Archive for the ‘The Swells’ Category

Ibiza Journal: Goodbye to the island’s party scene

October 4, 2008

[Feel it yet? Matinee attendees; the party closes tonight]

Part of an occasional weekend series about Ibiza.

It’s Saturday, about 10:37 p.m. — early here on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, famous for its celebrity-flecked nightlife. Although it’s now October, well past the summer season, the streets outside the Croissant-Show cafe where I’m sitting are full of people, strolling beneath hand-painted pennants hung above the narrow streets. There is a live arts event unfolding in the small plaza before me. I am reminded of the warm evenings Sparky and I spent earlier this summer.

Tonight is the closing party for Matinee, one of the island’s biggest, best-attended weekly dance events. Held at the giant nightclub Space in the Playa d’en Bossa area, Matinee is one of three such closing parties this week — the summer’s last drug-induced gasp before Kate Moss (left) and the rest of the yachting crowd shifts to winter hideaways.

Calling them parties and nightclubs is not entirely accurate. They are very large, professionally produced events staged in mammoth entertainment complexes — the musical equivalent of an adult amusement park. They often carry racy themes, like the F*** Me I’m Famous event produced by a Parisian couple.

Matinee’s Space venue, for example, covers several hundred thousand square feet on two levels. There are two or three dance floors, with the biggest accommodating thousands of dancers. Scantily-clad dancers shimmy on small stages. A gift shop hawks T-shirts. And there’s a requisite chill space for party-goers on too much E and K.

The pricey parties are big lures for young people from Britain, Germany and other EU nations who spend week-long vacations here. But they’ve also saddled Ibiza with a reputation for excess when, summer after summer, young visitors die in drug-related accidents. A 25-year-old Scottish man was the ninth holidaymaker to die this season when he was found in his hotel room late last month.

An evening at Matinee tonight would not be cheap. Tickets are around $75 U.S., unless you get a really good deal. And drinks start at $12 for a small carbonated water. Those lofty prices didn’t go over so well this year, when global economic problems cast a long shadow: The Paris Hilton waiting game ended this summer with fortunes pinned on a late-season cruise ship carrying 2,000 gay men.

Fortunately, my friend Sandra and I were with her friend Marco, an Italian who makes a living here hanging event posters, when we attended one of the other big closing parties this week: La Troya.

Marco is club-connected, so we were swept in Wednesday night by the Armani model-looking security guards, and didn’t pay a dime for our drinks. It was fun. But I’m 51, and I’m fairly certainly I was one of the oldest people there. Still, I may go to Matinee tonight: This summer has been a time to revisit my crazier youth.

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Ibiza Journal: A gay cruise ship sails, just in time

September 7, 2008

[Ses Salines, before tonight’s arrival of the ship Constellation]

Part of an occasional series about Ibiza.

August, traditionally the busiest month, didn’t bring the hoped-for financial jolt to this Mediterranean island’s tourism-focused economy. Young British visitors stayed away in droves, we’ve been told, because of the weak pound Sterling vs. the euro. That especially hurt Sant Antoni — home to the legendary Cafe del Mar, where visitors watch amazing sunsets.

But the slowdown also spilled over to Ibiza Town, center of the nightclub scene that ordinarily draws rich and not-so-rich visitors from across Europe and beyond. We’re still waiting for the arrival of celebutante Paris Hilton (left).

Now, the closest thing to 11th-hour financial relief is the cruise ship Constellation, which arrived about an hour ago. It’s carrying up to 2,000 gay men — mostly Americans — sailing to Barcelona from London over the past week in an event organized by gay travel company Atlantis. The ship anchors here nearly 24 hours.

For Ibiza, the Constellation means lucrative docking income from cruise line Celebrity. And, as our friend Paulo said, these men will spend big, patronizing clubs, cafes, shops — and the beaches full of gym-fit sun worshipers (left). Sure enough, today at 7 p.m., Ibiza Time, waiters at Ses Salines beach’s Chiringay rushed across the restaurant’s terrace, pointing to the huge boat as it glided into view on the horizon. “Barco, barco,” they said.

Ibiza isn’t exclusively gay, of course. But gay men and lesbians have helped make the island a must-visit global playground over the past 30 years. And now, with the economy on the ropes, gay tourism has become even more important.

[Constellation: carrying up to 2,000 gay Americans]

A little travelin‘ music
Tourists watch the sun set while listening to trippy music at Cafe del Mar — like this track, from SuperTrance Vol. 2:

[Constellation file photo]

Ibiza Journal: Waiting for Paris Hilton

August 3, 2008

[Flower Power: The scene last month at pricey nightclub Pacha]

Part of an occasional weekend series about Ibiza.

No surprise here: Sparky and I didn’t make it to Matinee last night, the big weekly dance/Ecstasy chowdown held at megaclub Space. We would have spent about $140 for tickets, and lord knows how much more for drinks. When American friends and I attended rival club Pacha‘s Flower Power party last month, three drinks — a sparkling water, a beer, and a vodka and Red Bull — cost a jaw-dropping $54. And we’d just gotten started. (My friends graciously paid the bill.)
Those sky-high prices illustrate the stakes in the tourism-based economy here on the Spanish island of Ibiza, one of Europe’s most popular Mediterranean getaways. Yet, they also explain why some workers dependent on tourism, like our new friend Sandra, complain that business hasn’t been as good this summer. That’s a worrisome sentiment this weekend, the start of the most lucrative part of the summer. Other people told me the same thing: With consumers growing more cautious, $12 bottles of water are moving slow. 
Some of the same forces pressuring Gannett are being felt thousands of miles away from McLean, Va., on Ibiza: A slowdown in the global economy; the real estate market’s mortgage-related implosion; tumbling stock prices, and ebbing consumer confidence. Sandra, 40, a server at the high-profile Croissant-Show cafe, says celebutante Paris Hilton (left) was here last summer and in 2006 — but hasn’t been seen this summer, a sign Ibiza may have lost some of its luster.

Europeans still vacation in droves during August — patronizing hotels, restaurants, beaches, and big nightclubs like Space and Pacha that partly serve as the island’s pricey financial anchors. We just returned from Es Cavallet beach, where services aren’t cheap, either: Two lounge chairs and an umbrella cost $25 for the day. (We bring our own gear.) That might explain why the beach wasn’t shoulder-to-shoulder crowded, as we found it a year ago.

While that’s not bad for Sparky and yours truly — August can be absurdly overcrowded — it’s bad news for the Sandras of Ibiza, trying to eke out a year’s income in just three months. As it unfolds, we’ll see what this make-or-break month brings.

A video of the Matinee opening party (above) at Space this summer.

[Images: Flower Power, Pacha; video, Matinee Group]

Tech 101: Yes, Virginia, there really is a Craig

May 12, 2008

[Real deals: Craigslist’s Newmark, left, and CEO Buckmaster]

Profiles of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark often include the word “unassuming” — and with good reason. He sounded that way on the phone when he returned my calls at USA Today. I’d be working on a trend story, and needed a special data analysis on, say, the number of ads placed daily on his webpages by infertile couples seeking to buy human eggs. “Hi, it’s Craig,” he’d say in a barely audible voice.

Newmark and CEO Jim Buckmaster don’t seem like big-time media moguls — the sort running a company, now siphoning off millions in classified revenue from newspapers. Check out that photo, above, from this morning’s Newmark profile by The New York Times. San Francisco-based Craigslist runs lean (that peeling paint!) — just the sort of technology business start-up an aging newspaper publisher wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.

Like a certain Google executive, Newmark and Buckmaster are high-profile players in the new generation of wealthy technologists giving traditional publishers the most competition they’ve faced in decades. In Washington, D.C., status is all about proximity to the Oval Office. Here on the Left Coast, it’s proximity to tech tycoons. (In a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon way, I think: I know a woman who knows a woman who’s been dating Buckmaster. . .)

Craigslist publishes most ads on its sites without charge. There are modest fees only for job listings and real estate in certain big cities; from those fees, the company generates $80 million to $100 million in annual revenue, the NYT says. It has a staff of just 25, including Newmark himself. What’s more, Craigslist’s revenues are growing with its expansion beyond first-tier cities such as Miami and into smaller places, including Janesville, Wis., (population: about 60,000).

Does Craigslist have a site in your Gannett community? What’s been the impact? Leave a note, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

[Photo: Justin Sullivan, Getty Images, via NYT]

Style: Marissa Mayer is coming out of the closet

May 3, 2008

[Fashion passion: Mayer and a Naeem Khan design]

As shares of Google rise anew, and newspaper stocks tumble, here’s where a lot of the search engine giant’s profits are going: Straight into top Google executive Marissa Mayer‘s closet. The 32-year-old fashionista is one of the most high-profile players in a new generation of ultra-wealthy San Francisco-area technologists, now giving papers a fight for their lives.
The Wausau, Wis., native‘s taste for high fashion is legendary. Even so, it was pretty amazing — and more than a little tacky — to see so much free-spending on display when The Wall Street Journal on Thursday drew Mayer and her extensive clothing collection out of the closet of her luxe San Francisco penthouse. Mayer, vice president of search products and user experience, shares something in common with Sex and the City character Carrie Bradshaw. They both love Manolo Blahnik footwear (below, sandals, in a Plexiglas case).
Is it sexist for me and other reporters to focus on fashion choices by female executives? Join the debate, in the comments section, below. Or use this link to e-mail your reply; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.
[Photos: WSJ]

Cooper: Turning gray is like sex, ended abruptly

March 13, 2008

File this under must-have news for the aging reader demographic Gannett just re-discovered.

From gay website PlanetOut’s “what you don’t know about Anderson Cooperquiz; the 40-year-old CNN anchor wrote in a 2003 Details article about his famous grayness: “You know it can happen prematurely, but when it actually does, it’s a total shock.”

Note: That’s gray — not gay! Crazily off-topic though it is, my recent post about Cooper’s mysterious sexuality has become one of Gannett Blog‘s better-read items. Shocking: You’d rather read about celebrities’ sex lives than the Gannett Newspaper Division Print Task Force?

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper is so not gay

March 6, 2008

But his boyfriend is — or will be, or could be, according to what must be media gossip blog Gawker’s gazillionth post on one of its favorite subjects: the mysterious sexuality of Gloria Vanderbilt’s silver-haired scion. “We could,” Gawker allows today, “make the typical cutesy gay jokes about this clip of Anderson Cooper watching clips of streakers getting taken down, but we’re more amused by his use of phrases like ‘tally ho’ and ‘sticky wicket.'”

Cooper likely won’t rise to such bait, however. “I just don’t talk about my personal life,” he told New York magazine in 2005.

[Photo: CNN]

Why I chased Peter Lynch out of that hotel

March 5, 2008
[Target rich: the Great White One]

You know him: Peter Lynch, the Fidelity mutual fund guy who’s got “legendary” bolted to his name. (And now he’s suddenly in trouble.) Lynch taught me a lot about failing CEOs, snoozing boards — and the value in asking pointed questions.

We had our hotel run-in 13 years ago, when I was an investigative reporter at The Idaho Statesman (hi, Dan!), trying to find out why Lynch and his fellow directors hadn’t been doing their job watching over the old Morrison Knudsen Co. MK was a storied engineering and construction outfit that had employed generations of Idahoans. It led construction of the Hoover Dam. It was one of Boise’s marquee employers, with a sterling reputation.

That is, until Bill and Mary Cunningham Agee slid into the CEO’s suite, presiding over a compliant board of directors that included Lynch. Yes: those Agees. Of hankypanky-in-the-1980s-Bendix-corporate suite fame. By 1995 in Boise, unhappy MK employees accused the two of acting like a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde, looting the company for personal gain.

Lynch’s fellow boldface-name directors included Peter Ueberroth, the Los Angeles Olympics impresario, and Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor. Too late, directors caught on to Agee’s incompetence, and moved to fire him during an emergency board meeting.

I flew to San Francisco for the directors’ showdown with Agee at the swank Campton Place hotel, staking out the second-floor meeting. The Wall Street Journal was there — and, somewhere nearby, that fabulous Diana B. Henriques of The New York Times. (She might have been wearing pearls!)

Lynch left the board room, then found himself trapped inside a small elevator with me, the Journal reporter — and one suddenly wide-eyed hotel guest. During the one-floor trip down, the Journal reporter and I peppered Lynch, demanding to know why he and other directors had been asleep at the switch.

I left the Journal reporter behind when Lynch bolted out the elevator door, sprinting across the lobby toward a purring black Town Car, with tinted windows, curbside. I yelled after him: “Are you going to resign?”

He stopped in his tracks, turned around quickly, and shouted back: “What kind of question is that?” Then he rushed into his limo, without giving me my answer.

So, with that as background: Hi, Gannett board of directors!

Postscript: Last I read, the Agees were leading a cosseted life in Northern California’s wine country. Nice work — if you can get it.

[Image: this morning’s Idaho Statesman, Newseum. The Statesman is now owned by McClatchy, after passing through Knight Ridder on its way out of Gannett in 2005.]

Marissa Mayer is eating your lunch

February 28, 2008
[It’s her party: Top Google executive Marissa Mayer]
Mayer, 32, is Google’s vice president of search products and user experience, an unwieldy title that means she’s the executive finding even more ways to run circles around newspaper publishers. And she’s getting awfully rich in the process.
Mayer’s pay isn’t high enough to require its disclosure by Google. But she’s employee No. 20, meaning she accumulated a big stake in the search-engine giant before it went public in 2004 — turning those early employees into gazillionaires. Consider the fact that top Google attorney David Drummond didn’t join the company until about four years after Mayer. Yet, he controls nearly 152,000 Google shares, the last shareholders proxy report says, worth $71.3 million at current prices. I’ll bet Mayer’s stake is way north of that.
For gossip websites like Valleywag, San Francisco magazine reports in its new issue, “Mayer is an easy mark, a machine-like Google executive and (so they say) a social climber who paid $60,000 to win lunch with Oscar de la Renta, once dated Google co-founder Larry Page, and uses her looks for publicity.” (Meow!)

I’ve posted about Mayer as one of the new generation of ultra-wealthy technology executives, living in San Francisco and roiling the news industry; watch my first (and, so far, only!) installment of Gannett Blog TV, featuring Mayer, here. The newspaper that’s perhaps suffered the most as a result of surging tech companies: the Hearst-owned San Francisco Chronicle, run by publisher and former Gannett executive Frank Vega. He just hired long-time Gannett editor Ward Bushee (left) as the Chronicle‘s top newsroom guy.

[Photo: Mayer at last year’s San Francisco Museum of Modern Art charity ball, by Drew Altizer Photography]

Heath Ledger, Mary-Kate Olsen — and Blackwater

January 27, 2008

What stories could private security firms in your community tell about dealing with the rich, famous and powerful? Consider The New York Times‘s fascinating peek at how Mary-Kate Olsen (left) and other swells use security firms such as infamous Blackwater Worldwide when they get in a jam. “They’re operating with their own set of rules,” says Lou Palumbo, who owns an agency providing security to celebrities and heads of state. “They’re under the impression that concessions are made for them every day. They want us to do damage control.” And that’s just one more reason why I hate interviewing celebrities.