Swelter 9

Chastened by finance, slipping back on the time line of the social whirl, a chiaroscuro of private soirees unfolding in the memory. Another time, another flight from the sober void of existence, Israel Sands of Flowers & Flowers helpfully clueing us in to a cozy gathering on the Venetian Islands, our first encounter with the exquisitely mannered Beatrice de Borbon, the Duchess of Seville. Rolling in late with a gaggle of fellow interlopers, our crew half-looped and out of the ambiance sync, the Duchess perfectly gracious despite the circumstances -- the air's sweeter in tonier atmospheres. A Spanish guitarist strumming songs by the pool, Olga Guillot -- temporarily suffering from voice problems -- commanding the crowd with anecdotes of Mexico. Songwriter Desmond Child arriving by boat, the skyline of Oz glimmering in the distance, her elegance reluctantly gearing up for a summer in Madrid: "I like the fact that everyone is treated the same here. Miami is so addictive, isn't it?" As it happens, a prophetic proclamation, the Duchess still in town for the Gibb celebrations some weeks later.

Switching tracks to an obsessive-compulsive party, a bad wet dream, the wealthy frolicking with models, overwrought teen vixens, ambitious thirtysomething gals, and assorted luxury maintenance personnel: pimps, hook-up artists, social columnists. Very jet-setty, in the worst possible way, the host an international party boy with curious connections. Euro-hustlers and a prominent female newscaster, who always turns up at the better mogul parties, cavorting with Saudi royals, narcoterrorists, Italian counts, wandering plunderers of the El Salvadoran founding families, wise guys, and a local developer escorted by former State Department personnel turned A-level bodyguards. Outside, the limos, Maseratis, and plain surveillance sedans littering the street, the old saw about great crimes being behind every great fortune holding fast, power and menace hanging heavy in the air. One gentleman, his face twisted with decadence, ready to impose the final solution on an associate: "We've got to really get rid of that guy."

Naturally enough, remaining studiously diplomatic, our favorite Latin American roue, always good for a free glass of Dom Perignon at Les Bains, giggling about an amusing tableau at La Voile Rouge in the south of France: "My friend was all in love with some girl there, and we walk in, and she's nude on the bar, spraying champagne all over her crotch. It was so delightfully demented." The evening wearing on, a butler running around with a camera, documenting the occasion Ö la the Warhol Factory days, an Italian woman dismissing our benefactor ("He's very young, very rich, and very horny") while sucking up his largess. For entertainment a group on the patio taking in a diverting scene: the host plainly visible through the upstairs master bedroom window, cajoling some model into the bathroom for God knows what Fatty Arbuckle high jinks. The girl storming out some minutes later, our host good-naturedly moving on to someone else. People of means do tend to stay focused on their life goals. At the time, the ecstatic wallow riveting beyond measure, but in hindsight, nothing but a tabernacle of degradation, Scarface revisited, the rapacious exhortation of Tony Montana coming to mind: "Miami is one big pussy waiting to be fucked.

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