"What'll it cost?" Connie would ask, fixing the beefy building man with her lovely blue-gray eyes.
"Can't just say right now, honey," the beefy one would reply, "but just let me worry about that. The main thing is we gotta know whether to order the lever-fillings to go with the winchets if we're gonna run them out that way."
"Bring me the cost sheets and we'll decide when we see the figures," Connie would say, grabbing a phone with her free hand and telling the operator to get her the man at the carpet factory in Atlanta and the man down at city hall in charge of the easements and the lawyer—and quick. Between commands and sugary southern entreaties and swinging her shapely little figure, Connie might suddenly turn to someone nearby and drawl, "Isn't it time we broke out something cool to calm our nerves? How 'bout just a little glass of champagne to break the heat of the day?"
What Connie Dinkler finally created is so quietly elegant and apropos that one might not even know it is sitting there just a few hundred yards from all the secondhand car lots and cut-rate beauty parlors that line U.S. Highway No. 1. Entering through the white brick columns guarding the entrance, one slips up the curving driveway between rows of palms, past a parking lot that never seems to contain anything less awesome than a Ferrari or Fleetwood. Passing a couple of stucco utility buildings, one arrives at the covered portico, which is so soft-spokenly aristocratic it could easily serve as the backdrop for a perfume advertisement in The New Yorker.
In the reception hall the muted good taste prevails despite such necessary functionalism as a reception and registration desk. The glass walls are deeply tinted to ward off the Florida sun one has traveled so many thousands of miles to enjoy. The interiors are in soothing deep browns and avocado greens. A magnificent 15th century Spanish breakfront houses the club trophies. Tucked into a corner of the dining room-sitting room is a bar of polished slate inlaid with teakwood.
Beyond the tinted glass doors are the swimming pool and the three tennis courts and beyond that the nine-story, black-on-white high-rise with its 65 condominium apartments and, adjoining that, the yacht marina. Overlooking it all is a 13-story, white-on-yellow high-rise apartment house—no part of the Palm Bay Club, of course, but still a building that dominates the scene in much the way some overprotective mothers hover over their offspring at dancing school.
The marina is worth more than a mention, for it will be the pulse of life at Palm Bay. When finally completed it will take 50 yachts of just about any draft less than that of an aircraft carrier at the modest rental of 15� a foot per day. Some Palm Bay Club members—Leon and Carola Mandel, for example—have yachts that nearly scrape bottom in mid-Atlantic, so it has taken months to complete the dredging beneath the 13 acres of Biscayne Bay that belong to the club.
If the marina is the pulse, then the three tennis courts must be considered the heartbeat of Palm Bay life. Tennis is the game that knits together the sort of people who will be descending on Palm Bay by yacht and Cadillac. It is to the Glitter Group what drawing-room repartee was to the toffs of the 18th century. At the Palm Bay Club and a few dozen similar sunny places where the Group gathers, there are always these well-made athletic men of young-to-middle age and their splendidly turned young ladies. Not too many of the men are ever seen with their wives, if they have them. The girls are unmarried and alluring. All day long they wear their white, closely tailored tennis clothes, playing in them, eating in them, drinking in them until it is time to change into their blinding sports jackets and slacks and their jewels for the evening on the town. So far as anyone knows, they have no homes of their own. They eat their meals at clubs and restaurants. They sleep in rooms for transients. They talk endlessly on the telephone, particularly in public places. The men earnestly discuss business deals. Their money materializes magically without visible drudgery. It is for these handsome people that the Palm Bay Clubs of the world exist.
It was fitting, then, that the fate of the Palm Bay Club should have been decided by a crisis over the tennis courts. Connie Dinkler wanted them to be air-conditioned because once, on a trip to Palm Springs, she had seen a sunken, air-conditioned court in the backyard of a rich chain-saw magnate. In the early stages of Palm Bay's construction, when the builders were excavating below the surface to install the air conditioning for the courts, they struck an abandoned seawall. So there was no place to put the air conditioners. Nonetheless, Connie still wanted the best courts she could buy, with or without air conditioning, so she found a firm in New York that produces a green surface called cork turf. It bounces the ball like grass, dries in 25 minutes and is as easy to maintain as cement. It is expensive, though, and Connie spent $46,000 on her three tennis courts before she was through. "I don't know mediocrity," she explained.
Up until that point, the Palm Bay Club had been the joint venture of Connie Dinkler and a darkly handsome, middle-aged man named Walter Trout-man, who is familiar to the readers of gossip columns as the midnight escort of beautiful movie ladies. Walter and Connie had originally agreed to go halvers on the club when the proposition was still in the dream stage. As construction progressed, Walter felt Connie was pouring too much money into polished slate bars and gold fixtures and cork turf, and the difference of opinion finally came to a head over the tennis courts. So Connie phoned her banker and made arrangements to buy out Walter's share, including his penthouse on top of the condominium apartments that goes on for room after room after room with sunken bathtubs and a terrace almost large enough for another couple of tennis courts in case the first three get too crowded. To make her point about the kind of place she wanted, Connie went ahead and lighted one of the courts for night tennis with twice the candlepower deemed necessary for the likes of Pancho Gonzales and Rod Laver. On a clear night you can read the stock quotations in
The Miami Herald
on the center court.