Late Saturday afternoon in Mecca, the endless song everywhere at once, the chant of the muezzin at dusk, beckoning to the fashionable world. Lost in dreamy longings, coming upon Skyler Thomas of Don't Panic! -- the Los Angeles-based, gay-owned apparel company -- settling in the old Kowtow records location, happy to be in hip central. Thomas, an ex-comic who's profited handsomely from T-shirts inscribed with catchy punchlines ("Nobody Knows I'm Gay"; "The Few, the Proud, the Queer"), shooting for an October 15 opening. West Hollywood, Provincetown, New York, and now, inevitably, South Beach: "Getting a space here is like passing an audition -- key money, do two flips backwards -- but everybody in L.A. is talking about the Beach. It's more like West Hollywood than the real place. Both have diverse cultures, a large gay community, glitz, good weather. Same problems, too, naturally: the crime, police insensitivity, whatever. But then, if you want to feel like you're really living someplace on the planet -- and not some isolated backwater town -- all that stuff comes with the package."
"Hey, it's Miami, it's always disgusting -- just go with it."
Miami, the hype, the hustle: (clockwise from top) Hard Rock Cafe staff dancing for joy in a celebrity void; Ed Marinaro, Frank Costa, and Dan Marino at SoBe Rotisserie & Bar; Skyler Thomas of Don't Panic entering the gay fashion arena