Swelter 29

Halloween weekend, the national holiday for the nightlife industry, a surreal but profitable refraction of ordinary club existence, sort of like Christmas without basic human values. The same pervasive air of forced jollity and indulgence -- a twisted pomade of resentment, longing, and touches of genuine good feeling -- piled on an overstuffed milieu. Everyone drinking too much already, clinging year-round to an illusion of glittering surfaces, the pros learning to avoid the rash and regrettable. Reality, after all, never taking a holiday and flights of seasonal fancy, going home with faux Minotaurs and such, being invariably disappointing. But then, Halloween is nothing but the fantastic, undercut by sordid yearnings and delusions.

Training for lost-weekend-with-a-theme at home, communing with the base and macabre, the world trickling in like a demonic plague, bearing various strains of oddities. A press release from West End announcing the return of Varla, the noted artist/drag queen suffering from the nightmare of all club climbers: "Varla crawled her way to the top of Miami Beach's club scene. Then, she hated it." An English journalist sending along an interesting memoir concerning the early days of Quentin Crisp, destiny meting out a grotesque fate for Crisp's long-time companion, death coming from a falling garbage can in Trafalgar Square. Several readers sending in manifestoes ("The communists want to make the young superficial, destroy their ruggedness"), the telephone bringing other glad tidings. A way-valid caller, plugged into the hip universe, suddenly veering toward the personal: "You seem fucked up, but not cynical." Another scholarly minded gentleman researching the precise meaning of the word "mondo," his voice gradually going breathless, ecstatic, and then torpid, the whole encounter pretty much defining the term. Two sensible people, on the same evening, predicting imminent spiritual death from the hateful club crawl circuit, a female radio commentator doing an on-air survey of our relative merits. No wigs, no attitude, struggling with elevator weight syndrome and an unwholesome thirst, Miss Judgment ending on a somewhat positive note: "All he does is gripe, but at least he's out there."

Friday night, out there into the great beyond, the undead of the Beach A unfamous and unemployed, forever seeking sex and drink tickets A floating about like astral beings. Starting off at the Health Crisis Network benefit "In the Belly of the Beast" atop a parking garage, a suprisingly attractive setting: psychedelic imagery on a huge movie screen, great views of the wasteland bathed in moonlight, lasers beaming over the horizon. Bobby Guilmartin of South Beach Central promoting his upcoming "Red Party" in a trademark witness-my-pecs ensemble, no doubt heading off to other energetic nocturnal pursuits. Israel Sands of Flowers & Flowers making a dramatic drag statement in a white beaded dress ("Don't pretend you don't know me, darling") an admirer focusing on arcane nuances: "Where did you get that great antique handbag?" Equus the wonder horse and his leather master vying with a mutton-parading-as-lamb dominatrix, thrusting her ass in the air like an agitated spider monkey, wallowing in make-believe whoredom. A perfectly nice party, save for several jaded souls griping about all the pleasantness. Club regulars, like Virgil descending into the Inferno, requiring hellish environments for maximum festering fun.

A segue to opening night in Hades, Baja Beach Club taking over the former Club Nu space. The doorman actually hewing to a dress code during Halloween weekend, insisting we leave behind our "American Psycho" cap, the mess inside beyond psychotic. A surfer movie directed by Beavis and Butt-head, aimed at especially stupid twelve-year-olds: windsurfers and fiberglass sharks suspended from the ceiling, shirtless bartenders in caps working the suck-from-the-bucket brigade, inflatable girls in complicated bikinis hawking beer, an all-male band with prop guitars lip-synching and stripping. Young women mounting the wildly spinning Orbitron machine, hastening the inevitable will-you-still-love-me-if-I-throw-up moment, the district theme song "Give It Up" pounding over the sound system. A stupefying exercise in rabid heterosexuality, a cross between a Bangkok whorehouse, the Budweiser instant party commercial, and Psycho Beach Party. Frankie and Annette doing a duet of "Me So Horny" with the mad Eric Von Zipper flogging the kids on to ever-greater depravity.

Crossing psychosexual boundaries once again for the W.O.W. Bar male drag contest, embraced by the Isle of Sappho ("It's a private party tonight"), the welcome akin to walking in with a fart on our arm. The contestants coming on stage as construction crews, roues in black tie, and the entire gamut of offensive male stereotypes, the audience cheering like bikers -- same-sex dating is not without its horrors. Tara Solomon, who'll be cohosting the United Foundation for AIDS Phantom-theme benefit this Sunday, doing a judging stint in drag and full-tilt makeup, standards being standards. An acquaintance merrily lobbing more debauchery, rhapsodizing about the chinoise-on-chinoise scene we'd just missed, two naked girls going at each other with dildos. There's always somebody ready to ruin a good time.

Saturday night, the quiet before the storm, content to merely stroll past all the debauchery: the grand opening of Rose's Bar & Lounge, "Emerald City" at Paragon, Hallorave 2 on Ocean Drive. Gearing up for the main event Sunday night with filmmaker Bruce Posner and girlfriend/conceptual artist Amanda Katz, flying into town that same day from Boston. Katz in step with the pageantry, totally nude underneath a sheer lace costume accented with a feather witch's mask, golden wings, and a Lady Godiva hairpiece. Club One jumping with a dungeon lair and leering devils' faces, two black dancers doing a simulated sex/jungle boogie routine, Posner earnestly documenting the mise en scene.

Dodging all-too-real thrown beer cans on Fifth Street, clawing into Les Bains for the "Spider's Web" party, a rough sea-of-artifice dance floor. Occupying the fringes of Thomas Kramer's table despite rampant Euro-hostility, Halloween making strange bedfellows of us all. Yet another club contretemps escalating steadily, our party dismissed from Kramer's champagne-littered table by a waitress, Katz having politely slid away when Fall-of-the-Weimar Republic felt her up in a decidedly unspiritual manner. Out to the street, a veiled woman with an elaborate twinkling headdress waving a wand over the damned: "I have come to this place, where the wicked go unpunished, to capture all the dreams that have been lost. Without dreams, this evil land is beyond the power of mortals.

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