White Party weekend, the city full of juice and new talent, the post-Woodstock nation making the unholy pilgrimage to Mecca. The weekend similar in concept to other gay festivals, Aspen gay ski week and the like, with Sodom-town adding a little edge to the usual festivities. Sun, decadence, and a variety of venues -- Warsaw, 411 restaurant, the Century, Paragon -- raising money for Health Crisis Network and Lifebeat, a New York-based organization that will be used to hold seed monies for the upcoming South Beach AIDS Resource Center. Fun with a purpose, the most palatable form of entertainment.
Friday night, the town jumping with moon lust of the hetero and homo version. Sliding into the frenzy with a Warren Zevon concert at Stephen Talkhouse, an interlude rather reminiscent of the Seventies, when people sat around listening to sensitive singers, getting all gooey and sensitive. Mr. Bad Example turning in an energetic set of classics, with a sweaty organ solo and personally relevant lyrics: "Somehow I got stuck down here, and I'm down on my luck." Zevon at one point nodding to Carl Hiaasen in the audience, noting that "my life is like one of your books." Feeling quite uplifted, until a trip to the men's room, where some insensitive party boy threw up all over our shoes. Somebody is always ready to ruin a good time.
Warming up with pit stops at Le Loft and Van Dome, just missing an appearance by Prince, moving on to Warsaw for the Susanne Bartsch party. A good crowd, the standouts including Kenny Scharf, whose wife Tereza will be doing an opening party/benefit for the Everglades on December 11 for the new restaurant Bang, the South Beach branch of New York's Boom restaurant. Lots of red balloons everywhere, shiny whore-red paper on the walls, and the usual drag-fever madness. Chi Chi Valenti, all hypersex in black vinyl, and Joey Arias as Justine, prancing about in an erotic mise en scene. Chi Chi clawing a lethal set of three-inch nails across Joey/Justine's public parts. The celebrated drag-queen-of-the-moment from New York, the seven-foot-tall RuPaul, making a spectacular appearance. Bartsch, in a red leather ensemble, wriggling through a throng of legends from the stage and screen, working the crowd: "Miami, it's been two years since we've been coming here; all these bitches need a party." With that, Constance, a drag with a shaved head -- always an appetizing prospect -- making an entrance with candles on his head, Arias yelling, "Turn down the lights." Kind of a tender moment, really.
Paragon, and the "Insanity III" party -- the return of Richard "Mr. Glamour" Pollmann from the City of Angels -- truly insane. A concentration camp of desire, searchlights sweeping across the club, hundreds of chiseled torsos writhing away in some deranged paganistic rite. Go-go dancers on platforms around the room, Cro-Magnon caveboys in fetishistic trances, encircling a stage in the middle of the dance floor. The G-strings falling off as three boys mount the stage of stardom, holding their dicks in readiness for a little is-it-real-or-is-it-simulated action. One of the slighter ephebes kneeling in obedience before the altar, a tassle dragging provocatively across his ass. The reward for his subservience coming with two musclemen holding him down, as the ringleader delivers a sound roguering. A girl from the audience rushing up and grabbing the master's crotch, forcing her tongue down his throat. Our companion passing the limits of her hipness ("Oh my God, they're really butt-fucking..."), a cue that it might be time for Rebar. Flipping over into another erogenous zone, a steam bath to a cold plunging pool, somewhat less direct sexuality. Winding down at Hombre, the perfect equilibrium point, a neighborly kind of lust.
The big event, the White Party at the Biltmore Hotel, Vizcaya having been ravaged by Hurricane Andrew. The old Metropolitan Museum complex crammed with some 3600 hardy souls, booths from various gay bars set up in the garden. Inside, a great new club space, lasers bouncing across a vast high-ceilinged room looking over the golf course. All manner of white and not-so-white costumes. Israel Sands of Flowers & Flowers in a white Navy uniform, accented with a lei boa, Randall Underwood sporting an enormous cross around his neck. The thrash of humanity encompassing zillionaire David Geffen, Nicky the Party Boy, Bobby Guilmartin of the rained-out Red Party, and a gentleman traveling with his butler.
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Larry Harwood of Bomba holding "Taffy" on a white ribbon, the little vixen continually lifting his/her skirt, revealing a pasted-on red plastic crab: "Look what my Daddy gave me." Muscle freaks in white lace shorts, holding hands and milling around a Jeep in the front courtyard, the gay automotive emblem. Lots of shirtless men, despite the considerable chill. (If you have great pecs, and no one sees them, do they really exist?) A local impresaria in a circa-1963 Lillie Rubin ensemble tasting, yet again, the vicissitudes of fame: "You look great, but I'm already dating somebody." Everyone, almost unilaterally, longing for Vizcaya and the attractive way the walls set off all the white outfits.
Idle chatter ending with the arrival, and very quick departure, of Madonna, accompanied by an entourage and the notorious Ingrid. The great woman, with that kicky perverseness that has marked her brilliant career, wearing black. The crowd descends, and within five minutes the security team closes in and she's out into the night, leaving behind a wake of dark muttering. No scholarly semiotic-clogged discussions of the Madonna mystique, all that whore/saint postmodern feminism stuff. The woman could disembowel herself publicly, and still the comments would never change: "She looks like shit.... She has roots and no eyebrows at all." A rather instructive encounter with real fame.
More tales of fame and fortune, American style, coming up during a conversation with Richard Osterweil, the subject of the Sara Sackner/Andrew Behar-produced documentary Painting the Town. Osterweil, who spends the movie entertainingly recounting his life as a coat-check clerk, artist, and professional party crasher, appearing this weekend at the Alliance cinema, which will be exhibiting the movie for a week or so. Lately, apparently, it's been a life crowded with incident: "It's weird being the center of attention. I was just on the Today show, and then there was Joan Rivers and Joe Franklin, where I appeared with Eric Douglas, the son of Kirk, this psychotic queen on coke. Next it's the Vicki Lawrence show in L.A. with Marla Maples. The most glamourous thing so far has been my show at the Russian Embassy, with all my paintings of George Balanchine and the Romanoff family. A thousand people turned out, everybody from Dr. Ruth to Suzanne Farrell to the Secretary-General of the United Nations."
The bubbly gush including our fair town, delivered with all the enthusiasm of the nonnative: "But I'm really looking forward to Miami. It's just the hottest place now. Whatever I see, I'm sure I'll enjoy.