BY MADELEINE MARR
Recession? What recession? Sssshhh, the R-word isn't uttered 'round these parts. There's nothing fabulous about being low on cash, my dear.
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This weekend it's time to party like it's 1989. The Fontainebleau Hotel -- 2008 version -- will host two soirees lavish enough to make the resort's late, great architect, Morris Lapidus, groove in his grave.
Jetting in: socialites (the serious kind from Manhattan), A-listers (Lindsay Lohan, Martha Stewart, A-Rod, Sean Combs, Usher) and Victoria's Secret models (Heidi Klum and her ilk).
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Too bad Morris -- whose autobiography was titled Too Much is Never Enough -- didn't live to see the day. His baby, the 54-year-old grand dame that catapulted our little hamlet to the world stage, has returned to her glory days with a glitzy $1 billion makeover. The Fontainebleau now boasts 1,504 rooms, an infinity pool elegantly lined with SoBe-style teak cabanas, and a 40,000 square-foot spa in a blue-glass structure that looks like something conceived by I.M. Pei.
This weekend's festivities probably make this the most high-stakes hotel opening in South Florida's history. Wednesday afternoon saw scores of pink-badge-wearing production staffers filming models throughout the hotel's grounds, as fire marshals conducted final tests for an occupancy permit the hotel had hoped to have months ago. The elusive permit forced the Fontainebleau to cancel dozens of events scheduled in recent months, including the Republican Governors conference that drew Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Miami this week.
Klum was whisked through the hotel's makeshift lobby in an adjoining condo-hotel tower Wednesday afternoon while more than a dozen staffers crowded behind the main front desk awaiting clearance to check in their first guests.
Howard Karawan, the Fontainebleau Resorts executive charged with reopening the Miami Beach hotel, ducked into a conference room to cull VIPs from wannabe VIPs.
''How many more guests do we have for our sold-out party?'' he asked staffers fielding last-minute add-ons to the invite list for the weekend.
By the end of business Wednesday, Fontainebleau posted a worker at the city's building department to obtain the permit Karawan expected to come by sundown. He was in the lobby when word came the hotel had passed its final fire inspection -- a milestone that prompted high-fives from fellow executives.
All the stops are out for this weekend's $5 million festivities, celebrating the rebirth of Lapidus' bodacious icon by the sea. It took three years to give the sagging duchess her facelift, and she deserves a decadent blowout.
How decadent? Let's start with the stunning invitations, which reportedly cost $200 a pop. You know you've arrived when you receive the satin-lined gift box in the mail. Inside, wrapped in felt, is an acrylic block encasing a black and white photograph of a woman's legs on a beach; the etched-in date ''11 14 08'' runs across the bottom. Hang onto the thing; you may do well with it on eBay someday.
Friday night's affair will be the first test of the Fontainebleau's famed ballrooms -- home to many proms, weddings and bar mitzvahs past. For the ribbon cutting, featuring performances by Robin Thicke, actor-jazz singer Terrence Howard and a ''mystery'' A-lister, 1,500 guests can expect a feast for the senses. The night's event planner is New York's David Monn, creative force behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute Gala, among other extravagant soirees.