Swelter

Let's stay in the visual arena, an important thing in life, and shuffle out on the rounds, careen a bit between the past and present. A hobo on the runaway train to a good time, ready for anything, everything, and nothing. Sunday night, and it's Bar None, Sylvester Stallone -- in town briefly after the production of his upcoming film Daylight in Rome -- having an exhibition of his surprisingly dark paintings at the club. Given that Stallone's a fellow alumnus of the University of Miami, I naturally had to go support our most famous graduate. As a UM boy made good, Stallone on target with the sound bites: "For me it's like working out on a punching bag -- I don't paint windmills and flowers."

For varying reasons, other guests -- famous and not-so-famous -- turned out as well, from model Niki Taylor ("The paintings are rock and roll, but kind of dreamy, too") to actors Steve Guttenberg of Police Academy 3 and Stephen Dorff of the Blood and Wine production, currently shooting in Miami. The amiable Dorff was accompanied by Peter McQuaid, who's writing a story on the actor for Out magazine, Dorff set to play transvestite legend Candy Darling in the upcoming film I Shot Andy Warhol. Dorff on a something of a club roll, having been in Bar None the night before with Jack Nicholson and Johnny Depp.

Unfortunately, my fecklessness precluded personal appearances at other perfectly respectable art events such as Kenny Scharf's "Heads" opening at the Center for the Fine Arts. Scharf, a card-carrying survivor of the television generation and Warhol's "Canvas Kids" set (Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, et al.) doing a surrealistic fun-house number. Scharf is still downtown after all these years, and still capable of attracting a roll-call-of-the-eclectic crowd, with notable heads turning out for the "Heads" opening and gala dinner afterward at Tap Tap restaurant: Craig Robins of DACRA; artist Ed Ruscha; CFA benefactor Nedra Oren; actress Debi Mazar, staying with artist Oli Sanchez (who works with Scharf and has his own show up at the Clean Machine) and Sanchez's wife Min. The mix was all so very Andy, as they used to say in the golden days.

Another evening, and there's Debi Mazar dining at Yuca on Lincoln Road with Oli and Min Sanchez. Mazar, dressed in a drop-dead black dress and cuddling her poodle Dolores, turned out to be the ultimate postmodern star, a neighborhood girl adept at generating both glamour and laughs. There's the movie thing (Jungle Fever, GoodFellas, Little Man Tate, and Toys), as well as an upcoming lunge at sitcom land: "I'm taking a break here before going back into the hustle of L.A." An enviable social life comes with the cultural territory, apparently, the trio having spent New Year's Eve at Gianni Versace's house. A woman of many worlds, Mazar consistently entertaining on the chattering classes: "It was sort of quiet this year, intimate and really beautiful. Bruce Weber and Steven Meisel were there, but no huge names except for Cher. There were some strange queens around, though. One of them walked up to my boyfriend and said, 'Hi, I'm Matthew -- I masturbate a lot.' Can you imagine? Then a bunch of us went out to some club, a real zoo, and this doorman grabbed my arm. I was like, 'You don't want to go there. Throw shade, but don't be rude or touch me.'"

The same old story, up and down the great guest list of life: One minute you're at the ultimate New Year's Eve party with all the really cool kids, and the next you've got doorman problems. In the meantime it's the countdown to the millennium, where there's always something old and something new. Like, say, drug raids: Groove Jet, Twist, and Glam Slam, among others getting hit. Shocking, absolutely shocking. But then without drugs the milieu of clubs makes even less sense.

Naturally, I drank at home and missed all the action, although friendly Floridian duty entailed yet another club tour with an odd sampler of tourists, none of whom knew each other. A certain Duane from New York City, working on a book about gay social climbing, telling the real story: "These boys go from ketchup sandwiches in the East Village to private jets, but they pay a terrible price." In an ironic twist, Duane, who seemed to know everybody -- from a Czech prince to the lowliest gossip columnist -- happened to be staying in the penthouse of art dealer Robert Miller. Then there were the two young girls from the Northeast looking for entertainment without psychodrama -- fat chance, given my patented why-am-I-here whining. To round out the group, there was the formally dressed art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, who seemed to be equally mesmerized by everything.

For no particular reason, we started off at Liquid's "Plushbox," the better class of lesbians all about. The gang entranced by the very hip Japanese animation on the monitors, one erect beast getting his dick lopped off by two girls with a grudge. At that point a sure-fire crowd pleaser -- the Warsaw amateur strip contest -- was in order, and the caravan moved on. At Warsaw we all gazed at the beautiful and worshipful, sugar daddies giving the erect strippers tips rather than hatchet jobs. Oh, the price those boys pay.

Around 2:00 a.m. Duane's royal friend, the Czech prince, showed up with his nonroyal boyfriend, proper pronoun usage turning a tad sloppy among the fast set -- bitch this, bitch that. But Duane was all that and more, noting as he eyeballed me: "He's the Proust of these trashy people down here, but his column is sooo long." Inspired by the overhype, I went on to other conversations with the regulars, the evening going demented: the idea of gay years being roughly equivalent to dog years, with 30 being an logical threshold for euthanasia; whether an intelligent bottom or a dumb but macho top is preferable in a pinch; a prominent local celeb and his dark private life -- you know him, you love him, and there are reasons you would never think of having sex with him.

It was all suitable, in a Proustian way, for a tightened-up Remembrance of Things Past, and Deitch's story about Anselm Kiefer's profound social statement in New York made the evening complete. Kiefer, whose tortured paintings relate to the Holocaust and German angst, became the star of the Eighties art world but misstepped with one spectacular affair in the city of ambition. It's all ashes and dust, and in the end parties are all that matter in a world of pitiless triviality.

Deitch capturing the cruelty of the whirl: "Throughout the Eighties, Kiefer had always lived a reclusive life in Germany with his wife. Then he took up with his head assistant, a woman with social ambitions. He left his wife, moved to New York, and immediately bought Julian Schnabel's place. Then, encouraged by the girlfriend, he decided to host a grand debut, some two years ago now. Every important art figure in New York, many of whom had never met him, were invited to a white theme party at this hired loft -- the female guests were required to wear white. The concept of Kiefer having a party was so bizarre and mysterious, and it became the most sought-after invitation of the year.

"Beforehand we all went to a curious Kiefer exhibit at Marian Goodman's gallery. In one room he'd stacked up an enormous pile of his paintings and raw materials, as if they were all garbage. The plan was to throw everything away after the show, to avoid selling the work and paying his ex-wife more alimony. It was very angry, a powerful statement of contempt. In the next room there were all these white artist's sketch pads, with 'Twenty Years of Solitude' written on a banner around the room. On each page of the sketch pads he'd masturbated -- every day for twenty years, carefully marking down the time and date. All that fame, those millions of dollars he'd made, and there he was alone and masturbating in Germany.

"Afterward there was some sort of logistical problem at the party, and everyone had to wait at the door, as if we were at a nightclub. Inside the loft there were carcasses hanging from the ceiling, pigs and cows and such. The food was all white as well, pig intestines, brains, that kind of thing, served on silver trays by waiters. He'd hired drag queens to mingle with the guests, but they weren't particularly popular or pleasant. I suppose they weren't too happy with all these art-world fools. Naturally no one could eat anything, and people left early, offended and disgusted by this disaster. Right after that Kiefer sold Schnabel's place and bought an entire village in Provence, returning to his seclusion. With one party his life changed overnight, and nothing was ever the same again.

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