Swelter 14

A return to real life after an all-too-brief vacation, slipping in and out of the immediate, pulled back into the dreamscape of memory. "Big Bad Wolf" at Les Bains, John Hood and Luigi Scorcia working the funk gestalt, the club less arch than usual, newly done up with mirrors and warming touches, the teeming masses pursuing pleasure with the urgency of a heat-seeking missile. Miami, the Cyndi Lauper of cities, the town that just wants to have fun, a vast born-to-be-bad high school where good looks, sexual availability, and ready access to drugs still counts for something.

Parliament-Funkadelic's "Atomic Dog" pounding away on the sound system, public and private insanity blending seamlessly together, retreating into visions of our Eastern seaboard tour. A night crawl in Washington, D.C., popping through intensely downtown decors -- Insect Club, Hell/Heaven, the 930 Club -- with jarring creative elements. Santeria shrines, black walls, and misanthropic manifestoes ("My heart is irrelevant -- I recycle pain") vying with amazingly polite doormen and frozen yogurt booths. The whole city akin to visiting your parents' house for a long weekend, the club clientele preppy and wholesome, New Frontier Democrats whining about ineffectual leadership and the latest sociosexual metaphor: a woman neatly slicing off hubby's manhood with a kitchen knife, driving off in a huff, throwing the carcass out her car window like so much roadkill. Suburban Philadelphia, drifting way off course, victimized by a clever but irritating artistic statement at a rainy train station, the sole public phone mired in a container of raw marshmallow goo, "Dissed by Futura X."

Miami, dissed and even delighted, the usual suspects out on the rounds. A reception at Bash, dispiritedly waiting for the highly touted arrival of Sean Penn, the celebrity gyroscope completely out of sync, Liz Taylor and the Virgin Mary being pretty much the only two icons worth fussing over. On to a Blue Star birthday celebration for Kim Stark of Postmortem, elegant and soothing even in the B-section, someone employing our old trick, switching place cards and putting himself at the head table. The festivities continuing at 12.03's "Retro Alley" with cake and great old New Wave music, inspiring memories of youthful frolics at the old Fire & Ice, co-promoter Richie Rich perfectly hospitable. The press of club events, no doubt, prohibiting aspiring rock star and first family accessory Roger Clinton from making a scheduled media appearance at a Mano, the rebuke smoothed over with free food and drink -- as vital as celebrities in the grand scheme of the pop journalism life. Clinton's R&B band Politics signing with local label Pyramid Records, everyone wondering if the Billy Carter of the Nineties might be running amok in the land of substance abuse.

Off to Aqua for the drag version of What's My Line, the gals posing as Madonna, firing off retorts: "Well, yes, when I'm not thinking about global warming, I am kind of a bitch." Another night of love and laughs, capped off by an encounter with Damian, the emerging young club talent destined for regional fame: outrageous, entertaining, and as yet still bearing the charm of novelty. The new and the old, the fresh and the faded, coming up again at the opening of Cafe Ma*ana. A quite tasty old-Havana-meets-SoHo physical plant, open 24 hours a day, suitable for all entertainment shifts: beautifully done woodwork and tropical wallpaper, hanging sculptures of cigar leaves, atmospheric Afro-Cuban jazz and platters of sweet merenguitos. The Manana team -- Omar Martinez, formerly of the landmark Tutti Plein, Geoffrey Murray, and Ceasar Bruni of Boom and Bang A attracting a beyond eclectic crowd, unified by the human inclination to be witnessed at optimum social opportunities: Spencer Reiss of Newsweek popping in with his wife Anne Day of the Washington Post, Tigra of "We like the cars that go boom" fame, various overexposed lounge lizards. Reiss talking about the less-than-agitated nightlife of modern Havana, the tourist-clogged Tropicana and the repressive Havana Club, run by ministry of interior goons, where good citizens are allowed to play once a year and have a free Coke on the government. An enviable regimen in some respects.

The socially insatiable face of the postmodern Coca-Cola generation out in force, someone noting that all the really important people are young now. Youth culture, Miami division, represented by promoter Michael Capponi, Don Busweiler of Animal Farm, and our very own research assistants, two eighteen-year-old club veterans. The terminally energetic girls given to strange questions ("Do you live during the day, or does the vampire creep up in you?") and a kind of pop mysticism: "We all want to be free, capture a piece of a fantasy, but this is not a great time to grow up." Interesting stuff, suitable groundwork for a searing Lost Generation novel, or failing that, a snappy little article. Busweiler turning out to be one of the heroes of the teenage wasteland, grossing a million or so a year at 23, still clinging to the street: "You've got all these megacompanies now trying to plug into the scene, marketing and prostituting the culture. I named my store Animal Farm after the farmer in the book. I'm trying to lead people, give some guidance. Miami has too many characters who couldn't make it anywhere else, but it's also a brand-new place, full of possibility."

The weekend bringing a quiet dinner at Cafe Ma*ana with Murray, our thoughts drifting back to the whirlwind of New York. A party at Casa La Femme hosted by Tony Theodore, the exiled Sinatra Bar principal, party girl Ingrid Casares chafing under the yoke of Madonna: "She's always working; she doesn't know how to enjoy life." Michael Alig at Manhattan's USA, reveling in punk star GG Allin's media-savvy heroin overdose demise, occurring shortly after a televised pledge to rape and kill teenagers at downtown gas station. A dinner at Boom, lingerie designer Francis Smiley cruelly rising and falling in the hype merry-go-round, a party of big p.m. columnists suddenly mourning the triviality of their lives. Cable TV cult figure Ugly George prowling Fifth Avenue, looking for women amenable to stripping on camera, George remaining resolutely ugly: "What are you A some sleazy free weekly paper guy? Let me tell you, it's easier than ever to find women for my show, especially those bubbleheaded Florida blondes. There's no set plan to my work; you just have to take what happens."

Miami, on to the jungleland of clubs, marked by increasingly nasty violence and sloppy behavior, squalid public groping, frat boys openly pissing on carpets and such. Tiring of the animals and sick at heart, and then, a moment of grace. Running into the girls at Twist, all of us dancing madly. Swept up in the whorehouse red walls and the pervasive air of gay carnality, briefly moving beyond time and all earthly constraints, transcending the mundane. In dark world, no one is saved and no one is totally lost.