Swelter

Lost weekend, gone completely party crazy, wallowing in flash and gossip. Sliding in gently with a Valentine's Day/last gasp of the Miami Film Festival cocktail reception at the Marlin hotel. The Scull sisters beyond baroque, with matching hairdos embalmed in beeswax. Publicist Susan Magrino, talking about the American Booksellers Association convention coming to Miami Memorial Day weekend. Brief encounters with various guests A Alex Abella, author of The Killing of the Saints; agent Owen Laster of William Morris; general rich person Beth Dunwoody A leading bountifully to George Christy of the Hollywood Reporter, a human Rolodex of celebrity journalism:

"I couldn't believe all the lies Oprah Winfrey let Michael Jackson tell on her show. She was so easy on him. [Given Winfrey's salary, we'd be inclined to let Benito Mussolini tell his side of things.] Only two plastic surgery operations? Never had his skin lightened? And then Liz Taylor coming out there, looking lost, with that ridiculous Jose Ebar hair A she's even got him doing her husband now. Liz is going to be checking in at Betty Ford for pill problems next. These celebrities always get to the point where they actually believe their own lies. After awhile they wind up like Marlene Dietrich, too drunk and too lazy to get out of bed, peeing in a Limoges vase. Please, these people."

More people of a less celebrated, slightly more truthful nature at the opening of Aqua restaurant on Ocean Drive, done up in white chiffon and swirls of blue against white walls, a pretty Mykonos-meets-the-new-Ibiza motif created by artist Kenny Scharf. Tasty, health-conscious cuisine along the order of sweet and spicy shrimp and baked rainbow trout with smoked oyster mousse to carry out the international theme. The restaurant/newsstand/juice bar offering lots of conversational possibilities among management alone, considering the vast array of talent involved: executive chef Raymond Hook, partners Susan Ainsworth, Tereza Scharf, Anthony Addison, Andrew Roosevelt, Lou Ramirez, Mark and Holly Leventhal.

The non-Aqua crowd, full of their own conversations. Angela Janklow, daughter of agent Mort Janklow, trying to put together a new magazine for teenagers. A fashion photographer telling a tragic story about a low-key but enormously wealthy friend neatly circumventing patrician New England attitude, opting to buy a golf course when the owners made access difficult. His first day out on the links, a bee stings him and he dies very suddenly, very young. Fortuna moving in mysterious ways, as ex-sports wife/fellow guest Lisa Gastineau A whose former husband Mark Gastineau, the one-time Jets defensive lineman and Brigitte Nielsen consort can attest: "She's gone and who knows what he's doing now. I married him right before I turned eighteen, and we officially divorced a few years ago. That nightmare is over, thank God."

The personal party-beat nightmare, dear God, just beginning. It's not all love and laughs. The Espanola Way block party, bikers in "Kathy Willets: I Fucked Her" T-shirts, big-chested bimbo types having their three minutes of sex fame on stage, normal person Lynn Gordon happily absorbing the passing parade. A suprise birthday party for designer Pat Fields at the Cabana Club, overlapping with another, less exotic, gathering and various strays, there being few entirely private, secret, or suprising occasions on the Beach. The birthday girl, however, counting her blessings: "Aren't I lucky to have such a great girlfriend, throwing me this wonderful party?"

The It's-a-Wonderful-Life routine turning up again, here and there. A jumping cocktail party at the home of Tim Warmath, director of special projects for the University of Miami Advancement Division. Party boy/scholar Ashton Hawkins making an appearance, along with gossip columnist Chantal of Good Morning America: "I'm in town interviewing Eddie Murphy and the 21-year-old who wrote Wrestling Ernest Hemingway. Not only is he talented, he's also nice and really good-looking." On to BANG for a Valentine's night Gipsy Kings concert, Vanilla Ice and Kristen McMenamy, the new Holly Golightly, turning in cameos. A brand-new face, that ultimate rarity, in the form of Jason Gould, son of gay icon Barbra Streisand and actor Elliot Gould. Young Jason traveling with companion Chris Smith, making his first visit to the district: "There's a lot of energy here; it's so exhausting. But L.A. is so tired."

An earnest appeal from a social animal still ringing in the ears ("Get over your fears of going out ..."), the ride continuing unabated. A Versace fashion show at the Raleigh. "Primitif," Tara Solomon's new Wednesday-night party at Les Bains, the club that always feels like La Femme Nikita come to life. A strange, Man-Ray-gone-disco place, endless white tile with little televisions set into the pillars, all manner of interesting visuals: Grace Jones dancing with Frances Grill of Click Models, North Beach girls in "Don't Worry, Be Happy" belts, comments about Euroland-style pleasure: "I hate these trendy places where everybody stands around being trendy."

Fairly nontrendy and thoroughly refreshing enjoyment to be had at Club One, doing mixed dance and salsa on Fridays, hard-core Latin music on Saturdays. Calle Ocho coming to South Beach: generously proportioned girls in Lycra dresses with cutaway midriffs, major hair, Cuban studs on the prowl, cocktail waitresses in black vinyl. Motorized hips working through complicated dance routines, lots of dipping and twirling, couples doing the Latin version of square dancing, the men joining arms and forming movable chairs for the airborne women, a not inconsiderable feat. An enthusiastic crowd chugging through the black-and-gold glitz palace, laughing and drinking, bringing to bear the energy of people who don't nightclub to the point of insensibility. David Giles, formerly of Woody's, Who's-in-the-Grove, and the old Club One at Miracle Center, looking pleased: "There have certainly been a lot of changes on the Beach since Woody's. I like the Latin market. They spend more money, maybe even have more fun."

Too much fun all over, as South Beach becomes one big Bourbon Street, full of dissipation and hectoring evangelists on every corner, ready to spoil the party. The religious impulse evidencing itself in the oddest places lately, the edgy jag grinding to a halt at 5:00 a.m. in one club or another, with an attractive woman suddenly erupting in an impassioned monologue, cutting through the boozy, fuck-it-all squalor like a vision of the Madonna: "I've been a model and a dancer, and I've seen every kind of decadence and evil behavior. But it's possible to be good in all of this, and better yet, being good is rewarding. Real evil is rare; mostly it's misguided people who've chosen the wrong path. Shouldn't it make us suspicious that evil is so easy and good is so hard?

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