Swelter

Haiti town, and life is loose and fast. Parties start late, time is a real relative concept, and the social graces are still observed, the soothing introductory endearment "c'est on plaisir" being thrown around a lot. Exile politics and nasty assassinations, the zenglendo, Duvalier-era thugs, stalking the politically incorrect. Some seven different Haitian radio stations, WMBM charting the Haitian top 10. Little Haiti standards like Chateau Club and Chez Julie, and clubs as far afield as The Rendezvous at 175th and Collins, Lime Key at Kendall and 106th, and Le Prive, a Friday-night special at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Hollywood, specializing in nouvelle generation Haitian music. Flyers all over the place, advertising events like a Labor Day Weekend Extravaganza Cruise, departing from Port Everglades with the System Band and Sou Bateau, "No Green Card Required." And at the exact epicenter of Little Haiti central,

Patrick Juste of Les Cousins Books & Records Shop, full of the 411 and working all the angles.

Juste, a frenetic type who always seems to be three places at once, leading the tour through Haiti-land emporium. The walls covered with Haitian paintings, leather masks, tools for sale, wood carvings. In the back, a recording studio for making copies of obscure Haitian songs. Upstairs a crowded office with coconut-shell and animal-bone belts, pictures of Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy. A coffee counter with Haitian fun food, moru codfish pastries and duce lait sweet milk candies. Racks of Haitian postcards, Tchalas dream books, Masonic texts. A classic Isley Brothers album playing over the speakers, the record collection beyond ecumenical: Nelson Ned, Professor Griff, vaudou music, zouk from Guadaloupe, Haitian gospel by Paulette Castel, African music by Tabu Ley, merengue and French pop albums, recordings of Madama Butterfly.

The Haitian spirit, as Juste points out, also fairly ecumenical: "It's killer, man. We got Haitians from Panama, Brazil, all over the place, and they like different kinds of music. We're all supporting Clinton -- he's the man to open up the channels of democracy and end this embargo. Everybody comes here to hear about what's going on, hang out. This is a one-stop shop: We got everything you need here except money."

South Beach, the club/money fever plague raging out of control, threatening to turn the landscape into a kind of tropical Bourbon Street for the young and sort-of-beautiful. A major new fun spot, the 3600-square-foot Rebar, opening sometime in early fall. Conceived, directed, and produced by Nicole Bilu-Brier and Greg Brier of 720 Ocean, along with Alex Duff of 720 Ocean and A Fish Called Avalon, Rebar will be located at 1121 Washington, the site of the old Ace Hardware Store. People on South Beach, after all, don't need humdrum facilities like hardware stores. The space very raw, cement walls and such, reconstructive bar -- hence Rebar -- as a decorating motif. There will also be a 50-foot-long rebar/cement/glass brick bar, large bathrooms, two pool tables, and artist-designed furniture.

No food, but a full liquor license -- the really important thing downtown. Partner Nicole Bilu-Brier brimming with the possibilities: "We're going to try to appeal to everybody -- gay, straight. Dancing on top of the bar will be encouraged, and we'll have go-go dancers in the windows. There'll be a DJ, live music on certain nights, maybe blues and reggae. Scaffolding in the back, so that artists can climb up and paint murals."

The new gay bar/restaurant Falcon's Lair hosting a sneak-preview construction theme party last Thursday night. On the site of the now-defunct earnest-good-music club South Beat -- there must be another metaphor here somewhere -- the club will open officially September 3. A joint effort among partners Tommy Moore, George Falcon, and resident artist Daniel Sanchez -- the team responsible for A+ Audio Productions and the Art Patrol theme parties -- the space featuring gray, industrial-looking Durock walls, a curvilinear bar, high tech meets post-modernism decorative elements, and a new sound system. Dinner from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m., tapas till 4:00. Sanchez working the concept: "This is going to be a dance emporium, like Warsaw or Paragon, with food and dance music, techno, whatever."

Other social/club news coming up here and there. Prince taking over the upstairs room at I Tre Merli, dining in-state with assorted dancers and bodyguards. "Big Life" doing a party at the Butter Club this Friday. Daisy Cabrera leaving "Girls in the Night" and setting up shop as a free-lance writer. Rumors about a certain gay-bar owner setting a new record: getting thrown out of Warsaw and The Spot on the same night. Attorney Bradshaw Lotspeich doing lots of restaurant and club work lately, with clients like Rebar, Tobacco Road, and Disco Inferno. Having settled a dispute between Disco Inferno (currently operating at Club Nu) and the Cameo, Lotspeich now taking action against The Cave and Hombre. In the first instance of the omnipresent clubville wars, representing former Cave general manager/promoter/concept person Bobby Devarmanesh, who Lotspeich says collected three checks of $400 each, a tad shy of his proposed fee of $25,000. Lotspeich also representing hombres John Herman and Diane Iannucci, now working at the rather wonderful Mexican restaurant Barrio, in an "intracorporate dispute" with current management, headed by Alan Kachin.

More fun to be had actually going to clubs rather than delving into all the ugly machinations behind the scenes. A going-away party for Erinn Cosby at Van Dome, hosting an endless parade of theme parties lately, from Geo Darder's "Vanity" to "The Side Door" alternative night. Mainstream socials, designer Ton Luyk and photographer Iran Issa Kahn in attendance, happily mixing with all the locals. Society, both uptown and downtown, forever throwing an endless series of birthday/going away/I'm-just-happy-to-be-popular parties. Dramatic rumors about a certain South Beach socialite having cosmetic surgery abroad and celebrating a Boston marriage turning out, unfortunately, to be false. The truth can be so annoying.

On to the shank of the evening at The Spot, last-call-for-alcohol time, a moment that always brings to mind an unpleasant image of cockroaches fleeing a suddenly illuminated kitchen. Standing there, lurking in black leather and shaved head, a dangerous-looking thug. The nasty boy, in a classic illusion-versus-reality club mise en scene, turning out to be the perfectly pleasant hair artisan Joe Mesa. Apparently, Mesa undergoing some kind of aesthetic apostasy about that whole styled-hair gestalt. For some curious 5:00 a.m. reason, shaving the hair off suddenly a sensible proposition. Mesa drawing our hand across the stubble, sneering in his trademark way: "Have you got the balls?" Happily, given our line of work, almost too many balls. That hair thing is kind of a problem, though.

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