Swelter 1

Miami, fashionable and fickle, a game of chance and improbability, a whimsical yet deadly postmodern landscape, kind of disgusting but kind of fun, too. You're up, you're down, you don't know where the hell you are. Ocean Drive magazine throwing a party at The Forge with Jacques and Pascal, the promoters you love to hate, and it's pure Miami: a very new magazine having a conceptual goodwill soiree, flinging status distinctions in the face of their guests. Major attitude at the door, a select group dining luxuriously inside, the hapless reduced to negotiating the hordes at the bar, one frenzied waiter flashing back to an unpleasant memory: "This is like Vietnam all over again."

The battle for the inalienable American right to a good time even more intense than usual, supercharged with celebrity and money. Sean Penn and Timothy Hutton, in town for the opening of BASH, anchoring the front room: Penn, all practiced sullenness, Hutton looking like a deer frozen in a headlight beam. Developer Thomas Kramer, in the throes of desire and champagne, managing the neat trick of necking with two different women. Having absolutely no social standards, we worm our way into the lousy-with-models table of associate publisher Jason Binn, with the assorted VIPs ("Has anybody seen my grandmother?") and holding court. A brief conversation with a woman who introduces herself as "I am party," and then it's banishment from Arcadia, judged not fabulous enough to occupy valuable model/famous person space. Always the consummate professional, rising above and pointing out Madonna adjunct Ingrid Casares to Mr. Celebrity Factotum. Casares, rightfully enough, immediately invited to sit down. The evening improving with a place in the slightly less heady B-room, a couple vertically dry-humping, entertaining a table of Forge regulars. Our glitter fest ending with a middle-age/beyond-horny woman lurking by the front door, seizing on our battered carcass with the mercilessness of a cheetah pouncing on a wounded wildebeest: "Are there any gray-hairs in there, or is it all fancy young people? Are you married? Is your wife here? Too bad, honey, we could have had some fun."

Fortuna spinning upward the next day, a flurry of ego-stroking interview sessions with Colin Smith of The Observer and Entertainment Tonight, and then on to the BASH opening, playfully working the door with the very sweet Macarena, making random naughty-or-nice decisions about various supplicants, a not unpleasant exper- ence. A subdued Renaissance-meets-Hollywood effect in the club, quite a change from the old Butter Club days, with a buffet spread and nonregulars, the owners having invited their suppliers and such. The celebrities clinging to the VIP room in a free-to-be-me mode, photographers having been banned from the opening. BASH partners Sean Penn and Mick Hucknall lounging around, the long-haired Johnny Depp, a native of Miramar, dazzled by the Magic City: "This is incredible; the Beach has changed so much. Miramar is still pretty much the same, though." A standard set with old pro Dennis Hopper, nattily attired in a white suit, escorting a truly beautiful woman, sober and perfectly polite, a celebrity actually worth emulating: "I've been in Venice ten years now, but this is so much better. You know, it's a great world." The "I am party" girl making a breathtakingly shabby move, even for Miami, hooking our mouth with a bent index finger. Jason Binn, coincidentally enough, also turning up again in the celebrity petting zoo, being generally helpful. In the end, we're all just one big dysfunctional family: hopelessly dependent and maddeningly intertwined, veering between hatefulness and a semblance of affection.

Fate delivering a cruel blow later that evening, a sad dance on the edge of the abyss, slowly stumbling back to ordinary life. The debut of the Naya Spring Water performance series "South Beach on the Edge" at the Colony Theater, presented by the Concert Association of Florida and Gunnar Jordon Productions. Wonderful dancing and an Everett Quinton monologue, Quinton re-creating the legend of Dracula: "And then he sailed to England with all those sailors, and got to suck on them all." Miami Beach Mayor Sy Gelber making a positively jolly speech: "It's been a confusing week, what with the Klan at the Holocaust Memorial and tourists getting knocked off. Some reporter asked me if Miami was just a fantasy, a bubble that was about to burst, and I told him we're living a long dream down here." A very pretty reception afterward with the culturati gang A people like Dame Jean Loach, Esther Percale, and Edward Albee A and the usual glamourama chit-chat. Barry Diller and David Geffen flying in for the weekend, making the rounds at Warsaw and Paragon, MTV's "House of Style" doing another South Beach update. Monti Rock III climbing back on top again after, of all things, a "Best of Miami" plug, happy in the dream of rebirth and fame: "Baby, you've opened doors for me."

The fashionable whirl ending with an eye-opening dinner for Claudia Schiffer at the Raleigh Saturday night, hosted by Revlon and Mademoiselle magazine, an intimate affair that gradually grew from 20 to 85 wildly eclectic guests: novelist/real estate entrepreneur Brian Antoni; Ronald Perelman, chairman of Revlon; fashion designers Marc Jacobs and Nicole Miller; Cindy Dampier of People magazine, working on a story about celeb-driven South Beach; Patrick McMullan of Interview, shooting for Revlon; Mademoiselle editor Gabe Dopplet, funny and sharp; and singer Paul Anka, the featured performer at Revlon's receptions in Palm Beach for the National Association of Chain Drugstores convention. A perfectly pitched, wonderfully adult reception, with a touch of mean pleasure, everyone satisfactorily noting the friends and foes who hadn't been invited. Schiffer, the girl-of-the-moment, spectacularly beautiful ("Of course you can take my picture A that's my life") and surrounded by admirers A producers Ted Fields and Russell Simmons, Thomas Kramer in a black leather post-Elvis ensemble, actor/party boy David Keith A giving the gathering an interesting frisson of ambition and sexual tension.

After dinner a limousine ride to Les Bains with Fields and Drena DeNiro, McMullan talking about the guest list, which had been gathered from various local sources and cross-referenced: "Certain legends in this town, whether they're up or down, always have to be invited."

More sex and legends at the club, a guy lifting up his date's dress and licking her ass on a raised podium, Schiffer dancing with all of her gentlemen callers simultaneously, Perelman puffing on a cigar and reviewing the evening: "It was okay, but not really good." The dance to the music of fortune and fame ending with Schiffer, to everyone's amazement, standing outside the club with Keith. Lost without the super-model, the gang splitting off: one crew wading into Paragon, a weary-looking Dopplet muttering, "One more time with feeling"; Simmons and Fields turning up at "Bohemia" with the requisite catered girls. Walking home down Collins Avenue at 5:00 a.m., content and struck with wonder, a mirage floating by, the It Girl and Keith in a covertible, madly laughing. It really is a great, big beautiful world.