Swelter 24

Miami, another year of hype and hustle in the city of ambition, another rush to seize the moment in the town that glamour built. A tropical metropolis tumbling pell-mell into the consciousness of the world, simultaneously hyperventilating and falling apart, uncannily like an overextended Caribbean nation with attitude problems. Warm, bountiful, ripe for exploitation, and yet nothing ever seems to work, the ungrateful natives turning surly and disreputable, ready to prey on the unwary and ruin perfectly good real estate.

Hard Rock Cafe opening at Bayside with all due flash and pageantry, the masses lining up along a red carpet leading to the portals of McRockland, pining for somebody, anybody, famous. The frenzy building into a collective willed delusion, the old-Virgin-Mary-sighted-in-New-Jersey-story. Demi Moore, wife of Planet Hollywood principal Bruce Willis, supposedly walking in like a true star, too big to concern herself with petty theme-restaurant squabbles. Hyped and deluded, our professional gyroscope going askew amidst all the agitation, flashing a tentative look-but-don't-touch smile in the direction of the little people, entering Hamburger Heaven and rudely discovering that Moore, along with every other viable celebrity, suffering from other conflicting commitments.

The fringes of fame, having less pressing schedules than Demi and Bruce, turning up everywhere like the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, drawing strength from the godhead, surrounded by the legends who had the good sense to die young, rich, and forever famous. Gloria Estefan and George Harrison sending their respective sisters, Seventies-something legend Harry Casey of K.C. and the Sunshine Band making an actual personal appearance, primed for attention and real rough around the edges. Losing faith and scaling back to low-grade material, mistakenly interviewing a faux Fab Morvan, half-heartedly searching for Swedish guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, locally recognized as a devotee of Sid Vicious-revisited domestic violence. Flutist/Kendall Toyota infomercial perennial Nestor Torres on hand, along with Chayanne, working on his first English-language album. Monti Rock III less than pleased by the available talent pool ("Nestor, K.C. wearing one of my old outfits, and me -- no wonder I'm leaving Miami") and in development once again. The Rock "tired of being Monti" and bidding farewell to show business, doing a swan song emcee stint at this weekend's International Fashion Outlet show, moving to Los Angeles for the founding of the Monti Rock Hair Salons chain. Out of the horror, going with the gods of fabulousness.

The frenzy of renown unappeased, settling for the civic set, embracing a variation of the Hard Rock "Love All, Serve All" motto: a crush of food, liquor, and rabid networking, benefiting Camillus House and the greater good of commerce. Banker Carlos Arboleya lurking around the kitchen, waiting for a special order of burgers, zillionaire Thomas Kramer in a lone wolf phase, native beauty Kirsten Luft in step with the tropical aesthetic: "Hey, it's Miami, it's always disgusting -- just go with it." Camillus House represented by Brother Paul Johnson and the energetic Dr. Joe Greer, just back from meeting with the Clintons on the new health care reform package: "I'm concerned about so much power on the local level; the city, county, and state don't give us any money now. With all the alliances and politics down here, poor people will get fucked again." The celebrity fuck paling into insignificance, Greer being that ultimate rarity, a truly engaged man, casting a hard light on the interminable dicking around that constitutes ordinary existence.

Taking a few days off for trashy behavior, the gaping maw of the pop life, celebrity tidbits trickling in. SoBe Rotisserie & Bar having a party for partner Ed Marinaro, posing for a boys-night-out shot with Dan Marino and Frank Costa. Out in the club mall, catching up on the passing parade. Hypester John Hood working Arthur Barron's retro-styled Rose's Bar & Lounge, softly opening October 1. Versace's new district store opening this holiday season, the Ocean Drive palazzo -- leap for joy, boys -- on Valentine's Day. Someone speculating about the perfect Beach celebrity creation for the party, a hybrid cross between a drag queen and a developer, another social veteran relaying an end-of-the-rainbow tale about Madonna. Material girl actually upset by US magazine dismissing her as "over," reduced to midnight popcorn and whining on the phone to her friends, one confidant noting, "You know, she's a person, too." The high and mighty, depressingly enough, even more obsessed with the trivial than regular folk, and equally prepared to shit on their own parades.

Stumbling into the weekend, the phrase "looking like shit" not quite capturing the full extent of our decline. A tribal theme/jungle boogie night at Bash, Haitian drummers pounding away, calling the faithful for another ritualized night of play. Ignoring the bright young things and talking shop with co-owner Alexis Ougrik and Lily Zanardi of Stilnovo, Ougrik opening a 25,000-square-foot club/restaurant in Moscow called Phoenix, Zanardi doing the interiors and furnishings, aiming for the upper-end market. The duo raving about Moscow, a new frontier town teeming with nightlife exploitation potential, sort of a cold version of Miami. Rife with new money, casinos, prostitutes, and gangsters, wild and wide open. Out into the fetid streets, a German group and the Clevelander Hotel team putting together clubs on Washington Avenue, Joey Goldman creating a Groucho's-meets-Harry's Bar lounge next to Velvet. The city metastasizing into a massive amusement park, driven by the same insistent dance beat, Ougrik remarking that "Miami Beach is one big club: day or night, it's only a question of lighting."

Late Saturday afternoon in Mecca, the endless song everywhere at once, the chant of the muezzin at dusk, beckoning to the fashionable world. Lost in dreamy longings, coming upon Skyler Thomas of Don't Panic! -- the Los Angeles-based, gay-owned apparel company -- settling in the old Kowtow records location, happy to be in hip central. Thomas, an ex-comic who's profited handsomely from T-shirts inscribed with catchy punchlines ("Nobody Knows I'm Gay"; "The Few, the Proud, the Queer"), shooting for an October 15 opening. West Hollywood, Provincetown, New York, and now, inevitably, South Beach: "Getting a space here is like passing an audition -- key money, do two flips backwards -- but everybody in L.A. is talking about the Beach. It's more like West Hollywood than the real place. Both have diverse cultures, a large gay community, glitz, good weather. Same problems, too, naturally: the crime, police insensitivity, whatever. But then, if you want to feel like you're really living someplace on the planet -- and not some isolated backwater town -- all that stuff comes with the package."

"Hey, it's Miami, it's always disgusting -- just go with it."
Miami, the hype, the hustle: (clockwise from top) Hard Rock Cafe staff dancing for joy in a celebrity void; Ed Marinaro, Frank Costa, and Dan Marino at SoBe Rotisserie & Bar; Skyler Thomas of Don't Panic entering the gay fashion arena


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