Swelter

Another week, another frolic with mirthmakers of every imaginable breed. A Noah's ark of dark pleasures, touched by a higher force. On the rounds Saturday night, trudging up and down Washington Avenue, a penitent dragging the cross of gossip through Sodom, witness to the eternal passion play of nightlife. The Strand, Lee Z. working the ropes and heralding a celebrity news flash: Denise Brown, sister of Nicole Simpson, dining with various companions inside. Steeling the nerves, Brown turning out to be polite if distant, understandable given our odd conversational gambits A a bit too much gushing over the valiant judicial efforts on Nicole's behalf, studiously ignoring the obvious irony of her being in Miami rather than Los Angeles. And then our monologue on the insidious derangement of O.J. Simpson A gleaned from a brief encounter with the spiritual void at La Voile Rouge opening A not helping her nerves. As fuel for further assaults, taking a drink or two with Greg and Nicole Brier of Groove Jet, Andrew Sasson working at the club after a stint in New York. Back to the streets, dodging teenage thugs A potential assassins, one and all A and landing at Bar None, an oasis of glitz in the wasteland.

Red alert on the Holy Grail of fame, Two Much actors Antonio Banderas and Daryl Hannah lounging together in a booth, snuggly-wuggly as all get out. Either last week's screen kiss on Lincoln Road has taken root, or perhaps the harmless after-hours bonding of colleagues, in the sophisticated manner of movie stars A accustomed to doing whatever the hell they want. No rules, no fear, both stars personable and polite, enjoying a rare day off from the production. Banderas, born for black leather and intelligent hunkdom A the man who wisely turned down Madonna in Truth or Dare A explaining the Two Much story, something about a character who invents a sleazy twin brother for the purpose of picking up girls. Not a bad operating policy for the plot twists of clubs, where pernicious daylight truths intrude on the nocturnal suspension of real life. Hannah living on Pine Tree Drive, happy in the new Lotus Land, especially given the limited engagement of her stay: "It's great down here, all new to me. Of course, I've only been in town a little while."

A late evening precluding a stab at the uplifting on Sunday morning, Health Crisis Network's AIDS Walk Miami, producer Richard Jay-Alexander razzle-dazzling the troops: Grand marshal Rosie O'Donnell arriving on a Harley; Cindy Crawford, the empress of exercise, declining to lead the warmup stretches but walking a very long runway. The weekend's program also bringing a launch party for Aviar Films on Espanola Way, hosted by partners Migel Delgado, Frank Espinosa, and Yuri Gomez. Vaguely Warholian throughout, reality, fantasy, and art blending imperceptibly, Delgado unveiling two recent projects as party favors. A futuristic television pilot, WarpSpeed, engulfing one room, district personality Gilbert Stafford emoting powerfully and blasting through civic landmarks; the film noirish Fractured, featuring Delgado, Geo Darder, Carlos Betancourt, and other homeboys, playing in another screening room. The cast of both productions on hand, lending an agreeably surrealistic note, amplified by Andrew Delaplaine of Wire. The people's-choice publisher ready to announce his candidacy for the upcoming Miami Beach mayoral race, echoing William F. Buckley's classic remark: "If elected, I'll demand a recount."

As it happens, the entire week too nutty for words. Wednesday night, taking dinner at the Fashion Cafee, G. Jack Donahue of Irene Marie Model Management and P.R. Inc., our new best friend lately, hosting his weekly homage to this crazy little town. A vast table set up on the sidewalk, all of us living a La Dolce Vita outtake, a Vogueian mix between a baroque Diesel Jeans ad and a catalogue shoot, transmogrified by Fellini. Some big-ticket girls on hand, pouting in a silky my-temple-is-sacred-and-expensive manner, as well as a renowned male model, poised on the cusp of the American dream. Discovered by Bruce Weber A master of creepy paens to rough youth A the former college football player's modeling success leading to Elton John and his portable force field of glamour. Fabulousity may be overrated, but there's something to be said for fraternization with the moneyed: John's helicopter landing on the roof of Trump Tower and whisking the lad away to his concerts, Mr. Entertainment dedicating his Marilyn Monroe salute to a man called Monroe. Further down the table a perky little nonmodel in buckskin A Ratso Rizzo crossed with a gay Cochise A agog over Monroe's earning potential, breaking into spontaneous disco shimmies: "This sure isn't like Texas. People down here are a lot more flexible about sex." You go, partner.

Dinner gliding on, various flotsam drifting over to the table, Donahue an Irishman on a roll: "South Beach is a sea of uncertainty, a sunny place for shady people. The floating menagerie, the rogues' gallery, the Crackerjack box of the self-invented, using one another like cheap motel rooms, united by ruthlessness, the spice of defeat, and the fact that they have nowhere else to go." True enough, but then, any party improves with a little friction. As if on cue, two street evangelists, wearing denim jackets scrawled with religious pronouncements, joining the merry throng and lending a touch of moral authority. Both gentlemen recounting the saga of Lazarus, modern horrors ("We've been praying for the van we live in; somebody broke in the other night"), and then, at Donahue's urging, laying hands upon our cinder of a soul. God's disciples, not surprisingly, briefly recoiling at our massive negative vibery and exclaiming at once: "Lord, this man has been doing the Devil's work. We beseech you to drive this evil out of him!"

Momentarily chastened, ready for the Wise Blood self-laceration routine, gradually drawn back into the land of sin. The Devil, as ever, making us do it, yet again forging an unholy alliance with the avenging constellation of the tabloid universe, perpetually prepared to smite the powerful. As ever, driven by the necessity of feeding the mawing succubus of a mortgage: more often than not, the wellspring of the world's eternal moral shabbiness. Appropriately enough, working on real estate matters, the true Miami art form. Oprah Winfrey's people looking at condos on Fisher Island. The penny press reporting on Cher's empire that infomercials built, spending a cool $1.5 million on a La Gorce Island house and promptly tearing it down to the foundation, taking advantage of rehabilitation tax credits. The rich get richer, and Miami gets glitzier, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, rumor has it, putting down a deposit on a megahome, either in Bee Gee or Stallone turf. Who knows, and given the long view, who really cares?

On to a private party, another journalist, one smart woman of the mainstream school, full of blissfully sordid stories. Local Haitian gangs operating as consultants on Caribbean corruption, joining forces with the Italian mob, crime making for strange bedfellows. The Gambino family turning Washington Avenue into one big Little Italy social club, infiltrating the parking nightmare infrastructure. The Moroccan underworld, pretending to be French for greater, and perhaps arguable, social acceptability, smelling money and jumping into the fray. One local modeling agency, within leaping proximity of a club infested with snatch and cash, nothing but a glorified escort service controlled by wealthy investors, most notably the scion of a fortune built on arms dealing. An ambitious Heidi Fleiss type pimping Russian girls imported from Brighton Beach: dicey hygiene habits, but willing to work hard for a chunk of the American pie. Professionals, unlike professional beauties, offering the virtues of discretion and diplomacy, not likely to bore one with their petty travails, all the split ends and cosmetic challenges.

Back to Espanola Way, the rich pageant of love and laughs concluding with a keg party, James Trotter and Kevin Arrow wrapping up an art installation called As the World Dies, the Eyes of God Grow Bigger. Arrow right in touch with the all-is-dust aesthetic: "You're so urgent, like someone's holding a knife to your heart." Shuffling home at an ungodly hour, reeking from the nectar of champions, riddled with shame and hubris. Distracted in a deserted parking lot, taking a meeting with ourself and muttering aloud, a suburban jeep with three evil teens A screaming maric centsn in a charming Latinate way A swooping in with the sickening inevitability of a kamikaze strike. For a moment, the ultimate number about to be called. Briefly considering going out in a blaze of glory, making the papers and all. And then the miraculous workings of salvation, the hand of God and common sense. Without a backward glance, breaking into a pell-mell scramble, a stray fist flying over our head. The jolly tormentors trapping us in a doorway for sport A feeding on fear like jackals A and then roaring off in a wake of contemptuousness. A world marked by imponderable mysteries, the elusive workings of grace, but one verity remaining certain: We'll simply have to get a better class of fans. That's no way to treat a star.

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