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St.-Tropez: Hot Again

Paul Tomaselli is no longer baring almost all in the G-string that he wore in the eighties. Today, he's fully dressed and eating lunch with Shu-Lin, his girlfriend of two years, as he angrily, wearily, defends La Voile Rouge against enemies he deems "jealous." His club is a place "for fantasy, for sex, for girls, for life," he says. "I propose a culture. The others just propose that you eat."

Like Tomaselli's outfit, lunch at La Voile Rouge is toned down from the days when even the waitresses doffed their tops. But there's still lots of flesh in evidence. The crowd is younger and considerably flashier than at 55. Some days La Voile Rouge has more yachts anchored offshore; some days 55 does. But whereas 55 is a place that's suitable for families, La Voile Rouge lives to party.

Its white-on-white décor, its huge sculpture of handcuffs, its much-coveted menus with photos of nude girls, its strolling models in flashy bathing suits and diamond watches, its loungers facing the restaurant scream "Versace," whereas 55 whispers "Ralph Lauren." Its food—Mediterranean and expensive—is as good as 55's. So, too, its celebrity count (Dick Clark, himself an ageless symbol of youth, is here today). On the beach, a mom reads Emotionally Intelligent Parenting next to her teenage daughter, who is fidgeting with an itsy-bitsy red bikini. On the deck is a man dressed in a black shirt, exotic leather cowboy boots, and way too much jewelry. Everyone knows him. At a nearby table, boys drink magnums of rosé and eat with their hands. A disc jockey behind the bar plays a record on which a voice says flatly, "You are not as fat as you imagine . . . don't worry about the future . . . do one thing every day that scares you . . . floss . . . do not read beauty magazines." To which, add a few more things: It's okay to stare. Make reser-vations early. And bring lots and lots of cash (La Voile Rouge does not take credit cards).

Dinner starts late in St.-Tropez—which is appropriate in a place where lunch can end at six. "St.-Tropez was never so crazy like now," says the fabled disco owner and longtime resident Regine. "It's like the dream of a child." The hottest spot in town is La Villa Romana, a local landmark. Once a simple Italian restaurant, it has been revamped as a multicultural culinary amusement park behind a velvet rope. It's decorated with Egyptian reliefs and Persian carpets, a fish tank, and a trompe l'oeil ceiling of clouds and sky, and has a boutique selling rhinestone cowgirl hats. It's the Saturday-night equivalent of Sunday lunch at La Voile Rouge.

Almost as zany is the VIP Room Supper Club, with décor worthy of a Dolce & Gabbana diva. The club serves a hilariously disreputable show along with dinner. One night last summer, a grizzled American jazz saxophonist wandered the floor, while a statuesque woman in bondage gear put a dog collar and leash on a willing diner and led him through the restaurant.

Just another night in St.-Tropez.


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