Fame. Big fame, little fame, it's all the frenzy of renown. The place where things are hollow but kind of fun, too. Miami as the new Ibiza, a hothouse for international jet set types. It's Madonna in town - no, really in town this time - shooting her new book with photographer Steven Meisel and living out the Don Johnson/Star Island scenario for the Nineties. It's Karl Lagerfeld in Palm Beach, German designer Wolfgang Joop stomping around Miami Beach, persistent rumors about Gianni Versace buying the Amsterdam Palace on Ocean Drive for a private home. Chris Blackwell of Island Records and the hipsterville opening for the Marlin, with the Burning Flames, REM, and lots of record industry types. Swiss Miss Suzanne Bartsch and the rest of the known universe - artist Kenny Scharf, Ashton Hawkins of the Metropolitan Museum, drag queens from Mars - at the Valentine's Day Ball, the first "Release It" party of the season.
The heir to the Spanish throne, Felipe de Borbon, Prince of Asturias, being pursued by Spanish papparazzi during a week-long stay in Miami. (They apparently suspected he might be cavorting with commoner/nonvalid-girlfriend Isabel Sartorius.) Audrey Hepburn and Liza Minelli in Fort Lauderdale for a UNICEF benefit. The luminous Mercedes McCambridge celebrating the opening of Lost in Yonkers at Crawdaddy's. Impressaria Judy Drucker being saluted Thursday by "The Ultimate Quartet": Emanuel Ax, Isaac Stern, Jaime Laredo, Yo-Yo Ma. Designer Bob Mackie walking down Washington Avenue. Princess Stephanie at the Grand Prix of Miami. The Duchess of York at the Doral Saturnia. Princess Margaret buying a condo on Fisher Island. The Miami Film Festival, nothing but names: crockery king Julian Schnabel, mega-agent Mort Janklow, Billy Norwich of the New York Post, socialite Elizabeth Saltzman, director Lina Wertmuller, big-deal publicist Peggy Siegal, the Mambo stars. Sophia Loren being honored at Williams Island, selling condos for the new Via Veneto. How long can it be before Miss Bartsch gets everybody together, throws in a few drag queens, and turns the whole mess into one long, floating, conceptual theme party?
Off to a running start with the opening festivities for the ninth Miami Film Festival, mambo madness theme night. Celia Cruz at Gusman, white gown trimmed in gold lame, setting a new standard in fun glamour. Desi Arnaz Jr., who'd been addressed as "Mr. Ricardo" at a press conference earlier. Director Arne Glimcher evidencing a limited grasp of Miami geography: "Here in the heart of Little Havana, we want to thank...." Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas looking sharp in mambo-style formal wear. Celebrity fever all over the place, the cameras whirring away like locusts.
After the movie - glitzy nightclub scenes, strange accents, great music - an exodus over to International Place. Pile-up at the door, limousines, mojitos, Cuban food. Richard "Mr. Wonderful" Perez-Feria talking to publicist Aida Levitan about one day returning to the new and improved Cuba. Julian Schnabel resembling a force-fed Bob Dylan. Designer Pat Fields, dangerous in leather, up to God knows what. A phalanx of homosexuals in a frenzy to meet smoldering heartthrob Antonio Banderas. Billy Norwich and Elizabeth Saltzman making the ultimate cameo appearance: a tentative sniffing for fabulous people, like French pigs scouting for truffles, out the door in one minute flat.
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A separate VIP section off limits to the media, until it was suddenly oozing with press, Arne Glimcher rolling into the producer/director question ("It's a lot harder, and a lot more fun"), and everyone generally jumping around. Madcap group shots of the cast, faces pressed together, including ultimate pro Oscar Hijuelos, author of the very beautiful The Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love. One minute, Movie Land, the next, serious novelist: "Well, I think they worked very hard on the movie to capture.... Short stories as a form, frankly...."
Fourteen mojitos later, the lights coming up, get the hell out of here - closing down parties is what all the really chic people are doing this year - and it's off to Havana Club for another ultra-exclusive VIP gathering. George Nunez of Warsaw, being fun and forthright, the truth behind all the recent gossip about him much less dramatic. (But then, rumors are a kind of art form and always more interesting than real life.) Tim Warmath of the University of Miami, Mr. Uptown/Downtown, bravely facing an 8:30 a.m. Chamber of Commerce-sponsored tour of the Dade County jail the following morning. More mojitos. Off to the Avenue A party at Egoiste with the fun brigade. Techno music. Lighted projections. Young, attractive, dance-crazy non-neurotics. We didn't know anybody. A 4:00 a.m. dinner at the News Cafe, Euro-filth, drag queens with a grudge, drug addicts, nobody even Miami Beach famous around. The fun brigade tapped out, dumbed-down, over. At the one-more-mojito-and-I'll-die-throw-up-and-maybe-even-quit-drinking stage. La Dolce Vita goes mambo mad.
An epiphany about the cruel vacuousness of nightlife, the pitiless quest for empty sensation, and then, what's the point - out again. A late night at some dive or another, the Ecstasy set (glazed eyes, just water please, killing to be clever) all over the place. Clubland chit chat. The really quite juicy story about Madonna's girls-night-out-evening, relayed by New York Post columnist George Rush: Material Girl backstage at Jackie 60 in New York, inserting the handle of a switchblade in her not-so-private regions, as part of some no-doubt artistically provocative lesbo-land scenario. Bruce Braxton leaving the Butter Club due to "irreconcilable differences" with owner Alexis Rosado, moving "Closed Mondays" to another club shortly. Someone talking about the nightlife possibilities of downtown Miami: big cheap lofts, no established freeloaders/club stars, plenty of parking, the homeless adding the right note of atmospheric squalor. "Energy," the mixed one-nighter being put together by Joe Delaney and Leo Nunez, debuting at the Cameo on Saturday night. The old Sephardic synagogue on Collins and Seventh, owned by Miami Beach City Commissioner Abe Resnick's development company, Resnick-Dunaevsky, leased out to a partnership team which has "done clubs all over the United States." Mystery club is set to open in two months or so. The Limelight principle applied to Miami Beach: first the synagogue/club space on Washington Ave, now this.
Clubs, celebrities, an intricate symbiosis, as delicate and mutually beneficial as the birds who peck lice off the backs of rhinos. An ecosystem nicely captured by the amiable and recently much-feted Interview photographer Patrick McMullan (one more dinner/brunch/3:00 a.m. cocktail party in his honor would have meant certain death by terminal nausea) currently having a show at Helen Cevern's World Gallery on Lincoln Road. Great stuff: Cookie Mueller's wake, William Burroughs leaning on a cane, Richard Grieco tending bar at Palladium, the early Madonna being fey. Images of lost evenings and various luminaries, more compelling - and a whole lot easier - than actually being there.