The right side of sexy

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Evening of Magic

Night and day, traffic blankets Collins Avenue, the best way to tomcat the resort hotels, white-sand beaches and nightclubs along this eastern sliver of Miami Beach. The morning of Nov. 14, along the parallel canal that splits the exclusive island paradise, it has thickened: When press gathers here, people do the same, slowing as they're drawn toward the magnet of fame.

Cars linger before turning for the 41st Street bridge, and a lone bicycle tourist runs into a curb, hypnotized by cameras and clipboards and the matching lanyards of official business. His eyes glaze, his feet go limp, and his pedals spin freely as a boat emerges from the north: a sleek 95-foot yacht with tinted windows and pink decals on its giant, hulking sides.

Standing at the bow are those hired to walk the 2008 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show: 35 of the world's most beautiful women, including a handful of the fashion industry's highest-paid models, who'll be seen by millions of CBS viewers on Wednesday. Each wears a magenta waistcoat, skintight white jeans and a monogrammed captain's hat that would likely be described in a mail-order catalog as flirty.

Their flowing locks unfurled to the shoulder, the models wave happily to shore.

A year ago, show models got their own plane, rode it from New York to Los Angeles and threw a pajama party. Another year, they rented a Concorde jet. The vibe this year is sand, surf and glamour, so, fittingly, the women float slowly through breezes of sea salt and old money on a rented boat of impossible size.

Everywhere they arrive is a spectacle, and the boat moves slowly because it can, wriggling into a dock space like a brontosaurus shifting its weight. Nothing about Victoria's Secret is rushed. The world, they know, will wait.

As they generally do, the supermodels gaze into a sea of flashbulbs, smiling and blowing kisses.

As it generally is around them, the weather is clear and unseasonably warm, sunbeams glancing off their prominent cheekbones and perfect teeth. A Limited Brands employee standing nearby says, only half-joking, that Victoria's secret is the ability to control the weather.

No model sweats.

Soon this platoon of pleasantries and giggles crosses the street with a police escort and disappears for a series of wardrobe changes, press events and a photo shoot on the beach. This will be the first of three days spent trying to remind people what it's like to feel glamorous at night, sexy in underwear, confident about the future.

Headquarters of this year's show are the exquisite, luxurious expanses of the Fontainebleau, an oasis of Old Hollywood whose ongoing $1-billion renovation is helping revive the Mid Beach district. Even as work finishes on its towers, oceanfront balconies and four-star restaurants, its legend evokes an alluring nostalgia: visits from Lucille Ball and Judy Garland, black-tie exclusivity and an era of bygone prosperity able to blow away grim recession clouds in a warm off-shore balm.

"What we're really trying to do is create an evening of fantasy, magic, glamour, romance," says Sharen Turney, Victoria's Secret's president and chief executive officer. "[We want] something that you can't take your eyes off of for a moment."