A welcomed “Slaggy” day and an amazing dinner party on the Bosphorus under a full moon

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Sightseeing in Istanbul is an endless proposition; there are so many amazing sights to see that you just can’t do it all in one trip. Loree and Cher are doing just that today, with a guide and the Manchurian assassins in toe; but today I’m choosing laziness over culture, massages over large crowds and pool life over mosques. It goes without saying that I have done all the sightseeing in Istanbul many, many times through the years, so I feel OK with taking the day off. My own Nibbles is the best companion for such lazy days, we both truly appreciate the art of “Slagging” and do so with such grace and meaning. But nothing happens in Turkey before the usual, amazing Turkish breakfast served on the terrace on the waterfront; it is by far one of my favorite traditions in the world…not to mention, fattening!

Today’s highlight is a massage session with Olga, the hefty, scary looking Russian lady who looked so much like a KGB agent than a massage therapist. The moment she lays her hands on me, I realize this will NOT be a relaxing hour. She’s a powerhouse of a woman with hands so strong, I am literally in tears from the pain she’s inflicting on me. All along she keeps telling me of all the many physical shortcomings she’s discovering in my pathetic body, immediately followed by a brutal painful solution that has me screaming even louder. Clearly, she is adamant on informing me of all the many areas in my body where I apparently collect excessive water, or excessive fat, or stress knots, or lactic acid! I feel like just hanging myself and calling it a day! Having said this, it is probably one of the best massages I have ever had in my life and once I get over the excruciating pain, my body feels brand new and ready for a BIG nap! I don’t think I ever cried so much during a massage session.

 
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The classic Turkish breakfast (Borrowed Image)

 

IMG_3150Sucuk (Turkish Sausage), peeled tomatoes and fried Eggs…amazing!!! (Borrowed Image)

 

The day goes by in no time and before you know it, it’s time to get ready for a real treat: dinner on the Berrak Instanbul III, cruising up and down the Bosphorus. After the obligatory cocktail time by the pool at 9PM, we are off to the Four Season to pick up the “Diva” Gang for our last night in Istanbul; tomorrow we are off to the South of Turkey for a “Yachting” week around the Mediterranean. We cross the waters and arrive at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the girls; Cher is now surrounded by fans and hotel staff trying to get a photo with her. Tonight we also have the pleasure of having a few more very special friends joining us, among which the dashing Omer Karajan and his mate Alasdair Dundas, Endar, the Turkish beauty Ozlem Onal, Gabriella and date and the one and only “General K”. Once the whole lot is aboard, we start with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the top deck of the elegant, Berrack Istanbul III: a 19th century handmade, teak boat complete with white suited waiters helping you with all your needs.

 

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The Barrack Istanbul III arriving to pick us up

 

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Docking at The Four Season Hotel

 

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Another view of our boat

 

The backdrop for the entire evening is the magical city of Istanbul’s panorama as you can only experience from the water, with all its monuments, palaces, bridges and sheer beauty. Besides a few rough moments when the wind picks up and glasses, nut trays, hats and wigs are flying around the deck and into the Bosphorus; cocktail time is a great opportunity to catch up with my dear friend Ozlem Onal, who is one of the most ridiculously beautiful creatures I have ever met; on top of that, she’s incredibly bright and so, so sassy and naughty…right up my alley! Another favorite of mine is Omer Karajan and Alasdair Dundas, the chicest and most fun couple in the continent, one a native of Turkey and the other an English man; I’ve know both for almost 30 years and believe me, it’s never a dull moment with these two. After a few hours of serious pollinating, it’s time to go to the lower deck terrace for dinner; tonight’s menu is all Turkish specialties, mainly fresh fish dishes caught in the morning. There must be 15 different dishes on this incredible buffet; I recognize several of them, but I’m definitely not afraid of trying all the new food so beautifully displayed in front of me. Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. The focus is on vegetables and fish, which is readily available in large quantity in the country.

 

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The Gang boarding

 

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Nibbles and Omer Karajan

 

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Raphael Tessier and Ozlem Onal

 

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View of the Royal Palace from the boat

 

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The Ciragan Palace

 

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Istanbul’s bridge at dusk

 

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Loree Rodkin and Gabriella with the Palace behind them

 

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The delightful Endar and friend

 

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The most beautiful girl in the world: my Nibbles

 

At the dinner table I have Raphael on one side and Cher on the other and there is no lack of laughter here; Cher is on a roll tonight and Raphael is bursting of happiness from all this new stuff he’s experiencing, so far from his home in Montreal. The evening goes one for hours and hours, though it seemed like just minutes; finally it’s time to take the girls back to the hotel and for all of us to retire for a goods night sleep…tomorrow it’s off to Göçek in the South of Turkey.

 

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Some of the many Turkish delights offered for dinner (Borrowed Image)

 

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Grilled fish (Borrowed Image)

 

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Turkish fish stew (Borrowed Image)

 

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The medieval castle on the Bosphorus

 

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The stunning Mosque on the Bosphorus

 

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Another Mosque


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The military academy

 

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A very happy Robert Kass with his two besties: Loree Rodkin and Nibbles

 

This is one of those moments where you really feel so lucky; not only for the obvious privilege of being able to experience such amazing places, cultures and traditions but most of all, realizing how much love and friendship you have all around you, something that is more valuable than any possession in the world. Tonight magic is once again, thanks to the kindness and generosity of our hosts Mr. and Mrs. K.

Thank you, I love you so much!!!!!

Hitting the Grand Bazaar with Cher and Loree Rodkin, dinner at Zuma and party at Soho House, Istanbul

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Starting the day in Istanbul, or more specifically at Nibbles’ house, is quite an experience; breakfast is served on the outside veranda, right on the Bosphorus and it’s an eclectic feast of local fruits and vegetables, a variety of breads, home made jams, feta cheese-cucumbers and peeled tomatoes, olives, omelets, and more!!!! It’s so much food, but all so delicious you can’t stop! Today we are going to the famous Grand Bazaar, an Istanbul institution and a must-do when visiting this city.

The Grand Bazaar, built in the 15th century, is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops, which attract between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors daily. It is listed No.1 among world’s most-visited tourist attractions with 91,250,000 annual visitors. 

It’s not for the faint hearted, in fact it’s a hustle and bustle of the craziest kind; it’s the art of buying and selling at it’s best. If you don’t know how to haggle…you will be taken advantage here with no mercy! I’ve been going here for years and sharpened my skills with every passing year to the point of perfection!!! Everyone shops here: locals and tourists alike, there are western prices and local ones and the trick is to get closest to the local price as you can. However, today’s visit will be a whole new experience for me; why you ask? Because CHER is going with us! I cannot even imagine how it will be like visiting the Grand Bazaar, with hundreds of thousands of visitors, with one of the most famous and iconic figures of our century…I’m breathless with anticipation!

We are off to the Four Season Hotel to pick up the divas: Cher & Loree Rodkin with entourage. It’s a quick boat ride across the waters and under a few bridges on the Bosporus and here we are here. Loree is already waiting in the lobby, as she is always on time; unfortunately you cannot say the same of lady” C”… one hour and a half later, HRH makes it to the lobby. With us is a pair of a Turkish version of a Navy Seals, who look more like Manchurian assassins than body guards…they are terrifying!! It was four of them to begin with , but Cher felt it would warrant unwanted attention, so cut it down to 2…thankfully!


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Raffi and myself on the way to the Four Season Hotel to pick up the divas

 

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Going under one of Istanbul famous bridges

 

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At the Four Season Hotel waiting for the Divas

 

After a 45 minutes van ride to the old center of town we are ready to rumble. Your first time at this 600 year old market is truly breathtaking; the energy around here is intoxicating and the thousands of stands selling everything and anything your heart desires make your head spin. We walk through the grand entrance into one of the main streets of the bazaar; people are staring the entire time, but can’t quite make out if it’s really Cher, a “Look-a-like” or a drag queen. What are the chances of her walking around one of the busiest markets in the world with just two bodyguards and a few friends; It’s the foreigners that recognize her immediately, but have no doubt, NO one is getting through the Manchurian Assassins!!! We shop and shop and shop till we can’t feel our feet anymore; I’m the chosen “Haggler” for the whole group, so after 3 hours of wheeling and dealing; I’m literally spent!!!! It’s time for a swim, a massage and a nap back home before getting ready for dinner at one of my favorite restaurant in Istanbul: Zuma.

 

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The newly restored Beyazit Mosque by the Grand Bazaar

 

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Entrance to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

 

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One of the many covered streets in the Grand Bazaar

 

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Shops and more shops

 

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Looking like a total tourist at the Grand Bazaar


IMG_4617 2One of the many Cafés inside the Grand Bazaar



IMG_4616The amazing painted 15th century arched ceilings inside the Grand Bazaar



IMG_4619Café life at the Grand Bazaar



P1010158The amazing 15th century vaulted ceilings in the Old Grand Bazaar

 

10PM, time to pick up the gang again for dinner at Zuma (www.zumarestaurant.com). Yes, dinner in Istanbul starts at 10PM and continues till the wee hours of the morning…no Blue Light Special here! It takes a while to get used to eating so late, but when in Rome. Zuma’s cosmopolitan twist on traditional Japanese Izakaya cuisine, sits well with the Turkish elite. Like Las Vegas in the 90′, Istanbul is attracting all the big names in the culinary world: like Nobu, Cipriani, Spago, Ciccone’s, etc. Zuma, however, has one of the most beautiful terraces on the Bosphorus and sitting here for dinner overlooking the water, the lit mosques and the colorful bridges is truly spectacular! The food is delicious and reminiscent of Nobu’s cuisine; the miso marinated black cod wrapped in hobs leaf, the roasted lobster with chilli ponzu butter and the chili marinated lamb chops and homemade pickles, take the cake! A lovely lady from the table next to us, courageously comes over to our table and tells Cher how honored they are that she is in Istanbul and extended a big welcome on behalf of the Turkish people…dramatic but heartwarming. What an amazing group tonight: Loree Rodkin, Cher, Raphael Tessier, Jen, Endar, Paulette Howell and myself; we are all having the best time and all thanks to the best hostess in Turkey, our own, wonderful Nibbles. Once again, before you know it, it’s 2am and time for the ladies to retire and for the boys to go hunting!


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Dusk on the Bosforus

 

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Arriving at the Four Season Hotel to pick up the gang

 

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Me and the beautiful Nibbles

 

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The stunning terrace on the Bosforus at Zuma Restaurant

 

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Another view from Zuma restaurant

 

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Jenn, Endar and Paulette Howell at Zuma

 

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Loree Rodkin and Jen

 

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Cher and Robert Kass at Zuma

 

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Exotic fruit platter with tropical sorbet at Zuma

 

IMG_4594 2Turkish balls on ice…couldn’t help myself.

 

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The beautiful mosque on the Bosphorus


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One of the many changing colors of Istanbul’s bridges

 

Endar, Raphael and myself are going to the newly opened, member’s only, Soho House Istanbul (www.sohohouseistanbul.com), for a few nightcaps and a mingle with Istanbul’s elite…or so I’m told. The building, built in 1873, is absolutely spectacular; prior to Soho House takeover, Palazzo Corpi, as it is named, used to be the home of the US ambassador. In 2014, Soho House bought the building and began extensive restoration work on the Palazzo, returning it to its former glory. We are greeted with open arms by Soho’s charming manager who takes us for a tour of the Palazzo before we join a few of Endar’s friends on the rooftop bar. The place is beyond beautiful and without doubt, the most beautiful Soho House of all. The view of the Bosphorus and the city skyline from here is just amazing, not to mention, the rooftop pool looks very inviting and available to guests for a swim anytime. The crowd is definitely über chic and a testament to the growing, young Turkish society that is hungry for the best the West has to offer! It’s now 3AM and I am ready for my gorgeous bedroom on the water; tomorrow it’s sightseeing and a marvelous sit-down dinner on an old steamer boat, up and down the Bosphorus with best friends from both the US and Turkey…cannot wait!

 

IMG_4719Arriving at the stunning Soho House Istanbul

 

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Stairwell at Soho House

 

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One of the Grand Bars at Soho House

 

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Soho House Lobby

 

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Rooftop restaurant at Soho House

 

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A tired Robert Kass leaving the Soho House

“Are you a member?” Soho House, West Hollywood

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NO…I am NOT a member!!!!!

It seems as though every time I mention going to Soho House for dinner or drinks, the first words out of anyone’s mouth are: “Are you a member?”.

So here is the reason I have NOT applied for a membership: When the Soho House opened it’s doors in spring of 2010 as a private member’s club, everyone and their grandma’s raced to fill those applications in hopes of becoming a member of the new LA Golden Club; it was like Black Friday at Wall Mart for the rich & famous!

I’m not quite familiar with how they pick who does and who does not get access to the club; but after the dust from the “great run” settled, there were plenty of wounded souls with crushed egos that didn’t make the cut.  However, many of my friends, with whom I spend lots of time with, got accepted and consequently began dining, drinking and entertaining there all the time (some I think live there…), so I found myself going to Soho 2-3 times a week, as their guest.

So here was my thought: If I applied for the membership and for some ungodly reason, I would to be denied, I’d be so pissed off that I would never set foot in the place again, which would mean giving up spending plenty of social time with my friends.  So in one of my least courageous moments in life, I decided not to take the chance and just stick to the status quo. Not to mention I am really not the kind of person who buys into these elitist clubs for “special” people, which works like a charm in a place like LA where most people have approval issues!

The Soho House is billionaire Nick Jones’ 2nd venture in LA after opening Cecconi’s in 2009 in the old Morton’s location. Perched on the top floor of the Luckman Building in West Hollywood, with the most unbelievable views of the city, the space is divided in 2 main areas: the restaurant and the bar/lounge. My good friend Waldo Fernandez designed the place and really succeeded in creating a chic, laid back, sexy, comfortable oasis for the “Pretty” ones to pollinate. The massive staircase in the entrance hall, when you exit the elevator, is beyond glamorous; though I wish it was inverted, meaning, instead of going up to the higher floor from the entrance hall, you would be going down…it would make for great entrances; people would be flocking at the bottom to see the spectacle of it all. Not to mention it’s a hell lot easier than walking down the stairs on your way out after a few cocktails; especially for the 99% of the ladies population at Soho who wear 6 inch heels.

There has been a lot of talk through the years about the food not being very good, but I must admit, I never had  a bad meal; though I don’t think anyone goes to Soho Club for the food. It’s hard to top dining under olive trees by a water pond, under the stars at the top floor of a building in West Hollywood! This place rocked for the first year, with more mega stars, fabulous parties and drama than anyone has ever seen in LA in such a short period. I can’t even count how many great nights I had here…never a dull moment!

The only other successful Member’s only Club in LA  that I can remember of was Tramps! For almost 2 years, this London-based phenomenon, owned by the legendary Johnny Gold along with my then step-uncle Oscar Lerman (the best person EVER!), husband of my then step-aunt Jacky Collins, it was “THE” Place to be in LA! I remember all the glamorous dinners I had there with my then step-mother Joan Collins (are you getting sick of the: “then step…” yet?), with Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Sydney Poitier and the beautiful Joanna, Jacky Collins & Oscar Lerman, Princess Stephanie of Monaco, Sylvester Stallone with the psychotic Brigitte Nielsen and many more. I remember dancing weekly with Prince, who was always by himself, and his bodyguards till the wee hours of the morning without sharing 1 word; and for some obscured reason I remember Steven Seagal (“I know…right?”) with his lady in red and then wife, Kelly LeBrock, who I thought was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. The energy was amazing, the bathrooms sounded like Hoover testing factories and the people were just gorgeous; there was a lot of fun and naughtiness that cannot be mentioned on my PG13 Blog!  Sadly, after an incredible first year, it quickly fizzled and eventually closed it’s doors. Maybe the weird location in the Beverly Center’s street parking level, next to all the dumpster, might have helped with it’s demise.

The Soho House however, seems like it’s here to stay; especially after a hefty $383,000,000 cash infusion from the supermarket mogul and “Entendeur of pretty”: Ron Burkle! Rumor has it that Soho House will be opening its 2nd LA spot in Malibu: Soho Beach, right next to Nobu.

They really are the first to succeed with the “members only” formula in LA. In a city, where everyone who thinks they are anyone is plagued with entitlement issues, getting all the right people to sign up and pay the $1,800 a year membership, regardless of who you are, is quite an accomplishment! Two years after it’s opening the momentum has definitely slowed down, but Soho House is still hot and a great place for a business meeting, a dinner under the stars, a private event in the homey private rooms downstairs, or cruising celebrities and wannabe’s at the bar…that is, if you can get in!

 

 

Dinner with Lady Cher at the Soho House

 

Bar/Lounge area

 

The stunning rooftop restaurant