Swelter

Until very recently, we had always prided ourselves on certain core values, a minimum set of operative social standards. No drinking straight from the bottle. No lying, cheating, or stealing. No using the word "fabulous" without irony. No hanging out with criminals, overextended homosexuals, possibly psychotic sex-act performance artists, party-hearty Latin home boys, people without last names, and general trash. A man, even a Miami Beach man, has got to have a code to live by.

But then, the nightclub habit does breed a strain of situational ethics that might have thrown, say, the late Georges Bataille for a loop. After a while, nothing is remarkable and nothing really matters. Mincing transvestites cavorting to the strains of "whack this pussy." Small-change hustlers and drug dealers being trotted out as mini-celebrities. The same old overused faces in your face, as you begin to realize that you're one of the faces of the socially relentless, one of the people for whom a quiet night at home is akin to death. Lounge lizards soon lose all powers of will and discrimination. Things keep going the way they are, we might soon skip the social niceties entirely and plunge right on to murder.

On the murderous Saturday night before Halloween, the day of our release from whatever remaining moral/spirtual/sexual constraints bind us to this Earth, the prevailing mood was one of agitation and despair over ever being as chic as a wide variety of South Beach celebrities, all dressed up and looking for someplace complementary to go.

First complementary stop: the Torpedo benefit for the Alliance Film/Video Project. Go-go boys dancing on the ledges around the building. Little pockets of sodden glamour, clinging to doorways. A juicy squabble between co-owner Lee Schrager and Bill Orcutt of the Alliance. Lots of costumes - the Hooter Girls, Dead Elvis, Village People Redux. The Bone Boyz, in what appeared to be leftover outfits from a high school production of Cats, accented with a dangling toy kitten and a rubber dog bone: "I'm Pussy Galore and this is Pussy Some More. Isn't my little pussy cute? Wouldn't you like to play with his dog bone?"

Upstairs in the club's office, far above all the clever Noel Coward-ish word play, Tara Solomon as Vampirella chatted with the very pleasant drag star Tiffany Arieaguas: "Tiffany, I want those nails.... How do I like to be introduced? Well, Vampirella, uh, Tara - this always sounds so egotistical, but I've been Miss Continental, Miss USA, quite a few other things.... What year? We don't discuss years."

Reminded once again of protocol, propriety, and the social graces, we wandered over to the Cameo Theatre and promptly forgot everything. The Marquee Club had been replaced by an unnamed, unknowable one-nighter, with scattered groups of rabidly heterosexual Latin kids jumping around by themselves, like the Jets getting ready for a rumble in West Side Story, warming up for the Saturday night sex-up. As images of Martin Luther King bounced over the walls, DJ Dave Dynamite of Sweat Productions explained the concept: "The Marquee was progressive; this is house music, dance music. No, we don't have a name yet; it's opening night. We're thinking of calling it Overdose."

It could have also been called Cameo Crisis Weekend. Late the following morning some $2000 was taken from the club's safe. The Cameo already is, as managing partner Charlie Frissell puts it, "on the edge. We're working with FPL and our landlord. The Psychedelic Furs and the Pixies are coming up in November, and we're just trying to get through the fall. All over the Beach business is down 20 to 30 percent - club owners are getting beat to death."

Business was so bad, in fact, that at one point Joe Delaney of Disco Inferno considered moving Inferno to Warsaw: "It wouldn't have worked a year ago, but I think everybody is more relaxed now." Two flyers featuring the respective clubs were printed up. Ultimately, George Nunez of Warsaw decided against the move ("We have two different clienteles") and helped negotiate a new deal for the Cameo.

Crime problems - mysterious crime problems - also cropped up at Hippodrome. According to spokesman Garrick Edwards, stereo equipment was stolen and the club itself was trashed, just two days before a scheduled Halloween party. (According to a Miami Beach Police Department spokeswoman, no official police report was filed.)

On a sad note, Jan Canales, a South Beach nightlife fixture who somehow managed to remain one of the nicest women in town, passed away October 30.

Back out on the street, we immediately encountered a much-photographed local South Beach celebrity (more specifically, a female celebrity) famous for really nothing at all. The usual blur of cheek kisses, terrifically insincere compliments, promises to get together later. She leaves in a blinding flash of serious downtown attitude, but as it turns out, according to a nearby nightclub press type, the whole routine is cardboard glamour: "That drug dealer is getting entirely too fashionable. Everyone photographs her so she'll get them good stuff cheap. Same reason you always see pictures of bartenders - free drinks. That's South Beach society."

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