Swelter 33

As it turned out, a sudden seizure of personal ambition, an actual appearance in Boca Raton for the conference's wrap-up gala dinner, wasn't all that great. Marvin Hamlisch, who's no Cole Porter or Keanu, entertained the troops. Unlike officious occasions in Miami, there seemed to be a ban on table hopping, and I gave up a search for Christie Hefner and other important people worthy of ass kissing. And then, further down the food chain, there was the sobering prospect of a free-lance writer at the press-ghetto table who pitched herself with a cheery photocopied letter of introduction: "For those of you who find my methods enterprising and innovative, not to mention my 'chutzpah' charming, I would be happy to personally hand you a resume." No matter where you go, there's always someone ready to make you wake up and smell the coffee.

Although the despairs of delusion are an occupational hazard, social columnists learn, like Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, that dreams -- along with happiness and a good time -- also come with the territory. And a three-day wallow in Micky Wolfson World, the gala weekend for the Wolfsonian Foundation Gallery on Washington Avenue, brought joy and epiphanies beyond measure. An ideal encapsulation of fifteen years spent in the trenches of local society, an upbeat ending suitable for a DreamWorks basic-human-values production. If only the docudrama didn't have to start all over again next week.

The merriment began on Thursday night at a South Beach-as-trendy-bordello restaurant with a Micky-cousin from London, Michael Wolfson, a furniture/sculpture/objets de vertues designer who's currently having a "Golden Distortions" exhibition at the Richard Himmel Antique and Decorative Furniture gallery in Dania. Wolfson bringing along Fred Lech of the Centrium gallery in San Francisco, and a jolly time was had by all, conversation touching on royal weddings, private London clubs, and vital matters of taste. My favorite living-well-is-the-best-revenge homeboy at the table giving us all something to chew on with his take on the international whirl: "Monkeys party, Americans work."

Exactly. The following day bringing a welcome professional opportunity, Michael Wolfson kindly providing an invitation to the $500-per-person sneak preview of the museum's inaugural exhibition, "The Arts of Reform and Persuasion, 1885-1945." Atmospheres never get too rarefied for me, and the reception in the galleries proved blissfully press-free, a circumstance that lends petty glory and bold-face potential to any occasion: Adolpho Leirner of Sao Paulo; Princess Mimi Romanoff of Russia; Baron Paolo Von Wedel of Italy; Beth DeWoody, the New York-based socialite who must have clones everywhere operating as party doubles; Peggy Loar and Wendy Kaplan from the Wolfsonian; Micky's old friends' contingent, true gentlemen such as Bill Kenny and Alfred Kennedy, both of Atlanta.

And then there's my forever-and-a-day pal Manuel E. Gonzalez, vice president and director of the art program at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York, being quotable ("I've just arrived from the Home for the Holidays premiere in Los Angeles, where I dined with Mel Gibson A surprisingly short, your height") and productive, Chase having given $150,000 to the Wolfsonian. Also the always perfect Bixie Matheson, who's entered the work force as development director at Channel 2. Everyone, royal and commoner alike, agog before an amazingly beautiful exhibit, encompassing everything from skyscraper-shape bookcases to circa World War II propaganda posters. All in all, a true triumph.

Day three, and a stretch of Washington Avenue is blocked off for the Propaganda Ball costume soiree: the amiable Argentinian Julia Valentine going as Evita, other costume marvels including faux gangsters John and Susan Rothchild, and Joey Horton as a sailor boy. After a while, all the parties of the past begin to blur with the immediate world, the locals assuming the characteristics of a dysfunctional family in the throes of a grand reunion: Some you've always loved, some you've grown to loathe, and some of the more shameful relatives never bothered to step foot in the museum. At once everyone seems endearingly familiar and hopelessly alien, but we all belong to one another. And in the end the people you know make a city home, and you come to love where you live not because of the good, but as a disavowal of the bad. A party is a party is party, but the Wolfsonian itself endures. At last, something tasteful this way comes.

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