could never find a way to contact the owner and eventually gave up trying despite the heat of the market. “Madame is not at home or is indisposed,” was all the re- maining leery staff were able to utter. In her later years, her nurse and housekeeper didn’t even speak English, only Polish. Shrouded in secrecy, Villa Pompeii eventually became an over- sight. The parties, tennis lessons, and tea dances had ended so many years earlier that even the ghosts didn’t remember them. The gardeners had been dismissed decades ago, encouraging the overgrown tropical jungle to flourish and strangle the es- tate’s remaining, dimming lifeblood. Zosia, the Polish housekeeper, would arrive in her rusted Honda before the neighbors awoke and exited the drive at dusk after locking the iron gate. A familiar sight to early morning runners, she appeared thick, pallid, and of no consequence. It was as if the house had taken on the air of a locked government building closed to the public. Despite its reticence and dereliction, North Bay Road preened and bustled and was dubbed the “Fifth Avenue of Miami.” Celebrities found the wide bay, glittering sunset views of the downtown skyline, and easy proximity to the beach a boon, and, best of all, one could get a larger yacht onto North Bay Road unlike neighboring Pine Tree Drive or Indian Creek with their thinner canals. In recent years, North Bay Road had become a haven for celebrities. They waxed and waned like the
they surveyed the perimeter of the property, everything ap- peared as it should; the massive glass box was clean, fresh, and spanking new after the Venezuelan designer’s custom gray chalk paint and 30 percent fees. As security walked the prop- erty, they found the neighbor to the left, an aging Cuban American liquor magnate with highly secure, but too bright, lemon stucco walls, benign enough. As they approached the hidden property to the right, they were somewhat dumbstruck by the looming verdant jungle, what nearly a century of un- pruned growth did to a place. Bemused, puffed up security walked up and down and poked through the tangled web of mammoth ancient palms and over- grown Japanese boxwoods to see if there was a security risk, as she knew they would. A crumbling concrete wall divided the two properties and what they saw from the crisp, clean, strik- ing, modern mansion seemed like another world entirely. The minions poked, prodded, and viewed the formidable estate and shoreline from their speedboats before finally deeming it of no consequence. She was sure of this as well. The new owner’s Wheels Up Gulfstream was expected to land at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport that Thursday evening. Playing stadiums of thousands looked glamorous but proved exhausting, and with the Covid shutdown, he had re- treated to his farm, trying his hand at writing new songs for his next album, riding horses, milking cows, and swimming in the
lake. Now, he was ready for a bit of civilization again. At 8:30 p.m. on a particularly humid eve- ning, the head of security, a chiseled Israeli named Eliad Shiraz, received a call from the Miami police that a paparazzo was seen trying to enter the property by climbing over the gate of the neighboring, crumbling mansion. Within the hour, the intruder was cuffed and booked for trespassing. That evening, security gathered their information, held meetings, and spoke with the authorities. The lower part of the neighbor’s gate posed a security threat, but it was not theirs to reinforce. One consideration was buying adjacent or additional properties, as many of the celebrities on North Bay Road had done, for a larger guardhouse, extra parking or building higher, unsightly walls.
THE PARTIES, TENNIS LESSONS, AND TEA DANCES HAD ENDED SO MANY YEARS EARLIER THAT EVEN THE GHOSTS DIDN’T REMEMBER THEM.
Florida hurricanes, arriving in a great storm and departing in the jet stream when they were low after a drug high or an ex- pensive divorce wiped out a new fortune. The great lady didn’t know or care about her neighbors; they came and went like tropical gusts which was fine with her. Therefore, it wasn’t given much thought when a new neighbor’s security team, in an operation that was as choreographed as the Russian ballet, arrived one overheated summer morning to take possession of the house. The team disembarked from sinister- looking, blacked-out Mercedes-Benz buses and began survey- ing the property, setting the bayside protocol, and activating the new codes on the front gatehouse. They were mostly lean, muscled, humorless men with walkie-talkies wearing discreet noir polo shirts, navy trousers, and opaque wire Ray-Bans. As
“Create an estate like Barry Gibb,” the local security team ad- vised in such matters, by adding an additional lot; many millions more for true peace of mind! However, the next few days proved vexing to the tireless Mr. Shiraz; there was no way to contact the owner. Ringing the gate, sending letters, and poking around at city hall had only revealed the neighboring estate, once called Villa Pompeii, belonged to an ancient and dusty socialite who was never seen, had no family to speak of, and no forwarding address, just the elegant name of Elsa Sloan Barrett. * Richard Kirshenbaum is the co-founder of SWAT, a high-profile boutique branding agency. He is the author of Isn’t That Rich , a #1 Amazon Bestseller, and his debut novel Rouge . North Bay Road will be published May 16th by Post Hill Press.
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