But the point isn’t just cutting costs and living Soho lite. It’s about deciding that maybe you weren’t meant to be a banker/lawyer/consultant/ad exec after all. That maybe, if you just had the time and brain space and a good exchange rate, you could make it big with that business or artistic project you could never start in New York. With half a chance, you could be who you really are, and if you tried, you could be huge. That’s one of the most appealing parts of the Buenos Aires fantasy—that you can become the Player, the Mogul, the Entrepreneur, without paying the dues that New York would require.
LoTempio hadn’t planned to work when he moved to Buenos Aires, but after early retirement got boring, he started thinking about doing something productive, but not too productive. The answer seemed obvious. “Clearly, one of the attractions here for single 20- or 30-year-old guys is the girls,” he says. In fame-struck Buenos Aires, bikini-clad women will chat with anyone who might be able to get them into a magazine or, better yet, on television. And what would be better in high-definition television than “stunning footage of exotic travel, girls, bikinis, beaches?” thought LoTempio. “If I’m a miserable, overworked single guy back in the U.S., that would be my dream to flick on.”
So LoTempio and a few friends ponied up $20,000 and partnered with Tamir Lotan, the co-host of an extreme-sports show on Fox Sports en Español, to launch MariposaHD, an Internet-distributed fashion-and-babes-and-travel show that sells the escapist fantasy LoTempio is living. “What would you do if you could just walk away from your life, start over, and do whatever you want?” teases the Website.
Whether the show is a success is sort of beside the point. It’s already meant raised profiles and can’t-lose opening lines for its creators. LoTempio spends a lot of his time scouting for beautiful “talent” at clubs or on the beach, and there isn’t a velvet rope he isn’t ushered past. “We’re just meeting all these celebrities and models. And I was like, This is something I can’t do in the U.S. I can’t go to parties and hang out with movie stars, and I’m doing it in Argentina, and I don’t know these fucking people.” He almost can’t believe his good fortune. “If I go back and tell my friends what I’m doing, that’s more than every guy’s dream,” he says. “That’s the icing on the cake.”
Steven Blackman knows all about making sure people in New York are aware of How Great His Life Is in Buenos Aires. He visits the city every six weeks to tell them about the dinners at Sucre, the drinks at Gran Bar Danzon, the fashion events in Punta. Not to mention the fact that he pays $800 a month to rent two adjacent apartments from the son-in-law of Susana Giménez, Argentina’s surgically enhanced version of Oprah. Or that his maid comes five days a week: “She cleans over the same places every day, even though nobody’s been there. It’s insanity. But it’s something like 10 pesos a day. I’ll deal with it.”
In May 2004 Blackman was a burned-out Mercer Delta organizational consultant in a Canali suit. After sixteen years in the business, “I was so done,” he says. “And they were done with me too.” So, with a six-figure golden handshake that pushed his net worth “easily into the sevens,” he sublet his Central Park West one-bedroom, hung up his Canalis, and left town.
The idea to move to Buenos Aires had come to him while he was riding an exercise bike at New York Sports Club—and happened to be pedaling next to a former Meredith Corporation exec named John A. Kuhn who wanted to start South America’s first city magazine. Blackman, Kuhn, and their partners put up about $250,000 to launch Buenos Aires Metrópolis, a Spanish-language magazine that features fashion spreads, articles about surviving the single life, and news from New York. Last fall, after the first issue hit the newsstands, Blackman and his cohorts threw a well-attended launch party complete with a half-nude lingerie show (required at all top B.A. parties). At the end of the event, Blackman mounted the stage to cheers and whistles. “Más, más, más,” he hooted into the microphone.
“It doesn’t take long here,” he tells me later. “I’m a bigger fish here after a year than I’d ever be in New York.” That status bump to Big Fish—instant glamorization—is a typical thrill for expats used to being ants in Manhattan, says Margaret Malewski, author of GenXpat: The Young Professional’s Guide to Making a Successful Life Abroad. “You may be middle class back home, and suddenly you’re dealing with the upper classes,” she says. “That’s one of the tough things when you come back: You become a nobody again.”