The Life in Nightlife

If the South Beach club scene appears comatose, it could be that not enough drag queens are screeching at each other

"Area spent an average -- in 1985 dollars -- of $35,000 to $40,000 just to change the décor of the club for a particular party," Rudolf recalls. "I was a participant in some events at the Palladium that cost $250,000 to put together, again in Eighties dollars. They never made that money back on that night, of course not. Especially because they didn't have bottle service ... " (the practice of marking up bottles of liquor several hundred dollars for sale to customers at VIP tables). "Those parties never made back their cost, but they gave the charisma, the punch, the presence to bring in the people between those parties, the people who would spend money."

Accordingly, while Studio 54 may be famed for such over-the-top sights as Bianca Jagger astride a white stallion, it was bar mitzvah parties (such as those of Michael Tronn, co-maestro of crobar's popular gay weekly Anthem) that pulled in the profits. "People buy into the dream," Rudolf adds wistfully, "and that's what's missing right now. There are so many clubs in Miami, but none of them make you dream."

Rudolf Pieper says cool club kids like Danny and Tanya are a necessary ingredient in any thriving nightlife scene
Steve Satterwhite
Rudolf Pieper says cool club kids like Danny and Tanya are a necessary ingredient in any thriving nightlife scene

Back at the Miss Florida pageant, the competition is heating up. Danielle Hunter, emcee of the moment, takes the microphone and gleefully announces: "The swimsuit category is coming up and the duct tape is flying backstage!"

Kulchur isn't about to budge -- particularly with a drag tribute to the victims of September 11 also on the way -- but Rudolf is stifling a yawn. He excuses himself for a stroll while Danny and Tanya also rise, plotting a circuitous route to the restrooms that they hope will avoid contact with Wanda.

A short time later Kulchur's reverie is broken by a now visibly re-energized Rudolf. "The police are involved!" he gleefully relates of the near-melee currently unfolding in the Fontainebleau's lobby. Despite their skulking, Danny and Tanya were spotted by eagle-eyed Wanda, and as the loud insults began flying, the pair rushed over to two police officers conveniently stationed nearby. Despite urgent entreaties, though, neither officer was jumping to unholster his sidearm. As Tanya and Danny worked themselves into a frenzy, Wanda simply sat demurely with a bemused look on her face.

Why, one officer earnestly asked Tanya, was Wanda so hell-bent on smacking her down? Rudolf pauses for effect, careful to deliver Tanya's answer with just the right degree of gravity. "She told the officer: 'Wanda wants to kill us because we're blond! She hates blonds!"

Rudolf flashes a smile and nods his head in admiration. Now that is nightlife.

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