Swelter 27

Saturday evening and all's quiet on the South Beach front. Inclement weather tends to scare off the amateurs, and the presence of a police convention keeps the ultraviolence droogs down to a steady drizzle. S.O.B's morphing into Temptations, new management and new attitudes, going Latin-a-go-go with the bands Puertorican Power and Grupo Macambila. On lower Collins Avenue, Michael Mitchell in development for the Vault S.O.B.E., an enormous dance palace set to open in early November. Mitchell, a Washington, D.C., native who's doing the club with his wife Sara, renovating a historic bank building that dates back to the days of Al Capone as a celebrity client. Looking to the Vault's future, Michael Mitchell cranking up the engine of commerce: "We're mixing bare industrial looks -- like the original bank-teller bars -- with Renaissance-style paintings and plush sofas, going for a trendy European feeling. The market is so different here, like night and day.

Camera crews showing up later on Ocean Drive for a restaurant opening, the most debased form of social interaction known to mankind. But then the restaurant in question is the newest Mezzaluna, made notorious by the O.J. Simpson technicolor freak show A attorney Ellis Rubin and gay divorcee Barbara Storer being the only remotely famous people in attendance.

The scraps-and-flash tour winding on to Max's South Beach, chef Kerry Simon looking forward -- the Max's team scouting for spaces in Las Vegas -- and behind as well. A year and a half down the road, and Simon's still in litigation over his eight-month stint at Debbie Ohanian's Starfish, money matters tending to focus one's interest indefinitely. Farther up Washington Avenue, a boutique hotelier still smarting from the recent How Can I Be Down? hip-hop convention: "The staff people were perfect guests, but these rap stars were unbelievable -- dropping their pants and smoking joints, leaving their mopeds parked in the lobby. One room had vomit in the shower stall, blood stains on the floor, and someone had taken a shit in the closet." Now, that's really hardcore.

No fool in the face of a losing proposition or a slow Saturday night, opting to take dinner with quiet money on Sunset Island, the Brooke Pallot princess-for-a-day birthday celebration. Fabulous trash being my usual milieu, all the nice normal people a tad discomfiting, though repeated trips to the buffet table eased the stranger-in-a-strange-land alienation. And fortuitously enough, fellow social survivor Arthur Page -- the last gentleman in Miami -- turning up, awash in cheap nostalgia: "What happened to all those private affairs of the Eighties, where no one ever knew or cared who the host was? In those days we all lived by the cardinal rule, 'A fool and his money are a great party.'

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