Swelter 11

A rhapsody in darkness, the clarion call of klieg lights from overextended clubs sweeping across the horizon, the insidious urges of the nightlife jump commencing yet again. Past all appetite and pleasure in the addiction of the never-ending party, leaving the pursuit of true fun to amateurs and the young, uncovering morsels of diversion along the way.

The self-appointed aristocracy of nightlife whining in unison over the Marsbar opening, reluctant to expose themselves to the dangerously democratic Town & Country mall in the hinterlands of Kendall, an alien encampment where the populace remains indifferent to the language of fabulousness. Another outpost in the expanding Cafe Iguana empire, Marsbar an interesting cross between the baroque and industrial chic, done up with stainless-steel walls, hanging gears and sculptures of gremlins, stained glass and velvet drapes. Simple and effective, full of ordinary people intent on the basic rewards of nightlife: sex, dancing, a moment of release from workaday existence. The enormous crowd treated to truly different alternative music -- much hipper than most places on the Beach -- and an endless open bar, the staff given to almost surrealistic pleasantness: "Are you having a good time? Are we doing a good job here?" -- far cry from the joyless psychodramas of the district, where club operators often function like prison wardens, dispensing emotional abuse and random violence.

On to an abandoned scramble of diminishing returns, another quest for the inalienable national privilege: the right to have a good time at someone else's expense. The American Library Association block party Saturday night, Lincoln Road swarming with regular citizens in sensible leisure wear, entranced by an onslaught of entertainments: samba troupes, Peruvian folk dancers, and strolling drag queens, Miami's indigenous art form. The restaurant/club whirl feverish as ever: Fig Leaf doing a model-clogged ode to the hellish summer solstice, a birthday dinner with atmospheric lesbians at Sushi Hana, another celebration of something or other at Nick's Miami Beach. A field trip to Chef Allen's for an opulent press dinner prepared by Bobby Flay of the cookbook Bold American Food, three and a half homosexuals wallowing in haute cuisine and talking about other people's trashy behavior, trapped in familiar forms of gutter-driven behavior.

Home sweet home, a vapid afternoon in twisted John Cheever territory, suburbia aping the status wars and carefree carnality of nightlife. A club owner down the street basking in glory and airing out his beloved pets, two bisexual kittens in bikinis romping around his front yard. Affairs and nasty squabbles erupting in the neighborhood's claustrophobic boredom, realtors swooping in like vultures at the hint of marital strife, an A-gay couple cranking up classic disco for their weekly people-like-us tea dance. A comforting Dina Merrill-clone waltzing through the din of chain saws and Harleys, the well-informed gardener still insisting we'd grossly overpaid for our very own blue heaven, a couple handily solving the help problem with a lifelike sculpture of an idealized maid. Awash in the decline of civilization, milling around our back yard, briefly entertaining the idea of moving to Paris. Introducing ourselves to a chic little party of Frenchies next door, another delusion shattered as they snub the overeager bourgeois with choreographed precision. Hopelessly American, and worse yet, a terminal Miamian, distilled into the pure essence of the city, singularly vulgar and unfit for life anywhere else, destined to forever remain under the bell jar of the tropics.

The phone rings and the world of possibility pours in, playwright Paul Rudnick calling from the big leagues of New York to publicize the ACME Acting Company presentation of Jeffrey, opening this weekend at the Colony Theater with benefits for the United Foundation for AIDS, judicial candidate Victoria Sigler, and Broadway Cares/EQUITY Fights AIDS. Rudnick's career popping along with the jolly bounce of his own witty examination of modern gay life, the movie production of the play under way in Manhattan. Steven Weber of the television show Wings as Jeffrey, the cheerful, HIV-free libertine who loses his sexual nerve after 2000 encounters, and then falls hopelessly in love with an HIV-positive dreamboat. Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation as the decorator character, Sigourney Weaver adding star power in the evangelist role, the very talented Nathan Lane playing the gay priest. A Mother Teresa part still uncast, the "real living saint being too busy doing saint work" to make a cameo appearance. The production ideally timed to incorporate footage of the Stonewall 25 march and gay games festivities, Rudnick happy on the new "gay planet" of New York:

"The city is wild. Delegations from all over the world, marches and countermarches, and then, of course, the official party on the USS Intrepid. It's amazing how many changes there have been in the last 25 years -- New York is like a gay mall lately -- but there's still a long way to go from the oppression of the early days. And now there's gay neoconservatism, this argument that drag queens and leather boys don't project a normal image, when the march is all about options and the diversity of gay life. True equality and liberation will come when it's no big deal any more, when there's just as much gay trash as straight trash: stupid sit-coms, gay tabloids, Harlequin romance novels, and other taste-free arenas. At heart Jeffrey is just a romantic comedy, where love conquers all and a disease isn't reduced to a red ribbon. AIDS has brought out the best and worst in human nature, but it's not a punishment for an active sex life. The central character is a nice boy who happens to be promiscuous, and then has a joyous relationship with a desirable man who is not a martyr or a victim. The biggest obstacle of all, for everybody, is stealing a kiss in the moonlight."

From there, the conversation ranging from matters of love, taste, and art, the three vital concerns of life. The notorious producer Scott Rudin, of Addams Family Values fame, responsible for one of Rudnick's forays into Hollywood: "He's smart and somewhat insane, but the self-created epic personalities of show business are entertaining." Rudnick's newest play, The Naked Truth, a farce about the "great leveler of sex," revolving around a society matron who attempts to have compromising erotic art photographs removed from a museum exhibition. And, of course, South Beach, the sexual nexus: "I love the mix down there. You never know who'll be Roller-blading at you next. The club scene has a real edge, so fantastic and nonexclusive, full of money and imagination. American cities have a quality of sameness now, but the Beach feels completely different: the heat, the seductiveness, the sense of pleasure. Of course, there'd be a real danger in actually living there and going astray. And I can't imagine how anyone could even attempt to write in Miami.