Swelter 43

God help us, but we love this filthy business, despite the inevitable toll of the dungheap: metamorphosing into an unhealthy alien existing on earthly junk food, nothing but a blob of numb ectoplasm with an engorged brainpan, continually force-fed a diet of the unwholesome. Home at last for a quiet afternoon, minding our own business, a helpful friend putting through a conference call to New York City: some high-fame authority swearing that David Geffen and Keanu Reeves, the perfect couple, finally got hitched in Rome. Of course the hottest story imaginable broken by the British press, American consumption squelched by the great Oz of the communications industry. Geffen and Reeves, in fact, seen together last summer on Fire Island at Geffen's house, the deranged nuptials rumor posing interesting conundrums. What about the son of Speed? Will we all, as a nation, lose faith in those steamy scenes with Sandra Bullock? And then there's the matter of all the awkward professional socializing between the Geffens, the Jeffrey Katzenbergs, and the Steven Spielbergs: weekends in the staid Hamptons, or maybe Fire Island for a change? Who cooks, who dishes, and who puts everybody up? Yet another bizarre call from New York linking Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone and, as it happens, a former Geffen companion, the trash media seizing on a juicy bone and ready to devour their own. Can't you people -- celebrities, not-so-gentle readers, conceptual reporters -- just say no and leave us in peace with our Proust, Prozac, and noble thoughts?

Out of a tainted house, fleeing the satanic jingle of the phone, gearing up once again for the Miami Film Festival, theater of the absurd. This year's opening-night festivities at Gusman Center for the Performing Arts featuring the festival's first made-in-Miami movie, Miami Rhapsody, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Mia Farrow, Paul Mazursky, and Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately, none of the stars in attendance, the paparazzi mistakenly assaulting a Banderas look-alike who had the good sense to arrive by limousine. One television crew reduced to filming an obvious glitz-meets-grit irony, a bum obliviously picking soda cans from the trash receptacles outside the Gusman, surrounded by klieg lights and local notables. All the Mr. and Mrs. First Nighters drifting inside for sound-bite visuals and maximum public exposure, the seating frenzy followed by a cameo chat with Palm Beach Illustrated managing editor Eric Newill, climbing out of the South Florida magazine debacle, the latter publication lately taking a Miami-style nosedive toward breaking fluff and terminal stupidity. Newill motoring down from Palm Beach for the weekend and, as usual, agog with tales of dukes, duchesses, and cafe-society fixture Bobby Short, posing impossible existential dilemmas: "Darling, what are you doing way down here in Florida?"

Then it's lights, cameras, and speeches, festival director Nat Chediak extolling "this crazy, cockeyed city we all dare to call home," and introducing David Frankel, the co-producer, director, and writer of Miami Rhapsody keeping things light and fun: "This is such an exotic, sultry, sweaty city, and tonight is even more exciting for me than my bar mitzvah. Please, God, I hope you enjoy the movie -- the expectations are so high for premieres." No masterpiece, actually, but amusing enough fare, full of one-liners ("Mental masturbation is my second-favorite kind") and indigenous rhapsodies, club veteran Naomi Campbell doing an art-versus-reality number as a self-immersed model, prancing around in the creations of costume designer-South Beach pioneer Patricia Field. A perfect movie choice for opening night, given the general intolerance for Peruvian tone poems.

The caravan moving on to the Hotel Inter-Continental for the "Rhapsody in Blue" gala, budding actors forming a gauntlet of interactive movieland tableaux, one faux star couple breaking character and kissing in an abandoned fashion -- oh, sweet horny youth. Party coordinator Norma Jean Abraham almost knocked over by automatic fire doors and going into walkie-talkie overdrive, the ballroom backing up with sustenance-driven guests. Michael Musto of the Village Voice bouncing in for a gossip fix, both of us staying on attitude alert and fishing for column items: "Michael, I'm too big in this town to even think about eating from a buffet. And please don't ask me to betray private conversations -- the trust between an ordinary person and a celebrity is sacred...so then she said..."; Musto, as he will, firing right back, "An important person from Miami is a contradiction. Just remember that vagrants take your free column out of that little red box and wrap themselves up in it." Really, you gotta love the guy.

More film fun from there, Gregory Peck turning up at Williams Island for a festival benefit, a walking, talking icon of old Hollywood. The very pleasant Antonio Banderas making a press conference the following day, dealing with all the usual pressing questions, the family man-romantic symbol laughing off the "sexiest man alive" trivia ("You have to see me in the morning -- it's pretty disgusting") and his talent for spanning the movie sexuality spectrum: "I've played some homosexuals and I'm sure the press wondered about my life. It's so far from what I really am, but I would have no problem playing a homosexual again. Maybe a queen, if the right part came along."

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