It was around 2:00 a.m. on Monday, August 30 when I ventured into the alleyway behind Mansion for OutKast's MTV Video Music Awards after party. I had just spoken to the publicist overlooking the velvet rope in front of the club, telling her I was on the press list. She instructed me to go behind Mansion, where I found a phalanx of photographers and reporters eagerly standing behind a barricade.

I hailed the person in charge of the press list. "I wish you had gotten here earlier," he told me in a tired voice. He confirmed that I was on the list, but said I couldn't go in via the red carpet. "You're supposed to enter at the front of the building," he said. So I circled around to Mansion's entrance, stood at the velvet rope, and waited, and waited, for him to emerge from the club.

He never showed up.

While I was standing there, trying not to feel embarrassed and angry, I realized that I was experiencing a frustration all too common among people who visit local nightclubs. Indeed, the weeklong series of events that coincided with the MTV VMAs turned out to be a Waterloo for all the journalists, club kids, and other VIPs who usually get access to anything, no matter what the situation is. But this admittedly special occasion fomented a toxic brand of South Bitch asshole-ism few of us conquered, even if we were already credentialed and approved for a particularly hot party. Maybe we deserved to be dealt with by a nightclub promoter or bouncer like everyone else for a change. After all, being treated like shit is something the average partygoer usually has to deal with in this town.

Which makes it worth asking: why do so many people go to these clubs with expensive drinks, B-movie actors, moronic rappers, brittle supermodels, and other forms of rampant egomania? Why do they adhere to the stupid dress codes? Why do they stand in line and endure abuse from obnoxious, thickheaded, power-tripping door people who only allow the so-called beautiful people to walk past the velvet rope? What's fun about spending $1000 on a bottle of alcohol while the DJ plays records you've already heard a thousand times on the radio?

If I encountered the level of bullshit that was par for the course during VMA week (and particularly that Sunday night) on a regular basis, I would never want to visit a local nightclub again. I've had plenty of great nights, however, partying on the Washington Avenue strip. In fact, this past Saturday I went to an evening party Michael Capponi gave at the Shore Club that exuded sophistication and good vibes. Then, I checked out two hot performances by the Beastie Boys and De La Soul during MTV's LIFEBeat benefit concert at crobar. I ended the night with a chaotic visit to Opium Garden, where DJ Irie rocked the turntables for a dance floor packed with happily tipsy dancers.

There are several venues that emphasize cool and progressive parties and concerts, from Jazid and Marlin Bar to Lounge 16 and Liquor Lounge, for those who have grown tired of upscale clubs and lounges. Nevertheless, the "booty and bottles" joints dominate the landscape. To paraphrase an old saying, you can't fight a city. No matter how much I want things to change, or even evolve, into something more complex and substantive, I realize South Beach won't be discarding its ice queen identity anytime soon. The area has made too much money from its reputation as the American Riviera.

And let's be clear: MTV didn't bring the VMAs to Miami because of the greatness of the city of Miami. All the city of Miami really got out of the VMAs was some good press, two relatively successful block parties, and a heap of trash generated by overzealous street teams for miscellaneous rappers and R&B singers. Which may be why, when P. Diddy announced during the Video Music Awards broadcast on Sunday night that he wanted to show the world what Miami was all about, he brought out a booty-shaking chorus of girls in hot pants furiously gyrating to some rap song I can't remember, a scene you'll find in a South Beach club on any given night.

Yes, our fair metropolis seems to revolve around sex. When it's 100 degrees outside and all you see are half-naked people walking around, it's difficult to think about much else. Accordingly, the dream merchants who run much of the Beach sell us fun, frivolity, sensuality, and inaccessibility. For them, standing outside of a nightclub, waiting in vain to be allowed past the velvet rope, is all part of an extended flirtation that can lead to consummation or disappointment.

So we engage these merchants, looking for qualities they seem to have in abundance (celebrities, a fizzy pop soundtrack, laser lights, and a booming sound system) and ignore the ones they often lack (live music and good conversation). We stand outside the velvet rope and pay for an experience; some of us, with our VIP credentials, hustle our way past the rope without spending a dime.

But if club promoters or owners act as if they are too good for you, and pretend that you are not attractive or important enough to enter their establishments, then I suggest you take your business elsewhere. Miami is bigger than South Beach, and South Beach is bigger than Mansion.


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