Swelter

Looking as good as it gets, only slightly shattered. Hair by Joe Mesa, thickened and tortured. Brooks Brothers oxford shirt, wrinkled to perfection. Khaki pants, same dependable clothier, spotted with ink and gin. Puke-stained Cole-Haan loafers, worn without socks. Loaded with pocket change and attitude, ready to take yet another wrong turn socially. Everybody's crazy about a sharp-dressed man.

Off and rolling with a few lost evenings at "Vanity," Geo Darder's Thursday-night party at Van Dome. First stop, an Andria of Bal Harbour Shops fall collection fashion preview. Male and female go-go dancers, unlikely guests in the form of old pros like Dame Jean Loach, the former social secretary to Perle Mesta. Models from Irene Marie camping it up on the runway, preening in front of a huge mirror, striking various curious poses. An interesting show, especially from the vantage point of the deserted balcony, even more riveting when the girls head upstairs to change. Suddenly they're everywhere, beautiful and nearly nude, and the valve system completely shuts down. If only someone of the firepower of, say, Mickey Rourke, had been there to affect introductions.

Thy-name-is-Vanity again, this time for a combination southbeach magazine debut/Bravo Bunch -- Concert Association of Florida fund raiser/Norma Jean Abraham social season kick-off party. The balcony packed with the fully clothed, seeking free drinks and good cheer. Newscaster Michelle Gillen, in town for the weekend. A swan song for Bravo girl Tara Solomon, no longer employed by the Concert Association of Florida. Susan Ainsworth, ®MDRV¯accompanied by partners Anthony Addison and Lou Ramirez, moving along with her nice-people supper club. Woody Graber, working with Stephen Talkhouse, cabaret legend Holly Woodlawn playing the club Halloween night. Downstairs, mainstream society rallying around Abraham's exhortation: "We've all suffered with the hurricane, but everybody has shown tonight that we still know how to party."

Exactly. Down to the Grove, Partyville Central, making a ludicrously late entrance at the Grand Bay's reception to celebrate a new film production office and the birthday of Talent Times's Elizabeth Martin. Techno-is-gonna-get-you at Club Anarchy on McFarlane Road, an amazingly slick, well-run club. Downstairs, a restaurant and bar with video monitors, illuminated window panels, the walls adorned with late-Sixties Village Voice imagery: Jayne Mansfield, Albert Einstein, Edie Sedgwick. Upstairs, a Smart Bar with Quantum Punch, more art on dark walls, a VIP room, and a bi-level dance floor enclosed by wire link fencing. The main dance floor with lighting from above, and upstairs, flattering up-lit lighting through floor grates. Music of the I-Am-the-Creator school, the techno-driven thrashing about madly. Great fun, as the Brooks Brothers set would say.

The fun continuing at an I Tre Merli party thrown by Alessandro Benetton of the boutique chain, with the idea of introducing himself to the citizens of South Beach. The place packed with night-world denizens, reaching the apogee of its natural life cycle as a restaurant-cum-club. Somehow we had expected an intimate dinner with scintillating discussions about the social ramifications of the newest Benetton ad campaign, but the party getting bigger and bigger, way past the idea of food or extended conversations. The Avenue A's pouring in after eleven, disco lights throbbing over the dance floor, a Latin salsa band cranking up. Models in National Guard jackets without pants, waiters dancing, pounding cymbals into the brain. Confetti pouring down on a man doing a Greek dance on top of a pillar, the music segueing from salsa to "Break on Through" to "Everybody Free...Feel Good," the anthem of South Beach. A truly popping party, with no one seeming to know, or particularly care about, how it all came into being. The host, throughout, looking a little bewildered: "Nothing definite about a new store on the Beach yet. This is good, but not quite what I expected. I guess everybody's here, though."

More subdued amusements at the premiere of The Miami Beach Experience, a bimonthly series of performances and cultural events on Lincoln Road, featuring the Momentum Dance Company and the Miami Arts Asylum. Every culturati type in the known universe, people like writer Bonnie Clearwater, strolling the mall. A New World Symphony concert broadcast out on the street, meshing nicely with an al fresco dinner at the new Dean & ®MDRV¯Deluca-ish gourmet store across the street, Lyon Freres Et Compagnie. Produce, a cappuccino bar with ready-made sandwiches, catering facilities, attitudinally correct delicacies like $27-per-pound Prosciutto di Parma and obscure goat cheeses. Another welcome addition to the lifestyle infrastructure concept.

Hell, the club, a really welcome concept, intelligent, witty, non-obvious, and bound to be spectacular. Touring the club with designer Norman Gosney, gleaning a hint of the semi-evil delights in store for the October 24 opening. A big deal all around: Dimitri and Towa Towa from Deee-Lite working the disc jockey booth, celebrity guests on the order of Fred Schneider from the B-52s and, probably enough, Norman Mailer. The very energetic Gosney, whose background includes stints with Marvel Comics, Danceteria, and Mars, turning the former Leonard Hotel into an ode to the seven deadly sins and the too-much-is-just-enough school of pleasure.

Throughout, an odd eclectic mix that somehow works. Victorian red flocked wallpaper, velvet couches and drapes, with old stage-prop flames placed in the windows. In the main interior courtyard, glitter-infested molded plastic icicles hanging off the balconies, what Gosney calls a "monstrous Hispanic wedding cake" effect. Lots of quirky touches, such as the razors embedded in the men's toilet seats and the semi-enclosed cages for the go-go dancers, forcing patrons to walk around and confront their lechery directly. Sloth represented by a Sandy Skoglund-style piece, an entirely mustard-color room with tacky furniture and Fifties food commercials. Envy, a glass booth with a bed and a lolling eighteen-year-old girl reading magazines and working under instructions to ignore taps on the windows. The "flesh ride" equipped with an operational bumper car, dominated by a portrait of Batwoman "getting it from a brain."

In the portrait gallery of Hell, Elvis, Halston, Roy Cohn, Bing Crosby, and the where's-the-beef lady. A Madonna suite, equipped with a bedroom, and the devil's sitting room, an old bucolic-scene painting modernized with images of nuclear plants. Lights pinpointing ram's heads and demented human eyes, a fountain spewing blood-red liquid, a sequenced-slide projection of a devil licking his face, and avarice embodied with a portrait of Satan throwing curios over Miami Beach. Outside, a Viking ship bar with a skull on top.

Themeville without overkill, the right club aesthetic: "In a dance club, the theme should never get in the way. If you have the right crowd, you can have a good time in a concrete box with a radio. Hell is a Victorian concept anyway. In the modern world, there's really no difference between Heaven and Hell."

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