Swelter 39

The headless flight toward the New Year, tumbling pell-mell into a world of possibilty, fighting the pull of the mundane. The city popping, clogged with the rich and famous, one big celebrity shooting gallery. New Year's Eve assuming the competitive dimensions of pret-a-porte week in Paris -- designers, celebs, and the mere social competing for the available pool of talent. Madonna's dinner party at her Brickell Avenue home, Prince Egon von Furstenberg's very own white party at a rented house, Thierry Mugler's draggish bash at the Century, Gloria Estefan having a few friends in at the Cardozo. Versace setting the standard, yet again, and flying over a handful of guests to a Bahamian island without telling them precisely where they were going. The best way to plow into anything.

The celeb crush, what with the ugly scramble to get invited to parties above one's rightful station, particularly taxing. Artists Ross Bleckner, Pat Stier, and the David Salle at Barocco Beach. Mr. Hollywood, Barry Diller, attending a Susan Bartsch party at the Century, watching videotapes of the "Love Ball," a haute-suburban concept. The Madonna crowd filtering in slowly, taking over the town: new boy-toy John Enos of the club Roxbury in Los Angeles, Truth or Dare director *CK SP Alec Keshishian, Jean Paul Gaultier, Bruce Weber and Ingrid Casares. A great rumor circulating briefly, to the effect that Madonna had just died of a drug overdose in a London hotel room, an interesting story started, improbably enough, by an article in a Chilean newspaper, playfully practicing an old Latin April Fools-style custom, called "The Slaughter of the Innocents." They got the wrong girl.

Thierry Mugler clearing his busy social calender and hosting the official opening of Les Bains, more celebrities, more slaughters of the less-than-innocent. Mugler in a snakeskin vest, designer Claude Montana in racing leathers, Bleckner in boyland, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, Mick Hucknall of the band Simply Red, lounging on a couch: "The music is kind of relentless, isn't it?" New York gossip columnist Billy Norwich, scaling down to the subtropics: "I'm not working; this is just a holiday. No gossip. I'm just looking for a reason to get out of my hotel room."

The nonfamous out and about, adding to the decorative tone. A wondrous Andre Breton-meets-Night Porter creation, a braless woman in a sheer black top and leather pants, topped off with a Nazi cap inscribed with dollar signs, deathly pale and puffing a *CK SP Gaulois, the smoke trailing in a sinister way around a Louise Brooks *CK SP hair-do. Young boys in the gay lumberjack ensemble, cutoffs worn with manly boots. Tony Theodore of Sinatra Bar talking about his opening/Elite modeling agency party this weekend, and the club's six-week volleyball benefit for pediatric AIDS research. And then a brief meeting with Ingrid herself, very pretty in a black tailored suit, an augury of an Ingrid/Madonna obsession that grew like an ugly cancer during the course of a week-long effort to plug into the bisexual *CK SP hijinks network and crash the ultimate A-party. One of our least favorite entertainers actually, but then, it's Madonna's house.

The subject of Madonna vis-a-vis Ingrid, coming up here, there, everywhere. Ingrid leaving Stars in bewilderment after being asked to pay a cover charge. Ingrid and Madonna mumbling through a low voltage dinner at Bang. A colleague in New York full of background material: Ingrid doing a layout for Banana Republic with Bruce Weber, wearing a dress while mock-surfing. Madonna and Ingrid making out at a party in New York for k.d. lang, Ingrid grabbing the great one's ass as Madonna whispers a tender parting, "Bye, my little brother." Ingrid at another party, on the difficulties of dating someone constantly beseiged by lunatic fans/potential lovers: "That's why she has people like me around." Ingrid's days as a make-up artist, student at Sunset High and Lourdes, a perfectly nice person who happens to be just "close friends" with the Material Girl. The meeting of two legends, according to a long chat over dinner with a Los Angeles-based entertainment executive, an inspiring tale of American initiative and fame-fucking:

"I met Sandra Bernhard, Ingrid's old girlfriend, at this resturant in L.A. -- we had the same business acquaintances. Anyway, Ingrid had met Sandra when she went backstage during a concert. Sandra really likes Cuban girls. The next day Sandra bought her a ticket and she moved out to L.A. At that time they had just broken up, but Sandra called her and she came over. She seemed sweet enough. Ingrid told me she discovered what she was when she met Sandra; she'd been hiding it from herself before that. Anyway, they got back together and then Sandra took Ingrid to Madonna's New Year's Eve party in New York last year. Madonna had an affair with Ingrid, I think just to get back at Sandra for something; there was something between them before that. Then she put Ingrid in the Sex book. Madonna is, I think, truly evil.

"Sandra found out about the affair and threw her out of the house. A few months later I'm having a drink in Little Frieda's, this lesbian coffee house in L.A. Ingrid, of all people, was working as a waitress there. Sandra still hadn't forgiven her, and Ingrid was crying about the whole thing. I told her she'd done a bad thing: right is right, wrong is wrong, and she should get down on her knees and beg forgiveness. She said she would. And then the book came out. Madonna took her in, she's head of new faces at Willhemina in L.A. now, but Sandra has still never forgiven her. But when you're famous, nothing matters."

And when you're not, everything does. A dispiriting New Year's Eve, drizzly and Madonna-less, a flurry of cellular phone calls not quite panning out: Enos was around, Ingrid reportedly didn't have "the authority" to bring an entourage. The Century party after midnight, drag queens walking the runway in the rain, breasts popping out of Apollonia's dress like a renegade Jack-in-the-Box. Sloppy and drunken, the citizens of South Beach acting as if they don't go out every night. The von Furstenberg affair at the last-call stage, the host perfectly amiable, heading over to Paragon. Byblos, a big improvement from the Cave era, Louis Canales working on installations in the back patio and a women's room bar. Norwich and Bartsch delighting in the Beach, the whorehouse of the Western world. Music pounding in the front room ("It's the ultimate seduction: acts of sensation without sense"), the regulars lolling outside, one social veteran wailing, "God, why are we all pretending that there's any energy to New Year's?"

Five a.m. outside the crack house on lower Collins, a pregant hooker on the steps, beeper tucked into her socks, smoking and drinking. Out of nowhere a hurled invective, "Faggot!" and a fully loaded beer can flies out of a car, hitting us squarely in the back. Breathless and aching, facing another tainted year of degradation, evil, and the banality of fame. Sunrise, a dirty dish rag wiped across a leaden sky, and for some reason, the last line of The Great Gatsby comes to mind: "And so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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