Swelter 35

Oh by gosh, by golly, it's Christmas time, the town that never stays home plunging headlong into a marathon of high-octane socializing. The populace mawkish and sort of forgiving, a regimen of endless bonhomie and goodwill taking its toll, mankind not naturally given to extended bouts of charity. Another seasonal passion play of riotous drinking and epic delusion, long-denied resentments invariably erupting amidst saccaharine love fests, the iconography of an ideal Martha Stewart holiday remaining cruelly elusive. The whole month a cross between The Cocktail Hour, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and a gooey Hallmark presentation, leavened by sporadic fits of real good cheer. A maddening program, but then, what the hell, it's Christmas.

Fleeing the tug of low WASP psychodrama and escaping into festiveness of the corporate kind Friday night, Telemundo/Channel 51 throwing a lavish Christmas bash at Paragon. The company's "T" symbol looming over a horn of plenty landscape: huge video monitors and a 50-foot-tall gold tree, a hunkarama Santa's helper dispensing red roses, an all too open bar and a cross-cultural buffet -- joints of beef, pecan pie, paella, guacamole -- by Gene's Catering for sustenance. A blissfully media-free feeding trough with Willy Chirino cranking up the troops, all sequined gowns, pushup bras, and primping Lotharios in the men's room, a palpable current of blossoming office romances in the air. Men and dogs might be sad after coitus, as the ancients once noted, but they're certainly lively beforehand.

Jumping right into a sea of wonderfully unfamiliar faces like a tipsy, overhyped Labrador, sniffing out soap opera stars and Mundo celebrities: actress Lucia Mendez, romance advisor Maria Regina, newscaster Pedro Luis Garcia, talk-show hosts of the "Are you romantic and how do you stay so fabulous?" ilk. Hashing over the gossip trade with paparazzo and personality Raul de Molina, dressed as Santa Claus and doing a regular celeb high jinks segment on Club Telemundo, a long way from our stint together of pointlessly chasing Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith for the penny press. The personable Molina entering the proper stage of journalism, a celebrity bearing facts, achieving an enviable print/video synergy: "My show is mostly about American stars, and I still shoot paparazzi stuff. Last weekend I went down to Little Palm Island for Star magazine and got a shot of Luke Perry getting married -- she was his secretary or something -- and then aired the stuff. The weirdest thing I've ever seen was Oprah Winfrey coming out of a gym in Nevis, really heavy and looking like a football player."

Santa promising to send along a press kit before dashing off to spread more glad tidings, celebrity chatter coming up again with former Miss Universe Cecilia Bolocco, raving about an engrossing three-hour interview session with Anthony Quinn: "He told me everything; I had to cut my segment with Gloria and Emilio." And then it's show time, kicking off with a Big Brother-like benediction from Telemundo CEO Joaquin Blaya, thanking the minions for their hard work and those 28 regional Emmys. From there the evening dissolving into a series of rapidly evolving entertainments: three show girls leaping on stage for a flesh and feathers number, the comic duo Fonomemecos hawking castration/improperly wired wife material and then coming out again in drag, parodying Celia Cruz and Gloria Trevi's hits, "I Feel So All Alone" and "Let Your Hair Down." A selection of Telemundo bloopers, the Latin hip-hop band La Nueva Banda, and another dance fever troupe in tights, frolicking like agitated gymnasts. Truly a great evening.

Resolving to remain presentable in the face of social overload, our own seasonal baggage A bad phlegm days, fits of futility, tasteless self-revelations A leaking out at inopportune moments. A reception at the studio of Antoni Miralda for Art Miami '94, the opening benefit this year featuring an appearance by the heavily incarnated Shirley MacLaine doing a one-gal show at TOPA in January. The restaurant Farfalla grandly opening this week, Brasserie Le Coze introducing their new appetizer and dessert menu, Sarah Jessica Parker and Antonio Banderas out stomping around with Nicola Siervo of Bang, the restaurant celebrating its first anniversary. The traveling nightmare of the Ron and Ron Show coming back to town, their last Miami outing involving many frantic cellular calls lobbed our way, various producers wanting help for a madcap 6:00 a.m. celebrity stalking mission. This time around the two Rons descending on the Button South shortly before dawn, trotting out the band Dead German Tourist, golfer/misogynist Luther Campbell, and celebrated prostitute Kathy Willets, goaded into stripping for the occasion and no doubt destined for a very special Fox miniseries. The world going mad, spinning loose from its moorings, our fair city forever in the vanguard of insanity.

Time and madness marching on, the holiday season bringing another unwelcome birthday, the celebrations for the Sun King commencing with the opening of the Stephane Kelian shoe boutique, sponsored by South Florida magazine. A general tone of tropical abandonment not customarily associated with $700 shoes: some deranged woman stepping in as impromptu go-go dancer for the band, atmospheric club smoke pouring out for effect, everyone scrambling for champagne and connections. The first rule of society being that you're only as important as the person you're standing next to, so be careful when you're alone. On to dinner with associate editor Eric Newill, bearing out Alice Roosevelt Longworth's dictum ("If you can't say anything nice about anybody, do sit by me") and reveling in the sordid. An eerie straight cross-dresser slumped at an adjoining table, ordinary drag queens everywhere at once becoming hopelessly banal. Clubland a flurry of male cheek kissing A the new rage among heterosexuals A our bottle of complementary birthday champagne crashing to the floor, an owner dismissing his patrons as "the drunk, the drugged, and the stupid."

Another night on the town for the birthday boy, Newill finally losing patience in one low dive or another: "God, this is such an odd little town. Celebrities and real people come, make an appearance, get a tan, and then leave suddenly A and it's back to the same old Mary and the Professor. All of us sitting around these old gangster places, like the expatriates at Rick's Cafe, waiting, waiting for something to happen, some way out of this exile of constant parties. Gilligan's Island mixed in with Casablanca, and that line from Shakespeare that perfectly captures Miami: 'A tale told to an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.'

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