Swelter 15

The world needs more love, not more gossip columnists. But then, rooting through the detritus of Western culture, all the gratuitous innuendo, celebrity filth, and pop culture newsbites is so much more rewarding. A decidedly ignoble occupation, of course, the practitioners of the trade generally regarded as venom-spewing maggots, prissy little creatures who revere Addison De Witt as a role model. The cliche, according to a woman interviewing us for an article on modern scum-digging, yielding to a new dawn of vigorous reporters, boldly going where no self-respecting journalist has ever gone before. A strangely uncomforting trend, the horror of simply being considered a gossip columnist enough to make anyone sick with spite, contempt, and self-loathing.

The perfect state of mind, as it happens, for the dirty-laundry beat. Out on the rounds, a once quasi-noble mind completely overthrown, settling for the most exasperating famous person imaginable, Gloria Estefan, the last nondisgusting celebrity in Miami. Estefan making yet another consummately professional appearance at the opening of her new restaurant, Allioli South Beach Cafe, handily situated in the lobby of the Cardozo, one more cog in a burgeoning real estate empire. The Estefans arriving in a huge Rolls-Royce, the pomp and circumstance broadcast live on Y-100: "And here she comes; listen to her fans go wild."

Gloria's every movement accompanied by seismographic shifts in the room, waves of worker bees flocking in formation around the queen. Glamour goes to glamour, money goes to money, Miami's first couple attracting a heady mix of both elements: Allioli co-owner Felipe Valls, the clamoring media, local celebrities like Bryan Norcross, Spandex girls, ordinary fans looking for autographs. The hopelessly nice Estefan mentioning her fondness for "News of the Weird" once again, a soundbite loop from a previous encounter. Our thoughts consumed with an image of the Sound Machine in the early days, hungry for fame and glory, playing disco covers on the charity ball circuit during our all-too-brief stint as a chronicler of the monied classes. The years passing, the gods of ego demarcation imposing their decree: one aspirant becoming a homegirl legend/international supernova, the other a denizen in the shadows of downtown, scrambling for crumbs and cheap publicity. It couldn't have happened to two more deserving people.

The Gloriana revel inspiring a taste for the national arena, the deserving and the merely relentless struggling for position in the vast Home Psychic Network that is modern America. Village Voice columnist Michael Musto winning the Shannen Dougherty category on the game show Rumour Has It, the celebrity data bank playfully comparing his own place in the ecosystem to "Jackie during that fateful moment in Dallas," ruefully settling on a terrain somewhere between Pia Zadora's daughter Kady and the Indian from the Village People. Another colleague carving a scatological niche, reporting on Sean Penn's penchant for shitting in lunchboxes on movie sets, the late Danny Thomas supposedly given to lying under glass coffee tables, letting hired girls do the dirty work. Cher signing a pact with the infomercial devil, getting ten million for an eternally embarrassing faux let's-chat-about-hair talk show, inspiring a Sandy Gallin-engineered program of laying low professionally. Our source, a prominent television executive, noting that "any actor in Hollywood, even somebody like Marlon Brando, would do infomercials A we're talking unlimited money." More money and mainstream acceptance coming shortly to Xuxa, the Brazilian soft porn actress turned kids show host, debuting an English language talk show in the fall. You can't keep a good woman down.

Drawn back, what with one thing or another, into the local scene, picking up stray tidbits, pining for glitz. Attorneys Bradshaw Lotspeich and John Allison successfully defending Paparazzi Ristorante in an eviction proceeding filed by the Breakwater Hotel, an investment team negotiating for Mario's South Beach. The great bossa nova pioneer Joao Gilberto, an unbelievably gifted performer, playing TOPA Saturday night. Monti Rock, the Puerto Rican cult figure, doing a six-week revue called "Tres Bizarre," premiering August 19 at Michael's Pub in New York. Tiny Tim and Tubby Boots sharing the bill, the Rock working on his classic Norma Desmond routine, totally over a recent Mary Poppins stage: "You know, my problem is that I really want to be fabulous, but I want to be normal, too."

The weekend bringing an array of normal and sort-of-fabulous entertainments. Dinner at the very pretty SoBe Bar & Rotisserie, the crowd representing the odds and ends of what constitutes Beach society: drag star Kitty Meow, developer Mitchell Rubinson, party boy Bobby Radical, a covey of models. On to Club One for another legendary Puerto Rican export, Tito Puente, the master of invincible rhythm leading his band through a selection of truly popping numbers. Mr. "Top Pleasure" coasting a little after 100 albums and 40 years in the trenches, goofing on rhythm-dysfunctional Anglos, mugging and chatting with female fans during the obligatory rendition of "Beautiful Maria." The concert closing down with the new La Lupe, a ripe chanteuse in a tight black jumpsuit accented with gold lame fringe, another Latin entertainer of the my-mirror-must-be-lying school. Major fun throughout, glamourpusses with satanic lipstick chugging around with Johnnie Walker Red dates, a welcome respite from the same old scenery.

Momentarily content, and then the inevitable slide into the less- than-scenic wilderness of after-hours land, one big lather of interpersonal contact. Truly, other people are hell. A cliterati sex monkey with "Slippery When Wet" tattooed on her inner thigh, making a handjob motion as a seductive ploy: "Do you ever get to screw the people you write about?" An irate gay fan screaming "Pussy-fucker!" into the void, the phrase apparently entering the lexicon of heterophobic insults. More pitched battles for sex and pointless notoriety, feeling like an evangelist of small-change fame, a mere channeler of others' ambitions, delusions, and twisted faith. Battered and shattered, brooding about the gossip trade, the endless chasing after trifles. Lost in the maelstrom, a sustaining story about Truman Capote suddenly coming to mind. One of our more connected friends reminiscing about the ultimate sacred monster, off-handedly unveiling the haunting literary mystery of Answered Prayers, the dream tome of every gossip columnist mired in the immediate: "At Halston's one night, I ran into Truman and asked him how the book was going. He told me that keeping up on everything, all the phone calls and magazines that came in the mail, was too much for him. By the time he waded through it all, he was just too exhausted to actually write anything.


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