I want to edit right now. I would if there was one, but not one I see.”

Tina’s obviously an ambitious woman, but her family is as central to her life as her career. “I cannot imagine a better husband than Harry,” she told me. She met him while free-lancing for the London Times’ style section when he was the paper’s editor.

“Not every man wants a woman so strong,” she said, “but he doesn’t feel any threat. He loves strong women, and he is not worried about his ego being challenged. I can completely focus because Harry is always there, and he is a huge mentor, a great critic-and he was fantastic on my book. He gives me tremendous confidence. My two children also play a great role, huge, a great thread. My daughter and I are best friends.”

Tina stared away for a moment. Normally she is rapid-fire with her answers. “I’m thinking about what you asked,” she said, “about what’s next. My skill sets don’t have to be print. I would just like one crack at running something that would bring me together with all the great talent that I have access to-so many things I want to do and say. Another venture could be TV or movies, or producing good plays.”

Run a Hollywood studio? “Sure, I’d be open to anything creative.”

Then, just as fast as she touched on her dream careers, she was back to The Diana Chronicles. “It is more than just a book about Diana; it’s also a book about England in the ’80s and ’90s. Celebrity culture has only gotten bigger. Electronic convergence creates a perfect storm-it makes fast careers, people going up very quickly and then down very fast. This is the story of all of it.”

Far And Away: The Branding Of South Beach

A few years ago we were in Marrakech. Pre- 9/11, we never thought twice about traveling as Westerners on the back roads of a Muslim country. So in an adventuresome mood, we rented a Jeep and drove south over the Atlas mountains, vast expanses of arid desert set off with sheer cliffs. Days later we ended up in the tiny village of Zagora, where the paved road ends and the Sahara desert stretches past the horizon. At the edge of the town a weathered sign in French and Arabic announces, “52 days by camel to Timbuktu.”

Although we were surrounded by sand, South Beach was one of the last things on our mind that day. What was a priority was getting something to drink. We soon found a run-down bar that looked ideal. The young Moroccan counterman barely glanced up from his newspaper.

“Bottled water, please,” Trisha asked.

“Don’t have any,” he said. “Juice?”

“Ran out.”

“Lemonade?” We had had luck in earlier villages with a sickly sweet local concoction. He shook his head no.

“What do you have?”

“Mint tea.” Hot tea was not our idea of refreshment.

Trisha sighed, and in complete desperation said, ‘What I could actually use right now is a martini.” Our counterman came alive. “Where are you from?” he asked.

"New York. And Miami.”

“I can make you a South Beach martini. Would you like that?”

You could have knocked us over with a feather. It turns out that our “bartender” had spent four months with an uncle in Pompano Beach a year earlier, and he was South Beach-obsessed. We’re not quite sure what he used instead of vermouth, but we had one of the most interesting martinis ever that day. And we listened for an hour as our previously uncommunicative host told us his plans to open a bar in Marrakech called South Beach.

It was the first time we realized that the place we live in had gone from “neighborhood” to “brand.’ And in recent years we’ve been inundated with South Beach-promoting products, from getting a wonder body in two weeks to some decadent nightclub thousands of miles from America. What is it that has made Madison Avenue advertisers think our little haven is marketable to consumers who have never even been to Florida? Was our Moroccan bartender onto something clever long before big business caught on to the same idea?

Companies worldwide are using South Beach as shorthand for glamour, sexiness and hip. Well, they must not have been around when even those who lived here could not figure out what the place should be called. A few old-timers who nostalgically longed for the days of the Paddock Club on Seventh and Washington, where gangster Al Capone had his get-out-of-jail party, and where the entertainment included everyone from Al Jolson, Milton Berle and Sophie Tucker to Desi Arnaz, actually wanted to call the area “Old Miami Beach.”

“In the late ’80s, Andrew Delaplaine’s restaurant-lounge, Scratch, which the corner of Fifth Street and Jefferson, used ‘Old Miami Beach’ in its address, as did other bohemian Beach haunts,” recalls Tara Solomon, who has been a major part of the nightlife scene here since it got hot 15 years ago, and now runs her own successful public- relations firm, Tara Ink. “‘South Miami Beach’ was used more by the media, and somehow ‘South Beach’ was coined to abbreviate it. The abhorrence that is ‘SoBe’ was and still is favored more by out-of-towners; locals shudder at the sound of it.”

So where is South Beach showing up today? Probably it’s best known for the low-carb South Beach Diet, a veritable industry of its own spanning books, audiocassettes and exercise tapes. Naming their diet after the hippest ‘hood in South Florida seemed natural to its inventor, Dr. Arthur Agatston, and his wife, Sari. “Arthur and I were sitting at a restaurant on South Beach when the idea of writing a book came up, only half-seriously,” recalls Sari. “And at this time, before email, everyone was faxing the diet around, so it seemed like all the Beach was on it. And I said we couldn’t call it the scientific name he had given it for his abstracts. We live on the Beach and work on the Beach,’ I told him, ‘and everyone in Miami Beach is on the diet. So it’s the South Beach Diet.’ ” Even Fortune 500 companies like Kraft have jumped on the Agatstons’ bandwagon, announcing their 2005 launch of “South Beach Diet” foods to keep everyone slim and trim.

“My girlfriend went to VolleyPalooza a couple of years ago,” says Janice DeCosmio, who runs the South Beach Fitness Club in the tiny English hamlet of Ipswich. “When she came back with the pictures of those bodies, we all said, Wow.’ So now I have them posted here in our little club and it gives all the girls more incentive to work out a bit harder and stay away from the clotted cream and scones.”

But the South Beach Diet is only the tip of commercializing our name. There are South Beach Tumblers from an Atlanta company marketing promotional items. SoBe herbally enhanced beverages may have their headquarters in Connecticut, of all places, but the firm’s official name is the South Beach Beverage Company. Superdiscounter Target offers South Beach old-fashioned cocktail glasses, complete with etched palms. One of Barbados’ premier vacation spots is the South Beach Resort. And if the Caribbean is too far away, you can always relax at the South Beach Resort in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina (a golf course subs for sand). Virginia Beach has its South Beach Grill. There’s a new South Beach district in central Oregon and a hotel named after us 7,000 miles away in Troon, Scotland. Minneapolis has a South Beach Bar and Grill that thinks Miami Vice is still the fashion rage, based on its pastel colors and walls of mirrors. Even Mormon Salt Lake City has a South Beach Martini Bar, and swinging Ibiza has a coffee bar sporting our name. San Francisco, not content to have its famous North Beach neighborhood, has a new, upcoming South Beach ‘hood, and the city’s tony boat association is the South Beach Yacht Club.

But the best representative of South Beach not actually in Florida might be the nightclub of the same name in Houston. South Beach is the city’s premier gay dance club. On the first Saturday of every month, the door prize is a free trip to the real South Beach. Charles Armstrong, who had managed clubs earlier in Florida and Texas, started the 10,000-square-foot space four years ago.

“I never considered any other name,” says Armstrong. He had visited Miami Beach in the early 1980s and found it derelict. When he returned in 1991 he had an epiphany. “I came to see what all the buzz was about, and I fell in love with it-such a melting pot, gays, straights, Central and South Americans, everyone from the island nations, New Yorkers, Europeans, and even a few Floridians thrown into the stew. South Beach was a celebration of diversity. It was alive, exciting, vibrating. In Texas, there are layers of racism, and to me South Beach was far beyond that. It was a cultural awakening of an international city that I wanted Houston to follow. So it was the only name for us.”

Esther Percal, uber-Realtor to celebrities and the ultrarich, is a Miami native who has seen the changes take place. Once Blockbuster Video and Starbucks opened on Alton, “I knew that South Beach had arrived for the big businesses,” she says. But it took until the late 1990s for the term “South Beach” itself to become saleable. “Sex appeal is selling now,” says Per- cal. “South Beach has come to mean sex and fun, and that is marketable in any language. We have the same things here we’ve always had: sun, water, the beach. It’s just that now it has caught on as an international location, like Aspen, Vail or Marbella.” Percal, who in the mid 1990s thought Madonna had overpaid when she spent $3.9 million on a home here, now is herself selling homes “at $15 to $25 to $35 million. The money coming here is enormous, and it’s feeding the feeling about South Beach as a special place.”

PR guru Solomon is not surprised. “South Beach, the brand, has caught on so well because it represents everything the world is obsessed with today: glamour, celebrity, style and decadence. We have the whole package.” Other towns may have stolen our name, but there still ain’t any South Beach like ours.

Filling a Gap in the Treatment of Facial Wrinkles

Injectables are dermatologists’ newest weapons in the war against aging.

It used to be that the only way to shave off years- other than airbrushing-was to go under the knife for face-lifts, eye jobs and brow-lifts. Now, don’t get me wrong: Cosmetic surgeons are called that because they still do plenty of surgery, from curing weak chins and cutting away loose skin to administering pec, butt and calf implants to make people look like they’ve been working out at a gym for years. And don’t forget liposuction, a little procedure that can make saddlebags disappear or an inch melt away from a runway model who ate a fudge sundae the week before her show.

But surgery is no longer a must. The latest route for the savvy youth junkie is using fillers, injectable products that rejuvenate the face, which are now a $250 million annual business. You may have seen the results of these procedures around South Beach: puffy lips that look like they’ve been stung by a swarm of bees. But those superplumped lips are just one thing fillers tackle. They can, among other things, fill in wrinkles, reshape the face, add volume to shrunken cheeks and straighten out bumps along the bridge of a nose. In talented hands, fillers can postpone, or in some cases help you avoid, surgery. And a whole new range of products is coming out in the nick of time.

Botox, a watered-down version of poisonous botulism, paralyzes the muscles into which it is injected for four to six months. That means smooth foreheads, no frowns when you get angry and no crow’s-feet. But the downside is that a bad doctor can give you droopy eyes or leave you with no expression at all-think a bowling ball with two eyes and a mouth. Bad. And the Botox monopoly will soon be challenged by a slew of brands that aren’t yet household names, such as Reloxin, Xeomen and PurTox, based on the botulism strain. All promise the same effects but with longer staying power and lower prices. And Myobloc, yet another version, will be marketed as a much cheaper, almost generic Botox. That’s good for consumers: You’ll be able to get your face rejuvenated and still have money to shop at Bal Harbour.

Hyaluronic acid is a staple for cutting-edge dermatologists. It’s a natural substance present in every body tissue, with the highest concentrations in skin. Injections fill in lines and wrinkles around the eyes and those annoying ones that run from the edge of the nose to the corner of the mouth (nasolabial folds), as well as enhance lips. They are often used in conjunction with Botox and last about six months.

Restylane has been around a few years and virtually had the market to itself. But Juvèderm, which just received FDA approval, is launching a major marketing push. About 20 more products are on its heels, so expect lots of competition. Products most talked about are Restylane Touch, which injects easily and is supposedly excellent for lip enhancement and fine lines. Perlane is injected deeper and designed to fill deeper wrinkles, restore volume to sunken cheeks and make deep nasolabial folds disappear. SubQ is designed to treat severe wrinkles. Puragen promises longer-lasting results and will be one of the first with a built-in anesthetic to minimize pain (all injectables cause pain, even though the area is usually prepped with a numbing cream such as lidocaine).

You’ve probably heard of collagen, such as Zyderm, the 20-year-old mainstay for filling in face wrinkles. It is made from cows, and not only are some people allergic to it, but it also lasts only a couple of months. Now there is CosmoDerm and CosmoPlast. They’re derived-get ready to be grossed out-from the skin of babies. But don’t worry: It’s grown in labs from skin cells. The great news is that since they’re based on human skin, they can’t cause allergic reactions. That means you can walk into an office during your lunch hour and leave looking better. There is no downtime (unless you’re one of the unlucky ones to bruise), and it lasts twice as long as original collagen. Coming soon is Dermalogen, touted to last longer than existing products, Dermalogen XL for deep wrinkles, and Evolence and Evolence Breeze, collagens derived from pigs (there goes the kosher market). These are widely used in Europe, are great for enhancing lips and can last a year.

There are also fat injections, though they’re a bit nasty, too. Fat taken from your thighs, butt or abs with a syringe is injected into facial lines. There is no chance of rejection and it’s a great natural filler, but there is a bit more downtime and it lasts only a few months.

If you’re looking for something semipermanent, try Radiesse. Originally designed for dental, bone and vocal-cord reconstruction, dermatologists found that this synthetic bone-like substance, when injected, stimulates human collagen to grow around it. It is great at filling in lines (be certain to get a seasoned doctor, as an amateur can leave small bumps) and lasts between 12 and 18 months. And there is Sculptra, whose particles also stimulate collagen growth. Originally used to fill in the sunken cheeks typical of HIV/AIDS patients, it is now regularly used to rejuvenate the backs of hands and erase nasolabial folds. Usually you’ll need two to three treatments.

If you want a filler that will last until you die, there’s silicon-not the type used to caulk your bathtub, but microdroplets. In skilled hands it fills in small lines near the mouth, erases scars from chicken pox and can even straighten a bump on the bridge of the nose by building up sunken spots on each side. Hello, filler, good-bye, nose jobs. ArteFill is also FDA-approved, and like silicon, is a permanent filler.

But remember, the efficacy of these products relies on skilled derms and doctors, so don’t price shop. Someone chosen from a flyer given to you at a nightclub might offer diluted Botox or be a doctor whose degree was earned through a correspondence school. You also have to prepare yourself. For about a week before your procedure, stop smoking, drinking and taking vitamins such as E, aspirin, and Advil. They all increase the risk you’ll bruise, swell or be tender for a few days. 0

Fillers can postpone, or in some cases help you avoid, surgery. And a whole new range of products is coming out.

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Vitamins

Emerging from the winter gloom, most of us will become more active as wonderful weather returns. Now is a good time to ensure we are in top

condition for spring cleaning and extra exercise. The starting point should be to check if we’re getting all the nutrients and vitamins our bodies need. So spring is also the ideal time to give you my beginner’s guide to vitamins. It’s simpler than you think to maximize your inner and outer beauty from a bottle.

With so much talk about vitamins nowadays, it seems like everyone is using them. However, many women think vitamin supplements are unnecessary if they have balanced diets (no, girls, three different types of pizza a day doesn’t qualify). But most people will be surprised to learn that few of us get all the nutrients we need from our food, no matter how hard we try. My eyes were opened when a study of more than 20,000 women showed that not a single one got 100% of the Recommended Daily Allowance for 10 basic nutrients from her food. Other studies reveal that half the population has marginal nutritional deficiencies. No wonder so many people are running around tired and wondering why their hair and skin are dry.

I also get letters from some of you who would like to begin taking vitamins, but don’t know where to start.

Here is my foolproof routine. A good multivitamin should be part of your daily regimen at any age. Think of it as necessary as drinking water. The nutrients in most multivitamins ensure that you won’t get any major mineral deficiencies. It’s hard to go wrong with major brands. One I like is PharmAssure’s Biomultiple, Multi-Vitamin and Mineral Formula. It has all the basic vitamins you need (A, C, E and lots of calcium and Vitamin D for bones) but also includes a few of my other favorites, including silica, great for nails and hair; alpha lipoic acid, a powerful antioxidant that may help strengthen your immune system*; dong quai, a Chinese herb that is intended to help PMS or menopausal symptoms*; and also chromium, which might boost your metabolism.* Also on my short list is Vitalert from Performance Labs. It includes all the necessary vitamins plus some micronutrients like bee pollen that may help promote physical and mental alertness.’ This is especially good given the irregular eating, long hours and stress we put on our bodies.

For those of you who like to specialize, Pharmavite’s Nature Made brand develops specific formulas that target different concerns, in addition to dozens of individual supplements. For instance, Nature Made multis include Antioxidant Formula, with more immune helpers; Essential 50+ for Women, with extra calcium for bones and some herbs said to help counter hot flashes*; Essential Energy formulated to combat sluggishness; and even Essential Heart, with extra garlic, a mineral that is showing promise in controlling cholesterol.*

For women searching for beauty combined with good health, check out Olay’s vitamins, which are developed for everything from alleviating brittle nails to enhancing complexion. Olay’s combinations encourage bodies to promote beauty from the inside. My personal fave is their Evening Primrose Nourishing Complex, an essential oil in a capsule that nourishes dry skin.

So now, ladies, you have no more excuses. This beginner’s guide should get you going. It’s not that difficult to take a vitamin a day to make sure that your health is the best it can be, and that you are encouraging your bodies to do all they can to keep you looking forever 21. 

Florida Glamour and a Miami Beach star derm

“Her New Book Promises to Change How Your Skin Looks”

Until now, the most famous person born in the tiny northwest Texas town of Lubbock was recording artist Buddy Holly. That might change in the next month or so as another Lubbock native-Miami Beach star dermatologist Leslie Baumann-launches her revolutionary book The Skin Type Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to Your Best Skin Ever. Purchased a year ago by Random House, Baumann’s book already has hundreds of thousands of advance orders-well on its way to instant bestseller status-and her promotion of it, from Good Morning America to just about every national talk show, will likely make her a familiar household name by this summer. Move aside, Buddy Holly.

Baumann took some time out from her crammed prepublication schedule to sit down with us in her sprawling 9,000-square-foot top-floor spread in the Miami Heart Institute, a year-old setup with unobstructed views of Miami Beach, Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The first thing that strikes you upon meeting Baumann is the impression that it isn’t possible she’s the doctor who has achieved all the things listed in her multipage curriculum vitae: She designed and created the University of Miami Cosmetic Center in 1997, the only university-run clinic in the United States devoted to researching cutting- edge cosmetic procedures. She has been quoted numerous times in magazine such as Allure, 0, Elle, Vogue and Good Housekeeping, as well as newspapers such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. And in addition to her research work-her worldwide travel schedule to speak at pharmaceutical conferences guarantees platinum mileage-award levels-her patient practice has been so busy that she has refused to take new clients for two years (her center has other doctors and a small army of nurses and assistants). And the reason it’s difficult to imagine that the Leslie Baumann you’ve just met is the one who has accomplished all of those things is that this 38-year-old woman seems more like 25: Her high-pitched, little girl’s voice is a

Leslie Baumann will likely be a familiar household name by this summer.

cross between Melanie Griffith and Marilyn Monroe, and her flawless skin doesn’t have a wrinkle or sunspot on it.

But it doesn’t take long to figure out that behind the little-girl countenance is a serious brain committed to her career and profession. Despite growing up in a family of lawyers, she wrote a letter to her grandmother while in second grade declaring she wanted to be a pediatrician. By college, she had opted for dermatology. In medical school she met her husband, Roger, a third-generation Miami Beach native whose grandfather, Leonard Wein, was one of the founders of Capital Bank and Mount Sinai Hospital. The high- energy Leslie-who calls her husband her “mellow leveler -converted to Judaism when they married, and the couple is now raising both of their sons Jewish.

When it was time to do her residency in 1994 she wanted to come to Miami, since it was her husband’s town and had one of the best dermatology programs in the country. Six-hundred applicants applied for six spots, and Leslie nabbed one. The university encouraged her to do her research and work there, and she accepted.”‘ became the first person to have a role like that with a university,” she says. Baumann considered herself a trailblazer in much the way that her three role models-Elizabeth Arden, Helena Rubinstein and Estee Lauder-had been in their lives.

While she built up a client list, Baumann paid the bills by doing research. At the time, pharmaceutical giant Allergan was doing trials on Botox. “Allergan sent me around Asia to teach doctors how to use Botox,” she recalls. “When I grew up, Dallas was the biggest city near Lubbock. So I just loved the travel.”

Word soon spread that there was a new rigorous center for testing. “We were swamped with trials and soon were busy with patients,” she says. Today, the university’s cosmetic center is the biggest in the country, just ahead of its counterpart at New York University. Just 21 residents are accepted annually. ‘We do it all, the toxin trials, the creams, the fillers. We apply stringent FDA levels to raise the bar on the cosmetic companies. We refuse to lie about the results. A trial can be manipulated, but we wouldn’t do it. Early on we met resistance, but we wouldn’t budge, and now they have all come around to us on our terms.”

By 2001, her practice was booming-despite her reputation as Dr. No, a-doctor who routinely refused requests from patients whom she felt wanted too many or unnecessary procedures. “My patients are my calling card,” she told us. “I don’t want people thinking my work is anything but the best.” She was known as Dr. No for refusing patients who wanted too much work done.

While pregnant with her second child, she wrote a textbook-the $150 book has sold 4,000 copies, a respectable number in the academic field. Still, she felt there was another book to write, a more commercial one, but she wasn’t sure what it was. A column she wrote for Skin & Allergy News was a nice outlet but didn’t satisfy her desire to write something more substantive.

Fortunately, work experiences pushed her in the right direction. “Some people were just coming in for consultations on skin care, and I would have to ask all these questions before deciding what skin type they had and what ingredients would work best. So I did a preprinted handout for them to fill in. Patients loved it.” Baumann’s catalogue of skin types grew from four to 16. She then gave 500 of her patients an expanded questionnaire, and through their feedback, developed a 64-question form. “Around this-time, I thought maybe I should put this all into a book.’

A mutual friend put Leslie in contact with Arthur “South Beach Diet” Agatston, who recommended his agent. In 2004, New York publishers-eyeing the book as the next health-related South Beach phenomenon-began jockeying for the rights. The result Random House’s Bantam Dell division paid a more than $1 million advance, a staggering sum for a first- time commercial author.

The Skin Type Solution tries to take the chaos out of skin care and to rescue those who feel overwhelmed by the hundreds of choices they are confronted with in Sephora or a department store. The book is designed for all age groups, and everyone takes the skin-type questionnaire. Then, based on what type you have, Baumann tells you which products to use and which to avoid. “I want to be the Consumer Reports of the cosmetics industry,” Baumann tells us.

So how does she balance, being a leading national dermatologist, a wife, a mother and a soon-to-be best-selling author? “For me, life is like juggling. Each part of life is a ball-husband, kids, boss. People make a mistake and assume that all the balls have to be up at the same time. But it is just that no ball can hit the ground, and I am focused on not letting anything hit the ground.”

Nonetheless, it all still seems a bit unreal to Baumann. “I just wanted to have something to hand to my patients, and it is so crazy, I ended up with this book. I am so totally excited.” But Baumann knows there is more to her career than rolling back years for patients and selling The Skin Type Solution. “I want to contribute something to the dermatology world. I want to do something that matters in the cosmetic derm world other than just filling wrinkles. I am not curing cancer. I want to find something that fills that part of me. With the book, I am empowering women to be able to make their own decisions and not believe all the marketing B.S. out there. In the end, you can’t be too motivated by money. I earn one-fifth in academic medicine compared to what I would earn in private practice. But I love my job and what I am doing.” A full professor at the University of Miami, she is now trying to raise $2 million to endow the Leslie Baumann Chair, a permanent position for cosmetic dermatology at the university.

“I am passionate in life, whether it’s my kids, my husband or my work. And I’m young, so I’m excited about things I’m going to do in my career that aren’t even on the radar yet. I want to be on the cutting edge all the time.” Baumann likes to operate on 10 year plans, and since she opened her clinic in 1997, it means she is nearing the end of her previous big life plan. “I haven’t done my next 10-year plan yet,” she says with her infectious smile. “You’ll just have to be patient and see what happens next.”

The Skin Type Solution is the cutting edge now. Where Leslie takes it in the future is anyone’s guess.

Where’s the Deco?: The Changing Face Of South Beach

Everyone has a few friends too stubborn for their own good. We have our share. But one of our dearest lives in New York, and his stubbornness is mixed with a little “know it all” attitude. He hasn’t been here in six years, but he still tells us where we should go for wonderful cocktails or the latest scene. It didn’t take us long after moving here to realize his contact list was a tad dated.

But we didn’t pay much attention until, he came to visit over the holidays. Need any suggestions, we asked? “No, thanks, I know the best places.” Sure.

When we met the next afternoon, we could tell he was agitated. “1 just can’t believe this town,” he said, grandly waving his hand and making sure we soaked in the drama of the moment.

“What’s wrong?”

‘Where do I start?” He was excited enough to grab the attention of a neighboring table, no easy task at the 90-decibel Big Pink. “Well, when I took my taxi from the airport, what are those enormous buildings at Fifth Street and along the water? I thought I was back in New York!”

He really didn’t want an answer; this was going to be a monologue. “And then, after unpacking, I realized I forgot a belt, so I went to Lincoln Road to find one. And what do I see instead of some unique boutique? Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Williams- Sonoma. I mean, am I in South Beach or at the Mall of America?” ‘Well….” Trisha tried interjecting.

“But wait. This is the best. I go at midnight to my favorite club, Salvation, and I can’t find it! And I know it like the back of my hand. It’s an Office Depot! You have to be kidding!”

“Places change.” “Change!? Listen to this. At 1 a.m. I figure I’ll go to the best deli in town. And guess what?”

By this time we knew what was coming. “Wolfie’s. Closed. Just another skyscraper across the street that some taxi driver told me is $12 million for the penthouse! Those are New York prices. Can’t believe it. I ended up at some place called Jerry’s.”

We looked at each other. Anyone who knows delis knows that Wolfie’s had been less than desirable for many years, while Jerry’s has been one of LA:s premier establishments forever. One thing we knew by living in South Beach-you aren’t going to like this place unless you embrace change. It is a perpetually varying landscape, for better and worse, and the constant transformation of the town is key to its excitement and freshness. But our friend’s rant made us think he had inadvertently stumbled onto this month’s chatter, how the changing face of South Beach strikes some of the town’s most knowledgeable insiders.

“Miami Beach is always remaking itself,” says Mitchell Kaplan, the erudite owner of Lincoln Road’s wonderful Books & Books. “I grew up here, so my perspective goes way back. It was in decline so much that people were talking about tearing down lots of places. No one thought of preservation in those days. It’s hard to say what has been lost with some of the individual character that marked the Beach years ago, but it is so different it bears almost no resemblance to what it was. It went from an old-timer’s place to a hip and thriving city.”

“When I was surfing here as a teenager in the mid ’80s,” recalls nightlife and real- estate entrepreneur Michael Capponi, “South Beach was a slum. We then evolved into 186 Ocean Drive a fashionable bohemian village, one of the top places in America.”

So what’s our friend’s problem? Has all the growth come with a price? Few people explain the pluses and perils of the Beach’s rush to change better than Miami Herald architecture critic and author Beth Dunlop, a Miami Beach native. Among the things she likes is the renovation of so many “really wonderful hotels, just what a great urban historic district needs.”

And the hotels aren’t just for visitors. We love the new Spire Bar at The Hotel, a wonderful rooftop space with the ocean on one side and a great view over the Art Deco District on the other. And the Raleigh’s renovation at the hands of hotelier Andre Balazs is true to its original roots, the Sunday parties are super, and the bar is still an intimate throwback to another era.

“What makes the hotel scene so great,” says Stephanie Balazs, the managing partner of South Beach Group, which owns seven local boutique hotels, “is that there has been very little penetration by the big corporate chains. Except for Loews, and now The Ritz-Carlton, we have the largest number of independent hotels in a major tourist area that I’ve ever seen. And we all try to outdo each other in being creative and original.”

But Dunlop worries that there may be too much force when businesses try to trump the competition. ‘There is astounding development pressure,” she says. “Property owners have a need to build on every square inch of space. The Art Deco District used to be not only low- scale, but also very lush and green. Gone are the courtyards, planting boxes and trees.” And she bemoans what she calls “demolition by neglect,” where developers buy historically protected properties and allow them to deteriorate to the degree where they can only be torn down. A prime example is the fabulous 1918 Avery Smith-designed coral-rock house at Ninth and Collins. Miami Beach’s building department declared the house unsafe in August, and despite a battle by preservationists, it could be dust by the time you are reading this.

“Once we start losing things like the coral-rock house,” says Dunlop, “we lose the character of the district and the real evolutionary sense of history, where you can see decades of change just by strolling around.” But that does not bother the South Beach Group’s Balazs, who has lived here for seven years. “I have guests all the time in the lobby of the Chesterfield asking, ‘Where is the historic district?’ And I tell them they are in the heart of it. I don’t know what they expected. But I also find that most of our guests come to South Beach not to see the historic district, but ‘because of our nightclubs, restaurants and hotels, what makes this city so happening. This is New York in the 1970s, Los Angeles in the 1980s. It just happens to all be set in the middle of a historic district, and that is a great plus for us who live here and people who visit. If you want to just see old homes and history, you should go to Savannah.”

To business owners like Books & Books’ Kaplan, “There has always been the conflict over how much allegiance we owe to the past and how much we should give in to development. There has never been political will to stop the developers. They have always reigned supreme on the Beach.” But Dunlop thinks it’s also the lawyers who have made a living finding zoning exceptions. “They know the rules aren’t ironclad, unfortunately,” she says, “and they seem to use the maximums as their minimum requests.”

You only need to look at the adjoining series of similarly designed skyscraper condos (“Houston-style buildings where it’s all about the driveway,” says Dunlop) popping up on the west bank of Miami Beach to see the evidence of the power of builders in this town. There used to a nice bay view when someone walked or drove south on Alton. “When you ask a City official,” comments Dunlop, “how all those buildings came to be, they say it was ‘old zoning.’ Well, there must have been a lot of old zoning, because the buildings keep coming and coming.”

Pier 1 Imports now greets visitors to South Beach off the MacArthur Causeway. A developer threatens to build a giant Publix and Target on the empty lot across the street So a grocery store, albeit a wonderful one, will become the entryway to the nation’s largest historical preservation zone, the Art Deco District.

“That’s appalling,” says Dunlop. “I like Publix, and shop there, but wouldn’t it be great if that was a little shopping village with some housing mixed in? A big- box, warehouse store has no place there. Visitors to South Beach should know when they arrive that they are in a historic district, not Anywhere, U.S.A.”

“Most changes have been for the better,” says Capponi. But he thinks that there should be more careful planning of what residents and City officials want the Beach to look like in the long term. In resorts that compete with South Beach for image and style-from Portofino to Ibiza to the Hamptons-there is an effort to insure that instead of just approving a single development at a time an overall design plan is carefully followed.

Lincoln might be dotted with chain stores-even eateries like Johnny Rockets pushing in-but it is alive and thriving, especially at night. Our friend may be right-it might not be as iconoclastic as it was ten years ago-but it is far more vibrant as a great pedestrian boulevard. And it still hosts great lifestyle stores unique to the Beach, such as Steven Giles’ Base, which has just expanded with a home department. Restaurants get better (and more expensive) constantly, and retailers reinvent themselves quicker than you can remember what was filling the location last.

“As a tenant, I worry about rents getting so high that only chain stores can afford them,” says Kaplan. “But there is enough variety on Lincoln, and will continue to be so, to guarantee the street is one of the best anywhere.” Dunlop thinks that Lincoln, which she admits used to be “derelict,” is “amazing, one of the most incredible places you can walk in America. I can’t think of anything as exciting that isn’t on the coast of Italy or the South of France. “The best thing that happened to Lincoln was the national chains,” says the South Beach Group’s Balazs. “It’s fun now, and it’s used by locals as well as tourists. That makes it real.”

Ocean Drive, the street that should be the most fabulous in town, seems to have few local fans. Although the Victor, Hyatt’s boutique-styled hotel, at long last promises to revitalize an entire section with a new hip quotient, other portions remain filled with T-shirt shops and fraternity-boy-type bars. “Ocean Drive is both fabulous and problematic,” says Dunlop, who admits she hates “the cabaret district, the sleazy attitude, the honky-tonk.” “We lost something on Ocean Drive,” says Kaplan, “a chance to keep it as great as Lincoln and not let it become the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica.”

Which leads us to the last major equation in South Beach’s changing landscape, the club scene. The anti- club camp is represented by Dunlop, who says, “The clubs have a strangle hold on part of the city, leaving it dead by day and too lively for part of the night, when most of the rest of us are trying to sleep. This Bourbon Street, dicey direction has consequences for the whole city, incredible architectural and urban implications, none of which are positive.” “Some residents who don’t like the noise might not like the clubs,” says the South Beach Group’s Balazs, “but those are one of the major reasons that Miami Beach has morphed into the hip place to be.”

“So long as the clubs are really good,” says Capponi, who has owned some of the hottest in Miami, “they are one-of-a-kind and make the town better. Places like Mynt, Opium Garden, Mansion, Crobar and others. It’s the riffraff clubs that are problems.”

Riffraff. Could start a new trend.

Getting the Look Without the Pain

Increasing numbers of nonsurgical procedures now offer the fountain of youth in the bat of an eye.

0ur obsession with youth is nothing new. In the 1980s, archaeologists discovered ancient Egyptian medical tablets dating back 3,000 years. The heading was “For Transforming an Old Man into a Youth,” and a recipe for an acid facial peel to erase wrinkles was included. Of course, the Egyptians did not have the advantage of today’s breakthrough medical procedures, which, in the hands of a skilled artisan, can radically reverse the aging clock. Lucky us.

The latest trend is how to stay looking eternally young without resorting to real surgery. So recently I decided to ask seven of South Florida’s best-known cosmetic surgeons and dermatologists what their favorite, noninvasive procedure of the moment is. And I wanted procedures that are used on both men and women. The doctors are listed in alphabetical order, just so you don’t think I have any favorites—I would trust my face to any of them.

LESLIE BAUMANN, an internationally recognized dermatologist, is the bestselling author of The Skin Type Solution: A Revolutionary Guide to Your Best Skin Ever. Her pick of the moment is Intermittent Pulse Light (IPL). IPL is a no-downtime procedure for photo-damaged skin, and it can also zap age spots, broken veins or any blotchiness or redness on the skin.

“I love it,” says Baumann, whose skin is flawless and gives no indication that she is an avid tennis player. “IPL is just about painless. It feels like a little rubber band hitting you for a second—no bruising—and someone can come in on their lunch hour and most of the time be back at work without anyone knowing they did anything. It even temporarily improves fine wrinkles. It’s so cool.”

Baumann is proud that her University of Miami Cosmetic Center has the latest IPL equipment. In fact, she helps companies test their devices to see if they work. And Baumann is not on her own, working with other IPL specialists such as Dr. Wendy Lee. They have two different IPL machines and must determine your skin tone and problems before deciding which is best to use, as well as the intensity of the treatment. They can even use Levulan, a photosensitizing agent, which turbocharger the treatments. (The only downside is that you will look like you have sunburn for a few days).

FREDRIC BRANDT, dubbed the Baron of Botox, is one of the country’s premier dermatologists and boasts a wildly successful skin-care line that is carried everywhere from Sephora to Bloomingdale’s. He is the world’s largest user of Botox, buying more than $1 million worth a year to fill in the faces of his extensive celebrity clientele. And Botox is still his fav choice.

“Botox has changed so much since I began using it in the mid 1990s,” Brandt says. “We did not know the power of Botox in its infancy.”

He has discovered new ways to use Botox in addition to the traditional freezing of facial wrinkles, employing it for nonsurgical neck and forehead lifts, and “if you relax certain muscles the right way, it’s almost like having a temporary face-lift.”

For Brandt, technique is everything. “I love Botox,” he says. “It is so innovative, just like an artist’s brush, and it’s not just the Botox, it’s the way it is used. We can stave off surgery for years.”

No wonder he has a five-month waiting list—unless you know Madonna….

JULIO GALLO is the moving force behind the incredibly popular and pampering cosmetic spa The Miami Institute for Age Management and Intervention in the Four Seasons Hotel, Miami. He loves Aluma, a fairly new radio-frequency machine that is predictable and virtually pain-free.

“It treats fine lines and really improves the skin,” he says. “It gets deep enough to stimulate collagen and has a tightening effect.”

The treatment is simple: After applying numbing cream, Gallo passes the Aluma machine over your face. It looks like a little vacuum and makes a small suctioning noise. A small amount of heat is all you feel.

“Some people tell me that it’s like getting a facial massage,” he says.

“It doesn’t hurt in the least.”

Gallo has used Aluma on the neck, face, abdomen and even the dreaded bat wings under the arms, all with great results.

“It’s perfect for any place you need a little extra skin tightening,” he says. Results can last two years, and there is no bruising or recovery time. No wonder he has a waiting list for Aluma.

STEVE MANDY’s arrival here has proven to be Aspen’s loss and Miami’s gain. Mandy, who has carved out one of South Beach’s best specialty practices, is a derm who is proud of staying on the cutting edge. His current pick for a noninvasive trick is Sculptra, an injectable synthetic filler that can fill in sunken areas on the face.

“An aging face loses collagen and elasticity,” Mandy says. “I consider Sculptra to be the concrete and steel of facial reconstruction.”

For Mandy, Sculptra is one of many tools he uses, often combining it with other fillers for fine-tuning.

“Sometimes I get a super athlete who is young and has almost no body fat,” he says. “Their body looks great, but their face can seem gaunt. By generating collagen growth, Sculptra can really make their face look much healthier.”

Mandy finds that both men and women, across a broad age spectrum, have benefited from Sculptra. “If you start at the right time, you can delay, or postpone forever, surgery. Tools like Sculptra are just one of many state-of-the-art tools that a good derm must have.”

Mandy says one of the side benefits of plumping the collagen is that it improves skin’s color and texture, and that can never be a bad side effect.

MARK NESTOR, director of Adventura’s Skin and Cancer Associates Center for Cosmetic Enhancement, is on the front lines of battling the sun damage inflicted on most of us who live in South Florida. He says he has a tough time picking just one favorite noninvasive procedure, but says that if pressed, it would have to be Fraxel, a laser treatment that is the choice du jour for many cosmetic-surgery fans because it zaps brown spots, closes large pores and eliminates fine lines.

“Fraxel can really improve your appearance,” Nestor says. “You’ll feel the difference in your skin after the first treatment. It’s like resurfacing the face.”

Fraxel might be a lunch-hour procedure in terms of time, but a day or two of redness is not unusual. And most fans, who love how healthy their skin looks after a treatment, usually go six to nine times, each a month apart. But at 1,000 a session, start saving your money now.

THOMAS TZIKAS is a Delray Beach cosmetic surgeon referred to in Palm Beach society circles as “the Rejuvenator.” So when you look at “Shot on Site Palm Beach” pages in this issue, don’t be surprised if some of the smiling, perfect faces are the result of his handiwork. Tzikas’ current favorite is Radiance, another injectable synthetic filler.

“The real sign of age that I notice right away in someone’s face is a loss of volume,” he says. “People lose fat over time. Restoring volume is the key to turning back the clock.”

Tzikas calls Radiance, which can last from 12 to 18 months, one “of the most versatile fillers” made, though he says he also believes its success depends equally on the ability of the doctor applying it. Tzikas has a waiting list for Radiance treatments because he is good with it. He is also the largest user in the United States.

“What I do is not just fill lines,” he says. “I’m like an artist. I sculpt and mold the face. This is not the same procedure for every person but has to be very individualized to be done right. I can take years off of someone with just an hour of their time.”

Tzikas typically uses Radiance between the eyebrows, for cheek augmentation, to fill marionette lines and even for sculpting the jaw line.

MARTY ZAIAC is a leading Miami Beach dermatologist and co-founder of the Greater Miami Skin and Laser Center. He does not have a single favorite right now, but instead has a favorite combo approach.

“All the procedures are good,” Zaiac says. “But they are better if used together.”

First, Zaiac likes Botox, as does Brandt. “I use Botox to relax the muscles, to eliminate the expressions we don’t want to have,” he says. “It’s a balance of leaving some muscle movement, but not actually paralysis.”

Then he likes to use a filler. “Sculptra is good, but I prefer the hyaluronic acids, like Restylane. Everyone loses volume over time, and it’s great to use fillers to restore some of that. You get immediate results.”

The third part of Zaiac’s youth cocktail is a laser procedure to “tighten the skin and improve the texture and color.” Fraxel is his first choice, with IPL right behind.

And finally, he likes to use photodynamic therapy, which was originally developed along with light to kill cancer cells. “But we discovered about 10 years ago that it had a cosmetic effect and improves the overall quality of the skin.”

But all this poses a real dilemma: Where, and with whom, do you start first? With these doctors, it is hard to go wrong, and the great news about these techniques is that not only are they noninvasive, but none are permanent. So if you don’t like the results, you don’t have to live with them forever, and if you do like them, just add these doctors and their procedures to your BlackBerry calendar.

Viagra for Gals Coming Soon

The New York Times knows how to get your attention. The eye-catching headline “A Female Counterpart to Viagra” was enough to make me read a section of the paper I usually refer to only to check the ever-decreasing value of my 401K.

The story was about a patent that New Jersey pharmaceutical and medical technology firm NexMed Inc. had recently landed for a cream based on a drug now used to treat erectile dysfunction. According to NexMed, its cream would successfully treat a condition it calls “female sexual arousal disorder” (FSAD). The Times article reads in part as if it had been written by the company’s public relations department: “Viagra, the drug that used professional athletes and a retired senator to become a household word, may soon have a counterpart for women,” it promised. It’s not hard to see why companies are interested in this potential market. In 1999, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that 43 percent of women between 18 and 54 had experienced some kind of sexual dysfunction. That’s a big market. Pharmaceutical companies dream of huge profits — some estimates are upward of $6 billion — in promising women steady orgasms and stimulation.

That’s about all I needed to wake up the researcher in me. A trip to the library, a few phone calls to doctors and medical researchers, and a couple of hours on the Net later, my first surprise is that there isn’t any agreement in the medical community on what constitutes female sexual dysfunction. The American Psychiatric Association says that “FSAD is a persistent or recurrent inability to attain, or to maintain until completion of the sexual activity, an adequate lubrication-swelling response of sexual excitement.” Boy, those psychiatrists really have a way with words. I’ve never really thought I might be diagnosed with a disorder if some professional arbiter of the “lubrication-swelling response” thinks mine is inadequate.

One psychiatric tome I consulted says, “Some evidence suggests that relationship issues and/or sexual trauma in childhood may play a role in the development of this disorder.” Hmmm, why doesn’t anyone say this about men who can’t get it up and have to resort to Viagra? No one I know ever accuses the flaccid man of failing to perform because of a “relationship issue.”

And the more I read, the more I wondered if FSAD should encompass women whose sex drive had dropped because of post-menopausal hormone imbalances, or those whose antidepressants or heart medications have given them the common side effects of reduced libido? What about the dryness that many women experience with menopause, a condition so uncomfortable for some that merely having sex is a painful, not pleasurable, experience? And what if the “dysfunction” is the result of finding yourself sharing a bed with an overweight husband, with beer- and pizza-breath, whose no-foreplay, frenzied attack is timed so he won’t miss the second half of the football game blaring in the adjoining room?

One book admitted that FSAD was merely a fancier name for what used to be dubbed “frigidity.” A couple of years ago, the medical wizards had come up with Eros, a soft funnel connected to a battery-controlled vacuum that pulled blood into the clitoris. At $359 each, and available by prescription only, the Eros sold even fewer tickets than Madonna did for “Swept Away.”

But now the medical profiteers are taking a different tack. If Viagra worked for men, imagine what a variation could do for us ladies? The patented cream uses the same active ingredient that’s in the male pills, a chemical called prostaglandin. The women’s cream is designed to increase the flow of blood to our sex organs, implying that with the right dosage, even listening to Barry Manilow records could get us excited.

Dr. James L. Yeager, the NexMed senior vice president for scientific affairs, said the target audience is “women [who] say they can have intercourse, but nothing happens, they don’t get aroused. We don’t know why. We think it has something to do with the action of vasodilation, or blood vessel dilation, gone awry. It’s not psychological.”

Says who? Has this man ever talked to a woman about what it takes to really turn her on? But Yeager, and the medical boys, think they have the answer: “In female anatomy, it [the medication] dilates the blood vessels that feed the labia, and these are highly proliferated with secretory cells, and you need increased blood flow for increased secretion and increased engorgement.”

Already getting you kind of warm and excited all over, right, girls? Don’t the researchers in white lab coats understand that there’s more to making us enjoy wonderful sex than an organ stimulator? I thought that’s what masturbation was for. Anybody at NexMed ever hear of foreplay or a little tenderness? Let me suggest a more direct cure for many cases of FSAD — thoughtful male lovers who know how to slowly arouse a woman. And some women don’t accept that we essentially have to give ourselves orgasms. We have to be in the right frame of mind, have to want the sex, let our inhibitions go, and then really go for it.

For me, what is as important as sex itself is what happens before. My husband and I have been together for 22 years, so I know about creativity. I find it arousing to be spontaneous, adventurous and diverse. Get out of bed and be innovative, dress up, meet at a hotel with great sheets and room service, make a date as if it were the first time. And remember, men — we need patience and tenderness. Spend time kissing, caressing and cuddling, not just focusing on our sex organs.

That’s the problem, it seems to me, with the new wonder drug from NexMed. It focuses on the physical to the exclusion of everything else that arouses us. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But on those occasions when I just wasn’t in the right mood, or couldn’t quite get there, I never started to fret that I might have a sexual disorder. And no group of psychiatrists or medical researchers is going to convince me otherwise.

“We want to keep the dose low for safety,” Dr. Yeager said, “but we want rapid penetration into the tissue, because if you want to apply it, you don’t want to wait forever for it to work.” Women, he noted, should need to wait only five or 10 minutes for a dab of the cream to take effect. “Of course, they’ll need to engage in some sexual activity,” he added.

Thanks for the advice, Doc.

Real Time in Miami

This month, outspoken HBO political commentator and comedian Bill Maher brings his insightful wit to the South Beach Comedy Festival

Prolific comedian, actor, writer and producer Bill Maher is celebrated for his political satire and sociopolitical commentary. After hosting the late-night television talk show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC (on which Gerald was a guest three times), he is now the star of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. Last summer, the New York City native also debuted an Internet-exclusive talk show on Amazon.com entitled Amazon Fishbowl, the first ever episodic program on a major website.

His frankness, however, famously cost him his ABC show. On air, along with conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, Maher said, ‘We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly.” Lost in all the brouhaha was the fact that D’Souza had raised the topic, and Maher was merely amplifying what D’Souza had said. Still, so soon after 9/11, he was attacked by right-wing pundits, and advertisers such as FedEx and Sears, Roebuck pulled their ads. The show was cancelled on June 16th, 2002. Six days later, Maher received the President’s Award-for ‘championing free speech’-from the Los Angeles Press Club. In a recent broad- ranging interview with Maher, who will appear in Miami on January 20th (his 51st birthday) as part of the South Beach Comedy Festival, we discussed politics, social issues and religion.

OCEAN DRIVE What do you think of the Barack Obama phenomenon? Is he just a blank canvas onto which people project whatever they want?

BILL MAHER: Well, they did that with George Bush. Actually, that comparison is unfair to Obama, because he is not like George Bush. But also, he doesn’t have a very long record. People are starved for a leader; we are bereft of them. Well just have to see how Obama plays out in the primaries, when he is asked real questions and is under scrutiny. Anything’s possible in politics.

What do you think about the Rumsfield memo [a leaked memo in which the ex-Defense Secretary called for major changes In Iraq tactics two days before he resigned)? is it just covering his ass?

It's a little late to cover his ass. You would need military camouflage to cover his ass. These officials wake up to things so late, they just don't know what other people are talking about or have been writing about. Bush once said he didn't read the newspaper, and I made fun of it. But it really wasn't funny, and the last leader to do that was Louis XIV. He went around France and people would say, The kingdom is so great.' Bush would just have to read one of [New York Times writer] Thomas Friedman’s columns once in a while instead of listening to the ass kissers around him.

So what is the solution in Iraq?

There isn’t one. No one in either party has one Packing up and getting out is no easy answer. All the people who predict what will happen in Iraq make me so angry, because none of them have been right so far. We aren’t even that good about predicting what will happen two or three months down the road. Remember blowback [the theory that US. actions often lead to unintended consequences)? If we leave, what will be the blowback? Will there be a worse bloodbath? Possibly. But it's going on anyway. And what does it matter except in U.S. lives? They are going to wipe each other out, if it happens in a spasm of violence or more slowly. They have already killed everyone who could build a country, or those people have fled, or they have been radicalized. Only a nest of vipers is left, apart from us. I don't know how many more U.S. lives will stave off the inevitable. The talking heads act like they know the answers. These people only care about power and who is in power. And bringing in Syria and Iran to help us is a joke. We threw them into the 'axis of evil,' tried to get rid of their leaders-who are bad-and there is simply no way they are going to help us. The people we thought were going to throw flowers when we arrived were there, but they are all gone now.

Switching gears, ex-Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar has his Aspen home for sale for $135 million. The top- 10 listed homes in America average $74.5 million. Corporate titan Barry Diller's compensation was $295 million last year. The gap between the ultrarich and the poor has never been bigger. Do you favor a heavy tax on the rich?

Hmm, I have to go now (laughs). The government already takes half. Even over a few hundred thousand, they take half. I don't know if the government should take more than that. A larger tax is not a bad idea, especially on the ultrarich, and the amount should be on whatever is more than I could make.

So what is causing the problem between rich and poor?

Well, even though we elected the Democrats, there is no far left to address these social issues. There is a far right. But besides [Bernie] Sanders (the first socialist elected to the Senate) or Ralph Nader, there is no far left. No one talks about cutting the defense budget by a few hundred billion. You never really hear talk about shifting the tax burden. Politicians always talk about the middle class but never the poor. John Edwards does, but he’s about the only one. I like Edwards, Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton. It is a blight on our record that such progressive countries as Pakistan and Chile have had female leaders and we haven’t. You know what the U.S. and Kazakhstan have in common, beside the Borat jokes? The vote for women was approved in both countries on August 26th, 1920. We have finally caught up to Kazakhstan.

You mentioned Nader. Did he cost Al Gore the election?

Nader didn’t cost Gore the election. Gore cost Gore the election. There is always someone else in it, and they can’t count the votes right anyway in this country, so you have to win decisively, that’s the rule. Gore was the sitting Vice President in an administration that had guided the country through relatively good prosperity, and he should have defeated a nothing candidate from Midland, Texas. The son of a mediocre President. I mean, his father wasn’t Alexander the Great. The Democrats lose by going after the NASCAR voters, by goose-stepping, by moving to the right, by pretending to be conservatives, by being ashamed of the liberal word. That is exactly what Hillary is doing now. And as for Kerry, he was not a good candidate, but he could have been a good President.

So what is the hang-up here? Why can’t we invoke ‘liberal’ anymore?

Many people would support a liberal. Seventy-nine million who could have voted in the last Presidential election did not. Most who didn’t vote are progressives. Poor people can’t get the time to vote and are so discouraged by their life, and their needs are so dire that they can’t imagine that voting for Kerry or Bush will change anything. And guess what? They’re right. Kerry wasn’t even talking about raising the minimum wage. These voters can be energized, but no one is speaking to them. Evangelical Christians organize and their faithful follow, but progressive people are asleep at the wheel.

What about 2008?

I like Hillary. But she isn’t electable. Giuliani would be a strong candidate and would do well in the general election, but he can never get the Republican nomination. He has a liberal social résumé, divorced his wife, lived with a gay man and dressed up as a woman.

What about your own politics?

I come from parents who were liberal Democrats (a Jewish mother and Catholic father), and every right winger says I’m liberal, but I have many viewpoints that aggravate my liberal friends. For the last 28 years, since Republicans have sold themselves off to pharmaceutical companies, the Christian right and big money, I have voted Democratic. But they don’t represent me. They are just slightly better than the other clowns. (He did vote for Dole in 1996 against Clinton, but says it was a sentimental vote for my parents’ generation. Clinton had that election locked up. Ed Rollins (a Republican strategist) told me that if it was a prize fight, he would have stopped it’)

Moving on to one of your favorite topics, religion. Atheist? Agnostic? What role should religion play in America?

The government’s position should be that we have no God officially. We are a secular country. But have you seen the new documentary Jesus Camp? It’s a little scary when people like this think they have the truth. Remember a few years ago when General Boykin said that our God was better than Allah? It’s silly to say you know the absolute truth. I don’t know. To say, ‘I know 100 percent,’ is too arrogant. It seems like nothing else is out there, and it is supersilly to think that some humanistic God ever existed. That’s no more sophisticated than paganism. It is equally silly that the three major Western religions wear as a badge of honor the idea that, We are monotheistic.’ That has all the characteristics of the sun god and all the other silly gods.

Have you noticed that almost all religions are dominated by men? Is it about power?

They are male-orientated because religion is simply a tool. Priesthoods use religions to retain power over women. For instance, when The Passion of the Christ came out, I didn’t think it was anti-Semitic. Jews didn’t put Jesus to death. He was put to death by a priesthood, because they guard their power, and he was a rival to the Jewish priesthood. Any priesthood would have done the same thing.

A few quick final questions. Are you still for privatizing some of social security?

Yes.

Ending corporate welfare?

Yes.

Legalizing gambling, prostitution and drugs?

Yes, to all three.

All drugs?

Yes, all drugs.

Still a big PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] fan?

Absolutely.

How about the pharmaceutical and health-care industries? You’ve often said they make money out of curing people who are made sick by consuming society’s unhealthy food. True?

Yes. I’m not a vegetarian. I’m more concerned with food’s purity. I never eat chicken unless it’s hormone- and antibiotic-free. Just don’t eat the poisonous food they feed us, because the pharmaceutical companies then get to treat the symptoms with their drugs.

What about vaccines, do they work?

No way. I would never get a flu shot. It gives you the flu. By the time you get a vaccine made months earlier, it doesn’t prevent the flu. You just need a strong immune system.

Last question. Where do you see yourself In five years?

Still on HBO, if they want me. Look, I just turned 50. Every decade you are a new person. I don’t know where I’ll be, but it will be someplace interesting.

Four More Years: How to Survive. Being A Blue City In A Red Country

Just as the season had gotten into full swing this past November, we went to Joe’s Stone Crab for dinner at 8 p.m., the heart of their rush hour. You might think that means we are masochists who love waiting three hours for a table in a bar packed tighter than a sardine can. Not at all. On that night we were confident our wait would be mercifully short-not that we had anything personally against the raucous group of sunburned, hairy-legged visiting businessmen, in an assortment of plaid shorts, talking loudly about how much they had recently spent on cigars.

Our confidence was not misplaced. About ten minutes after we arrived, the couple we were meeting walked in. Bob Graham and his striking wife, Adele, command a certain attention, and not just because almost everyone recognizes him immediately. After a round of handshakes, Joe’s general manager waved a menu as if it were Moses’ staff, and the crowd, doing its best imitation of the Red Sea, somehow found room to shove back on itself and created a neat little pathway for us to head to our corner table. Serving eight years as Florida’s governor, and then 18 as a U.S. Senator, does have its perks, at least when it comes to skipping to the front of a line.

But if what we wanted that night was a quiet chance to talk to the Grahams, that was as unlikely as Joe’s doing an early-bird special. There was an almost nonstop stream of diners, restaurant workers and even a few passing tourists who had heard the ex-Senator was there and wanted just a moment of his time. Some said thanks for his public service. But most wanted to tell him how frustrated they were about the recent Presidential election. Graham had made a run for the top job and come frustratingly close to nabbing the Veep’s spot on the Kerry ticket before Edwards got the nod.

“I’m so disturbed, Senator,” one young Miami Beach resident earnestly told him. “I can’t believe the rest of the country thinks so differently than we do here.”

“You wouldn’t think this is a red state,” the Senator said, turning to us. “At least not tonight!’

But red-not as in Communist red, but as in Republican red, a deep, vibrant shade-Florida is, and certainly was most importantly on Election Day. This month, as George W. Bush gets inaugurated for his second term, many people in South Florida are ruminating about the reality of living in a blue dot in a red state in a red country. In South Beach, the issues of the day don’t even include gay marriage, which 11 states managed to reject. Here, even those of us in the heterosexual world have moved far beyond that to cocktail chatter about gay divorce and the burning questions of which of two partners will end up with the Ocean Drive penthouse and which will keep the beach house at Fire Island. But for a place that likes to pride itself on being progressive, open-minded and laid-back, why were there so many depressed and irritable people after the election? And if the election seemed history already, this month’s inauguration is, for some, bringing it back like a bad case of the red-country blues.

“You’re making me sick, reminding me it’s the inauguration,” says Merle Weiss, co-chair of Miami Beach Art in Public Places and an avid and outspoken Kerry supporter before the election. “Yecch. Look, we have a very large gay population, and Bush is going to do whatever he can to prevent gays from having equal rights. Just like he will try to take away a woman’s right to choose. On Miami Beach, people are very broad-minded, liberal, inclusive and diverse. Everyone gets along with each other, and that is why it is such a great place to live. Bush tries to prevent that from happening. Now, some of the rich people who live here may like him. I asked a friend, ‘How can you be for that idiot?’, and she said, Taxes.’ I said, ‘You have a zillion dollars, so what are you going to have, $5,000 more and get stuck with him?’ I don’t understand why anyone voted for him.”

“I’ve just been depressed since the election,” says Suzanne Litt Lyon, a Miami Beach closet and wardrobe consultant “I was never more entranced and impassioned by an election as this last one. It’s very disappointing.”

“Unlike many people who voted for Kerry, I actually liked him,” says Ken, Suzanne’s husband and the noted Miami caterer. “He was the candidate for me. I liked what he stood for. But now we have four more years of Bush. I’m nervous about the Supreme Court, but that will get sorted out, but I am fearful of America becoming a theocracy. I am a godless Jew and don’t like living in a society like that’s

“I am more hopeful than I was at the election,” says Jane Russell, a real-estate consultant for Exquisite Properties, “but also a little bit depressed about the whole thing, as we all are here. We are surrounded by such a conservative country. It’s like we are a little oasis. If you’re gay, black or a woman, I don’t know how you can support Bush. You have to be so deluded. I just have to stay away from sharp objects.” However, not all blue voters are so distressed.

“I actually don’t think it’s as bad as many of my friends do,” says local art patron Mera Rubel!. “I don’t like to think about what could have been or what might have happened in a Kerry administration. I like facing reality and that means where do we go from here? A second-term President, without any worries about being reelected, can often take on bold challenges and really accomplish something. We can’t forget that Bush is very conscious of history since he is the son of a President, and he may surprise us. He was terrified of the curse of the second term because of his dad, and now he can let go. I really believe in America, and I am a very optimistic person. And that is how I approach this inauguration.”

And some may be surprised to find red voters in South Beach who are actually looking forward to a new Bush term. Lance LaMar is a pilot, sports model and co- owner of one of the hottest new personal-training gyms in South Beach, Peak Physique. “Yes, I have a few blue friends who are less than thrilled with the election results. And I would have been just as disappointed had my candidate not won. But I’ve been trying to pick up their spirits. South Beach life revolves around the hospitality and entertainment industries. Most everyone agrees that with Bush in office, people will pay less in taxes and have more money to spend. That’s good for us locally. And since a Bush administration means travel will be safer with his strong antiterrorism agenda, it means more American and European tourists here.”

“A major issue for many people, including a lot of our clients in South Beach, is what the election means for gays and gay rights,” adds R. Riley, a fashion and fitness model and Lance’s partner at Peak Physique. “I actually don’t see the President’s agenda doing much to change or impact the gay community-just as I didn’t believe Senator Kerry’s would do much to help it, either. We all know that attitudes towards the gay community are improving, but still have a long way to go. I just don’t think either Bush or Kerry would do too much for fear of alienating the masses. Small steps are being taken-way too small for some, yet way too big for others.

“So how can our friends get over the inauguration blues right now? You might not be surprised to find that I think the best cure is going to the gym and working 194 Ocean Drive out your frustrations if you are really upset about this. Getting physical relieves stress, and, hey, a fringe benefit is you’ll look better. Although they won’t admit it, several of our blue clients have definitely benefited from Bush winning. They’ve increased the frequency and intensity of their workouts so much since the election they are more buff than ever.”

“I really feel people want immediate gratification,” says William Belack, sales director for the Hotel St. Augustine, “and that is certainly true here in South Beach. We often aren’t paying enough attention to the big picture. It’s really not so bad. There has been such a chaotic race toward political correctness. Another Bush term actually gives us a chance to step back and see where we are really going as a country.”

So, if you are among the 55 million who cast a losing vote last November and feel stranded, at least you are in South Florida, which has more than enough distractions to keep even the most dispirited manic-depressive happy. Just look around. Savor the sights and sounds that make us unique. It certainly did not recently seem to us that religious zealots, as some blues feared, had taken control. Jerry Falwell is would have had a seizure if he had been visiting during November’s White Party and seen the gorgeous young men, hand in hand, strolling around South Beach. It has always been a bit different here, from 80-degree Christmases to politics somewhere between those of San Francisco and Beijing. Relish those differences. Embrace the diversity. And if you’re still blue around the inauguration, go and splurge and have 2 some Kobe beef at Prime One Twelve. Dance through the morning hours at Space. Run along the beach. Buy blocks of triple-cream cheese from Epicure and have your own tasting party. And then, when you are most relaxed, the reality will settle in that it’s all this talk of red and blue that really has you down. Those of us who call South Florida home know that politically we are really the color purple, a combination of red and blue, a goal for a blended America. George Bush may be President for the next four years. But unless you plan on moving to Canada (too cold) or France (hate us), scratch your name off the waiting list at the foreign embassies. You might as well stay, and make this little spot of paradise even better.

“I’m certainly not going anywhere,” Senator Graham told us. “I love it here.” So do we. And remember, there’s always 2008.

South Florida Specialists – The New Face Of Cosmetic Enhancement

Dr. Mark Nestor’s State-of the Art Combination Therapy Is Cutting-Edge

Dr. Mark Nestor, the director of Aventura’s renowned Center for Cosmetic Enhancement, is one of the foremost authorities on erasing years from the faces of South Florida residents. “In a place where the sun is harsh almost all year long,” he recently told us in his large, professional office, “that is no easy task.”

But if anyone is cut out for it, it’s Nestor. The 51-year-old, baby-faced doctor might be his own best personal advertisement. His peers acknowledge him as being at the forefront of cosmetic laser and light procedures, and his Aventura office has 32 cutting-edge devices, more than any other South Florida practice. Nestor has created a one-stop shop for rolling back the years.

“We are unique,” he told us. “There are actually very few like us in the world. We have so many devices to effect changes, both medical and aesthetic. We do not just make people look better, but also make them healthier. Here, we don’t just zap away wrinkles and fill in crevices on the face, but we also help people eliminate everything from acne to rosacea [a blood-vessel condition that creates redness on the face].”

Nestor actually oversees a mini cosmetic empire of 23 offices and 35 dermatologists. Married 18 years to Eva Ritvo, a professor at the University of Miami’s School of Medicine and chair of Mount Sinai Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry-the two met in medical school in California-he also has two children. And in addition to his family and running a dermatology office that often has a one-month waiting list, he finds time to serve as president of the International Society of Cosmetic and Laser Surgeons, as well as president of the American Society for Photodynamic Therapy, two of the industry’s most respected organizations. And somehow still he manages to do clinical research.

I understand the trials and tribulations of trying to do so much,” he says. “But I really love what I do, so that makes it a lot easier to work so hard.”

What makes Nestor different from many other dermatologists is his extensive stable of devices, which allow him to offer “combination therapy, where we can combine various treatments to produce the best possible results for each patient.”

He has a point. The devices used in cosmetic dermatology can be prohibitively expensive. For instance, Fraxel is a laser treatment that is the choice du jour for many cosmetic-surgery junkies. At $1,000 a treatment and six to nine required to maximize its benefits in eliminating skin imperfections from aging or sun damage removing stretch marks, acne scars and dark spots, the cost can seem high to

patients. But the Fraxel machine itself costs more than $100,000. Titan’s CoolGlide Xeo, which combines laser technology with the next generation in pulsed-light treatments, is used for hair reduction, vascular treatments and skin resurfacing and costs about $150,000. Sciton’s Profile Laser unit, used for hair removal, obliteration of spider veins, and to treat rosacea, sets a derm back about $125,000. Even Thermage, wildly popular for using noninvasive radio-frequency technology to restore collagen, is a $50,000 unit.

Nestor also gave us a tour of some of his newest age-zapping tech toys, including IPL (intermittent pulse light) for zapping brown spots and enhancing collagen, and erbium laser, the latest for treating aging and sun-damaged skin. These devices are so expensive that most derms usually have to settle on just one or two therapies and push those to all their patients. Nestor has a remarkable advantage by being able to afford almost every device on the market. When you sit in his waiting room, a large, wall-mounted plasma television recycles before-and-after pictures of patients who have received his treatments. Only Photoshop could make them look better.

“Fifty percent of my practice is cosmetic and the other half is medical,” he told us. “But no matter what a patient comes to us for, we offer a range of procedures for different needs, precisely tailored to the patient.”

In addition to the regular treatments found in any modern dermatologist’s office-Botox and a battery of fillers, from hyaluronic acids to collagen to Restylane and Radiance-it’s Nestor’s approach that sets him apart. “I want to tackle both the beauty needs as well as the health of my patients.” For instance, when someone with severe acne, or melasma, a skin blotchiness, comes to him, he’s convinced that when they leave looking better, their overall health improves since their self-esteXri is boosted while their stress-fretting about their condition-is reduced.

“Expectations are key as to how someone views their results,” he says. “If people are realistic about what can be done cosmetically, they will be very happy. If someone wants to roll back several decades with a one-day procedure, they might not be pleased.”

Financial and time considerations are also issues for many patients: Some don’t have the money to do everything they want; others are so busy with work they can’t afford the downtime. “So I work with them on an individual basis,” Nestor says, “asking what they want and how we can work out a program that works for them and their lifestyle.

“Some people are afraid of undergoing surgery,” he adds. “They have a fear of the knife. That’s why our services are so important. We can, with the combinations of therapies available in our office, reproduce many of the results of far more invasive procedures, and we can do it with fewer side effects. With our work, you can postpone a facelift for many years. That’s the power of great dermatology. That’s what we offer.”

Nestor reminded us that his office gets busier at this time of the year. “I don’t know if anybody would appreciate opening a gift and seeing $1,000 to get rid of wrinkles,” he says. “But a lot of people say they give it to themselves as a holiday gift.”

Biologically, it makes more sense for older women to have sex with younger men — unless they want to talk afterward.

I can’t seem to get away from news about cross-generational relationships. Some of the stories, thank goodness, are about older women and younger men. There’s the always-juicy gossip about actress Joan Collins’ marriage to a husband 32 years younger than she is; iVillage has a special “younger men” section; and then there’s Marissa Monteilh’s book “May December Souls.” Even Bollywood, the Indian film industry in Bombay that has thrived on stories of men romancing women a quarter their age, is suddenly releasing four films with leading actresses exploring their sexuality with much younger men.

However, the recent Hollywood film “The Man From Elysian Fields” returns the subject to its more traditional view: rich older man married to young, attractive woman. And then there’s the VIP Life dating service in New York, which takes supreme advantage of horny, wealthy men by making sure they part with at least $10,000 to get a chance at landing sexy arm candy.

If I weren’t happily married, maybe I could have a date with one of these tycoons. I meet VIP matchmaker Lisa Clampitt’s standards: I’m attractive (she actually says the standard is beautiful, but with Photoshop that’s just an airbrush or two away); I’m thin (112 on a 5-foot-7 frame, which might be a heifer compared to Kate Moss, but I’m a famine survivor by American, McDonald’s-loving standards); and I have an artistic side (being silly enough to pay my bills by writing for a living qualifies as artistic or nuts). So far, so good. Uh-oh. I just saw the last requirement. Clampitt looks for women in their 20s and early 30s so the men can experience “five years of fun and then have kids.” Damn. I’m 51, old enough to be the mother of most of the girls. No kids for this post-menopausal woman.

But don’t worry, girls; don’t let it get you down. If anything, once you know just a touch about the biology of aging, you might be glad you aren’t in the clutches of some older man. These older man-younger woman relationships don’t make a lot of sense, at least in bed.

It’s pretty simple. A man’s testosterone peaks around 21. By the time a man reaches his late 30s, his testosterone levels have dropped by half. My favorite little stat to scare any overly macho man is that almost 80 percent of men over age 42 have some degree of impotency. The testosterone loss also means they lose muscle tone and bone mass (pec implants look good in photos but feel like rubber, so forget the surgery, fellows), have foggier memories, suffer bouts of fatigue and depression, and — most critical for most men — lose their sex drive. Also, higher levels of testosterone in middle age tend to cause baldness, so the men who keep their levels fairly high often pay the price with hair loss. Welcome to a midlife crisis, fellows.

On top of the falloff in testosterone, men experience drops in other hormones such as DHEA (it stands for Dehydroepiandrosterone, which will tell you why everyone abbreviates it), which is only a couple of steps removed from testosterone. As DHEA drops, the body is more susceptible to illness, fat replaces muscle and, again, sex drive declines. Cortisol, often dubbed the “stress hormone,” is manufactured by the adrenal glands, and its production also diminishes in middle age. That means less energy. And to top it off, human growth hormone, which helps everything from muscle tone to skin firmness, starts plummeting through the 30s and 40s. It’s not a pretty sight. These drops exacerbate every bad effect of the testosterone dive. In severe cases, doctors describe the condition as “andropause,” the male equivalent of menopause.

No wonder golf becomes a popular pastime for many middle-aged men. And none of this physical meltdown signifies high-octane performance in bed. While plenty of over-the-counter supplements of DHEA and pills promising to promote the production of growth hormone and testosterone are sold in health food stores and over the Internet, no one is quite sure what the right dosage is, whether the pills really work, and if there are any long-term side effects from trying to artificially restore the hormones that mother nature has taken away.

Sure, Viagra helps. That drug at least will guarantee an erection, which is half the battle for the testosterone-starved older man. But Viagra can cause side effects, from relatively mild ones like headaches, stomach upset, flushed skin and urinary tract infections, to serious problems like heart attacks. Some researchers have tied more than 500 deaths to Viagra, while Viagra boosters contest the link.

For any man who isn’t eager for Viagra, are there alternatives for boosting the flagging testosterone levels? Some men might be tempted by the advertisements for testosterone replacement. Doctors prescribe the wonder medication either in pills, injections or patches. It does what it’s supposed to do, and men who start the therapy love their renewed energy, muscle tone and sexual vigor. The downside is a very real risk of prostate cancer, as well as less life-threatening side effects such as sleep apnea (a cessation in breathing while sleeping, which sometimes leads to blood pressure problems and recurring, severe headaches). Isn’t a risk of cancer vs. a restored sense of vitality the same quandary that women have long faced when it comes to hormone replacement therapy? The difference with men is that the medical community never adopted widespread standards of trying to put all middle-aged men on testosterone replacement. The risks were simply too real.

There is substantial anecdotal evidence that a healthy diet and lots of exercise — good things for any of us in our highly charged lives — stabilizes some of the hormone drop for men. However, a diet very low in fat, though good for the heart, might not be good for the sex drive, as it tends to suppress the manufacture of testosterone. So running a few days a week, some weight training and a healthy diet with about 25 to 30 percent of the good types of fat might be the best bet for naturally keeping testosterone at a reasonable level.

Women also have problems as we age, and a lot of us after menopause have little desire to hop in bed for a round of intimate contact. When I went through menopause, for about six months sex was the furthest thing from my mind (pity my patient husband, whose testosterone level still seems OK at age 48). There are some doctors who call women’s lack of sexual interest after menopause a “desire phase” disorder. Now that is going a tad far for me. The decline in sexual desire is really influenced by hormones, including testosterone, just as it is for men.

The fact that male sex hormones can boost our sexual desire is nothing new. The ancient Greeks and Romans unwittingly used testosterone to increase sexual appetite. Following a hard day of fighting, gladiators often bathed in olive oil. After the bath, the olive oil (which, because of the gladiators’ sweat, now contained small quantities of testosterone) was carefully collected and stored in small jugs, which were then sold to women who smeared themselves in the oil. The effect was a slight increase in testosterone levels and therefore in their sexual desire.

Today, since gladiators are scarce, mother nature has come to the rescue for women. The ovaries, although incapable of producing estrogen after menopause, often continue to produce testosterone for several years. That’s why some women have a strong sex drive for a considerable time after menopause. While our testosterone levels are only one-tenth those of men at younger ages, we almost catch up in later years.

I’ve contended for a long time that women stay afloat a bit more steadily and longer. That was born out just last week when a global survey (sponsored by Pfizer, the manufacturer of Viagra), conducted in 30 countries among 27,780 adults aged 40 to 80, found that women become sexually dysfunctional at about half the rate of men. “To the extent that women are sexually active, they may be facing men who have problems,” concluded lead researcher Edward Laumann, a University of Chicago sociologist. That means from a strictly biological view the correct cross-generational relationship might be an older woman and a younger man. For women interested only in a physical relationship, landing a younger man closer to his sexual peak can’t hurt. The problem for me and most of my friends is that we also want conversation and intellectual stimulation. Unless I’m fascinated by the man’s mind and soul, it would be impossible to get excited about getting into bed with him.

We live, however, in a youth-obsessed culture where style often seems to matter more than substance. Every time a new novel or film matches a cross-generational couple, it’s likely to generate extra buzz. That will ensure it will be part of our cultural scene, even if it is seldom dealt with accurately.

“The Man From Elysian Fields” is an exception, at least when it comes to the older man-younger woman relationship. In the film Andy Garcia, a struggling novelist, is forced to supplement his income by working at an elite male escort service run by Mick Jagger (who in real life certainly knows a thing or two about dating beautiful younger women). Garcia’s new job becomes interesting when an older, wealthy man (James Coburn) — who can’t perform sexually with his own wife — allows his wife to hire Garcia to have sex with her.

The story line may be scary for men approaching their later years, but at least it’s more realistic than the idea that a man’s money can make up for his lack of testosterone.

The Real Jorge Perez

As he prepares to launch his downtown property Icon Brickell, the Related Group’s majority owner remembers his vivid past-and looks toward a radiant future in Miami.

On a prime five acres in downtown Miami, adjacent to the Miami Circle and Brickell Park, a large banner announces, “Icon Brickell.” Those two words cannot convey the enormity of what will happen there in the next few years. By 2008, three ultramodern glass towers, ranging from 52 to 60 stories, will be built. A veritable small town will have 1,800 residences, with homes fetching pre-construction prices starting at $400,000 and running to several million for sky lofts and bayfront lanai- style townhouses. Leading Miami architectural firm Arquitectonica, in conjunction with the Parisian-based arbiter of cool Philippe Starck, have concocted a development that will transform downtown Miami, the skyline and how people view luxury living.

Icon Brickell is one of the largest projects under way in Miami’s greatest-ever building boom. In a town where 7,000 condominiums were built during the 1990s, 62,000 luxury condos are now on the drawing board. If they all get completed before the much talked- about bursting of the real-estate bubble, these projects will redefine not only downtown Miami, but also largely deserted or blighted neighborhoods running along Biscayne Boulevard into midtown and the upper east side, and even Wynwood.

Standing across the street from the site of the future Icon Brickell is 55-year-old Jorge Perez, the son of Cuban parents, raised in Argentina and Colombia. The majority owner of The Related Group, the largest force behind the South Florida boom, Perez is an extremely likable entrepreneur. Sometimes described by friends as “an incidental billionaire,” he has created an enormous personal fortune by doing simply what he loves-real-estate development. A rags-to-riches success story, Perez is a poster boy for capitalism at its best.

But another man also stares at the empty parcel of land. He too is 55 and the son of Cubans, but his background was not as an enthusiastic booster of capitalism. Instead, he was the head of his college’s Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a radical 1960s organization at the forefront of the anti-Vietnam War movement. Most people would expect this former SDS leader to be against the unbridled development that gentrifies neighborhoods into ones that mostly only the affluent can afford.

Of course, the two men are the same. So how did the young student who embraced a leftist agenda for a post-Vietnam America end up as Miami’s condo king?

The path to his success is not as strange as it might first seem. And often in his career, the roots of his social activism have been evident. But instead of taking to the streets to protest the system, he has used the power of money and the force of his personality for change.

We meet Perez at La Piaggia, a Saint-Tropez- styled semiprivate beach club at the base of one of his buildings, the luxe Murano at Portofino in South Beach. Perez meets one of his partners, Tom Daly, and his long-time attorney, Matt Gorson, a senior partner at one of the nation’s largest law firms, Miami-based Greenberg Traurig, at La Piaggia every Saturday for a business lunch. Although they have a party to attend that night-a birthday bash at fellow real-estate developer Thomas Kramer’s Star Island mansion, complete with a million-dollar fireworks display-what is supposed to be a half-hour interview turns into hours of leisurely conversation and a rare personal glimpse into the man who is often thought of only as a developer of luxury high-rises.

Perez, dressed in off-white linen shorts and an open-collared short-sleeve shirt, is at once charming and approachable. He is consistently enthusiastic, whether talking about one of his projects, some art he just acquired, or even a pizza he found the night before. “Awesome” is one of his favorite words.

“Real estate is his passion,” says Gorson. “For Jorge, he has hit the lotto.”

“You either love real estate or you don’t make it in this business,” says Perez. “I’ve always said that real estate is half art and half science. The science part you can learn, but the art you’re born with.”

The traditional profiles done about Perez say he came to the U.S. to study urban planning. “That is a good story,” he confides, “but I was actually just following a girlfriend from Colombia to America. I went’ to Miami Dade Community College because she was at a nearby school. And when she moved north, I went to Long Island University.”

When he broke up with her, he considered returning to Colombia. He had written and produced a play there while in high school, which was well received and presented in the national theatre. (“I don’t write anymore,” he says somewhat ruefully. “In my business it is all sound bites.”)

“Instead of going back, I decided to travel.” He trekked through Europe “and fell in love with cities, with the architecture of Paris and London. It set a fire in me.”

He returned to America and spent a semester at Berkeley. Still studying economics and philosophy, and involved in campus politics, he went to graduate school at_ the University of Michigan. His new pursuit, however, was a master’s degree in urban planning.

He ended up in Miami because of another girl, this time-his first wife, Debbie, whom he married on graduation day. Their honeymoon was in Key West. “And when we returned,” says Perez, “I had an interview with the guru of urban planning, Anthony Downs, and he wanted me to become his assistant in Chicago. I was celebrating!” But when he told Debbie, she was crestfallen. Having grown up Michigan, she did not want to move to Chicago.

With his parents in Miami, the Perezes instead moved to Florida. The graduate-school dean helped Jorge land a job in Miami’s Planning Department.”

Two years later, in 1978, he left for a private company that did market studies for real-estate projects. “I knew nothing about market research when I got the job,” he admits, “but I told them I could do it.” With the intensity typical of his career, Perez gathered every public document from the company and “spent two months, reading 24 hours a day to figure out how to do market surveys. When I finally started, they thought I was brilliant.”

The following year, 1979, Perez was again itching for change. His social conscience dovetailed with his real-estate interests in several projects for affordable housing. One of his competitors was New York developer Steve Ross. “Steve was single,” Perez recalls. “When he came to Miami, I set him up with some dates, and at that time both our fathers were dying of cancer. We bonded.”

Late that year they founded The Related Group. With the same force that drove him through grad school and mastering market surveys, he began building government-subsidized rentals. Eventually, Perez graduated to market-rate garden apartments and within five years was Florida’s biggest apartment builder.

At the time Perez was becoming the apartment king, others were making reputations in the luxury-condo market. German-born Kramer came to South Beach and bought 35 acres south of Fifth Street. (“He had ‘OPM’ to play with,” Perez told us. “‘Other people’s money.’ “) Kramer planned to build the neighborhood’s first tower, Portofino. His partner was Daly, who was then riding a wave of success thanks largely to his Aventura condominium community, Mystic Pointe.

But by 1995, Kramer and Daly had financial difficulties as costs mushroomed. To the rescue came Perez. With his unblemished business record, he locked up a $53 million construction loan, and the 228-unit Portofino was built. And when Kramer ended up in litigation tying up the rest of his land, attorney Gorson, who represented both men, arranged for Perez to buy it.

“Kramer had paid $9 million for that land,” recalls Gorson.

“I paid him $52 million,” says Perez. Today it would be worth about $580 million.

Perez was not certain then that condos were the right way to go. In May 1997 he told The Miami Herald that apartments were a “much safer business than condominiums.” “It’s still true,” he says. “Condos have a much greater risk, but with the same amount of work, you can make five to 10 times as much on condos as on rentals.”

First came Murano at Portofino in 1999 (its pre- construction prices of $300 a square foot set a record-”If you had told me then that the average price in South Beach would be $1,000 a square foot,” Perez told us, “I would have said you were smoking too much”), then Murano Grande and Icon South Beach, and now, under construction, the ultraluxe Apogee, where apartments start at $4 million.

In between, Perez has been busy doing what he promised himself when he launched his company: “Most developers come from business backgrounds where profitability is the only goal. My goal was always to change the urban environment.”

Five years ago, Perez built the $550 million ($80 million of which was taxpayer money) City- Place, an enormous project that overnight revitalized West Palm Beach’s dormant downtown. Covering 11 city blocks, with hundreds of condos, 80 upscale stores, and ten restaurants, CityPlace was a critical and financial success. “It was a model for city living,” says Perez.

Perez had CityPlace in mind when he combined work, play and living in his downtown Miami project One Miami. Within sight of Icon Brickell, One Miami will add 900,000 square feet of high-rise housing for professionals now commuting from the suburbs.

After driving through the downtown area a couple of years ago and finding it mostly deserted after dark, Perez became convinced that the city’s urban core needed transformation into a pedestrian neighborhood. “They say people won’t walk in Miami, that it is too hot,” says Perez, “but we intend to prove them wrong. There is no great city in the world that does not have a 24-hour downtown district. Miami has to change. It will.”

Besides Icon Brickell and One Miami, Perez has more than 50 other major projects under way, more than at any time in Related’s history. Included are major complexes in Fort Myers (again remaking the downtown), and even a 522-unit Icon in Las Vegas, east of a Ross Dress for Less store.

“The lack of being satisfied drives me,” he says softly. I do have a lot of moments of happiness-. They come from my wife [he married a nurse practitioner, Darlene, four years ago] and my children. And I have great happiness with each project, but then I want to go on to the next one. I am never satisfied.”

But he has moderated some of his early career behavior. Gone are the self- admitted temper tantrums, replaced instead by notepads filled with “to do’ lists for colleagues. He is better at accepting constructive criticism.

“Yes, I am a workaholic,” he admits, “but now I recognize other important things in my life.” He used to stay at the office until 10 p.m. Now he leaves for home by 5:45. Between 6 and 7 he either plays tennis or works out at his personal gym.

“I am very disciplined about my time now,” he says. “I didn’t want another ruined marriage. When I finish at 7, I put on the Miami Heat, or do a few hours of work with my wife and child with me. It’s not all about work any longer!’ Darlene also visits job sites with Perez, sharing his enthusiasm for the business. That helps their relationship flourish.

While Perez might have a better balance, that is not to suggest he is any less aggressive in staying on top of Florida real estate. Related prides itself on getting projects done at 10 to 15 percent less than the costs of other developers and then rapidly selling out by pricing preconstruction units slightly under the going market rates.

“We would rather sell things fast at a fair value for our buyers and a decent profit for us,” says Perez, “than try to eke out the last dollar of profit on each project. We want to move product. Our goal is to sell quickly – get in and get out.”

He fully expects that at some time-he is too smart to hazard a guess when-real estate will deflate. “It is extremely cyclical,” he notes. “A lot of developers have forgotten that. There will be a correction. It is simply impossible to sustain the supply coming onto the market. South Florida has led in growth and will be the first to go down. Once it starts, the herd mentality will take control like when stocks fell in 2000.”

He is preparing for the inevitable downturn by storing away lots of cash. Related did $500 million in business in 2000. It doubled to $1 billion by 2003 and doubled again in 2004 to $2 billion. Perez says his profit margins are between 20 and 30 percent. He believes he is well situated to weather any slump and has tried hard to limit the number of speculators in his projects, requiring strict approval for anyone buying more than one unit. “And I can turn any project under development into rentals or office suites if I have to. I have deep pockets, but June 2005 other developers might not be so lucky.”

Perez also has increasingly pursued other passions. He is a major contributor to the Democratic Party, so it did not surprise many when Bill Clinton offered him his choice of an ambassadorship to either his native Argentina or his childhood home Colombia. He turned it down in order not to lose the time with his children. And his love of art has produced not only a great personal collection (Monet is his favorite), but also cast him as one of ton appointed him to the National Endowment for the Arts, and Perez recently gave $5 million to the Miami Art Museum, while agreeing to help raise much of the still needed $175 million to build a new structure in Bicentennial Park.

“It’s part of my passion because I want this city, Miami, to be even greater than it is,” he says enthusiastically. “Miami has come of age. Ten years ago, people came here for the beach. Now they are coming for the energy, the restaurants, the museums. It is becoming such a cool town. It excites and feeds me. No city in America has the same potential.”

Perez may be famous, and he can sit comfortably with U.S. Presidents, foreign dignitaries and the gatekeepers of South Florida high society. But he has not forgotten his simple roots. Recently he went for a sandwich at a Publix deli counter near Related’s headquarters. A few older Cuban women stared at him. One walked up.

“Are you Jorge Perez?” she asked.

“Yes.”

Suddenly all her friends rushed over and in a torrent of Spanish told him how proud he had made them to be Cubans. Their excitement was real, the same as if young music fans had a chance encounter with their favorite rock star. To these Cuban emigrants, Perez is a legitimate hero, a singular success in America.

Perez, always the gentlemen, asked them about what they did and their own lives before thanking them and returning to the deli line. He was holding ticket number 42, and they were only serving 21. I’ll never get back to the office, he thought.

Then a young Cuban deli worker furtively beckoned him toward her with a flick of a finger. She took his ticket and simply asked for his order.

The man who can get President Clinton to take his call anytime had just received a much better vindication of who he is and what he had accomplished. The simple Cuban women who clamored around him, the worker who let him jump the deli line-these are the people who matter.

“I can’t tell you how important that day was for me,” he says. “The bigger you get, the more people bullshit you. People always tell you you’re great. I can get an award from an organization about the charity I do, or my businesses, but that day at Publix was special. Those are the people I want to relate to. I never want to lose that.”

He leans back and looks out at the water and the parade of pretty girls sunbathing nearby.

“Life is excellent,” he says, as much to himself

as to us.

P. Diddy Plus 30: The Evolution Of The Celebrity Entourage

P. Diddy Plus 30: The Evolution of the Celebrity Entourage

We couldn’t decide what to do on a recent Sunday evening in South Beach. Too pale for a good entrance at La Piaggia, and too lazy to drive to Fort Lauderdale to see the Princess Di exhibit, we settled on a classic South Florida cultural event, The Source Hip-Hop Awards. That the awards had been held in Miami since 2001 made them “classic” by local standards.

We listen to hip-hop, but our interest in The Source awards was not who won what. We wanted a personal and up-close view of the outrageous preshow parade of microskirts, oversized basketball jerseys accented in 24-karat-gold threads, custom-made Manolo Blahniks, and enough Cavalli and Tommy couture to bring smiles to their companies’ accountants. And don’t forget the bling. Somebody is forcing diamond miners to do serious overtime. Belts, earrings, necklaces, car ornaments, rings, cell phones-is there something onto which you can’t stick a diamond?

There were all the appropriate cars. A Rolls Phantom, still looking hearse-like. A few Bentleys (we personally believe they are an awards curse, as we have never seen a winner arrive in one at the Grammys, Emmys or Oscars). Ubiquitous Escalades and Hummers, mostly tricked out with sound systems that could deprive prisoners at Guantanamo Bay of sleep. But the evening’s highlight was a bright-yellow Lamborghini rumbling up the drive. Cool, we agreed. The driver had the requisite music look (quasi-dreadlocks, oversized jersey, earring the size of a baseball). He drove about halfway up the drive before popping the clutch and sliding back to the start. This went on for an excruciating 10 minutes, with the driver panicking about his inability to drive a stick shift on a quarter-million-dollar car. Arriving guests and fans taunted him.

“Somebody oughta help that boy!” shouted Wycliff Jean, emerging from his own limo. Finally, a cop approached the driver, who sheepishly said he was with the Winans crew.” Winans’ friend let the cop coach him on how to use the clutch. In a few minutes, he was grinding the hell out of the Lamborghini, but it finally lurched away.

At least for that night, it certainly beat looking reverentially at Princess Di’s old shmattes. We later stopped for a drink at one of our favorite Beach bars and told the bartender what we had seen.

It’s not surprising,” he said. ‘The posses that hang around the stars are so amateurish they have totally ruined the idea of an exclusive group of friends who are out for a night with the celebrity. The day of the velvet rope is dying.”

The velvet rope is dying? We live in South Beach, where it almost seems as if no self-respecting restaurant, bar or club could open its doors without one. It is as prevalent as the fire extinguishers required by City code. And the rope was actually mandated by the code of hip, an even less flexible standard.

But the bartender had unwittingly sparked a conversation that we thought was a good story to follow. Trisha had been a regular at Studio 54 in its prime, when it was packed with everyone from Christopher Street leather queens to the cream of New York’s straight club life (okay, South Beach gossipers, don’t even try to guess at Trisha’s age-it was very easy to get into Studio considerably underage, especially if the doorman controlling the velvet rope was your neighbor, as was the case with her. And remember, underage wasn’t really a problem at Studio. Lots of people were openly doing drugs, there was public sex in the balcony and the VIP basement, and enough amyl nitrite was being snorted on the dance floor to revive Dick Cheney in case of another heart attack).

But at least Trisha had the Studio experience, where partners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager (Ian now of the Delano, Shore Club and other local hotspots) literally invented the velvet rope. What had they let loose on the world? And is this its death knell in South Beach as we go into the 2005 season?

One thing is certain: The entourage you’re likely to find attached to a celebrity today is not your father’s posse. It has changed dramatically from the time Frank Sinatra formed it in the 1950s. Before he hit it big, an assortment of rough-edged friends from his early days in Hoboken, New Jersey, went everywhere with him. But once he achieved stardom, Frank’s entourage was other stars. In 1955, in Vegas, after five days of heavy partying with pals Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland and David Niven, Bacall looked at the ragged group and dubbed it the “Rat Pack.” It stuck. After Bogart died, Sinatra brought in Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis, Jr., and the only woman allowed in, Shirley MacLaine.

“Back in the day of the Rat Pack it was more regal and sophisticated,” Sean Saladino, owner of SoBe’s Rok Bar, told us. “But times have changed and clubs have become more commercialized. It’s not as classy as the days of the Rat Pack, and never will be again.”

Over the years, Hollywood stars tried copying the Rat Pack magic. But in the 1960s and 1970s, the entourage seemed passé, as though the Age of Aquarius made it cooler to be on the scene with just a couple of friends instead of a crowd of 20. All that changed with Studio 54. Studio’s velvet rope meant something, and was more than the fancy door decoration that it appears to be at many local clubs. South Beach doormen sometimes waive cover charges and pass out drink tickets to entice customers on slow nights. At Studio, doormen like Mark Benecke – who ran The Shore Club’s SkyBar for a year – prided themselves on turning away whomever they wanted, celebrities included. No bribe could buy your way in.

So the only way to enter for many was to be part of an entourage of a regular. Calvin Klein, Halston, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Andy Warhol had slavishly loyal groups hanging around, and each was unique. Warhol surrounded himself with models, low-level celebrities and some holdouts from his 19605 Factory days. Calvin and Halston were rivals for the prettiest gay boys, each looking more buff than the other. Taking control of a corner of the club, the Studio elite held court encircled by their entourages, and the wannabes tried in vain to break in.

“At Studio, it was all about just getting into the club,” says Rok Bar’s Saladino. ‘They made it so exclusive to get in, that was all people were worried about.”

“Here in South Beach, everyone pretty much got in during the early days,” recalls Tara Solomon, who has been involved with the night scene for more than 15 years and now runs her own successful PR company, Tara, Ink. ‘We all went to the same clubs-Velvet, Club Nu, Joseph’s, Sempers and Warsaw.”

“But South Beach did develop a pick-and-choose velvet-rope policy for a while,” says Gerry Kelly, the Irish-born club impresario who ran a half-dozen venues before his current venture, State. “When I came in ’92 and had Bash, we had a strict velvet rope, and the first two years of Level from ’99 to 2001 we had ‘pick and choose.’ But today in South Beach there is too much supply and not enough demand. Being a nightclub owner is the closest thing to being a rock star, so a lot of investors with extra cash have opened places here. And it’s not just clubs: On a typical weekend night, you have 60 parties to choose from, from a champagne reception for Gucci in Bal Harbour to Ted Baker’s party at Merrick Park to the pool bar at The Shore Club to Mansion to State to whatever. That is why the velvet rope is gone here, really.”

“That is actually a good thing,” says Kurt VanNostrand, the owner of downtown Miami’s hip Pawn Shop. ‘The strict velvet rope involved a lot of attitude and rudeness and you can’t do that forever and not turn customers away. We can fit 600 people into Pawn Shop, and we have a rope, and don’t take the first 600 who arrive each night. But we’re very easygoing. No one is going to be humiliated here.” So if the velvet rope is largely for decoration and no longer the rigid barrier it was during Studio days, what gives a celebrity clubber extra cachet?

“Today, since it’s not about getting in, it’s about how you make the entrance,” says Saladino. “For a lot of young stars, it is all about how important you are, and the size of your entourage is key to that.”

The posse is back in fashion. Some stars think the larger the entourage, the bigger their fame. A few years back, no one in Hollywood was better at mixing it together than Leonardo DiCaprio. He had a frat house of young men, some of whom were famous, like himself, and others like Tobey Maguire, who were just about to break out In Hollywood it was dubbed “the Pussy Posse” for its relentless pursuit of anything in a skirt. And when Leo rented a house in Miami last year, his entourage carried his cash and took care of all expenses, even at clubs and restaurants. But DiCaprio has evidently outgrown his posse.

“Leo will come in with Gisele [Bundchen, his Brazilian supermodel girlfriend] after eating at Nobu,” says Saladino, “and be completely unnoticed. When he was younger he needed a group to show he had made it, but no longer.”

Not everyone outgrows the need to travel with a posse. Gray hair doesn’t stop George Clooney from sometimes moving around with a small army. On being told that Mark Wahlberg -who, like Clooney, has his own large gang-said his posse could kick Clooney’s posse’s collective ass, Clooney said, “That’s true. They could kick our asses. We’re all old men. But we have money. We can buy people who’ll kick his posse’s ass.”

But when it comes to posses, the Hollywood stars have really been left in the dust. The real kings and queens today are rappers and hip-hop stars. Your bling, wheels and clothes might measure you, but your status in the urban world is also marked by the size of your entourage. The beefy security guys in black Prada suits packing Glock 9mm pistols don’t even count. We’re talking groups composed of wannabe rappers, girls who are barely dressed and constantly flashing their new implants, and “friends” from the ‘hood they haven’t seen in 20 years.

“The major difference between celebrities today and 10 years ago,” says State’s Kelly, “is they run in bigger posses. It is a statement from the hip-hop community. They show their wealth by the diamonds, penthouses and cars. Instead of renting a penthouse in a hotel, they will take an entire floor. And instead of arriving in a limo at a club, they arrive in 10 Hummers.”

The Pawn Shop’s VanNostrand has seen urban stars arrive with more than 50 people in tow, in a procession of Escalades. Sometimes the group includes young rappers, people who are hoping that one day they might be famous enough to command their own posse. When 50 Cent was riding the wave of his explosive debut last year, Get Rich or Die Tryin, he was never seen without his G-Unit, which included Lloyd Banks, Young Buck and Tony Yayo. But they weren’t there just to be part of the typical rapper’s entourage; they were in training for their own turns in the spotlight. And hanging out with 50 Cent helped work magic on their careers.

But not everyone can be so lucky as to attach themselves to Paris Hilton’s “babe” squad or get the invite to join the limo with Britney Spears or P. Diddy. And club owners have trouble figuring out where an entourage ends. Sometimes a star such as P. Diddy will hit the front door and his assistant will yell, “P. Diddy and 30.”

“It’s hard to figure out who is with them or not,” says VanNostrand. “Once I had to tell an artist he had too many, and he narrowed it down to 10 and left another 30 outside.”

The future for controlling entourages and the velvet rope might be seen in the hottest club in Barcelona. The Baja Beach Club is using an 8 implantable microchip to identify their VIP members and friends. A small chip the size of a grain of rice is inserted surgically in part of your body, right under the skin. It means you get immediate access to the club and pay for food and drinks without any cash, credit cards or ID. And if you get too stoned or drunk to remember where you are, at least the club can scan your ass and tell you which star you should be hanging out with. Technology saves the entourage.

Real Time in Miami

This month, outspoken HBO political commentator and comedian Bill Maher brings his insightful wit to the South Beach Comedy Festival

Prolific comedian, actor, writer and producer Bill Maher is celebrated for his political satire and sociopolitical commentary. After hosting the late-night television talk show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC (on which Gerald was a guest three times), he is now the star of Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO. Last summer, the New York City native also debuted an Internet-exclusive talk show on Amazon.com entitled Amazon Fishbowl, the first ever episodic program on a major website.

His frankness, however, famously cost him his ABC show. On air, along with conservative political commentator Dinesh D’Souza, Maher said, ‘We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly. Stupid maybe, but not cowardly.” Lost in all the brouhaha was the fact that D’Souza had raised the topic, and Maher was merely amplifying what D’Souza had said. Still, so soon after 9/11, he was attacked by right-wing pundits, and advertisers such as FedEx and Sears, Roebuck pulled their ads. The show was cancelled on June 16th, 2002. Six days later, Maher received the President’s Award-for ‘championing free speech’-from the Los Angeles Press Club. In a recent broad- ranging interview with Maher, who will appear in Miami on January 20th (his 51st birthday) as part of the South Beach Comedy Festival, we discussed politics, social issues and religion.

OCEAN DRIVE What do you think of the Barack Obama phenomenon? Is he just a blank canvas onto which people project whatever they want?

BILL MAHER: Well, they did that with George Bush. Actually, that comparison is unfair to Obama, because he is not like George Bush. But also, he doesn’t have a very long record. People are starved for a leader; we are bereft of them. Well just have to see how Obama plays out in the primaries, when he is asked real questions and is under scrutiny. Anything’s possible in politics.

What do you think about the Rumsfield memo [a leaked memo in which the ex-Defense Secretary called for major changes In Iraq tactics two days before he resigned)? is it just covering his ass?

It's a little late to cover his ass. You would need military camouflage to cover his ass. These officials wake up to things so late, they just don't know what other people are talking about or have been writing about. Bush once said he didn't read the newspaper, and I made fun of it. But it really wasn't funny, and the last leader to do that was Louis XIV. He went around France and people would say, The kingdom is so great.' Bush would just have to read one of [New York Times writer] Thomas Friedman’s columns once in a while instead of listening to the ass kissers around him.

So what is the solution in Iraq?

There isn’t one. No one in either party has one Packing up and getting out is no easy answer. All the people who predict what will happen in Iraq make me so angry, because none of them have been right so far. We aren’t even that good about predicting what will happen two or three months down the road. Remember blowback [the theory that US. actions often lead to unintended consequences)? If we leave, what will be the blowback? Will there be a worse bloodbath? Possibly. But it's going on anyway. And what does it matter except in U.S. lives? They are going to wipe each other out, if it happens in a spasm of violence or more slowly. They have already killed everyone who could build a country, or those people have fled, or they have been radicalized. Only a nest of vipers is left, apart from us. I don't know how many more U.S. lives will stave off the inevitable. The talking heads act like they know the answers. These people only care about power and who is in power. And bringing in Syria and Iran to help us is a joke. We threw them into the 'axis of evil,' tried to get rid of their leaders-who are bad-and there is simply no way they are going to help us. The people we thought were going to throw flowers when we arrived were there, but they are all gone now.

Switching gears, ex-Saudi ambassador Prince Bandar has his Aspen home for sale for $135 million. The top- 10 listed homes in America average $74.5 million. Corporate titan Barry Diller's compensation was $295 million last year. The gap between the ultrarich and the poor has never been bigger. Do you favor a heavy tax on the rich?

Hmm, I have to go now (laughs). The government already takes half. Even over a few hundred thousand, they take half. I don't know if the government should take more than that. A larger tax is not a bad idea, especially on the ultrarich, and the amount should be on whatever is more than I could make.

So what is causing the problem between rich and poor?

Well, even though we elected the Democrats, there is no far left to address these social issues. There is a far right. But besides [Bernie] Sanders (the first socialist elected to the Senate) or Ralph Nader, there is no far left. No one talks about cutting the defense budget by a few hundred billion. You never really hear talk about shifting the tax burden. Politicians always talk about the middle class but never the poor. John Edwards does, but he’s about the only one. I like Edwards, Biden, Obama and Hillary Clinton. It is a blight on our record that such progressive countries as Pakistan and Chile have had female leaders and we haven’t. You know what the U.S. and Kazakhstan have in common, beside the Borat jokes? The vote for women was approved in both countries on August 26th, 1920. We have finally caught up to Kazakhstan.

You mentioned Nader. Did he cost Al Gore the election?

Nader didn’t cost Gore the election. Gore cost Gore the election. There is always someone else in it, and they can’t count the votes right anyway in this country, so you have to win decisively, that’s the rule. Gore was the sitting Vice President in an administration that had guided the country through relatively good prosperity, and he should have defeated a nothing candidate from Midland, Texas. The son of a mediocre President. I mean, his father wasn’t Alexander the Great. The Democrats lose by going after the NASCAR voters, by goose-stepping, by moving to the right, by pretending to be conservatives, by being ashamed of the liberal word. That is exactly what Hillary is doing now. And as for Kerry, he was not a good candidate, but he could have been a good President.

So what is the hang-up here? Why can’t we invoke ‘liberal’ anymore?

Many people would support a liberal. Seventy-nine million who could have voted in the last Presidential election did not. Most who didn’t vote are progressives. Poor people can’t get the time to vote and are so discouraged by their life, and their needs are so dire that they can’t imagine that voting for Kerry or Bush will change anything. And guess what? They’re right. Kerry wasn’t even talking about raising the minimum wage. These voters can be energized, but no one is speaking to them. Evangelical Christians organize and their faithful follow, but progressive people are asleep at the wheel.

What about 2008?

I like Hillary. But she isn’t electable. Giuliani would be a strong candidate and would do well in the general election, but he can never get the Republican nomination. He has a liberal social résumé, divorced his wife, lived with a gay man and dressed up as a woman.

What about your own politics?

I come from parents who were liberal Democrats (a Jewish mother and Catholic father), and every right winger says I’m liberal, but I have many viewpoints that aggravate my liberal friends. For the last 28 years, since Republicans have sold themselves off to pharmaceutical companies, the Christian right and big money, I have voted Democratic. But they don’t represent me. They are just slightly better than the other clowns. (He did vote for Dole in 1996 against Clinton, but says it was a sentimental vote for my parents’ generation. Clinton had that election locked up. Ed Rollins (a Republican strategist) told me that if it was a prize fight, he would have stopped it’)

Moving on to one of your favorite topics, religion. Atheist? Agnostic? What role should religion play in America?

The government’s position should be that we have no God officially. We are a secular country. But have you seen the new documentary Jesus Camp? It’s a little scary when people like this think they have the truth. Remember a few years ago when General Boykin said that our God was better than Allah? It’s silly to say you know the absolute truth. I don’t know. To say, ‘I know 100 percent,’ is too arrogant. It seems like nothing else is out there, and it is supersilly to think that some humanistic God ever existed. That’s no more sophisticated than paganism. It is equally silly that the three major Western religions wear as a badge of honor the idea that, We are monotheistic.’ That has all the characteristics of the sun god and all the other silly gods.

Have you noticed that almost all religions are dominated by men? Is it about power?

They are male-orientated because religion is simply a tool. Priesthoods use religions to retain power over women. For instance, when The Passion of the Christ came out, I didn’t think it was anti-Semitic. Jews didn’t put Jesus to death. He was put to death by a priesthood, because they guard their power, and he was a rival to the Jewish priesthood. Any priesthood would have done the same thing.

A few quick final questions. Are you still for privatizing some of social security?

Yes.

Ending corporate welfare?

Yes.

Legalizing gambling, prostitution and drugs?

Yes, to all three.

All drugs?

Yes, all drugs.

Still a big PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals] fan?

Absolutely.

How about the pharmaceutical and health-care industries? You’ve often said they make money out of curing people who are made sick by consuming society’s unhealthy food. True?

Yes. I’m not a vegetarian. I’m more concerned with food’s purity. I never eat chicken unless it’s hormone- and antibiotic-free. Just don’t eat the poisonous food they feed us, because the pharmaceutical companies then get to treat the symptoms with their drugs.

What about vaccines, do they work?

No way. I would never get a flu shot. It gives you the flu. By the time you get a vaccine made months earlier, it doesn’t prevent the flu. You just need a strong immune system.

Last question. Where do you see yourself In five years?

Still on HBO, if they want me. Look, I just turned 50. Every decade you are a new person. I don’t know where I’ll be, but it will be someplace interesting.

Spa Daze

Melt Away Holiday Stress

Everywhere you turn someone is counting down the days until Christmas. You’re trying not to binge on holiday food and drink, while also searching for gifts that don’t max your credit cards. No wonder holidays can be so stressful.

That’s why, girls, this is a super time to fine-tune the art of relaxation, de-stressing from head to toe. You could spend hundreds of dollars at a luxury spa, but I prefer getting the same results at a fraction of the cost in the comfort of home. A quick trip through your local drugstore can get you ready for some pampering.

First, set aside a day free of interruptions. Transform your bathroom into a retreat with some candles. Parfums de Coeur has great fragranced ones in scents like Cucumber Melon.

A little trick is to pop your bathrobe and towel into the dryer, so that when you’re ready for them, they’re toasty warm. Now prepare your bath. Add in bundles of luscious crystals, beads and bath oils for silky smooth skin. And don’t forget bubble bath and scented soaps. Pure Spring has super spa products in great scents, namely Brown Sugar and Pomegranate. The Healing Garden also has invigorating body soaks, including luscious-smelling Tangerine Therapy and Jasmine Therapy-both include energizing natural extracts like tea tree, ginseng and balm mint.

If you are not a bath girl, take to the shower. St. Ives Body Washes are an affordable luxury in divine flavors from Fresh Berry to Apple Blush. Formulated with Swiss glacial water and blended with a unique combo of herbs, these are also great bargains under $4 each. And just as good is Suave’s new moisturizing body washes, including a Tropical Coconut that reminds me of being on some Caribbean island.

Don’t forget to exfoliate away dry skin. My new favorite is Pure Spring’s Brown Sugar Granulated Sugar Body Scrub. This yummy-smelling scrub polishes and buffs dry skin with the natural ingredient of sugar.

Out of the water, it’s time to slather on body lotions. Just as you will layer on the latest fashions this winter, it is essential to layer on the right combination of products to provide foolproof protection from the elements. I like St. Ives’ 24 Hour Moisture for dry skin, as well as Johnson & Johnson SoftLotion, a grown-up version of its classic baby lotion that moisturizes for 24 hours. For a subtle glow to warm winter skin, smooth on Jergens Shimmer Moisturizer.

Now that you’ve cleansed and moisturized your skin, slip on your warm bathrobe. This is a great time to open your pores and remove impurities by spending 10 minutes with your face over a bowl of steaming water. If you want to skip the steaming, opt for a facial mask, something like Neutrogena Hydrating Facial Cloth Mask that will draw out impurities.

Now that you’ve given your face the spa treatment, it’s time to spoil your hands and feet. Nothing is as relaxing as a slow, careful manicure and pedicure. There are many terrific products, but two standouts are Sally Hansen’s Grande Salon nail set-from a bargain $4.99 to $9.99 -and Trims’ manicure and pedicure set with all the necessary tools, under $10. As for nail polish color, go for festive ruby reds on fingers and toes.

Now that your nails are dry and you’ve removed your facial mask, apply some more moisturizer. This would be a great time to get a massage, but unless you can persuade your partner to give you one, you’ll have to settle for a Pure Spring Mini Gel Eye Mask that has been sitting in your refrigerator. Lie on your bed, lay the cooling gel over your eyes, turn on some great music, light some more candles and let yourself daydream. After a spa day at home, you’ll be ready to tackle the holidays with a newfound, stress-free zest.

Menopausal women: Use it or lose it

An Australian medical study that followed a group of women for 10 years released its conclusion this past May: Post-menopausal women tend to dramatically lose sexual function. Did we really need the cost of a 10-year study by doctors to tell us what almost any honest post-menopausal woman would be willing to admit (assuming she isn’t a Samantha Jones wannabe)?

I passed through menopause at 48, three years ago, and in my book “This Is Not Your Mother’s Menopause” I wrote about my own stretch of lack of interest in sex: “For about six months sex became the farthest thing from my mind. I just had no desire. It wasn’t anything to do with Gerald [my husband]; it was my own problem, but I didn’t really feel compelled to fix it because the whole idea of sex simply didn’t interest me.”

That lack of sexual desire that strikes many women around menopause has been turned into another moneymaker by pharmaceutical companies interested in expanding the list of things for which HRT might be used. The Australian study, for instance, said that women could avoid much of their sexual dysfunction by using hormones. The doctors from Down Under linked a decline in sexual interest, arousal and frequency of sexual activity — and an increase in vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse — to the plunge in levels of estradiol, an ovary-produced hormone. “Therefore, estrogen-containing hormone replacement therapy can protect against decline of sexual functioning,” concluded the study.

Boy, that must have temporarily made the hearts of some drug-firm executives race faster. Too bad that in July part of the Women’s Health Initiative study for the most widely prescribed hormone prescription in the U.S. was abruptly halted due to the increased risks for blood clots, invasive breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes. You would really have to be desperate for sex to be on a medication that increases your chances for an early death.

Well, some of you might say, men do it all the time. Viagra, the wonder medication that puts Anna Nicole Smith at risk of having to go to bed with the next 90-year-old multimillionaire she marries, puts men at an increased risk of death from sudden heart attacks. But men are different, in case you haven’t noticed. A slight uptick in the death rate is worth it to some of them to stay sexually active. Women need a bit more than just a medication. And maybe that was the problem I had initially with the Australian study.

Actually, Viagra is now being prescribed for women, even though the FDA hasn’t approved it yet for us. (More than 150,000 women now use it, according to its maker, Pfizer.) Viagra increases the blood flow to the genitals. Women need this blood flow, just as men do, to achieve sexual arousal. That’s the good news. The bad news is that even Pfizer’s own doctors admit there’s no reason to think the side effects, such as headaches and temporary visual problems, will be any different than in men. Viagra can also be deadly for a woman who is on heart medicine containing nitrates.

Too many doctors, and pharmaceutical companies, assume that a simple pill is all it takes for us to want to have sex. But it’s much more than just making sure we are physically ready. For us good sex, and the desire for it, are often dependent on many other factors — such as the relationship we are in, our emotional state, how we feel about our bodies, and even our general mood. Hormones address the mechanical part of it but don’t address the complex emotional part of what really makes sex work for us. Hell, we’ve been giving millions of women HRT for 40 years and it doesn’t seem to me that many of them are enjoying active sex lives in their later years. If hormones were the answer, this wouldn’t be an issue anymore. A British study this past June found that almost two-thirds of women who started an HRT regimen gave it up in the first year due to unpleasant side effects. “They complained of migraines, losing their sex drive and putting on weight. Some also reported breast tenderness and depression.”

I’ve talked to women who swear that their reduced libidos responded to testosterone, one of the hormones now touted for maintaining an active sex life past menopause. One of the most popular prescriptions is for a patch that releases testosterone and androgen. I’m always amazed that any woman who did a minimum of research would ever pop testosterone. We all naturally produce it. Before menopause, estrogen keeps it in check. But after menopause, and without enough estrogen to act as a balancer, testosterone can deepen the voice and in rarer cases cause facial or chest hair. Taking the hormone enhances the odds of these side effects, which may not be reversible. And if that’s not bad enough, testosterone also causes a lot of women to gain weight. Now, if I took testosterone to enhance my libido, it’s hard to imagine that my husband would find me very attractive if I had a moustache, talked like James Earl Jones and weighed 40 pounds more. If that’s progress, I’ll pass.

I never went on hormones during menopause, but my sexual desire did return slowly. A critical part was that my partner did not rush me or make me feel bad about my lack of interest. I learned a lot about myself and my body. Nutritional supplements, including extra magnesium, vitamin B6 and zinc, help boost the libido. Also, sarsaparilla, a herb, helps the natural production of testosterone. And though estrogen-based creams do help with vaginal dryness, there are also natural alternatives, including vitamin E capsules and calendula cream, a moisturizer with antibacterial properties that nourishes and strengthens the tissues. And taking regular doses of evening primrose oil and essential fatty acids boosts the sex-hormone production of the adrenal glands.

Finally, it really is a matter of the old adage: Use it or lose it. Intercourse stimulates circulation and is one of the best natural aids. In the end, for me, there was no magic potion or pill. Once I felt as though I was starting to take back control of my body in menopause, I started to feel better about sex. In the end, my brain was my most important sex organ because it ultimately controlled the way I viewed sex and my desire to have it. Until they have a pill for that, girls, we’re basically on our own.

What Price Hip?

John Leland knows hip. The 45-year-old New York City native has had his journalist’s eye on the center of modern hip since the mid 1980s. That was when he was writing travel brochures for a tour operator, and heard about the launch of a new music magazine, Spin. An avid music fan, Leland sent an unsolicited letter proposing that Spin let him write a column on 12-inch singles, which then ruled the music biz (he has a personal collection of several thousand). The mag’s founder, Bob Guccione, Jr., son of Penthouse’s owner, liked the idea. Leland carved out a niche at Spin. His smart opinions and writing earned him an enormous following of fans who flipped immediately to his column and to learn about key new bands, performers and releases. By the time he left Spin in 1989, he was the music editor. Now a reporter at The New York Times, he has had stints along the way as editor in chief of Details, and also the editor of Newsweek’s Lifestyle section. But anyone who had any doubts that Leland is an expert in hip will become a believer if they pick up his thoroughly entertaining and critically acclaimed book, Hip: The History (Ecco, 526.95).

In Miami for the Book Fair in November, he sat down with us at South Beach’s Big Pink café for a talk about his book, life and career. What is most striking about Leland on first meeting him is that he isn’t at all the snobby arbiter of style and cool that one might expect from his stature on the subject. Yes, he might sport an obligatory royale (a tuft of hair under the lip), but he is utterly approachable and without pretense.

“It’s the question I am asked most often,” he says, flashing a smile that seems as natural to him as a scowl does to George Bush. “No, I’m not hip. And I don’t want to be the Miss Manners of hip.” Dressed in open-toe sandals, simple pants and an old T-shirt, all of which would be a fashion bar from Mynt, Leland didn’t play at being cool by toying with sushi-grade tuna and Vox vodka, but instead went straight for the BLT, chased down with plain water and then some black coffee. There were no cigarettes. No role-playing.

“When my agent came up with the idea for the book,” he says, “I was wary of it. I actually thought it would be a book about the cool kids in the school cafeteria written by the guy who never got to sit with them. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it dealt with the questions I had been asking in my journalism for 20 years.”

Leland did not want to make it “an arrogant book.” He succeeded. Hip manages to be the most comprehensive and accessible history of the word in print. Leland’s research is thorough. He seems to have listened to all the music, read all the books, watched all the movies. And he writes with the confidence of someone in absolute control of his material. Eschewing sound bites, Leland instead offers up a serious blend of sociology and history that might surprise some readers attracted initially by the strikingly contemporary cover (very hip).

“My biggest surprise in doing the book was how far back all these things go,” he says. Leland isn’t kidding. ‘The word goes back to the 1700s. It was brought to America by slaves and came from the African Wolof tribe. ‘Hipi’ is ‘to open one’s eyes,’ and ‘hepi’ means ‘to see.’ During the 1910s and 1920s, the commercialism about hip was just as prevalent as it is today, and there was just as much discussion about the youth culture in 1913 as there was in 1993.”

Leland covers the usual trappings of the Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance, but he pushes into uncharted territory with his analysis that hip is very much the story of American race relations. Blacks and whites have liberally borrowed, interpreted and assimilated everything from music to language from each other. According to Leland, hip is simply the result of European immigrants and African slaves building a new nation, the process of inventing themselves as Americans.

“Purism is boring,” he says. “I prefer the hybrids that fill our lives, when people on one side borrow from people on the other.” A perfect example is what he calls the “white boy who stole the blues,” a consistent thread that runs from Mark Twain to Elvis to Eminem.

“It’s not symmetric, but both whites and blacks need each other. You can’t get to Myles Davis without white sources. You can’t get to black English without white English.”

The people who make hip often operate on the edges of society: outlaws, gangstas, dope addicts, dropouts, gays and lesbians. From Harlem’s jazz musicians to Greenwich Village’s beatniks to youth cultures such as punk, graffiti art and hip-hop, hip is never conventional.

“There’s a restlessness to really hip people,” he says. “They aren’t mainstream. And they often are deeply flawed, as with Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac and many others. Sometimes, they are less likable once you know more about who they were.”

There is an entire chapter on drugs and the role they have played in hip, with a long roster of hipsters who self-destructed through dope, mostly heroin. “What dope offers,” Leland writes, “is a suspension of responsibility, a fuckup’s version of grace.” But he is also convinced that “nothing is hip about taking drugs to be hip.” Hip, as Leland is quick to point out, can rationalize “poor choices in life. It can squander money, love, talent, even lives.”

But while the truly hip might often be those marginalized in society, Leland is convinced hip would die if it were only stuck with them. The media is needed to broadcast to the wannabes what is hip and fashionable. Today the Internet compresses the time it takes people in remote towns to find out what is hot in inner cities thousands of miles away. And large corporations have packaged and sold hip to an entire generation that thinks it’s possible to buy it from a store shelf.

That doesn’t bother Leland as much as one might expect, because he thinks it’s just part of what companies in a capitalist society do-try to find ways to make people want their products-and few things work better than selling cool. “But real hip,” says Leland, “is much more than what you wear or drive or where you live. It is also a form of enlightenment.”

But more than anything else, Leland has come to understand that “hip is always subjective.” It’s why a good crowd of people at a dinner party can debate all night whether Run-DMC, Jay-Z, Chuck D., Tupac Shakur or Eminem is the real deal.

Hip is a wonderfully entertaining look into a cultural concept as hard to pin down as it is compelling. But Leland is certain that South Beach fits the definition of the word to which he has devoted an entire book. “Absolutely,” he says with a big smile. “South Beach is the theme park of hip.”

Fortress America -Will Increased Travel Restrictions Affect South Beach?

Local meteorologists agree South Beach was spared the recent spate of hurricanes that lashed Florida. But they hadn’t ventured out, as we did in a Jeep, during the Saturday-night height of Frances. As we drove along the deserted streets, it was evident that Paris Hilton wannabes and fraternity revelers had both decided not to risk it with a category-four storm. Sheets of rain and screaming winds had closed everything from Mynt to Mango’s.

However, at the intimate bar of the steel-shuttered Hotel St. Augustine, only a couple of blocks from the beach, we found the eclectic group we sought. Owner Fernando Canale and Billy Belack, who runs the bar’s informal salon, were there. Across the room, a muscled Dutch gay couple who wanted a weekend of partying were now reduced to complaining about not leaving for New York a day earlier. Honeymooners from the Midwest were downing lemon shots and moaning about being stranded since their Caribbean cruise had been scuttled. A couple of elegantly dressed, 80-something grande dames from Palm Beach were huddled in a corner, their jewel-encrusted fingers clutching martinis and cigarettes. And five colorful locals, from a British hotel owner straight out of AbFab to an artist who had just finished putting up his own shutters before running inside, rounded out the group.

We plopped into the banquette next to the Dutch couple. As nosy reporters who like to ask a lot of questions, it didn’t take long to find out they were long-time South Beach visitors.

“We haven’t missed a White Party in years,” Erik, a graphic artist, told us. “But we won’t be here starting soon. You are going to lose a lot of us when America starts its biometric program.”

We’ve worked on terrorism stories and vaguely knew what he meant. Biometrics measures biological dimensions: fingerprints, iris scans, hand measurements, gait recognition, typing rhythms and many more personal identifiers that can be encoded and stored on computer chips. It is the technology at the heart of an ambitious $8 billion science-fiction-like program that the Bush administration wants to implement for foreign travelers. Visitors to America, Erik claimed, even weekend partiers, would be required to have passports with digital identifiers.

“He’s right,” chimed in Anton, his partner. “There is no way we are going to give up our privacy to come here. And then we will have to get a visa on top of it. Do you think we’re going to stay in line at the American embassy for five hours so we can come to South Beach? When those rules happen, we, and most of our friends, will go elsewhere.”

Where? ‘We’ll just stay in Europe,” said Erik. ‘We’d rather party in Ibiza than put up with the hassles of biometrics. We’ll miss South Beach. But that’s what your government has done.”

Long after Frances had passed and the St. Augustine’s hurricane party was history, we knew we had stumbled onto a good story. Were the Dutch boys right? Were new post-9/11 security regulations about to inadvertently hurt South Beach’s biggest business, tourism?

What had Erik and Anton’s knickers in such a twist was that after 9/11, relying on new powers in the Patriot Act, the State Department had issued stringent new regulations. The fact is, travelers from 27 countries-including close friends like France, England, Japan, Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, among others-have to present either a “machine-readable” passport or have a visa to get into the country. (If there are two lines of computer code at the bottom of a passport, it is machine-readable-easier said than done, since approximately 50 percent of all French passports, for instance, don’t meet this requirement yet).

Travelers with visas who arrive at an airport or seaport will have to put their index fingers on a glass plate that will scan their biometric identity. A facial photograph will be taken. On leaving the country, visitors will enter an automated self-service kiosk, where they will again scan their travel documents and check their fingerprints on a glass plate. By next year, all passports from those 27 countries will have to include the more intrusive biometric identifiers, probably retinal or iris scans on a microchip.

Such personal information is intended to help track down criminals, suspected terrorists and travelers who overstay visas. It lets customs officers insure the person standing in front of them is the same person described on the visa. Similar rules already cover about 19 million visitors annually from Central and South America, Africa and Asia. But the new regulations expand the strict guidelines to another 13 million travelers, many of whom find the tougher security highly offensive.

And some travel professionals are not quite as convinced as the Bush administration that everything will be smooth sailing. ‘There is widespread concern that confusion and fear about the new rules could keep people away from the U.S.,” says David Ness, a London-based travel agent who specializes in Europeans visiting the States, particularly Florida. There are good reasons to worry. Foreign travelers- especially those from the 27 countries listed by the U.S.-spend more money and take longer trips in the United States on average than Americans do. And in South Beach, a party haven for Europeans and South Americans, some local hospitality businesses worry the regulations could have an impact.

The major concern is the invasion of privacy that so bothered Erik and Anton, the Dutch couple visiting the Beach. “There is a complete lack of any kind of accountability with this,” says Trevor Hennings, deputy director of Statewatch, a British organization that researches privacy issues. ‘There’s no way to know what will be on the chip? And some travelers may react poorly to being fingerprinted. In places such as Brazil, people associate fingerprinting only with criminals.

Moreover, since early last year, U.S. Customs has been recording the name of every person flying into, through and out of the U.S. When the European Commission protested at the time that this violated almost every conceivable European law on data privacy, America agreed to delete information about passengers’ health, race or religion, use the records only for tracking terrorists, and only store it for three and a half years. Still, few foreigners like the idea of their personal information sitting inside US. government files.

For many free-spirited visitors to South Beach, there are additional concerns caused by widely circulated stories making the European gossip circuit. Most are about travelers who had either inadvertently overstayed their visas by a few days due to some emergency or arrived without the right visas and had been jailed. A well-known Australian journalist, en route to do an interview, was jailed for several days and not allowed contact with her family or access to a lawyer after she arrived in the United States without the proper visa. Two prominent Brazilian cardiologists were also jailed when they arrived for a business conference without the right visas.

Beyond the fears of privacy loss, there are more mundane concerns. The fingerprinting and photography could cause delays at American entry ports, clogging immigration lines and delaying flights. The US. says its new rules will add only 15 seconds to the processing time for each foreign traveler, but few in the industry believe such an optimistic estimate.

New technologies such as biometrics almost always run into glitches, and in this case casual visitors to America could be the unintended victims. “It isn’t a magic bullet. It isn’t the 100-percent solution,” says Michael Thieme, a senior consultant for International Biometric Group, a New York-based consulting firm. it doesn’t take plastic surgery for the system to go down [and yield an inaccurate result]. It just takes rudimentary changes-from smiling to frowning, or a different [camera] angle. People will be flagged as terrorists who are not. I’d be stunned if that’s not the case. A lot of things have to be thought through. It’s more complicated than anybody has an idea of.”

And biometrics aside, even things that used to be fairly easy-obtaining a visa, for instance-will not be as simple as pre-9/11. Most visas will necessitate prearranged, face-to-face interviews with U.S. consular officials, usually requiring a special trip for the traveler to the U.S. embassy in the capital city of their own country. In poorer nations, like Argentina, the visa-application fee of more than $100 is expensive, and if the U.S. denies the visa, the money isn’t refundable.

“The test will be, what is the public reaction?” says David O’Connor, U.S. director of the International Air Transport Association, which represents 120 airlines serving the United States. “It may be fairly negative.” “People will think twice about flying to the U.S. if word gets back about how hard it is to enter Fortress America,” adds Simon Evans, CEO of a British-government-funded passenger watchdog group, the Air Transport Users Council.

Will fears of losing privacy, long delays in obtaining visas, and equally long delays at U.S. entry ports take the fun out of spontaneous weekend trips to South Beach? Might foreign bookers for fashion shoots and commercials find Capri or Spain as photogenic as SoBe?

“That has been a worry of mine,” says Fabio Moretti, the Italian-born owner of Contesta Rock Hair on Espanola Way. Fabio; whose clients include some of the top visiting models, also runs a workshop that arranges photo shoots and events in South Beach for European fashion magazines and designers. ‘This is absolutely something that has a lot of people in Europe worried. They are just standing back right now and waiting to see how it all plays out”

But the news for South Beach may not be as glum as it first appears. Myles Chefetz, owner of the hot steak house Prime One Twelve, says it “has not been on our clients’ radar yet” The restaurant is a magnet for many European visitors. ‘The leisure traveler still hasn’t focused on it.”

Rupen Etian, whose local company Ice Productions arranges print and fashion shoots, doesn’t like the new strict rules, but also believes they will not be as damaging to South Beach as some fear. “My European clients don’t make their final decision on where to shoot on any one factor,” he says. “It has more to do with the entire experience. No one is going to like feeling like they are being treated as a criminal at customs, but in the end factors like costs and availability of resources are going to be most important. Miami’s only competition during the winter sea- 204 Ocean Drive son is Cape Town. And we have an advantage, because the talent pool in New York is so close. Miami is still going to be a great draw, even if the travel regulations get people complaining a lot.”

And while the U.S. may have kicked off the biometric and security craze, other governments, mostly European, are embracing similar rules. A German firm is leading the way on iris-recognition technology, while a Finnish company has won contracts to do most of the biometric passports for the European Community. Australia and Japan are likely to have biometrics operating before the U.S., and Germany’s travel rules might even be more restrictive. The days seem numbered for European travelers such as Erik and Anton to merely walk across the border of their neighboring countries without even flashing a passport. For them and others looking for a great time in the sun, skipping South Beach in favor of Ibiza won’t be a good option: It’s going to be just as difficult to travel there as to America.

And then there are some people we spoke to who not only are unfazed by the stricter rules, but actually find them comforting in an odd way. “It’s going to make me feel safer,” says Barbara Goldman, a circuit partier living in London. “I don’t give a toss if they want a picture of my eye.”

Base on Lincoln Road, ranked last year as one of the world’s ten best clothing shops by GQ magazine, is a must-stop for many international travelers because of its unique style. British-born owner Steven Giles has spoken with some of his customers about the upcoming security changes and believes it will not be a long-term problem. “No one really likes it, but we’ll adapt, as people do-who’d have thought even a year or so ago that flying would involve the hazards and wait lines that it does? As of next week, it’s off with all shoes and jackets, and it’s only a matter of time before we are down to our undies. In view of that, an eye scan might be preferable.”

Flashback (with Gerald Posner)

A new history — featured at this month’s Miami Book Fair- dissects one of America’s most turbulent years

1968 was a tumultuous time. It was a year that marked the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, the bloodiest 12 months in that conflict’s history, and it was also notable for other tragedies; from the Biafran civil war, in which a million children starved to death, to the political assassinations of leading American progressives Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, both murdered in their prime. The Soviet Union brutally repressed liberalization movements in Czechoslovakia and Poland, while the Chicago police rioted and did their best to smash free speech at an American political convention. The feminist movement was born, Yasir Arafat took over the PLO, student riots swept not only America but also European capitals, and Richard Nixon was elected President.

It is hard to write about 1968 and do the year and its many sweeping events justice, but award-winning author Mark Kurlansky does just that in his book 1968: The Year That Rocked the World (Ballantine Books, $26.95). Emphasizing politics, he also covers the great social changes marked by sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. 1968 is especially relevant given our new quagmire in Iraq, the polarization caused by another Republican President, and the social unrest in the U.S. marked by issues such as inadequate health care and a lack of jobs. Kurlansky, who will read at this year’s Miami-Book Fair on November 14th, took time out for a free-flowing interview.

GERALD POSNER: Some commentators are comparing the U.S. involvement in Iraq to the morass in Vietnam that reached a crescendo in 1968. Fair comparison?

MARK KURLANSKY: In a broad sense, certainly. They have things in common. Both were started on premises that turned out to be lies. And both had no real way out. The government’s lies these days are similar to the Vietnam lies, that we are building democracy and that we have popular support. No one wants to say that in Iraq, as in Vietnam, there are two sides, one trying to drive out a foreign power and the other quislings jockeying for position by collaborating with the invader. A lot of innocent people in the middle are getting killed.

TRISHA POSNER: Well, where do you think we are in comparison with Vietnam?

In terms of where the war is in Iraq, it’s 1966. Still early. As for the antiwar movement, it is further along, largely as a direct result of Vietnam and the 1968 movement. A lot of us around did all this before, and we are the parents of a lot of young adults now. I recently went to one demonstration when the Republicans were in New York [for their national convention in August). I was trying very hard not to get arrested, as I was leaving with my family for a vacation that night, and a young guy told me his parents would be very disappointed if he was not arrested.

GP: In your book you point out that the draft during the

Vietnam War brought the issues home to college students. [More than 40,000 young men were being called up a month, and Lyndon Johnson had announced an end to the student deferment for graduate studies, subjecting another 150,000 graduate students to the draft starting in July 1968.] Will today’s young generation get as motivated about Iraq if there is no draft?

Yes, definitely. That is not to say it will be 1968 again. Young people are concerned and motivated, but would definitely be more committed if there was a draft. Today they organize on the Internet, not on the street. Bush and the Republicans fear that and they are right. They are scared about Internet sites like moveon.org, and the way it is organized on the Net, it can tap into young people, even if there isn’t a draft.

GP: But certainly without a draft, there can’t be as much personally at stake for young people.

That is true. I just don’t think the draft is a prerequisite to getting young people involved against Iraq. But without a draft, it does lower the level of intensity.

TP: Moving away from Vietnam to the year’s two political assassinations, which had the most devastating impact on the U.S.: Martin Luther King, Jr., or Robert Kennedy?

I couldn’t say. They each had a very different type of impact. If King had lived, he would still be around and would have had a major effect on American history. What would the Clinton administration have been like if Martin Luther King was alive? If Kennedy hadn’t been killed, he might have become President, and that would have taken this country in a completely different direction, but King had a lot to do with Bobby’s direction, anyway. Until 1968, King had a much bigger impact on the U.S. and the world. During the recent Democratic Party primaries, it was absurd to say that Al Sharpton is the best black leader in the country. It’s a misrepresentation of black leadership.

GP: After Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4th, the stock market declined less than one percent and then recovered its losses in one day. When Nixon resigned as President in 1974, the stock market lost 27 percent in a straight three-month decline. What does this tell you about stock investors?

It tells you that they are white.

GP: If the Black Panthers were around today, would they just be another hip- hop group with the guns but without the political commitment?

The Black Panthers are around. They are doing other things. One of them is now a Congressman    [Bobby Rush, an Illinois Democrat]. They are a very difficult thing for people in the movement to assess and deal with. Too much violence, and most people agree violence is one of the things that was exploited by the right wing and got Nixon to power. On the other hand, a huge amount of violence was used against them. They are difficult and complicated to assess.

GP: One million children starved to death in Biafra in 1968 and it was a shocking event. The BBC reported last year that upward of 38 million Africans in six countries could face famines in the near future and it barely caused a ripple. Why have Westerners become completely desensitized to successive African famines?

Two reasons. One is that Biafra drove home the crisis of Africa. People forget that during the decolonization of the 1950s and 1960s, everyone expected Africa to do much better than it did. And Biafra was in Nigeria, which people expected to do very well. People have sunk into this view of Africa that famine is part of what Africans do-they starve to death. And like so many things in 1968, the media covered it in a way that they had never done before. The pictures of starving children had great impact.

GP: The media started something else in 1968, quite different from the grim reality of African famine. It introduced talking heads. Was that the year’s worst contribution to our society?

One of them. (Laughs] Might well be. Actually, thinking about it, the worst contribution from the year was Richard Nixon.

TP: A lot of people in South Florida are weak on their religious history. What do you have to say to those who think Bob Dylan was writing an ode to Florida’s oldest city with his hit ‘I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine’?

What can I say of the people of Florida? I just hope they punch their ballots as they intend to during this election.

TP: Is there any truth to the British conspiracy theory that the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, secretly forced fashion designers to lower the hemlines of the London-invented miniskirt because the government was losing money on sales of the mini?

It is absolutely true they were losing money because of the measurement of the skirt. Children’s clothing was exempt from the British sales tax, then 12.5 percent. So if a skirt, under their law, wasn’t at least 24 inches from waist to hem, it was considered a children’s size and didn’t get taxed. So the mini was tax-free. It was a real serious thing to the government. You’re British, so maybe you know something I don’t, but I wouldn’t give much credence to the conspiracy theory, however.

TP: What is your favorite song from 1968?

“I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” by Country Joe and the Fish. [In 1968, Kurlansky writes that song was a "grizzly anti-Vietnam War satire." For any of us who have listened to it, it could only be your favorite song if you hated the war. Both of us would have a tough time choosing a single best from a year of great hits, including Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," "Hey Jude" by the Beatles, Otis Redding's "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" "Mrs. Robinson' by Simon and Garfunkel, "Jumpin Jack Flash" by the Rolling Stones, and "Dance to the Music" by Sly & the Family Stone.]

TP: Movie?

It was a terrible year for movies. A lot of friends really, really liked Night of the Living Dead, thought it was a great movie, but their opinions might have been partly drug-induced. [Again, Kurlansky might be giving the movie industry short shrift here. There were some memorable films such as Rosemary's Baby, Bullitt and Planet of the Apes, but 1968 should be remembered most for Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, which caught the essence of the time, that changing technology was our friend but could eventually become our enemy.]

GP: Book?

One of the best was Allen Ginsberg’s Planet News: 1961-1967. And although Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel/The Novel as History is actually about 1967, it was published in 1968, and is wonderful. And you can’t overlook Julius Lester’s Look Out, Whitey! Black Power’s Gon’ Get Your Mama!

TP: Norman Mailer also wrote Miami and the Siege of Chicago: An Informal History of the Republican and Democratic Conventions of 1968 that year. Even though half of it is about Miami, how many Miamians do you think have read it? Heard of it?

(Laughs] 3,500 have read it. And of those, only 20 remember today of hearing of it.

TP: By the way, you’ve won the prestigious James Beard award for best food writing for your book Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and were a finalist for several awards for another food-related tome, Salt: A World History. What was your food connection to 1968? Sprouts?

I suppose brownies.

GP: If 1968 had been copyrighted, what would have been your second ‘best- year’ choice from the 1960s?

1964. But 1964 isn’t nearly as interesting since it is all about the U.S.-the Gulf of Tonkin, the election with Goldwater and Johnson, the Mississippi Freedom movement, the Civil Rights Act, “Dancing in the Street’-great, all of it, but all American.

TP: Was the Democratic Convention In Chicago-with its massive demonstrations and police riots-the last great political convention we will see, especially now that in a post-9/11 world, demonstrators have to be corralled several miles away from the candidates and delegates?

It is actually the last convention of any interest that will ever happen. I don’t know why anyone bothers to cover conventions anymore.

GP: We can’t have a 1968 interview without one drug question. Marijuana was possibly even more popular in 1968 than it is today. The average ounce of high- grade sinsemilla then cost about $30, versus a going rate today of 5600. Based on inflation, it should cost 5160. So is this evidence the war on drugs is working and making supply scarce and prices high, or did drug dealers Just get too greedy, starting with the Reagan boom years of the 1980s?

My understanding is, without much expertise in this area, it is a triumph of modern agriculture. Today, grass is evidently much more potent. You used to have to smoke half a joint to get the effect from a few puffs today.

TP: Obviously it’s not possible to cover everything that happened in a year, but why did you leave out Jackie Kennedy’s 1968 marriage to Aristotle Onassis?

No particular reason. I actually felt sorry for this woman, who had her husband murdered in front of her and had blood spattered all over her dress and got little sympathy for it. She saw the U.S. as a hopelessly violent country and thought Bobby would get killed. She was trying to get away from America by marrying Onassis.

GP: How do you explain the sweeping sexual liberation of 1968, the free-love movement, to a new generation that has grown up in a post-HIV/AIDS world?

My research assistant just graduated from college and did the book’s index for me. She put all the feminism stuff under ‘sexual revolution’ and I then realized she didn’t understand ‘sexual revolution.’ But the sexual morals that college kids live with today are about the same as those in 1968. They might be a little more careful because a deadly disease is around, but they aren’t shunning sex.

TP: Why did hippies have no fashion sense?

They were too stoned.

GP: Is the country more religious today than in 1968, and is that good or bad?

The U.S. is more religious than in 1968, more religious, actually, than any other Western democracy. By and large, it is a pretty negative thing. If religion is a way of narrowing your mind, it is going to lead to political repression and all sorts of negative things. Someone told me 48 percent of Americans believe in the Biblical version of creation, so no wonder they can believe the lies of George Bush. You can be a thinking religious person, but that is the minority, and the growth of religion in America has been of the narrow-minded type.

TP: You end your book by writing that the Apollo 8 space mission mesmerized the world, and temporarily took people’s minds off all the planet’s problems. Is there an equivalent event today that could shove aside, even for a moment, Iraq, famine, AIDS, the slaughter in Sudan, the continuing conflict in the Middle East?

I am not sure if people are agonizing over these issues as much as they should be. I don’t know if they feel they need that relief. In 1968 people were physically and emotionally spent, but they aren’t today. The election allows us to say that Bush is the problem and we must get rid of him, so there is a catharsis to this type of thinking. But if we get rid of him, we will still be in Iraq and still have millions of people who supported him. In 1968, people thought differently. In 1968 it was easy to get involved. We need a dose of it today, and that is why I wrote a whole book about it.