Swelter

A lonely wind tearing along Washington Avenue at 3:00 a.m., an inflated condom bouncing down the street like so much tumbleweed. The futile dreams of the dark world slowly disintegrating. It's a dumbed-down kind of town, a land of creative death, a place of plague and Karaoke. It's Oceanside Promenade on a Monday night, the outdoor factor cutting down the embarrassment level of the sing-along nightmare somewhat. The balcony behind the pool encased in fabric, becoming the "Outback" club. Up the street at the Versailles Hotel, it's the Karaoke Bar Tokyo Club. And then, of course, the really dark side of Karaoke, lurking at La Cage.

It's other mutant strains of nightlife, like Gary James and the traveling psycho-party at the eternally private and always packed The Spot. James simultaneously dealing with one of his whiny, mildly bleeding minions ("Gary, shit man, he fucking swung at me...") while remaining preternaturally pleasant. The sweat, the ugly crunch, the Hell's Angels president at the bar playfully jerking his girlfriend's head down toward his crotch. A mini-scene ensuing when we manage to knock into the outlaw goddess, but then there's James again, bearing drinks, good will, and blind faith: "The testosterone level is out of control tonight. These young guys, you know, they get a little crazy sometimes. They're good kids, but you've just got to make them see the light."

The light shining through the darkness, in the most unlikely places. At La Terrasse a club pro with an interesting perspective on the frenzy of renown: "It's a recession now. There's no room for attitude. In New York, life's really getting too tough for these club celebrities. Most of them aren't exactly brain surgeons, and they just wind up staying ingenues forever. After awhile it's like, this is it, this is as far as they're going. Eventually they drift into doing the wrong things: prostitution, dealing drugs, whatever."

The wrong thing, a weekend stop at The Whiskey, uncrowded, the history of the club like the careers of certain first basemen and conceptual artists: come on strong, do something spectacular, peak early. People still lining up outside, even though a casual glance through the windows is enough to reveal the limited wattage of the place. The all-too-vital Hombre sold to an out-of-town investor, according to hombre Bobby

Guilmartin. Trouble in the House of Boomerang, with a new unseemly emphasis on the eighteen-and-over set. Paul Gabay and Erinn Cosby out of Boomerang, the Solar Cafe, and each other's hair. Merle and Danny Weiss of Merle's F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S Closet, quietly celebrating their 22nd anniversary at The Spot with a few close friends. A press conference with Mickey Rourke to announce an April 25 boxing match. The "Miami Beach Press Party" at Polly Maggoo, a premise with basic conceptual problems. The second-anniversary celebrations for Dick Clark's American Bandstand Grill at Bayside, April 1, with an actual appearance by the mysteriously youthful Dick "Oh Satan, I promise to do your bidding as long as I shall remain rich, famous, and well-preserved for all eternity" Clark.

Popular and not-so-popular culture lighting up the dark corners all over the place. The rich, famous, and authentically young Gloria Estefan performing with the New World Symphony at the Miami Arena, lending a little hometown glamour power to a benefit dinner afterward at the Omni. Back-to-back openings this week at the World Gallery on Miami Beach: an exhibition of Sally Randall's paintings and videos, debuting April 2, followed by a one-night-only viewing of the art jewelry of Nancy Whitney, the great-granddaughter of Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, on April 3. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Invitational Art Exhibition, a benefit for the New World School of the Arts and Friends of the Everglades, opening that same night at the Center for Visual Communication in Coral Gables. Ms. Douglas, among other accomplishments, celebrating her 102nd birthday.

It's the Nineties, a time that demands great, long-lived ladies, working ladies, ladies with a world view that just won't quit. Like Mrs. Vice President Marilyn T. Quayle and her less renowned but equally Wonder Bread sister, housewife Nancy T. Northcott, authors of the political thriller Embrace the Serpent. Imagine a world where Castro is dead, where the Russians are working for the Arabs, where a handsome young conservative senator is the last safeguard between democracy and la comunista mambo madness. Imagine a plot line like this co-written by someone who's just one dainty step from the White House. Imagine the authors of such prose at a Grove Isle reception in their honor, a mere few miles from the embraceable serpent, in the politically thrilling world of Miami.

Imagine that with all those pressing geopolitical concerns, Mrs. Quayle never quite found time for the official Paragon opening, but plenty of thrill-seekers with more localized interests - like Lite beer, cross-dressing, and cock sucking - did find time to make an appearance. Another great evening for the club, featuring all the usual suspects: lesbian weightlifters, the nipple ring set, short-order celebrities Gianni Versace and Monti Rock III, and various normal walking-around people, like Miami Mensual editor Richard Perez-Feria, who's recently opened a Brickell Avenue marketing firm called proof. Plenty of high-concept marketing, in fact, all over the place. An acrobat hanging above the main lobby on four wires, twisting in provocative ways. An endless row of muscle types in white bathing caps (looking exactly like well-built sperm) marching down to the stage for a nicely done revue, with mermaids kicking around inflatable globes. Sort of a dance fever version of a Nuremberg youth rally. Everything topped off with a pink-ribbon-cutting ceremony, a thunderous proclamation ("Today the Nation of Paragon is born!") and then back to darkness and dancing.

The forces of light and evil really mixing it up lately at the once great Espresso Bongo, set to maybe reopen as Pasta Bongo, another just-remodeling-but-furniture-somehow-mysteriously-vanishing-new-place-opening-any-day-now end of an era story. Money partner Frank Martinez not talking, but Dennis Britt, artistic guy and former sweat-equity partner, not pleased: "Can you believe how fast it died? These French guys came in with a line of bullshit about how they were going to make the club the new Mezzanotte. They painted the walls puke green, brought in these bogus French Gipsy Kings, and wanted to do all this tacky, kitschy, Seventies stuff - like a voodoo night with real chickens, and some kind of cherchez la femme `Where the models are' party. And they mistreated people. The Beach is real small, and if you don't treat people right, it's over quick. There was like this revolutionary cell of poets meeting outside the place, painting signs on the windows: `Poets Revolt,' `Money Hungry Euro-Trash,' `Get the French Out.' I don't know, man, the way we do business in this country is ridiculous. I'm into the new American revolution, but I tell you, it's like my favorite line in Roots. You know, when this guy tells one of the young slaves, `Things are different here. This is America, Toby.'

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