Havana, 1964, Fidel Castro flogging the new Cuba at a huge political rally. For no apparent reason, a band starts playing, a conga line snakes through the crowd. And then, it is the crowd, everyone dancing and oblivious to the speech, chanting "Viva la Revolucion!" as a kind of salsa rallying cry. Surrealist Andre Breton happens to be in the mad throng, overwhelmed by the sheer brilliant absurdity of the spectacle. In one fell swoop, everything he has ever known, an entire artistic belief system, has been rendered meaningless. The stylized posing of the surrealists suddenly seems empty, extraneous, pathetic. The movement is dead. Miami, 1992, real life moving beyond surrealism, and nothing that has gone before seems to matter.
Like New York downtown legend Joey Arias at Barocco Beach, taking in the "Martini Club" cabaret night. A crowd of East Village/Euro hips in black, lolling about like Galapagos lizards, smoking Gauloises and drinking, with an eerie conformity, martinis. Desultory chit-chat. A German person with an interesting pre-war Berlin look, sort of Sally Bowles crossed with Charles Manson: "In Germany they all tell me not to move to Miami. Everybody say that the flamingos are flying everywhere, with big shit like a dog that falls on your head." French homosexuals raving about Joan Rivers: "Oh, I love her, I have such fun with her." A beautiful nightlife veteran gossiping about the New York club beat: Jean Paul Gaultier in the upstairs lounge at Shampoo, getting a blow job; Debbie Harry, peeing as she walks down the stairs of some low dive and grabbing cocks; home boy James St. James being pushed down the stairs at Limelight by model Linda Evangelista.
A ripple of applause, Joey standing by the piano channeling Billie Holiday, all studied casual grace in his black fishnet shirt and Dr. Spock-meets-Lulu haircut. The opening strains of "Good Morning Heartache" and that miraculous voice pours from him, haunting, tortured, unforgettable. A huge round of applause, Joey back at the table, merrily talking about one of his recent performances as alter ego Justine at Jackie 60: "It was great. We fist-fucked this chicken, and then we cut it in half and jerked off on it." Everybody visibly blanching. "Oh, get over it. The chicken was dead."
The chicken at The Strand, thank God, untainted by conceptual psycho-sexual degradation. A perfectly interesting dinner with Hollywood mogul/Eden Roc Hotel owner David Geffen and entourage, in town for a weekend of rest and recreation. Geffen in a perky mood. "Insanity II" the night before at Paragon had apparently been great fun: "Nice club, places to drink, dance, whatever." The Eden Roc deal moving along: "Ian Schrager, my partner, is the best at this stuff. We're going to put penthouses on the roof and turn the cabanas into bedrooms by the pool. The rates should be about the same as the South Beach hotels, $125 a night or so. You need a lot of rooms to make money in the hotel business." Left unmentioned is the $550 million from the MCA deal. The house, the hired car, the hotline to celebtown. Life as one big pleasant prospect.
Outside, the car waiting, the world's most indulgent driver. We all cram in, lots of jokes, and it's on to Warsaw and the drag universe: flashlights wrapped in hairdos, space oddities, a pregnant woman in a see-through Barbie doll outfit. Suzanne Bartsch in dyed-beyond-parody chicken feathers, flogging her people ("Work it, work it - sock it to me now") and graciously allowing an older adoring lesbian to momentarily nuzzle her admittedly spectacular thighs on stage. A leading light of the Bartsch set talking about the troupe's performance at The Palace disco in Paris: "Lady Henesy did all her usual stuff - you know, the beer bottle in the pussy, squirting her milk everywhere, the torch routine. Half an hour of it was too much, people were literally passing out on the floor." Another great Warsaw evening. After a dance or two, Geffen calls it an early night, one of the gang breathlessly noting, "David doesn't like that whole drag thing."
Being a lounge lizard rather than a billionaire, time for another what-the-hell drink. A 3:00 a.m. chat with photographer/Latvian glamour gal Valda Zaiga Drabla. Slicked-back mannish hair, a jumpsuit worn without a blouse, nipples placed precisely within the strap fasteners. The conversation ranging widely, as it tends to do in clubs: "Take these healing stones and light a seven day candle at a shrine of thankfulness. Cancer is all in the brain, many top macrobiotic people smoke.... Drink Stoli, it's politically correct - they need the money." Nice enough girl. Out the door for a breath of fresh air, all horny white trash and late-night philosophy, an Hassidic Jew walking past the club with the solemn dignity of a saint, carrying his T'sillin. Strange, surreal, vaguely unsettling.
Like the flyer for a party at Penrod's, the club that will try anything once: "Robby & Eli invite you for Chol HaMoed Pesach as we Party All Night... Dress Sharply and please come early to avoid long lines.... REMEMBER...if it doesn't say ROBBY & ELI, it's not a Robby & Eli party." Irene Marie Models and artist Romero Britto joining forces for a Positive Link benefit at Van Dome. A WLRN benefit at the Barbara Gillman Gallery. "Girls in the Night" at the DiLido Hotel, with comedienne Monique Marvez. Opening celebrations for Pasta Bongo and I Tre Merli last Friday night, with the Society Hill Cafe opening coming up May 2 - schnorrer's delight. "Disco Fever" at Egoiste. A "Mambo! Mambo!" theme grand opening last Saturday night for Club One at the Miracle Center, the invitation getting down to basics with a listing of the available upper-end liquors that would be served. A pit stop at "Energy," techno night at the Cameo, three guys on-stage prancing around Manchester-style, screaming into the microphones: "This is the new age.... Feel the power.... Come on, let's have some fun." Promoter Joe Delaney explaining the concept ("They aren't professional dancers - you know, strippers with their clothes on - they're just British guys") as the music enters the brain like a psychotic, over-amped insect, the vocalists wailing away Chipmunk-style.
Unusual and kind of artsy, just like our stint as a judge of artistically tortured Easter eggs at Tu Tu Tango's benefit brunch for Miami Bridge, a shelter for homeless youth. Good time all around with the It Boy, the new Holly Golightly - all that food, so tasty, so free - and other colleagues. Fine crop of eggs, pretty creative, themed around Elvis, Picasso, and assorted rabbits. This being the new age, even the artists were attractive. The winner, personable, pretty, a push-up halter top that just would not quit. Another instance of the uncanny way the good, the attractive, the tanned prosper and flourish. Life may be surreal, but it's not always unfair.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.