Swelter 45

Ambition, the secret passion, transmogrifying an overhyped sandbar into a floating crap game played out in the killing grounds. The nightclub variety of overweening hubris running rampant at the opening of Amnesia, the sister club to the Cap D'Agde institution, yet another beachhead of Eurocentric glitz in the war zone below Fifth Street. Andre Boudou and partners constructing a four-million-dollar, free-standing, 32,000-square-foot pleasure dome -- reportedly on leased land -- and taking a strong position in the glittering future. The net effect a weird cross between the Temple of Dendur and CocoWalk, lots of Mediterranean-style furnishings and white walls arranged around an open amphitheater and marble dance floor. The heaven-cum-hell setting dominated by an enormous tribal sculpture, the looming Oz of Amnesia inspiring a host of cinematic associations, from Tarzan-style native rites to the senate chambers in Planet of the Apes, all of us eventually deemed expendable by the fickle gods of club heaven.

Celestial judgment meted out immediately with the three-tier guest list, our tenuous hold on the early VIP dinner finally secured after the usual negotiations. Clawing into the glassed-in Portobello restaurant, the A-list lounge lizards ensconced in a lavish terrarium, spells of rain hampering all the fun outside. The guest list, despite all the fuss, surprisingly low on the fame meter: Even Fabio, a disposable celebrity we desperately wanted to meet, not making the festivities. Lots of money, political punch, and local renown on hand, however, leavened by the poor-but-pertinent press, riding astride the great engine of commerce like the chirping birds that travel atop rhinos, feeding off parasites and growing fat in the horn of plenty. The regulars gearing up for yet another public appearance, akin to Robert Goulet doing the umpteenth rendition of Camelot, drawing from sorely tapped reserves of charm and running attitude: "Isn't it amazing how the help is always better looking?"

Over the course of dinner, the French landscape becoming slightly more familiar: Tony Murray, the improbably named French owner of the Doral Hotel; Alexis Ogurik of Bash, talking about the Loft/Dune transformation and the private Euro-club going into the old Neroni's restaurant space; Warsaw's Yves Di Lena; Egon von Furstenberg and the French-speaking All-American boy Michael Capponi, now hosting a Thursday-night party at Amnesia. Into the B room for a fabulousity scouting mission, an aloof ringer for Catherine Deneuve staying in character throughout, the second shift of guests -- 11:00 p.m. and beyond -- less wealthy but decidedly more lively. Downstairs to the dance floor, house music pounding into the stratosphere, a setting ideally suited to twisted human-sacrifice rituals. The jaded inevitably settling for slighter amusements, a gentleman in formal wear doused by an overloaded awning, the slippery stage necessitating a scaled-back opening show. Lady Bunny performing "Think About It" and staying in a Miss Dysfunctia mode off-stage, ready to wage war over assorted booking problems: "I'm just a soggy drag queen, but it's not like I'm bitter or anything." A remarkable contortionist, Jinny Jacinto, coming on afterward, followed by a Josephine Baker-revisited routine, a banana-clad topless dancer frolicking about with muscle boys. The pervasive white-wine tone slowly lifting, diehards dancing in a steady drizzle, the final swing shift frantically storming the modern Bastille, craving the release and willed forgetfulness of another lost evening.

In a mood for self-improvement, club life being enough to send anyone around the bend, rising from a stupor of neurotic inertia for a series of culture-clogged entertainments. The Jackie Gleason Theater for the Joffrey Ballet's presentation of Billboards, an ambitious melding of divergent dance forms, Prince's music interpreted by classically trained dancers, sort of a public television version of Dance Fever. Some great moves, the dialectical mix unfortunately missing the sexual punch of the master. Downtown to the Knight Center for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by the Miami-Dade Wolfson Campus, the audience a wildly mixed United Nations of ballet buffs. A wonderful program featuring a suite done to black spirituals, jazzy froth and Duke Ellington's "Night Creature," Ellington's thoughts on the subject still holding true: "Night creatures...come on at night, each thinking that before the night is out, he or she will be the star."

Back into the nightcrawler beat, missing the Natalie Thomas-hosted opening of Ensign Bitters in Coconut Grove, but catching too many psycho-beach party stars. Wrapping up the week with an Irene Marie agency theme evening on Saturday night, commencing with a punishing cocktail reception at the Armani Exchange boutique, the standard assembly of fashion types and crashers in tune with the nightclub Zeitgeist. The Booking Table for a stint on the Michael Aller radio show, discussing self-inflicted sex and the vagaries of social opportunism, and on to Lua for a surprise Craig Robins birthday bash. The developer greeted with a tribute befitting his stature in the real estate community, 31 models holding aloft candles. The truly hip Casey Hardin arising like a Christ-figure out of the gloom, making a swan-song appearance before seeking his fortune in Los Angeles: "It's time for the rats to leave this sinking ship."

Idly following celebrity guests Naomi Campbell and designer Marc Jacobs down to Velvet, fun orchestrator Jimmy Franzo unperturbed by a thwarted fan: "I'll bet you're too busy fucking boys up the ass to mess with girls." More tidbits of bad manners floating in, one prominent French designer evidencing an unfortunate penchant for mounting hand-held shower-heads in his friends' bathrooms, taking sphincter-massage breaks between dinner courses. Another very illustrious designer, seized by a desire for a family, engineering a marriage between his lover and his sister, the whole clan having coke delivered to their home in times of travail. Jacobs still marveling about Amnesia ("What was that A a shopping mall opening?"); Campbell working on an album at the Marlin studios and dealing with eager fans. Franzo's polite solicitations making her leap back in horror, uncannily like a vampire recoiling from a silver bullet, the stymied stick man good-naturedly climbing up on stage for a go-go dancing stint. Our group heading off into the night, confronting a frightening accumulation of pilgrims piled up outside the door, battered and insanely hopeful as the cripples flocking to Lourdes. A line from Blaise Pascal's Pensees drifting back to mind, eerily capturing the sordid mess: "It has struck me that all men's misfortunes spring from the single cause that they are unable to stay quietly in one room.