Memento mori, a dance to the music of time, the distinctions between past, present, and future blurring, the curious workings of memory and delusion taking hold. The brain, lately, one big quadruplex theater of postmodern nostalgia, cacophonous Sensurround images and floating scraps of dialogue, the portable movie sliding in and out of focus on the nightly rounds, a blessed buffer against the crush of reality.

The real-life package tour commencing with a fashion show at the Biscayne Bay Marriott, "A 1993 Splash of Fashions" presented by Shades Productions. Former Miss America Suzette Charles, the ex-Mike Tyson companion who sprang to glory after the fall of Vanessa Williams, serving as ceremonial mistress, living out a sequel to her All About Eve coronation. All sweetness and light on-stage, of course, Charles's star treatment demands backstage working nerves. An interesting accumulation of clothes and models, however, waltzing through various subgenres of fashion: "Evening prowl." "It's a man's world, but women live in it." "Wild and daring."

Prowling on, sort of wild, sort of manly. SoBe Bar & Rotisserie opening on Washington Avenue last Friday with a M”et & Chandon theme party. A conversation with David Winer of WPA and the redolently named Stray Dog on Espanola Way, the new bar opening Tuesday, June 29, Winer catering to the nightlife politic at large: "We want it to be a real alternative, a place that everyone can feel comfortable in, not just kids. A mixed bag of music from the Twenties to the Nineties, Frank Sinatra to Madonna. The space is beautiful, with a huge mural and a Gothic/Romanesque look A we're going for drama and comfort."

Life as a hastily produced docudrama continuing apace, the comfort level varying widely. Yet another banal afternoon, overcome by futility and the domestic nightmare, interrupted by a welcome cry for help from the Ron & Ron radio show, the idea being that the wacky Rons would descend unannounced on local celeb homes at dawn, hoping for comic rebukes and coffee klatches. In a lather over the perfect journalism-as-terrorism scheme, crashing a Thomas Kramer party at Joe's Stone Crab and finding, to our great regret, a gathering of civic-minded architects rather than the legendary wine-and-women free-for-alls. Avoiding the back portion of the restaurant, a cardboard sign with a scrawled "B-Room" hanging over the door, running into a very effusive Miami Beach city commissioner. The former club investor thanking us -- nine years too late -- for a gratifyingly profitable review of the old Biscayne Baby in Coconut Grove. Always a pleasure to make money for other people.

On to dinner at Bang with Tara Solomon, the Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons of Miami getting along famously. Julian Bain's "Drag Queen Dating Game" at Aqua, the drags getting off some good lines ("I'll consent to anything, as long as it involves money"), Brooklyn home boy/contestant Luigi Scorcia in lipstick and sequined top, being a real good sport. Fat Black Pussy Cat, two very touching encounters A an autograph request and a young girl of a philosophical bent, author of a short story apparently based on our life A neatly balanced with a woman insisting on the fourth estate's function as human tape recorders. The public glamour, the private hell, alleviated by a soothing vision of the very immediate future, a week off from the frix and fray of Grub Street.

The life of journalism, literature, and just about everything else chewed over during a lunch with Dominick Dunne on South Beach, Dunne in town promoting his eminently engrossing A Season in Purgatory. The novel, among other things, a classic study of just how trashy rich people can be, with touches of Brideshead Revisited and the The Great Gatsby, the vast, never-ending carelessness of the wealthy. Dunne, one of the few remaining moralists in whorehouse America, hanging the story around the ultimate act of power for the rich: technically getting away with murder, although punishment for hubris being invariably meted out in subtler ways.

In the book, Constant Bradley, the golden son of a powerful Irish-Catholic family, meets an innocent young girl at a country club dance, kills her in a drunken rage, and then faces a highly publicized trial many years later. Although Dunne is quick to point out that the family is fictional, there are parallels to the Kennedy clan and actual events: the 1991 rape trial of William Kennedy Smith, the still unsolved 1975 murder of fifteen-year-old Martha Moxley in Greenwich, Connecticut, with one of the suspects being a nephew of Ethel Kennedy.

Dunne proving to be the ideal luncheon companion, a walking Rolodex of celebrity and gossip, a good talker and an even better listener: "People have told me things my whole life." At ease socially, totally centered and composed, a past of substance abuse during the Hollywood years A cocaine, drink, keeping a joint on the nightstand for morning consumption -- far behind him. Along the way, learning a few things: countless top-end parties, rising and falling a couple of times, paying attention to nuances:

"The last time I was down here I stayed in Palm Beach A like an asshole A and it was just the same people seeing each other every night. This place is so much more interesting, like St. Tropez in the Sixties and Seventies, a similar kind of mix. I've been traveling everywhere with the book lately, even West Chester, Pennsylvania: Barry Diller, whom I've known forever, invited me to be on his QVC home shopping network A a truly amazing place. In Greenwich, of course, everybody still talks about the Martha Moxley case, and they all know who did it. When I spoke at the yacht club there at an ungodly hour, 8:00 a.m., they had to turn people away. They weren't hostile; they were with me, still outraged by the whole thing.

"Of course, with the rich and powerful, these situations are always handled differently A Lord Lucan, the Ann Woodward case, Claus von Blow. Many of the rich don't understand that life has limits. But the fascination with these people never ends. Shakespeare wrote about kings and their scandals, not the middle classes. The obsession has ebbed since the Eighties, when no one had dinner parties for twenty unless it was recorded in the papers. But I'm not really interested in parties anyway; I'm fascinated by what happens to these people when they get in trouble. Truman Capote was a great writer and he once wrote me a damn kind letter, but I never try to get even like he did. He was ostracized for the La C“te Basque piece, which was really very mild, and he never got over it. He betrayed Babe Paley, the woman he loved, because he was fucked up by drink. It wouldn't have happened otherwise. I might poke fun at Jerry Zipkin, but I don't allow myself to be in the middle of everything. I'm always the outsider; I want to write about that world, not be in it.


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