New Year’s madness in Acapulco, Mexico

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My God…Acapulco; I haven’t been to this place since the early 80′, when it was still a Jet setting mecca that started way back in the 60′, and eventually fell off the world platform due to its violence and unattractive over development. My dad & mom would vacation here when it was a pristine bay with crystal waters and it’s signature palm leaves umbrellas or “Palapas”on the beach. It was the place where Liz Taylor and Richard Burton would mingle with all the Hollywood set and the wealthy Mexicans hosted all the rich and famous from all around the world. Two of the most memorable Acapulco characters doing the hosting were the fabulous and eccentric, Texas-based, Baron & Baroness di Portanova who built one of the most iconic homes in Mexico: Villa “Arabesque”; an Alibaba and the 40 thieves themed mega estate with multiple pools, a “Harem” lounge & ding room, complete with harem motive murals, a funicular that brings you from the house level to the ocean, a “20,000 leagues under the sea” discotheque and so much more; the Villa was featured on the James Bond movie: “License to kill”. They were renowned for the many lavish parties they would throw and the very glamorous guest list that would attend! I remember going to a few parties there when I was young and being so impressed with these incredible hosts and the “Joie de vivre” they exuded; I was also equally shocked watching all these famous people get completely wasted and belligerent…little did I know that just a decade later, I’d be doing exactly the same thing!!!!!

 

The Baron and Baroness di Portanova at Home

The Über glamorous late Baron & Baroness di Portanova at Villa “Arabesque”, Acapulco

 

On December 30th, Eugenio’s driver picks me up at my mom’s home in Cuernavaca for the 3 hour drive to Acapulco; this Mexican version of Formula 1’s Schumacher, took all of 2 hours to get there (instead of three), by driving at blistering speeds during which I held on for dear life in the back seat of the SUV, bouncing from side to side as a bobble head as he flew through those mountain curves at 120 miles an hour!!!! By the time I arrived to my destination, I didn’t care what would happen over the next few days…I was just happy to be alive!

I arrive at the beautiful villa that Eugenio rented for the holidays in the prestigious Las Brisas colony, where the iconic Las Brisas Hotel (www.lasbrisascollection.com/hotels/acapulco) with it’s famous pink Jeep’s and pink casitas, each with their own pool, rules as the best hotel in Acapulco. Once there, a very friendly and efficient house staff, welcomed me with tropical drinks and delicious mexican treats. You didn’t need to twist my arm to much before I started stuffing my face with “gorditas” and mini quesadillas that, for some reason, are so much tastier than any you would find in LA. There I met the gang of “Bandits” that were also guests of Eugenio’s and with whom I would spend the next several days, including some LA friends like Ferdinand Bare and his girlfriend Maria Conchita Alonso, the handsome film maker Adrian Burns, the artist Jeanette Longoria, the hilarious Priscilla “Queen of the desert”, just to name a few.

Not to long after settling into my suite, I decide to take a shower, so I get undressed and just when my nickers were half way down my legs, a 3 foot long snake (no…not mine) appears from underneath my bed and rapidly slithers across the room just a few feet away from my bare feet! Let me tell you, I never jumped so high and screamed so loud in my life!!!! I could just see the headlines: Kass dies in Acapulco from snake bite to his “Willie”! I went running out the door into the garden like a mad man in my underwear, screaming “bloody murder”; you should have seen the faces of the house staff, who probably thought: “Here you go, another crazy “Gringo”! I finally was able to explain the situation to one of the guards who promptly went to my room and killed the beast!! After the scare I went through I should at least end up with a snake skin belt…no? not PC? It took another 12 Margueritas before I could go back into my room; this time with 3 armed guards, who checked every square inch to make sure no more local fauna was planning to keep me company.

We all decided to have a quiet night at home so we could shine the day after for New Year’s eve. The amazing chef at the house, whipped up the most incredible dinner, my favorite being the shrimp chile soup that was to die for…literally; my mouth was on fire for 2 days!!! On New year’s eve day, we planned a boat ride in the late afternoon, to witness the last sunset of 2012; it was truly magnificent and romantic…too bad I was the only single person on board! Once back at the villa, preparations begin for the big night; I was thrilled to find out that the party we were attending, was in fact at Villa Arabesque, which is now owned by Jenna Jaffe, the sister of my good friend Jeanette Longoria, who was also a guest at Eugenio’s.

 

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Acapulco Bay view from my bedroom

 

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Siesta spot

 

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“2012 last sunset” boat ride with Maria Conchita Alonso and “Tequila” the Chihuahua

 

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and other guests…

 

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Last sunset of 2012 from our boat

 

After getting lost a few times on the way to the party in our “presidential” caravan of guests and armed body guards, we finally arrive! It was so weird being at this house after so many years; not a second inside the gate and the drinking started, it was like I never left. Close to midnight, one of the most beautiful new year’s traditions I’ve witnessed around the globe begins: the lighting of the Sky Lanterns. They are traditionally constructed from oiled rice paper on a bamboo frame, and contain a small candle or fuel cell composed of a waxy flammable material. When lit, the flame heats the air inside the lantern causing the lantern to rise into the air. Suddenly, the dark sky is illuminated by hundreds of glowing dots…it’s truly magical. The less popular part of this beautiful tradition is that these paper lanterns catch on fire quite easily, and before you know it, they turn into little flying fire balls that eventually land on people’s properties setting everything ablaze. I witnessed one home catch on fire just half a mile from our location…but in hindsight, it did look pretty!

At midnight the fireworks spectacle began and thanks to our position, we could see the entire show lighting up all of Acapulco Bay. I always get so sentimental at midnight on all new year eves…I just start thinking how lucky I am to be alive and to have the life I have, regardless of all its ups and downs. I think of my family and the people I love and loved through the years; I think of all the people who are suffering and don’t enjoy the same opportunity I was given, and before you know it, I get all chocked up and teary eyed. But the tears are quickly replaced by joy and the believe that a new year is like a rebirth and an opportunity for dreams to come true and to do things better this time around.

Around 1AM dinner was served in the “Harem” themed dining hall; sadly most everyone was to drunk to appreciate the delicious meal, including yours truly. By 3AM we are ready to leave and embark on a marathon of other private parties in the surrounding hills. It was literally like a “flash of sequence”, appearing at each event for a few air kisses and off to the next, I think it finally ended by 8AM when we all crawled back to the villa and finally into bed, but not before stuffing a few last quesadillas down my throat!

 

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Pool level at Villa “Arabesque”

 

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Outdoor living at villa “Arabesque”

 

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Mexican New Year tradition: lighting of the Air Lanterns

 

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Releasing the Sky Lanterns

 

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Fireworks across Acapulco Bay

 

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Riding the camels…

 

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Dinner time in the “Harem” themed Dining room with the handsome & cheeky Adrian Burns

 

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The infamous Discotheque at Villa “Arabesque”

 

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Villa “Arabesque” from our boat

 

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Main pool with views of Acapulco Bay at Villa Arabesque

 

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One of the many lounging areas at Villa Arabesque

 

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Double rainbow outside my bedroom on 1/1/2013…must mean “Good luck”!!!!!!

 

Another event worth mentioning that we attended after New Year,  is the Alleman’s party at their beach home in Puerto Marquez. Miguel Aleman was the 47th president of Mexico and as expected, his family’s party, on his private beach, was sure to deliver! There were several different stations with chefs cooking up local foods to order and all tables centerpieces were decorated with huge shells, corals and glass bowls with live gold fish swimming in it. The beach was all lit with Tiki torches and the “Saturday night fever” dance floor was placed on the sand with the most beautiful back drop of the open ocean. The most unusual part was the large amount of uniformed military personnel, complete with AK 47 machine guns, circulating around the property at all times…I guess it gives you an idea fo the kind of environment they are living in. After eating way to many servings of ceviche and drinking way to many tequila shots, we eventually leave for club Palladium (www.palladium.com.mx) my good friend and colleague at Hilton & Hyland, Trista Rulland’s family joint. This place is the real thing, I’m talking NYC 1980′ type club, enormous with incredible sound system, state of the art light show, complete with cages for gogo dancers, sitting on a bluff overlooking Acapulco Bay. It’s amazing to me how these 3rd world resorts have these incredibly expensive, huge nightclubs…things that make you go hummmm! The other big nightclub is the 30 something year old Baby O; still packed to the hilt with young, beautiful rich Mexicans in head to toe Hermes, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana ordering bottle service like it’s 1999…

 

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Beach wonderland

 

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Ceviche boat

 

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Dessert display

 

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Eugenio Lopez & Jeanette Longoria

 

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Mexican home security with AK 47

 

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My two “Chicas”: Trista Rulland & Maria Conchita Alonso

 

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Club Palladium

 

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Last Acapulco sunset from our infinity pool before going back to LA in the morning

 

At last, it’s time to go back to reality; my time in Acapulco was amazing, all thanks to my incredibly gracious and generous host and dear friend Eugenio Lopez, without whom none of this would happen…I wish everyone in the world could have a friend like him!

 

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Me and my buddy Eugenio Lopez

Christmas with the family in Cuernavaca, Mexico

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Christmas is just a few days away; I can’t believe how fast this year has gone by…not my best year I might add; I am so looking forward to a new and improved one!!! This year the Kass family has decided to spend christmas at my mom’s home in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Cuernavaca was the hub if the international jet set in the 60′ & 70′, for its beautiful climate, hence the nick name: “The city of eternal spring”, and it’s lavish tropical scenery. Poor little rich girl Barbara Hutton, built an amazing estate with on the world’s best Japanese gardens and a bunch of European royals, like the Savoia’s of Italy and a slew of international celebrities also made it their winter escape. Sadly, in the early 80′, a member of the Italian royal family was killed by a local, a few others got kidnapped, and that was the end of Cuernavaca…at least for the jet setters. Today it is mostly occupied by wealthy Mexicans from Mexico City, that use it as a weekend retreat, considering it is only one and a half hour drive from the city. I love visiting this tranquil city, it is definitely a welcomed pause from my hectic life and having Mom’ spoil me to tears also adds to the whole experience.

One of my favorite traditions for the last 5-6 years, is going to Mexico on the 22nd of December with one of my favorite and dearest friend in the world, the visionary art collector: Eugenio Lopez! Around midnight, just like Cinderella…sans crystal shoes, we board his jet and off we go to Mexico city where we both reunite with our parents for Christmas dinner. The late departure allowed me to squeeze in one last christmas party, this one at the home of the very talented, handsome and hysterically funny star of NCIS: Michael Weatherly and his stunning wife Bojana. It was such a beautiful event, catered by one of my favs: Ammo (www.ammocafe.com). All of TV’s elite was present, considering that NCSI has been the #1 show on TV for almost 10 years; but my early Christmas present was definitely running into Robert Wagner, who’ve I known since i was 5 or 6 years old, with the lovely Jill St. John. This man is in his early eighties now and he is as handsome, sharp and charismatic as ever! So after a dozen glasses of “plonk”, my good friend James Moore (www.cookslikejames.com), drives me to Eugenio’s home where a fleet of SUV’s are awaiting to take us to LAX for our journey to Mexico City.

 

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Jill St. John, Robert Wagner & me.

 

Once in Mexico, we board a helicopter to the center of the city, more precisely, the roof top of my friend’s skyscraper…as one does! But before we land we are given an amazing areal tour of Eugenio’s new contemporary art museum, right next to Carlo Slim’s, due to open in the fall. Eugenio has amassed one of the most important contemporary art collections in the world and soon the public will be able to see it at this amazing new location.

 

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On the tarmac with the naughty Mauricio, ready to board the jet to Mexico city.

 

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The “3 Amigos” getting off the heli on top of a skyscraper in the center of Mexico…scary!

 

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An aerial view from our helicopter of Eugenio’s museum under construction right next to Carlos Slim’s.

 

After having my favorite “Chilaquiles” in the world at Eugenio’s penthouse apartment for breakfast, it’s off to Cuernavaca in a bullet proof Cadillac Escalade! Finally I arrive at my Mom’s home where all my brothers, nephews and nice are awaiting for my arrival…having a suitcase full of presents doesn’t hurt! The next 5 days are spent fighting with mosquitos and enjoying family life, food and the amazing local eateries that deliver the most incredible Mexican food you will ever have. One of my favorites is the legendary: Las Mañanitas Hotel & restaurant (www.lasmananitas.com.mx). This place has been around for a long time and rightfully so; it was originally a private estate with the most incredible tropical gardens with flamingos and peacocks strutting around like at a Paris fashion show. The restaurant is spectacular with a traditional and new mexican cuisine; my favorite dish here is the “Sopa de tortillas” which makes me drool just thinking about it!

 

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Las Mañanitas

 

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Las Mañanitas at dusk

 

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One of the peacocks parading around the gardens

 

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My nephew’s mini pancakes with scrambled eggs and maple syrup…sooo cute!

 

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With my brother David and the two “Nippets” at Las Mañanitas

 

This place is at the high-end of the spectrum, on the other end are a slew of street taco stands everywhere that offer fresh corn tortillas made on the spot with an infinite selection of fillings that leave you begging for more! Probably not the kind of places Westerners might stop for a meal, but this “foodie” enjoys every minute of it! What’s the worst that can happen… Montezuma’s revenge? I’m prepared for that too…an iPad and lots of magazines!

To counter act the fastly expanding waist side, I even joined a local gym where you can really witness the American health craze influence very clearly. Life in Cuernavaca is vibrant and colorful; every evening, the square in the center of town, is full of life with Mariachi live music coming from every direction and cafés bustling with people who seem to enjoy life more, with little or no money, than their first-world counterparts who have lots and lots more….things that make you go hummmm! My brother David loves taking me to the huge local market place where you can find everything and anything your little heart desires, all for just a few “pesos” and all “fake”, of course! So if Santa didn’t bring that Luis Vuitton bag you so wanted…no worries, you can buy it here for 200 “pesos”.

Of course, like most third world countries, this place has its setbacks: water might not always be available, electricity and phones might go down in a storm and WiFi tends to take many “siestas”. The bugs are quite big and scary and the mosquitoes in the summer are brutal (can’t travel without “Off” in your bag); but if you can’t deal with this kind of situations, you should stay home. But I will tell you…you are missing out!!!!

Alright, family time in Cuernavaca has come to a close, it’s time for grown up time, so I’m off to Acapulco to join my “amigos” for the New Year’s celebrations…God help me!!!! If I make it through you will hear from me next year!!!

Happy new year everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!