Last Tuesday, my Jonny and I entered Café Boulud in Palm Beach, Fla. Here we encountered a shocking and riveting tableau. In the center of the restaurant was a long table whereat was seated—hang on to your artfully exposed Dolce & Gabbana bra straps and your vintage black patent Manolo sling-backs!—the ultimate cavalcade of right-wing punditry: Rush Limbaugh (stylish in black, a la Johnny Cash), Fox News seat-filler Laura Ingraham (meaner than Bill O'Reilly—more hair but less charm), sugar baron and Republican power-donor Pepe Fanjul, and—triple drum roll and cymbals—the pièce de résistance, Lord and Lady Black. Yes, as in Conrad! As in not long out of the clink after serving time for fraud and hopefully not becoming anyone's bitch in the process.
This Last Supper-ish tableau was hauntingly unreal. Were we witnessing the annual holiday get-together of a celebrity lookalike agency that specialized in arch-conservative icons? If any one of these bold-facers had been dining alone, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. But seen together, candles up-lighting their smiling visages, they appeared creepy and fake. I guess you could call it the "Madame Tussaud effect."
Not that the ambience at the Black table was anything other than convivial: Conversation (frustratingly inaudible) flowed, couture wines gurgled, and cut-crystal glasses clinked. An atmosphere of redemption and forgiveness filled the air as the group celebrated Lord Black's first post-incarceration holiday. Merry Christmas, your lordship!
Speaking of becoming somebody's bitch ...
The whole notion of forgiveness and redemption has become something of a leitmotif on our Florida vacation. On Dec. 19, I did something my Jonny has now decided is totally unforgivable: I dragged him to see Black Swan, thereby causing him to miss what has become known as "the miracle at the New Meadowlands." Just as the movie was about to begin, Jonny's cellphone jangled loudly in the West Palm Beach movie theater. It was his sister Amy calling to inform us that DeSean Jackson had just returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown to lead the Eagles to a win against the New York Giants in the final 14 seconds of the game and that the world had gone berserk with the shock and audacity of it all.
My Jonny, I should explain, is a member of a very exclusive and rather poignant club: He is the Philadelphia Eagles' only gay fan. Every Sunday finds him lounging on pillows (of his own design), hurling abuse at the telly. (The Eagles often seem to lose.) The fact that I had succeeded in nudging him out of this ritual to go see a bunch of nelly ballerinas flitting about in tutus was nothing short of a miracle. And then to have missed his team's finest hour!
While Jonny is unable to forgive me, he, like every other Eagles fan, has somehow found it in his heart to forgive the past transgressions of star quarterback and convicted felon Michael "Dogfighting" Vick. Earlier this month, Vick told NBC News, "I thank God for changing my life and keeping me healthy and putting me on the path to where I can redeem myself and make a great comeback." He also announced his desire to acquire a pooch, calling it "a big step for me in the rehabilitation process." Clearly, in addition to being forgiven by his fans, he has also forgiven himself. So why can't Jonny forgive me? It's simply not fair.
Now, about Black Swan: I highly recommend it. This is one of those fabulously histrionic movies that will linger in your consciousness like the aroma from a ripe wheel of brie. The critical component to the success of this kind of camp movie is a committed and full-throttle performance from the lead. Natalie Portman, in tutus by Rodarte, delivers a masochistic, tortured tour-de-force. She is right up there with Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest and Elizabeth Berkley in Showgirls. Along with the brie, I also smell Oscar. Who knows, by the time La Portman is clutching her statuette, maybe I will be out of the dog house.