Swelter 11

Home sweet home, immersed in a dangerous fallow period, nurturing our pet obsessions -- sex, fame, making a living -- and taking a breather from the tabernacle of degradation, these loathsome adventures in the societal trenches, this ring of fire and fury signifying nothing. It's all one big celebrity circle jerk, the money and shamelessness really gushing forth for PrimeTime Live's Diane Sawyer, debasing her profession before the beastly pairing of Michael Jackson and beard-wife/white-trash queen Lisa Marie Presley. Sinister stuff, despite the couple dismissing those charges of anti-Semitism, religious fanaticism, and ten-million-dollar payoffs for child molestation as nothing but tragic misunderstandings: In an ideal world, Elvis would come back and give them both a good whupping. And if Sawyer still considers herself a "serious journalist," we're definitely overdue for a raise. Howard Stern sidekick-in-filth Robin Quivers, a pioneer of lucrative dancing with the Devil, making a depressingly well-attended appearance at Borders Book Shop to hype her memoirs, Quivers: -- Life. The book, not that it really matters, breathtakingly vapid, a self-obsessed recounting of her tragedies, triumphs, romantic liaisons, and figure fluctuations. With all due disrespect, we're not talking Mahalia Jackson here.

In other breaking fluff from the unilateral conquest of trash culture, Melanie Griffith turning up on the Horatio Alger Awards as a cohost, presenting various plaudits to the bizarre. As it happens, Griffith a uniquely qualified success story, having bounced back big-time from a rough period over the loves me-loves-me-not Don Johnson: At one point, Griffith actually sympathizing with Forrest Gump's painful passion for an abusive woman. Now, through an act of divine voodoo, everyone's favorite working girl snatching Antonio Banderas from Daryl Hannah, who seemed to be closing in on him during the Two Much production. Former sex symbol Burt Reynolds hosting an auction this Saturday at his ranch in Jupiter, a surreal accumulation of artifacts -- from a Mercedes go-cart to signed Evening Shade scripts and a collection of Little Rascals tapes -- a step-right-up sale in the ashes of fame. The formerly anonymous Jim Carrey -- who we couldn't even be bothered to watch, let alone interview, during the production of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective on Espanola Way -- now very big, very newsworthy, and terminally inaccessible. Who knew? Art, romance, journalism, it's all the same shit, a dodgy business at heart.

The endgame of the weekend, ritualized recreation being an absurd notion when fun's your business: Armageddon, if nothing else, would break up the boredom of the day. Yet again missing an assortment of worthy public events -- Kostas & Tommy's Greek barbecue at the Fairmont Hotel, Mary Luft's sleepover benefit for Tigertail Productions at the Miami River Inn, Migel Delgado's "Sex 2000" show -- and staying suckled up to the bosom of the rich. Coral Gables for a beautiful house party, flowing with wine and good cheer, one woman beaming back to the Josephine Baker era: "Oh look, my husband is dancing with a Negress -- don't they look divine?" -- connected type reminiscing about Mary McFadden's old-meets-new-money dinner for Ivana Trump, dance instructors attending to regal crones. The first Mrs. Trump, who recently gave the prenup brushoff to companion Riccardo Mazzucchelli, commenting that "writing books is a lot easier than working for the Donald." Some Beach publicist -- is there one scrap of nonhype-tainted earth left? -- lobbing a celebrity sex sound bite about another girl-made-good, the naughty, bosoms-rule Anna Nicole Smith: "We were in Vegas together, right after everything hit about her mauling that baby sitter, hanging out with Tanya Tucker. Anna was coming on strong, grabbing these two guys and then hitting on Tanya, who tells her, 'You know, Anna, I have a reputation as a solid heterosexual.' Anna's all fucked up -- and not too bright anyway -- and starts to get even hornier, backing her into a corner: 'Tanya, that's great -- you go both ways, too.'"

It never ends, this itch of ambition and desire, the spring/summer rutting season unfolding, as Adelaide so aptly lamented in Guys and Dolls, like "a horrible dream." What with one petty circumstance or another, frantically stuck in town and reduced to summoning forth a kind of astral-projection holiday, a reverie of darkness from our last trip to New York City: Sex everywhere and, in our case, nowhere at once. Easing into the stygian depths of Kink City with real live cultivated people, the great salvation in the metropolis of the ugly. SoHo's enoki mushroom crowd, German filmmaker Winfried Bonegec -- of the new documentary Profession: Neo-Nazi -- talking of the vogue for Fourth Reich decadence among good burghers. On to the Elaine's arena, drinks with Lawrence Norfolk of Lempriere's Dictionary, other assorted beyond-serious novelists, and Barney Rosset, the legendary founder of Grove Press. -- survivor of a bazooka assault on his office by right-wing extremists upset over his publishing Che Guevara -- now the namesake of a British beer -- Rosset also coming under fire for Naked Lunch and Lady Chatterley's Lover. Heady company, and yet lots of easy Gutter Lite conversation, gonads putting everyone, geniuses and reporters alike, on the level ground of coarse commonality.

Down into the bowels of pop culture, a late-night taping of the Robin Byrd pornucopia cable show, passing abandoned theater marquees emblazoned with manifestoes of the fringe: "Many can bear adversity, but few can bear contempt." Out of the cab, the admonishment taking on a prophetic ring, a gang gal on the street being most insistent: "Give me some money, honky, or I'll cut your fucking dick off and jam it down your mama's throat." Fleeing into Byrdland, the usual union technician nodding off at the video panel in the shit-hole studio. A tiny, middle-age French woman negotiating the incessant clamor of the four-dollars-per-minute Byrdian sex line ("These people are so mean and crazy after midnight"), Byrd's fans turning ugly with the inevitable costly wait on hold. Several stars of erotica having bailed out, Byrd killing time with an evangelical monologue ("If you're home alone masturbating, remember that you'll always have me") as two anxious strippers, a boy and a girl, wait in the wings. Beside the "wall of shame" bulletin board, the muscle boy clutching his crotch as if he has to pee ("Jesus Christ, my dick's going to fall off") and making trade talk with the New Jersey girl-next-door type, the whole scene hopelessly banal.

After some squaring off with the monstrous Byrd over some protocol infraction -- bitches will be bitches -- it's show time, the great woman behind the camera ("Oh, that's so hot when you touch yourself") as the female dancer obligingly spreads her ass cheeks for the camera. The degradation of show biz steadily escalating during the male segment, the kid unveiling a cock ring -- attached an hour beforehand according to Byrd's edict of proper hotness -- his member painfully swollen. Afterward, the proud strippers joining Byrd for a brief chat, behaving as if they're doing the Tonight Show, a brief thong bikini not quite covering enough of the hostess's obscenely enormous ass. From there, bathetic phoned-in questions ("Do you go both ways?") pouring in over the transom, the cash register of porn singing a merry tune. As always, Byrd wrapping things up with her trademark "Bang Your Box" number, the female stripper patently uncomfortable as Byrd sucks on her nipples. Struck, yet again, by the lonely hell of New York, the atomized horror that would allow for a blatant hustler to profit so handsomely at the great well of human misery.

The sex-on-a-budget tour wrapping up in the East Village, where human life is cheap, and yet resolutely conscious of being a walking, talking, self-created, and oftentimes self-delusional metaphor of artistic realization. An evening in cutting-edge central, a private loft serving double duty as a tawdry performance space, monologist Amanda Vogel proving that whininess, despite considerable appeal, still does not qualify as an art form. The truly horny Vogel, a thirtysomething creature embodying the intense desperation of the New York prowl -- so much time, so few viable men -- railing against the male taste for uncomplicated young flesh: "I'm older and there's a few flaws now, but do you know how many skanky cocks I had to suck to learn how to do it right?" A good point, Vogel dodging a stalker in the audience -- maybe she's a tad fabulous -- and ruinously crossing the battle lines of the sexes: "How many of the men here are afraid of my sexual sophistication?" Naturally, no hands raised, the gentle art of cocksucking being a prized talent. Unfortunately, Vogel inspiring the same lack of enthusiasm with a plaintive question: "How many of you men would go out with me on a date?" Even in the modern era, a man's got to draw the line somewhere.

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