It’s been 12 years since The Miami Bombshells introduced themselves to South Florida. They made headlines with their book, website and publicity campaign.
So who were the Miami Bombshells? Six high-profile women with lots of stories to tell in their personal and leadership lives.
Let’s take this anniversary to dish-and-tell through the archive of the Miami Herald from May 2005.
Published May 22, 2005: A website is already in place touting the book and its authors; the Bombshells — whose ranks include a couple of brilliant public relations/marketing types - are for the most part keeping silent until the book's release.
The publisher sees gold in Dish & Tell (William Morrow, $23.95), having paid a six-figure advance to the authors and shelled out the bucks for it to hit primo tables at bookstores across the country. On Wednesday, the “Today” show will feature the six-some who've branded girl talk, it seems (the book grew out of the women's regular gatherings during which they discussed their lives). After, the authors will sign copies at Borders at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
Dish & Tell —the book, not the hype —offers anonymous accounts of rape by an ex-boyfriend, encounters with the flame of a cheating husband and plenty of more conventional experiences, like a liberating swing on a Club Med trapeze.
Fans can already log onto the authors' website. From there, they will be able to download their very own "Bombshell Circle Starter Kit" —the circle being essentially a book club minus the books.
The authors will do a reading at Actors' Playhouse in Coral Gables. There's also talk of leading a retreat in the Poconos next fall for up to 400 women who want to be honorary members of the Miami sorority.
After reading the book proposal, Debbie Stier, senior director of publicity at William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, was very interested. After meeting the authors, she was sold.
"The second I met them, I knew . . . they'll be an amazing, amazing production, " Stier said. "All you have to do is meet Pat (San Pedro, one of the six authors) and you know it's going to be a huge success."
San Pedro, a former Miami Herald marketing executive, award-winning TV producer and the current owner of a Miami public relations firm, first organized the monthly get-togethers of her 40-something friends, beginning in April 2001. Six months later, she suggested a book capturing their meandering conversations about their insecurities, infidelities, sags and more. Then San Pedro came up with the idea of videotaping their chat sessions - something certain to come in handy as they pitch their story to TV producers.
Co-authors Mercedes Soler and Tammi Leader Fuller also have backgrounds in broadcast. The other authors: Annie San Roman, a school psychologist; Lydia Sacasa, a senior banking executive; and Sara Rosenberg, a consultant for women's marketing and also a former Herald executive. (The book was edited by Herald Managing Editor for Presentation Liza Gross).
"I thought they had magic, " Stier said. "They're very strong, can-do, happening women."
The group's overriding messages are that women should make more time for themselves, go easier on themselves and find more friends with whom they can bond. Stier has high hopes for landing a segment on Oprah. She is also committed to flying the women across the country to help push Dish & Tell onto the bestseller list.
"They're getting a very generous campaign to make sure this is a success, " Stier said. "We normally travel one author; we're traveling six."
In a sense, Dish & Tell tries to pick up where The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood left off. That spirited novel celebrated the closeness among Southern belles behaving badly, inspiring women to form their own - albeit short-lived - Ya-Ya gangs across the country.
Dish & Tell has the huge advantage of real-life subjects available to market themselves as much at their book. In fact, the authors already have a theme song.
And that's just for starters.
"I've got the rights abroad, " said Sally Wofford-Girand, the authors' literary agent. "I've lined up an agent in Los Angeles for film."
The bombshells are pondering their next book, Girand said. What's more, possibilities for a TV deal are many, she said.
"Do we want fiction? A talk show?"
Coming Monday in Tropical Life: Lydia Martín does lunch with the Miami Bombshells. Coming Tuesday in Tropical Life: The first of seven exclusive excerpts from Dish & Tell.
DROPPING BOMBS, MIAMI STYLE
Published May 23, 2005: You've gotta hand it to the authors of Dish & Tell, hitting bookstores Tuesday and already primed for a media blitz. The New York Times (this past Sunday) and the “Today” show (likely Wednesday) are no doubt just the beginning.
The book never truly dishes and really doesn't tell. But never mind that.
It's a testament to six midlife Miami career women and their selling savvy. They turned regular griping sessions about havingitallbutneverallatonce into a book that scored a six-figure publishing deal with HarperCollins.
The women call themselves the Miami Bombshells (yes, they're aware that there's not one Pamela Anderson in the bunch and yes, they mean something else by bombshell). Already, there is a website, miamibombshells.com. A theme song. Plans to pitch a TV series. And the possibility of a weekend camp in the Poconos for hundreds of like-minded women who need a break from their post-Cosmo lives and everything they come with: board rooms, BlackBerrys, business class plane tickets, husbands, kids, nannies and the intermittent sense that, even with all that stuff, they are still unrealized.
The women have invoked “Sex and the City” to describe their book. But it's really more “Desperate Housewives,” minus the murders, the bitchiness and the humor. Not to mention that Sex and the City was very much about the city where Carrie Bradshaw and her crew went marauding. And the Miami Bombshells treat Miami as a non-entity, as irrelevant as the sterile set where the Housewives do their desperate deeds.
GETTING IT TOGETHER
The authors first met in 2001, when one of them, the only unmarried non-mommy of the group — and perhaps for that reason the only one with enough time on her hands to come up with the idea —suggested they all get together for some informal group therapy.
Pat San Pedro, a former American Airlines and Miami Herald exec who now runs her own public relations and marketing firm, was already friends with the others. But they hadn't all met.
There's Mercedes Soler, a longtime news correspondent for Univisión who says she recently quit the job to spend more time with her kids and the marketing of Dish & Tell; Annie San Roman, a school psychologist who had never been on a business trip until the Bombshells went to New York to negotiate their book deal; Tammi Leader Fuller, an Emmy-winning TV producer who once taught topless aerobics at a Caribbean resort; Lydia Sacasa, a mortgage executive who spends too much time in airports and not enough with her family; and Sara Rosenberg, a former Herald marketing VP and today a marketing consultant.
Says Tammi, the one who is least likely to be caught in designer anything: "Pat said, 'I want you to meet my friend Lydia. You are going to love each other.' But Lydia walks in with pearls and a Burberry suit or whatever. I walked in wearing jeans and sneakers. I thought, 'I can't relate to this woman.' "
Pat knew better:
"They were all my friends, and every time I talked to one of them, I would hear the same stories. They were having problems with their relationships, juggling family and work. I said to them, 'The story you just told me, somebody else just told me and I heard it from somebody else a week ago.' I knew if we all talked, we would realize we were not alone."
Scheduling that first meeting around conflicting responsibilities was the big challenge.
"I didn't go. Not the first time, " says Mercedes. "I said, 'I don't have time for this. I have a kid who is 1 and I am still breast feeding, I'm traveling, I have another child. I work full-time. I'm a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter. I love you Pat, but I really don't have time for you right now.' "
DAYS OF WINE A CHOCOLATE
But the meetings got off the ground and Mercedes soon joined. Over what became requisite wine and chocolate (you see another Bombshell branding opportunity) the women began to let it all hang out. Mercedes shared the embarrassing fact that she was losing her hair. Tammi talked about her incontinence. Lydia talked about her panic attacks. Annie said that things were not so great with her husband. Pat discussed her depression. Sara admitted to feeling like a stranger in her own house when her stepkids were there.
They talked about affairs - some that prior husbands had and some that they had, or contemplated. They talked about dealing with the death of parents. About their kids and the guilty feelings that come with never being the mom who comes up with the best costume for the school play.
And as they got to trust one another, things got grittier and, yup, bombshells started dropping: One (we don't know which, because the bombshell parts are anonymous) told about a horrifying experience with an ex boyfriend who raped her at gunpoint. One explained what it took to have her husband committed to a psych ward after years of dealing with his mental illness. One allowed that she had kissed a girl and entertained a crush on another but never acted on it.
But they never talked about the possibility of turning their rantings into a book, they say, until they got together for one of their meetings just after 9/11.
"We were so dumbfounded, like the rest of the nation was, " says Mercedes. "We were soul searching and thought, maybe we can do something more meaningful with our stories."
Pat: "We realized, if these meetings have helped us so much, maybe we can help other women see that they are not all alone in their experiences."
Sitting around a big table at the Conrad hotel's 25th story restaurant, as they nibble one another's lunches, making sure this bombshell is warm enough and that one doesn't need to rush for a bathroom break, you get the sense that these women are indeed tight.
They think the bonding sessions work. Hence, the How to Create Your Own Bombshell Circle page on their website. They can all point to something life changing that has come out of having the Bombshell support system: Finally leaving the corporate world behind to start their own businesses, improved communication with kids, ending bad relationships with men.
"My marriage was shaky before the book, but I was in denial, " says Annie. "I'm still married, but going through the paperwork. I will give him credit. He doesn't blame the book."
So, sure, you gotta give the women props. Who wouldn't want a tight circle of best friends to get you through the rough stuff? But they insist their book is for all women, when clearly, their collective experience and voice are decidedly mainstream, middle class and conservative. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
They'd rather market themselves as edgy.
Mercedes: "I thought it was racy."
Pat: "I never thought it was conservative. That's funny."
They'd like to sell themselves as tenacious, post-Oprah types. But they can come off more like part of the Phil Donahue generation, when people disguised their voices or hid all but their shadows to say they were having affairs, or homosexual feelings, or issues with mental illness.
But doesn't it send the wrong message to hide in order to say you had the hots for a girl once, especially since you never actually acted on it? Isn't it un-PC to shroud the mental illness stuff in so much secrecy? Like, your book is called Dish & Tell, after all.
Annie: "People don't talk about being raped. They don't talk about being married to someone who is bipolar."
Pat: "We didn't want to hurt people. What's the point of that?"
Lydia: "My panic attack story was signed. That was hard to do. For one thing, you don't want to be perceived in the corporate world as somebody who would freak out."
Tammi: "I am sitting in a puddle as we speak. People don't talk about bladder incontinence. I'm sorry if it's disgusting."
No, it's not. It's just reality.
But you'd rather hear the theme song.
They give it to you in unison:
"Just be who you are, love where you are, Miami Bombshells, Bombshells!"
DISH AND TELL
Published June 5, 2005: Once upon a time, six Miami women with a fair amount of Emmies and ex-husbands between them got high on truffles, merlot and bonhomie and decided it would be a good idea to write a book. The Miami Bombshells, though, are no fairy tale. They are, they write, "women just like you."
Well, yes and no. The Bombshells - Pat San Pedro, Mercedes Soler, Annie San Roman, Tammi Leader Fuller, Lydia Sacasa, Sara Rosenberg - face the challenges all women face, whether they live in Miami or Milwaukee. They have made choices no better or worse than your own. The difference is they have a theme song, a website and, for all we know, T-shirts, action figures and a theme park.
They also have this supposedly tell-all book in which they boast, "we're willing to hang out our dirty laundry on this literary clothesline . . ."
If only. Despite what it promises, Dish & Tell is neither dirty nor literary. The Bombshells flash back to their Girls Gone Wild phases (a little topless aerobics here, a little anal sex there) to show they've got game, but mostly they focus on issues that come with being Bombshells of a certain age - sex, marriage, family, friendship, spirituality and work. "Work. It rules our lives, causing us to be cranky, tired, and stressed." Dish & Tell is chock-full of such revelations.
It's not as though the Bombshells are lacking in subject matter. Their essays - some of them are signed, others are not - include personal encounters with bipolar disorder, gastric bypass surgery and Antonio Banderas, yet the book barely rises above the banal. Blame pop culture, where personal blogs and so-called reality TV masquerade as true connection.
The Bombshells may be fabulous career women and, as they are wont to remind you, fabulous friends, but they deal out personal information like a poker hand, creating neither intimacy nor insight. There's knowing the truth that sets you free and then there's knowing about the Bladder Issue Bombshell vs. the Balding Bombshell.
The book tries to piggyback onto the success of another anthology, The Bitch in the House, but falls flat. Dish & Tell could have been a true friend to the reader had it been written from the heart. The problem is the Bombshells have written it the way they built the hype for it, from the perspective of what they think people want rather than what they really feel. Their product is synthetic rather than authentic.
What is genuine is the Bombshells' loyalty to each other. Admittedly "opinionated, self-absorbed and set in our convictions, " the Bombshells are nonetheless "bonded for life." That warmth, that devotion, so welcome when it appears, is lacking elsewhere in the book.
The Bombshells don't want that to be lacking in your life, though, and provide tips on starting your own Bombshell Circle. Gather friends. Turn off your cell phone. Eat chocolate. Drink wine. Having bestowed this sort of wisdom, they write they hope their book has "empowered you, at least a little, to find the strength you need to make the changes in your life . . ." Well, no.
Dish & Tell isn't the emperor's new clothes. It's more the case that the authors never get naked. The Bombshells always wear their designer duds, even as they tout the value of keeping it real. And that is the true difference between the Bombshells and women just like you. You wouldn't try to pass off Dish & Tell as an act of friendship.