The Club Corps, looking for a few good men and women, tough, courageous, unflinching in the face of their own ugliness. The lame will be punished and the strong will flourish and grow fabulous, learning the greedy chill of parting velvet ropes as the non-fab wither in the wake. It's a hard life, but kind of rewarding in a weird way. Or at least it seems so, until a letter crosses our desk and suddenly the squalor, the crushing shallowness, the empty artifice of it all stands revealed:
"As a long-time resident of `glamorous and exotic' South Beach I have witnessed the rise and fall of various newspapers.... These are not really newspapers in even the most loose definition of the word. They are merely self-promoting publications serving to draw attention to an extremely small, smug, and self-obsessed group of very bored alcoholics who are so starved and desperate for attention that they will go to any length to get it.... Do these people...realize how obnoxious they are to the vast majority of the public? .... I suggest that New Times refrain from participating in this disgusting charade of `In Your Face' sleazy journalism.... I would prefer to purchase or subscribe to adult publications when I wish to read about these topics."
The writer goes on to make several other cogent arguments against the shocking and offensive, including the implication that we're being paid too much, which is way off base. Maybe South Beach calls for "trashy degenerate writing," or perhaps it really is time, as the letter suggests, to redirect "squandered energy and resources toward doing something constructive to improve our community." Whatever, the existential Alka Seltzer of clubs, the flux and fray, leaves so little time for the uplifting.
Memorial Day weekend, a nation atones for its war dead, drinks too much beer, goes barbecue crazy. Nothing particularly uplifting about the South Beach version of the sacred All-American holiday. In the past, Cuban teen-agers would take their traditional Memorial weekend/graduation bash/party-ugly road show to the hinterlands of Surfside, jamming hotel rooms, yelling "Ven aca!" a lot, and torturing the locals. This year, unfortunately, a descent on home turf, like gonad-injected locusts, for yet another bout of shabby behavior. Breaking beer bottles, something of an adolescent hobby. Working off energy on nasty squabbles, as pointless and ritualized as rams locking horns on a mountaintop: "Get out of the fucking car man.... Fuck you, I'm not afraid of anything." Threatening stray homosexuals ("Fuck you, you fucking pussy") and generally not getting laid, marveling at those who do. One guy flaunting two girls ("Jose, I don't know what the fuck is happening and I'm fucking involved"), setting the pussy-hound brigade completely on edge.
Charming bunch of kids, quite a few lurking outside the debut of "Tribal: An event beyond all limits" at the Shelborne Hotel pool area. Host Terrence Angel, a film production designer, putting together an array of interesting elements: samba dancers, projections of African warriors on the hotel tower, a fashion show and underground music, the Kronos Quartet version of "Purple Haze" and such. Promoters Rob Chilice and Amir Amor on hand, along with other first-rate club talent. Lots of effort and money involved, but everything just sort of unraveling, the small Caribbean nation principle of chronic chaos and degeneration feeding on itself. An odd assortment ambling in and out: kids, older people, the beautiful, the invited. Electricity going off at the pool area, the hotel itself full of screaming Power 96ers. Miami Beach cops living out the natural extension of their role in club life, actually acting as doormen: "If you're going out to the pool, buddy, it's eight bucks." Interesting concept, though, and a great space - the next installment could be interesting.
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Pretty much the concept behind the rest of Memorial Day weekend: could be interesting, if the right people would just brave the mean streets. The festivities never stopping, with or without the right crowd. The after-hours club Uptown drawing in the when-you-just-can't-go-home-even-though-you-probably-should set. "Circus of Sin" at Paragon, a caged Bengal tiger on stage for effect. A "Paris Dance Ball" at Warsaw, performance artist Lady Henesy Brown up to her usual tricks with provocatively placed torches and beer bottles. Curing one go-go boy forever of his attempt at a hetero moment by dragging him on-stage by the hair, and then planting herself on his horrified face, his legs frantically wiggling like an upturned cockroach.
Good clean fun all over the place. "Lush," the Friday night party at the Butter Club, the place packed with the young and horny. Jumping, compelling, even a table of Killing-of-Sister-George types, sunk in a terminal lesbian funk, some unfathomable slough of despondence, beginning to look downright perky. For some reason, one of our party feels driven to explain just how sensitive, how thoroughly deep and over all this he really is: "I haven't been to a club in months. The Beach is about so much more than this, artists and a sense of community and being pioneers. This is so sad and meaningless, just lonely people trying to find something." A moment to let this wondrous epiphany sink in, and then without missing a beat, Mr. Sensitive lunges - literally - at a passing attractive person.
Some unattractive lunges at the debut of "Tea by the Sea," the Sunday-only tea dance at the Royal Palm Hotel, hosted by James Balzano and Bobby Guilmartin. Topless women floating in the pool. Music by David Knapp. Men in Lady Liberty ensembles and see-through women's bathing suits. A couple of hundred homosexuals, all talking about how it was just like the golden era of Fire Island circa 1978, the time before coke became crack and sex became AIDS. Guilmartin, as he will, cranking up the hip-hype: "Now people don't have to go to the Sixth Street bathrooms any more. By July 4 this is going to be amazing - dancers, more bars, and a big fireworks-for-fags display. I just went to New York and I was like Mr. Miami, the ambassador to South Beach faggotdom. For the next White party, I'm going to charter a 747 and bring them all down to paradise."
A stroll up the beach, more frolics and sex romps, one big livestock auction. At the 21st Street public rest room, a well-known South Beach photographer circling particularly delectable prey on his bicycle, looking like the Wicked Witch of the West. Two black gays lost in a bitter argument: "It was always over as far as I was concerned." A frat-boy type carrying a sign that went straight to the heart of the matter: "Will work for sex." All that lust, all that shabby behavior, all that squandered energy and resources. Even in paradise, other people are hell.