Part 2: Killing two birds with one stone in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s day.

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Today I am going to Cuernavaca to surprise my mom at tomorrow’s Mother’s Day luncheon at Las Mañanitas ( www.lasmananitas.com.mx ), she has no idea I’m in Mexico and no clue I’ll be spending Mother’s day with her. My brother is picking me up at Eugenio’s home for the 1:30 minute drive to the “City of eternal spring”; yes, that’s what they call Cuernavaca. I’m not quite sure why, since every time I go to this city, it is scorching hot, humid as hell and most definitely not what comes to mind when I think of spring! In order to succeed in my surprise, I can’t stay at my mother’s home, where I usually lodge; instead, I am spending the night at a local hotel in the center of the city that I found on the internet that looks really adorable and suitable for my 48 visit: Las Casas B + B Hotel (www.lascasasbb.com). It’s a converted private villa with a dozen rooms, 2 pools and what appears to be a “happening” restaurant and bar scene; maybe I can make a few new local friends.

Once I arrive at my destination I am pleased to discover that today is a lovely Spring day in Cuernavaca, clocking in at a mild 102 degrees, with a very comfortable 100% humidity…just screams Spring, doesn’t it? Being the world traveler that I am, I knew what weather I was walking into so I made sure to pick a hotel with AC in the bedrooms…don’t laugh; a lot of them don’t have it in these areas; you got to do your homework possums! The Hotel looks lovely; they did such a good job decorating it in a simple, yet chic colonial style. No surprise there…turns out the owners are a gay couple from NYC!!! I make a dash to my AC room and out of the elements to slip into a bathing suit and spend the rest of the afternoon poached in the swimming pool like a hippo at the Serengeti. There is nothing else one can do with this kind of heat…at least not this “Gringo”. Later in the evening one can venture out in the town for some drinks and snacks and a tour of the beautiful Palacio de Cortes and the charming center of town, with it’s open markets, cafes and Mariachis everywhere.

 

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Entrence to Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

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Lobby

 

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Pool area

 

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Another pool area

 

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Kass relaxing

 

By 8pm I’m ready for a little excursion around town; the heat has subsided a little and the world comes out to celebrate anything they can think about. My hotel is literally 1 block away from the center square where the impressive Cortes’s Palace holds reign in all its glory. The Palace of Cortés in Cuernavaca is, at almost 500 years old; the oldest conserved colonial era civil structure in the continental Americas. The famous conquistador’s former residence is now a history museum with murals by Diego Rivera and the town’s center where all the locals hang out in the evenings, eating and drinking and listening to Mariachis.

After walking around for a few hours, I am famished and I think I’ll be checking out the “Happening” scene at my hotel’s restaurant and bar. The place is packed with a totally different crowd then from the outside walls; here the clientele is quite chic and obviously well off financially. I ask for a table for 1 and I’m told they are fully booked…wrong answer! 3 tantrums and 1 meltdown later, I get a lovely table by the pool and complimentary tequila on the rocks…SNAP!

The food is a modern interpretation of Mexican classic dishes and quite good, though I’m definitely not blown away. The crowd is very trendy and the place definitely has a great energy; I love the old black & white movies screened on the side of the building…nice touch! Having dinner with yourself has its limits, so after an hour of eating and drinking alone and NOT meeting anyone…I’m off to my freezing cold room for a good night sleep so I can be ready for tomorrow’s Mother’s day extravaganza.

 

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Restaurant is happening

 

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Restaurant

 

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Entrance at night


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Entrance

 

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Statue of Cortes

 

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Lively scene

 

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Restaurant filled streets

 

My morning starts with the most amazing interpretation of a Lox & Bagel I have seen in this country; such a beautiful presentation. The heat is starting to rise so I spend the next few hours back in the pool until it’s time to get dressed for the 3PM Mother’s day lunch (they eat lunch very late in Mexico). I was going to wear a suit for the occasion, but I will have to re-think my outfit due to the 100-degree weather….perhaps I’ll just go in my Speedos. I am pleased to learn that Uber service has started in Cuernavaca 3 weeks ago, so I go to my favorite App and low and behold, a white car, the size of a truffle, arrives with the most charming and kind driver I have ever experienced in Mexico. A very welcomed addition to this country if you have any idea how awful the Taxi drivers are in Mexico and how they rip you off as soon as they smell “foreigner” or Gringo.


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Just though this was pretty

 

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My very well presented Lox & Bagel dish at Las Casas B + B Hotel

 

I finally arrive at the famous Las Mañanitas, a favorite of my family for over 30 years. This Relais & Chateaux Property is one of Mexico’s best hotels and restaurants, not to mention the most amazing tropical garden I have ever seen, complete with flamingos, peacocks and other tropical birds roaming around freely in all their beauty. My mom and bother, along with a few friends, are already seated at the table, so I go around my mom, lean in and whisper in her ear: “Excuse me Ma’am, can I join you for lunch?” My mom turned around and practically jumped off her seat with surprise; for a moment there I thought she would have a heart attack!!! Note to myself: probably not a good idea surprising your 82-year-old mom in the future. Shock is followed by tears, hugs and kisses…I would say the surprise is a big success (also thanks to my brother who helped me arrange the whole thing). Lunch is amazing, as usual and goes on for hours, as they do in this country; no wonder you need a siesta after eating and drinking for 4 hours! After lunch we go back to my mom’s home and spend the rest of the day catching up and enjoying some well-deserved family time.
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Exterior of Las Mañanitas


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The stunning outdoor dining area at Las Mañanitas

 

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The tropical birds roaming around the property at Las Mañanitas

 

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A very loud Flamingo visiting the dining area

 

I’m feeling very good about this trip and the successful Mother’s day surprise! Thank you so much to my darling brother David and my Mexican brother Eugenio Lopez for a wonderful stay in one of my favorite countries in the word. Tomorrow is back to LA and back to work…I feel so blessed!!!!

Part 1: Killing two birds with one stone in Mexico: Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s day.

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Part 1, Mexico City:

Today I’m off to one of my favorite cities in the world to research the real estate market for my new restaurant project in Mexico City. It will be a nice change going to the warm weather of Mexico after a week of freezing cold in Canada. It’s the 5th of May, which, in the US, is a big celebration of the Mexican independence “Cinco de Mayo”; the irony is that NO one celebrates this holiday in Mexico; it’s just an American manufactured holiday for the purpose of selling beer and tequila. Oh well…I guess no one here needs an excuse to drink beer and tequila…the least, me!

I’m exited to stay, once again, at my Mexican ”Brother from another mother” Eugenio Lopez’ amazing Polanco penthouse, surrounded by one of the best art collections of contemporary art in the country. I’m a little concerned about the news that Mexico City is experiencing one of the worst air pollution in its history; something like smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day just by breathing the air….I’m glad I stopped smoking! To try and contain this urgent problem the city has come up with a system of allowing only half the cars in the city to operate on certain days of the week and the other half on the remaining days of the week. Pretty cleaver if you ask me; it forces people to use public transportation…not that I would be happy with that!

I immediately notice the difference when Eugenio’s driver picks me up at the airport and there is no traffic on the way to his home. Mexico City is renowned for one of the worst traffic congestion in the world and today it took us only 15 minutes to get to our destination, a trip that usually takes one hour and a half. I’ve been a guest at Eugenio’s home several times before, so Its always fun to come back and see all the friendly faces that work for him, especially his personal chef Lupita who always spoils me with the most delicious Mexican specialties during my stay. Eugenio is in full form and I am quickly updated on our busy schedule of dinners and parties and who know what…it’s never a dull moment with my Eugenio!


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They have really big spiders in Mexico…bring bug spray!

 

IMG_9085Amazing contemporary art just outside my bedroom

 

After a quick change of clothes, we are going to one of the city’s best restaurants: La Rosetta (www.rosetta.com.mx) where we are meeting up with his Mexican contingent. The elegant restaurant is spread through several rooms in a stunning old mansion house in the city’s Roma district, in Colonia Roma and it is renewed across town for its delicious and simple Italian food with a Mexican influence by chef Elena Reygadas. Dinners are very long in Mexico, just like Europe, they loooove sitting at the table for hours and hours. At the risk of sounding rude, I must take my leave; I’m beat from getting up at 5am in LA to travel to Mexico, so after my 5th Vodka Tonic, I excuse myself and retire in my fabulous Polanco penthouse.


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The beautiful 18th century villa turned into the restaurant Rosetta

 

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More Rosetta Restaurant

 

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The hilarious Christian Hannig and Claudia Zacarias

 

My morning starts with one of the best possible treats I can think of: Lupita’s famous Chilaquiles…in bed! There are no words to describe how good this classic Mexican breakfast dish is, with fried “Totopos”, green chile salsa, roasted chicken, Crème Fraiche with a side of beans and Mexican cheese…YUMMY! As I mentioned before, I am here in Mexico City to look at locations for my new restaurant project, so I have my brother David picking me up to spend the day driving around Polanco and La Roma to look at potential spots. It’s amazing to see how many high-end American restaurants, such as Nobu, Morton’s and Mr. Chow, are popping up everywhere in the rich areas of Mexico City, a definite sign of the emerging upper-class starving for luxury goods and services and high-end restaurants. For lunch we stop at one of my favorite cafés in Polanco, the darling Maison Belen (www.maisonbelen.net); a charming café where you can enjoy all sorts of Mexican and American brunch dishes on a lovely, sunny terrace.

 

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Lupita’s famous Chilaquiles…in bed!

 

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Nobu in Polanco

 

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Mr. Chow…opening soon in Polanco

 

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Uriarte, my favorite Mexican pottery store in Polanco

 

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Maison Belen in Polanco

 

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The lovely display of pastries at Maison Belen in Polanco



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Two “Packing” gentlemen fixing my bedroom TV…only in Mexico!

 

It’s now 4pm or otherwise know as siesta time! I’m dropped off at Eugenio’s home so I can rest for a few hours before getting ready for Charro Salinas’s birthday party tonight. Charro is the son of the ex president of Mexico Carlos Salinas, and he’s having a sit-down dinner at the iconic Mexican restaurant Cicero Centenario, in the Zona Rosa of the city (the naughty area…), a breathtaking 18th century building decorated in colonial style with amazing traditional Mexican food…right up my alley! We arrive at 10pm, on a 9pm dinner invitation, and we are the only ones at the restaurant beside the birthday boy and his girlfriend; That is typical Mexican behavior: 9pm means 11-12am; don’t try fighting it, it’s not going to change…ever!!!!

 

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Cicero’s amazing dining room

 

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The bar at Cicero

 

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Cicero’s dining room

 

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Delicious ceviche at Cicero’s


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Alvaro and me drunk

 

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Mariachis playing all night long behind me

 

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Cake time for Charro Salinas’s birthday

 

By 11:30pm the party is in full swing and I get to meat the most wonderful people, starting with Alvaro Ariza, a local restauranteur and the gorgeous, club owner Karla Deregil among many others. I will say, Mexicans are so incredibly polite and charming and always going out of their way to make you fell welcomed and comfortable. Four hours later and 8 margueritas in, my new best friend Karla, kidnaps me, along with Alvaro, from Charro’s dinner and whisks us through the streets of DF in her chauffeured Cadillac to her night club: M N Roy, named after Manabendra Nath Roy, the Indian born revolutionary and founder of the Mexican communist party. Of course, M N Roy is the hottest underground club in Mexico City and within an hour it is packed to the hilt with beautiful people, dancing to the tunes of DJ “Gordo”. Though plenty of fun, I manage to escape around 4am, totally exhausted and desperately ready to get into my comfy bed back at Eugenio’s. Buenas noches amigos!!!

 

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The gorgeous Karla and DJ “Gordo” at N M Roy night club

 

It’s morning again, or should I say, almost afternoon and I’m just waiting to see what will appear at my bed for breakfast today; after ringing the bell my the bed (I know…super fancy!), a tray with Huevos Rancheros arrives and they are as delicious as the Chilaquiles from yesterday; I could get used to this really easily!!! It’s time to get out of this bed, pack and get ready for my brother David who’s picking me up to drive to Cuernavaca to surprise my mother for Mother’s Day on Sunday. It’s been a wacky 48 hours and I’m so thankful to my dear friend Eugenio for treating me to yet another great time in his beautiful city!!! I can’t wait to open a business here so I have a reason to come here more often.

 

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Huevos Rancheros in bed…as one does!

 

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Amazing view of Chapultepec Castle and park from Eugenio’s penthouse

 

Part 2, Cuernavaca…coming soon.

Last jammed-packed day in Mexico City before leaving for Peru…Dios mio!

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Today is my last day in Mexico City before I leave for Peru tomorrow and I have a jammed packed 15 hours in front of me! I start the day with 100 laps in the underground pool (an absolute must, considering the amount of calories I am consuming these days!!) and it’s off to Cuernavaca to have lunch with my mother. Cuernavaca is an hour and a half outside of Mexico City and it’s a beautiful weekend escape for many DF Mexicans who need a brake after a long week. It was famous in the 60′ and 70′ among all the jet-setters including “Poor little rich girl” Barbara Hutton and many European royals; that is of course until the Mexicans kidnapped the son of the Italian King, Umberto di Savoia and murdered him…that was the end of Cuernavaca amongst the world elite. They did, however, leave behind a collection of extraordinary estates that still shine today as private residences or museums open to the public.

They call it the “City of Eternal Spring” because of it’s unique climate: never too hot and never too cold (though I find it hot as hell most of the times). My Formula 1 driver Jose Luis, gets me there in just over an hour, just in time to pick up Mom and go to her new favorite hideaway: Casa Manzano (www.casamanzano.com.mx). I order the Huevos Devorciados (Divorced eggs…Humm) which are delicious and my mom’s favorite smoothie: a blend of Parsley, fresh Pineapple, fresh Oranges and cactus (nopales); though reluctant at first, I end up loving this concoction so much that I had it made every morning from there on. After the lovely lunch it’s time to go back to DF.

 

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Casa Manzano’s Menu

 

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The beautiful courtyard at Casa Manzano

 

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Enchiladas de Guajillo con Requesón

 

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Huevos devorciados…I love the analogy!

 

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The famous Cactus Smoothie

 

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More courtyard beauty

 

Once again, it’s museum time…I just can’t get enough and in Mexico City there is never a shortage of possibilities! Today we will go to the Museo De La Bellas Artes to see the Henry Cartier Bresson photo exhibit, the cathedral and government palace and the Chapultepec Castle (www.castillodechapultepec.inah.gob.mx). The castle is located on top of Chapultepec Hill in the middle of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. The site of the hill was a sacred place for Aztecs, and these buildings have served several purposes during its history, including that of Military Academy, Imperial residence, Presidential home, observatory, and presently, the Museo Nacional de Historia. It is the only royal castle in North America that was actually used as the residence of a sovereign: the Mexican Emperor Maximilian I, and his consort Empress Carlota, lived there during the Second Mexican Empire. Though not as opulent as it’s counter parts in Europe, there are many beautiful rooms and art pieces to look at and most of all, amazing views of Mexico City. I don’t suggest walking up the long driveway on a hot, humid day as I did; once I arrived at the top gasping for air and wet as a rag, I realized there is a little choo-choo train that goes up and down the long walk transporting smarter visitors…argh!!!

 

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Palacio de las Bellas Artes

 

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The stunning iron gate at Chapultepec Castle

 

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Side view of Chapultepec Castle

 

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The beautiful stain-glass windows at the castle

 

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The dramatic “Affresco” at the entrance stairway

 

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The jade imperial door

 

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The viewing tower

 

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The view form Chapultepec Castle

 

Alright…I am done with museums, get me to a bar!! My ever-so-resourceful driver Jose Luis doesn’t waste a moment and quickly whisks me through the infernal city traffic to the famous Cafe de Tacuba (www.cafedetacuba.com.mx), just off the Zócalo; here I have a Cafe con Leche (turns out it’s to damn early for a drink…Misery!) and a Trés Leches cake (one of my favorites…though my Mom’s is much better). This Mexican classic opened in 1912 in a section of an old convent; at the entrance to the main dining room are huge 18th-century oil paintings depicting the invention of mole poblano, a delicious Mexican classic sauce featuring a variety of chilies and chocolate that was created by the nuns in the Santa Rosa Convent in Puebla. Though touristy, this place is a must see with it’s stunning pre-colonial decor and it’s classically uniformed waitresses…chic-diner-hat and all…ya’all.

 

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Cathedral at the Zócalo

 

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Zócalo Square

 

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Mexican flag standing proud at the center of the Zócolo

 

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Cafe de Tacuba front window

 

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Mariachi’s playing in Cafe Tacuba

 

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Our lovely waitresses

 

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Cafe Tacuba interior

 

I now have been going strong for 8 hours straight and I’m officially dead to the pulp!!! I’m going home.

After a well-deserved siesta and a foot massage, its dinnertime with the handsome, Venezuelan, telenovela super-star: Raul Olivo. I’ve met Raul at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles almost 15 years ago and we became instant friends; I’ve watched his career, in both film and music, grow through the years and I am so happy with his success. He takes me, Raphael and his beautiful girlfriend to his favorite steak house: Puerto Madero from Buenos Aires, Argentina (www.puertomaderorestaurantes.com).

 

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Puerto Madero Menu

 

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Puerto Madero’s signature potatoes

 

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My delicious Ribeye

 

The place is definitely on the stuffy side and très expensive. Raul suggests the lobster tacos, which are the best I have ever had in my entire life, so much that we order another round so by the time my enormous rib eye steak arrives, I am too stuffed to enjoy it…what a waste! I did however manage to eat 35 puffed-up potatoes…a house specialty. The day is definitely taking its toll on me and by dessert time I am literally falling asleep at the table; it’s most definitely time to go to bed.

Buenas noches amigos!

Throwback Post: Museo Jumex Grand Opening weekend extravaganza, Mexico City, 2012

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Since I just wrote a post about my friend’s Museo Jumex, I think it’s appropriate to do a throwback piece on the grand opening of the museum back in 2012.

My friend Eugenio López Alonso, the man behind the amazing Jumex Collection, was the host for the two-day extravaganza where international art world figures, celebrities and Mexico’s who’s who rubbed elbows in a series of fabulous events. To say that it was one of the most spectacular and memorable events I’ve been to, is an understatement.

The weekend celebrations kicked off with a cocktail party for the international guests on Friday night at the historic 19th century mansion: Casa de la Bola, where the Hollywood set, such as Eva Longoria and Will Ferrell, mixed with art luminaries, such as Sydney Picasso, Klaus Biesenbach and Jeffrey Deitch. My posse included my dear friend and travel companion James Moore, David Cooley and Paolo Marini; we all flew into Mexico City together and joined a very large LA contingent attending the weekend extravaganza.

Saturday afternoon, after a delightful lunch at Tori Tori in Polanco with James, David, Paolo and Brooke Davenport; the doors to the museum opened for all the awaiting guests including Darren Star, Simon de Pury, and Frieze New York’s Amanda Sharp mingling with Mexico’s Soumaya Slim, Fernando Romero, Paulina Rubio, and Gabriel Orozco, to name a few. The Kass friends included: Waldo Fernandez, Eduardo de la Vega, Loree Rodkin, Yuri Bradak, Isa Jonay, Nicky Haskel, Wendy Stark, Miriam Rothbart, Ahmed Ashmawi and so many more!

Finally the grand event took place at the Deportivo Estado Mayor Presidencial, where a 1920 Hollywood style grand set was built to host the 1500 or so guests attending with a grand orchestra and gold gilded stairs on all sides of the square space emulating an inverted Aztec pyramid. Shortly after midnight, DJ Mark Ronson took over and got the dance floor rocking, bringing the party to its peak. Guests, including Michael and Eva Chow, Stavros Niarchos, Vito Schnabel, Julio Santo Domingo and many, many others, danced well into the early hours of the morning. The after party was at Eugenio’s penthouse in Polanco, but that part of the evening is off limits!

So many insane things happened over the course of this mad weekend…but thankfully, it’s all a blur!!!

 

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Robert Kass, David Cooley, the lovely Miriam Rothbart and Nicky Haskel

 

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Isa Jonay, David Cooley, Paolo Marini and Robert Kass

 

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Vanity Fair’s Wendy Stark and friend

 

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Robert Kass, David Cooley and Paolo Marini at Tori Tori

 

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Brooke Davenport and friend, James Moore, Paolo Marini and David Cooley

 

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The LA Gang: Robert Kass, James Moore, Brooke Davenport and friend,Paolo Marini and David Coooley

 

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Robert Kass and James Moore looking dapper

 

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Opening of Museo Jumex

 

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The LA boys: Paolo Marini, David Cooley, James Moore, Isa Jonay and Yuri Bradac

 

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Robert Kass and Isa Jonay

 

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Robert Kass looking super dapper

 

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Outdoor view of Museo Jumex

 

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Main event at Deportivo Estado Mayor Presidencial

 

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Grand Orchestra’s director

 

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Grand Orchestra

 

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Golden stairs and guests

 

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Being smothered by Yuri Bradac

My “Hermano” Eugenio Lopez’ Museo Jumex

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This gallery contains 52 photos.

This morning starts extremely well; I wake up in at my dear friend’s Eugenio Lopez’s gorgeous penthouse in Polanco, to the most beautiful view of Mexico City from the 20th floor! After a one hour swim and steam room in … Continue reading

Here Kitty Kitty… “Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation”, Mexico City, Mexico

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After an easy, quick flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City on a much-improved United Airlines (www.united.com) I’m finally here! Mexico is a real paradox and a bag of mixed emotions; It’s chaotic and extremely disorganized, everything seems to be an afterthought. Buildings and freeways seem to raise as they go with no specific engineering or planning of any sort; a real opposite from the many gorgeous 17-18th century Spanish and Colonial towns that pepper the entire country. And yet, this urban jungle is on of the most vibrant cities in the world, not to mention the biggest. If you can look beyond the chaos and the brutal traffic, you will find a true metropolis filled with amazing energy, stunning neighborhoods, top notch museums, incredible history, restaurants of every kind, amazing artisan markets, more history and shopping galore. It’s not for everyone…but I love it!!!!

I’m staying at my dear friend’s Eugenio’s spectacular penthouse in Polanco, overlooking the Woods of Chapultepek (which is Mexico City’s version of NYC’s central park). I’ll be staying here for a few weeks, including a visit at my mom’s house in Cuernavaca, which is just 1 hour outside the city. There are several museums I want to see on this trip, most of all, Eugenio’s Jumex Museo that I followed through all of it’s stages: it’s inception and design, construction and the spectacular opening weekend just about one years ago, which I will report on as a “Throwback” post at some point.

But today I’m doing something totally different from my usual comfort zone, something I’ve never done before and I’m soooooo exited!!!!!! A dear friend of mine: Eduardo Serio, started a foundation some time ago in Mexico that dedicates itself to saving, healing and providing shelter to felines of all types that are left behind by private people, circuses and zoo’s. The operation is divided in two parts: the baby felines, from birth to a few months old, are hosted at his own home in Pedregal de San Angel; once grown, they are moved to the larger sanctuary for more space, protection and supervision.

I’ve been salivating over Eduardo’s Instagram page for a while (@blackjaguarwhitetiger), watching all his posts of the cutes panthers, lions and tigers I’ve ever seen and videos of the amazing relation he has with these animals. I promised myself that on my next trip to Mexico I would beg him to give me the grand tour; So here I am and after a few texts later, Eduardo has agreed to show me his fascinating new world. Our super cool driver: Jose Luis, picks us up in the morning for the 30 minute drive to Pedregal de San Angel, a wealthy suburb of Mexico City, to go to Eduardo’s own home to visit the baby felines. There is really nothing I can say to describe the amazement you experience once I am taken in a room with three baby tigers; I guess the photos will do more justice than anything I can say.

I am so happy with these little fluff balls that they have to drag me out by force. We move to the gardens where they keep the adolescent cats, one month to 6 months old, depending on the breed. Here that cats are definitely larger and very playful, I’m shocked at the strength they have at such a young age. It’s rough and painful some times, specially when one of the lions though my ankles was a lamp chop and pounced on it…teeth and all!!! It’s extraordinary how these cats have such different personalities from one another.

 

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Driving to Eduardo’s “Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation” sanctuary with Raphael Tessier, our driver Jose Luis and Coronas

 

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Being viciously attacked by two white lions and a tiger

 

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Adolescent tiger

 

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Panther hug…literally

 

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Trying to hang with the Puma but the jealous Panther won’t have it!

 

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The time has come to drive to the actual sanctuary hosting all the big cats, just 45 minutes away. Eduardo has purchased over a 100 acres of land in an area just off the highway to Acapulco and has built a state of the art sanctuary for his growing number of adult cats. There are no cages just fenced areas to separate the different animals; each one has plenty of space to roam around, they have pools to swim and cool down and they are fed individually according to their health needs. Here I see fully-grown panthers, white tigers, tiger, lions, jaguars and more. They all arrived at the sanctuary sick, diseased and bone-thin, but you would never know, because they have all been treated and brought back to a healthy life.

We are all mesmerized by the beauty of these animals and the incredible efforts made to built this oasis and give these felines a second chance; suddenly Eduardo asks me if I want to play with two adult lions…before I could even think it through, he opens a gate to one of the enclosures and two fully grown lions come charging in our area and plop themselves just next to my feet. The combination of sheer terror and adrenaline was paralyzing, but I after a few moments I am compelled to pet the 500 Lbs. beasts and finally relax enough to start taking photos with my mates…equally terrified. That, of course, is until one of the lions decided that, yet again, my leg looks like a delicious snack and in a split-second movement, the lion turns around and locks his jaws on my ankle (in a playful way of course, if the cat was serious he could snap my leg apart with no effort at all). Eduardo, who consistently keeps a watchful eye on all of us and the animals, doesn’t miss a beat and quickly grabs the lions jaws and pry them open releasing my skinny and now dented ankle. I’ll take that as a sign that it’s time to leave before I turn into a meal; but not before watching Eduardo lying on the ground playing with 1-2-3 lions on top of him as if they were house cats!! It’s definitely not for the light hearted and things can easily go south in a split-moment; I am so impressed by Eduardo’s work, his courage and dedication to these animals.

After spending 5 hours with the kitties, it’s time to go back to the city. Thank you Eduardo for such an amazing experience…I’ll never look at a cat the same way from now on. Now it’s time to get ready for tonight’s opening of Becco restaurant at the newly redone Four Season Hotel in Mexico City.

Meow!


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In the cage with two full grown lioness

 

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Stunning white tigers

 

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White tiger sucking Eduardo’s finger

 

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Lion sticking his tongue out at us

 

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Cielo the Panther

 

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Robert Kass, Raphael Tessier and Raul Olivo in the cage with two lions

 

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Having a screaming match with the white tiger

 

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Eduardo playing with two full grown lions…insanity!

 

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Robert Kass and Eduardo Serio at his sanctuary in Mexico City

LACMA 50 Year Anniversary Gala, Los Angeles, California

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Los Angeles has made a giant leap when it comes to Museums in the last 20 years and LACMA (www.lacma.org) stands on top of my list with it’s amazing transformation from a mediocre, local museum, to an international leader, especially when it comes to contemporary art. LACMA is the largest art museum in the western United States; it attracts nearly a million visitors annually and holds more than 120,000 works spanning the history of art from ancient times to the present. The super charismatic Michael Govan, the latest LACMA director, has done an amazing job raising a gazillion dollars to bring this museum to it’s current place among the best in the art world.

The evening starts at home trying to stuff myself into a very slender cut Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo that could definitely be one size larger to accommodate my recent weight gain. As they say: You can’t squeeze a ten pound sausage into a five pound bag! Anyway… it’s time to Uber (www.uber.com) my fat ass to the museum. The arrival on Wilshire Blvd is very glamorous and definitely sets the tone for the evening; the entrance is lined with hundreds of Valet guys and girls in red and black uniforms. After checking in, we are ushered though the amazing installation “Urban light” by the artist Chris Burden, through the press line with armies of paparazzi, over the long corridor lined with black-tied waiters serving Krug Grande Cuvée Champagne and into the Bar Lounge.

These kind of events bring out the crème de la crème of the art world, and this one has them all, including: Hitoshi Abe, Doug Aitken, Frank Gehry, Mark Grotjahn, Alex Israel, Toba Khedoori, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ed Ruscha, Paul Schimmel and Firooz Zahedi. after an hour of mingling, Michael Govan finally announces the opening of the exiting new exhibit followed by dinner and show in the main pavilion. Thanks to the enormeous generosity of benefactors such as Jane and Marc Nathanson and Lynda and Stewart Resnick, LACMA’s new exhibit boasts pieces by Damien Hirst, Roy Lichtenstein, Julian Schnabel, Frank Sa, Hans Memling, Giambologna, François Boucher and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.

 

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Robert Kass being silly at the “Urban Light” sculpture, by Chris Burden

 

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Red carpet entrance lined with servers serving Krug Grand Cuvée Champagne

 

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The arrival cocktail Lounge

 

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Robert Kass and the fabulous Irena Medavoy

 

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Robert Kass

 

I am a guest of my dear friend Eugenio Lopez who not only is one of the most important collectors of contemporary art in the world, but he’s also a generous benefactors to the arts at large and to the most important museums in Los Angeles. At the table are all of Eugenio’s friends, including the fire-cracker art dealer Esthella Provas, Veronica (one of Eugenio’s good friend and curator at his Mexico City Jumex Museum) and Priscilla (curator at the Museo de la Bellas Artes in Mexico City). Noticeably missing is out host Eugenio, who is tied up in New York at another event…literally!

The evening topic at the tables is clearly art, which happens to be one of my favorite subjects, being as I am a frustrated artist at heart; but the highlight of the evening must be the surprise performance of the one and only Seal! This is a pretty stuffy room but as soon as Seal takes over, it is finally a party! Running into my wifey Loree Rodkin, is also a treat; she never seems to miss a good party…how does she do it! Among the dancing guests there are a slew of celebrities including: Julie Bowen, Jim Carrey, Laura Dern, Will Ferrell, Armie Hammer, Dustin Hoffman, Anjelica Huston, Liev Schreiber, Seal, Barbra Streisand Naomi Watts and our city leaders, Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

 

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LACMA Dining Room

 

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Place setting

 

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Robert Kass and Raphael Tessier

 

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Surprise performance by the one and only Seal

 

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Seal

 

The Cinderella moment has come and I must leave this beautiful evening to go home and pack; tomorrow I am off to Mexico City for a one month South America trip that will be sure to bring some amazing experiences. If I don’t get kidnapped by the Mexican cartel, you’ll be sure to hear from me soon!!

Good night!

 

Formula E USA debut: Long Beach California

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I’m a big fan of Formula 1 Racing so when my dear friend Giorgio Veroni told me a few years ago that he was getting involved in the new Electric racing car business, I was intrigued. Through the years I learned more and more about Formula E Racing from Giorgio and after its world debut in Beijing last year (which sadly, I was not able to attend), Formula E has arrived in Long Beach California!!!! (http://www.fiaformulae.com)

I haven’t been in Long Beach since I was tricked into visiting the Queen Mary 20 years ago, when I just moved to LA from Switzerland. It was so boring I wanted to stick needles in my eyes…let it sink!!! The second time I got tricked into going to Long Beach, it was to board a helicopter to the: “Ohhh sooo exiting island of Catalina”…equally as uneventful as the old, crusty boat. I swore I would never go back to Long Beach, but today, I’m exited and open minded. I’m so curios to experience Formula E  (as in electric my dear possums!) But most of all, I’m thrilled to spend some time with the man of the hour: Giorgio Veroni and his extraordinary wife Tamara Beckwith, which happens to be one of my best friends for many, many years. I get picked up at 11am by my stunning blonde date: Celesta Hodge; who arrives to my home in her shiny Audi R8 (a perfect choice for this day…BTW). The 45 minutes ride turns into just 20 minutes thanks to Celesta’s diabolic driving skills; I just sank my nails into the dashboard and held on for dear life. The event was so well organized and so very chic…as only Giorgio could do! After arrivals we were treated to a lovely luncheon under a tent in 120 degrees fahrenheit and soon after we got to visit the pits where all the different teams hold their racing cars. We got to talk to the different team sponsors and drivers…all of which gorgeous (must be a pre-requisite to be a race car driver)! After a few hours of cocktails and pleasantries  we are ready for the race. We are ushered to the “Emotion” private VIP bleacher right at the start line and off they go!!!! The experience is just as intense as formula 1, minus the deafening sound of combustable engines. I will say, it took a little time to adjust to the super quiet electric cars, but eventually it was a thrill!!!! The handsome Brazilian Nelson Piquet with The China Racing Team won the race after just under an hour and the French Jean Eric Vergne came in second for the Andretti Race team.

 

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The Invite

 

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Robert Kass and the girls: Tamara Beckwith Veroni, Lady Victoria Harvey, Celesta Hodge and Vivi Veroni

 

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In the Renault Pit

 

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Lawrence Bender, Celesta Hodge and Tommy Alastra with friend

 

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The Virgin Pit (sounds inappropriate)

 

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On the grid before the race starts

 

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With my darling Tamara Beckwith Veroni and the beautiful Vivi Veroni

 

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My gorgeous blond date Celesta Hodge

 

The second part of this special day is the sit-down dinner Gala and after party at the iconic Chateau Marmont (www.chateaumarmont.com) in West Hollywood…definitely more up my alley! Just enough time to go back home, recover from the 15 champagne glasses and 1 cheese square I had for lunch and off I go! The Chateau Marmont is an LA landmark; a symbol of coolness, debauchery, chicness and lots of fun… an absolute celebrity mecca. Don’t bother trying it out…you can’t get in unless you’re famous, super rich or devastatingly gorgeous (don’t ask me how I get in…). The evening starts off with cocktails in the medieval style main lobby of the hotel. The room is filled with well dressed beautiful people (must be European) and the customary list of celebrities, among which: the always brooding Adrian Brody, Leonardo di Caprio, who is a major voice for 0 emission transportation and…me!

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The lobby of the Chateau Marmont

 

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Beautiful outdoor dining

 

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The “Rush” table

 

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My table with both #1 and #2 winners of the race: Piquet and Virgne

 

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With my “Hermano” Eugenio Lopez and snack

 

Finally dinner is served! All the large tables were named after a racing movie such as: Rush, Fast and furious…you get the shtick! I was seated at Giorgio and Tamara’s table with both the winner of the race Roland Piquet and the runner up Jean-Eric Vargne and his beautiful girlfriend who was next to me. I spent the entire dinner talking to the Swedish beauty, who’s name escapes me, until I started getting dirty looks from her French boyfriend. I re-directed my focus to the lovely Anna Mathews, seated across from me, to avoid a global scandal. Around midnight, dinner ends and the after party begins; this is when I usually start shining, but sadly, after being ON since 11AM, I was just out of fuel!!! The new round of exited guests started arriving, I waited for my dear friend Eugenio Lopez, hung out a little and finally staggered out of the party in hopes to reach my bed without passing out on the way from complete exhaustion. The next day was Easter Sunday and, unlike Jesus, I was not able to resurrect…I was in bed the whole day!

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