Swelter

Deborah Harry, recycling the glamarama Seventies. Joe Walsh, spanning the decades. The new-era rat pack, desperately seeking fun and stretch limos. More clubs descending on an already overloaded landscape. The three graces of go-go. Hustling on the new Grub Street. Apollo, the magnificent muscleman. Politicians gone wacko. Drugs. A trip to a place that has no shame, a journey to a land loaded with the hip and hideous. Blank and pitiless as the surface of Mars, but still, plenty of edgy entertainment to be had in the ruins.

Off to a polite start with a television awards ceremony/benefit dinner for the Louis Wolfson II Media History Center at the downtown Hyatt. White-wine conversation with actual businessmen, a class of people not often encountered in the netherworld. Arthur Hertz of Wometco, newscaster Michael Putney, and various other media types on hand. Activist/publicist Seth Gordon, cutting back on his social appearances lately. Rather witty centerpieces by artist Dina Knapp, and engrossing talk about Metro Commissioner Joe Gersten and his intensely interesting social life. A well-connected gentleman at our table insisting that Citizen Joe's taste for the dark side began back in college. When somebody like that has apparently always had a better time than you - when even the unattractive feed into the most primal human fear, missing out on all the fun - it's really kind of worrisome.

That same night, a thoroughly lighthearted dinner for Deborah Harry at I Tre Merli before her appearance at Paragon, featuring an eclectic assortment of people who seem to have nothing in common except for the fact that they happen to be free for the evening. Interesting group, though, people like John Herman of Hombre and journalist Glenn Albin. Deborah with unsettling auburn hair, hovering somewhere in the middle ages. After dinner the crowd splitting up, Deborah going back to the hotel, leaving everyone themeless. A group of clubheads, the new rat pack - intent on having a great time and suffering for it as little as possible - forms outside and braces itself for a long evening.

Everyone mills around aimlessly for a while, waiting to see if Deborah's limo will return. A brief hesitation, and then the gang squeezes into a depressingly normal car for the trip to the Stray Cats concert at Pasta Bongo. Low on the fun meter, until we discover the VIP room out back with all the important people. The band promoting their new album, Choo Choo Hot Fish, and posing for photos, cameras clicking away like locusts. Joe Walsh, way trashed, living out the "Life's Been Good to Me" scenario. Producer/artist Dave Edmunds, slender and looking good. Harry Wayne Casey (KC of the Sunshine Band), chatty and pleasant, talking about his new album. The back room rockarama fest ending with the band taking the stage and the abrupt closing of the bar. A great concert, truly jumping, but for some reason the caravan moves on. Our leader, the ultimate product of club Darwinism, as fit for downtown society as a shark is for killing ("No one can stay out later than me - there's never any contest") has decided it's time for Paragon.

At the club, deeply satisfying VIP treatment ("For celebrities of your stature, I'd suggest using the private phone in the office") and a brief reconnaissance mission to Deborah's upstairs dressing room. Small and windowless, Holiday Inn-ish; unkind, illusion-destroying fluorescent lighting. Everyone helps themselves to the complimentary Bacardi and lemonade: it's free, it's there, it's the financially correct thing to do. But since nobody's around to witness the thrilling exclusivity of it all, the experience is kind of flat. Back out to non-VIPville, mixing drinks and not worrying about it, a series of pointed encounters. One-name stars Geo, Yajaira, Cat, and Andrew talking about the opening of The Cave, and the "Below Zero" night they're debuting at the club June 16. Chatter about the opening of the Hut, June 9, at 54 Ocean Drive. Speculation about Abe Resnick's synagogue space on Collins and exactly what kind of club lessee Sam Burstyn of the Seabrook Hotel is working on. Susan Ainsworth reporting that the Wolfie's/Chandler space deal is back on, her upscale supper club set to open in October: "There's really a need for a nice place on the Beach, where you can get dressed up and take a date - even your parents or whatever."

The once-dismissed drag contingent back at Paragon, the female bartending staff still noticeably absent. Truly, it's a man's world. James St. James as Little Miss Muffett, a perfect psycho/social moment with a little bit of everything: jokes, philosophy, propositions. "I had to come back - I'm a drag queen without principles, and I need dresses and wigs.... You're not really homophobic are you? Of course, if you do go the other way...." Around 1:00 a.m., Deborah arriving with the entourage: a fashion designer, a producer, Apollo the beauteous dancing muscleman, and several other people who don't appear to have a formally defined function. Then it was all Deborah for a while: putting on a blond wig, politely refusing to pose with a whip, remaining appealingly pleasant ("Excuse me, I'm a little nervous") even when leaving her own very-crowded dressing room to change clothes in peace. Finally going on at 2:00 a.m. in a tight black dress, opening up with a deconstructed version of "Heart of Glass." The stage a mass of smoke and lights, flanked by two cages: one with Apollo and a woman in black vinyl, the other a girl-on-girl theme. Deborah fondling the dancers, playing up to a wall of lesbians acting like sailors on leave, ripping off her wig with an I-am-what-I-am dramatic flourish. Midway through the act, five assorted dancers/prostitutes/hairdressers/fans - with lots of tattoos, and aliases such as Chynna and Bliss Extravaganza - arrested for smoking crack through a cigarette. Throughout the performance, a female fan lurking just outside the private balcony, wearing a heavy-duty gas mask and serving as some kind of strange rebuke.

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