By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
Pop history, the weekend that Miami finally crystalized into one big Molotov cocktail of hype and glitz, a neverending parade of possibilities for the new beautiful people. A summit gathering of the glamarati - Chris Blackwell, Madonna, Grace Jones, Suzanne Bartsch, Bruce Weber, David Reiff, Kenny Scharf, Joey Arias, even Robin Leach - on a nonstop nightlife marathon, romping together through a teeming bazaar of complicated pleasures: seething-with-ambition models, drugs, the compliant lower classes. Paris in the Twenties, Tangier in the Forties, Rome in the Fifties, London in the Sixties, New York before the fall. And now Miami, almost too trendy for its own good.
Almost. And nothing could have been more urgently fashionable, in a deranged sort of way, than Suzanne Bartsch's Valentine's Day Drag Ball at Warsaw. The ever-fun Queen of Manhattan nightlife insistently egging on her drag retinue to new heights of outrageousness, leading a conga line to the club offices, chanting, "Sex and drugs and rock and roll." Other interesting people all over the place. The very sweet Cyndi Lauper, the accent as real as the old Ice King in Queens: "Oh, this party is always great. I just came down to see Joey and Suzanne 'cause I know them from New York." Artist Kenny Scharf, who'll be having a show at the Center for the Fine Arts next winter, eagerly looking forward to moving down from New York: "This is like the city used to be twenty years ago - full of energy.... I found this great house in La Gorce; the neighborhood is so clean and quiet. It's just like Beverly Hills." Fort Lauderdale home boy James St. "The Exiled King of Manhattan" James, a Kabuki-doll-gone-bad-in Payless shoes, all agog about hitting it big again in Japan with a transvestite rock band, and then abruptly gesturing toward a perfectly brilliant Lucille Ball: "Why don't you ask about her little Ricky?"
Two French princesses, Victorie and Sybil de Bourbon, along with Palm Beach socialite Beth DeWoody, improbably materializing out of nowhere. Chi Chi Valenti of Jackie 60, an old club pro of the first rank: "We're getting a heavily fetishistic crowd, voyeurs, even these weird Hasidim guys who come on S&M night. It's genius. People like to watch sex, especially when no one's having it any more." A roving contingent of the attitude set, clustering around Warsaw management for drink tickets, like children hustling nickels from a benevolent uncle. The very tall Brett Love in heels and nipple rings. Budweiser-can earrings, black face, Joey Heatherton look-a-likes. Prince and Patti LaBelle imitators. Two guys in splendid matching mirrored body tights. And lots of what passes for conversation at Warsaw: "It's Vegas in space.... I took out a second mortage on my soul for this outfit.... Ring my bell, you bitch."
The far-gone downtown legend Joey Arias, cutting out the small talk: raking massive foam breasts up and down the unwary, playfully swatting crotches like some sort of evil polar bear. We finally had to take a breakfast break around 5:00 a.m. (four straight hours on duty, a record no sane person should ever attempt) shortly before Joey reportedly felt comfortable enough to "have something like sex on stage" and well before Grace Jones's entrance. The place was still hopping at six o'clock. A great Warsaw night.
The next day, desperately seeking Madonna. A perky celebrity-cam reporter from WSVN/Channel 7 on the Material Girl beat, calling to check out the Big Madonna and Vanilla Ice, shacked up for the weekend. Madonna shooting on Golden Beach and staying at the Alexander. Madonna at Barocco Beach, every imaginable club and theme evening, Madonna renting furniture from Carlos Betancourt's studio for some stylized posing. Madonna, thank God, not making it to a very civilized cocktail party on Meridian Avenue - marred only slightly by the fact that we actually knew two people there. The New York/Miami symbiosis in full bloom, the Beach nothing more than a humid version of the Hamptons. Society cabaret artist Christopher Mason, down from Palm Beach for the night: "I'm staying with C.Z. Guest, a wonderful lady - I did her birthday party for Doris Duke in New York. Cornelia's down, too. The contrast between this...squalor ... and Palm Beach is quite fun, really." Toukie Smith, the ex-girlfriend of Robert De Niro and the sister of the late designer Willi Smith, thinner, somewhat less flamboyant, "getting into acting." Bruce Weber, living on Key Biscayne for the season and working on a documentary about Robert Mitchum: "He's 73, but he's tough - it's hard keeping up with him on his rounds." Writer David Reiff("This is so far from the Miami I know") researching a sequel of sorts to his book Going to Miami: "It's about the possibility of return for exiles. I've been talking to everybody, from the raft people to Jorge Mas Canosa. Despite the party line, I don't think the overthrow is going to happen tommorrow."
The Marlin opening later that night completely overthrown, like an MTV remake of the fall of Saigon. An absolute frenzy, the artistic pinnacle of South Beach party-crashing. The puce-with-envy hordes backed up and down the block, bribing, threatening, drooling, greatly augmenting the enjoyment of the invited guests. Constance, a drag queen with an unappetizing shaved head, frantically trying to climb over the railing into the party. The Madonna concept safely up on the roof garden with Cyndi, U2, REM, Toukie, and Grace. The Burning Flames absolutely jammming, gracious about Miss Bartsch's great-ladies-of-drag climbing on-stage and doing a stint as go-go dancers. Michael Kinerk of the Miami Design Preservation League, who had appeared on the Today show that morning, peering in through the windows. Craig Robins of DACRA celebrating a birthday that night. Marlin promoter Louis Canales looking harried. Chris Blackwell of Island Records and the Marlin, very low key, very nice, taking a small group through the studio facilities. All in all, a party worth fighting to get into.
Round midnight, the fast set splitting up: Weber, Patrick McCarthy of WWD, designer Marc Jacobs, over to Warsaw. The Bartsch crowd assembling at Boomerang. The drags getting mean and sloppy - drugs, too much fabulousness, whatever - spreading their legs wide and being confrontational. Chi Chi talking about her husband, D.J. Johnny Dynell, having a Francesco Clemente tattoo. Gossip about Julian Schnabel trying to put together a movie on Jean Michel Basquiat. Mad dancing with Miss Fun, formerly of the Seventies group "Teenage Lust." John Herman of Hombre talking about his new Thursday-only night at Boomerang, "Salvation." Some chatter about the opening of Van Dome on Washington Avenue this weekend. And to finish off an actually fun weekend, A-guest Angela Janklow, writer, publisher, and daughter of agent Mort Janklow, turning up around 3:30 a.m. and primed for a good time: "We came from L.A. for the weekend. It's so boring out there that all you can do to amuse yourself is work out. We wanted someplace warm and fabulous, and this is it. I mean, Miami is amazing.