Paragon, an insensible hour of the night, and the women's bathroom -- equipped with Mo' Money, an enormous black disc jockey -- truly hopping. Men, women, and everything else in between, wearing everything from prom dresses to leather, backed up at the vanity mirror, making the usual adjustments to the tired old mugs. Money in a droll mood and running a tight ship, a deep bass voice rumbling around the room: "Brush and flush, and don't hold up my bathroom now. Undercover man waiting to take you to jail if you do any sniffing. That's when he gets his bonus. Nothing wrong with breaking the law, 'cept when you get caught. All right, it's more music, more love, more understanding." More music, anyway; in the rest of the club the usual Saturday night madness.

The beautiful and the damned, delectable morsels being preyed on by the carnivore crowd. A steaming pile of dim sum, one big mound of unappetizing flesh, describing one of his friends as "glamorous to the point of nauseating." Another Fellini-esque club creation, a friend of Dorothy if no one else, tentacles tentatively fluttering about like an agitated praying mantis: "Better blatant than latent, homophobe." The conceptual leap, the idea that this might very well be the best offer lately, nearly inducing a crashing depression. Thinking maybe downtown really is, as a wealthy acquaintance pointed out recently, "our revenge on you for what you did to us." But it's South Beach, and there's no percentage in being unduly sensitive -- survival, rather than living well, the ultimate revenge.

Sustained by visions of the past, a panoply of great nights that suddenly come flooding back, as comforting as a well-worn set of worry beads. Lost evenings in the old Tobacco Road, long before the young professional era, a club standard being set by a drunk winged by a bullet and still managing to talk obliviously. The Newport cocktail party on a huge oceanfront estate, full of people with names like J. Walter Fingle-Dingle, a glimpse at a world as arcane and mysterious as the scarring rituals of African bushmen. The night in Gainesville when a lesbian motorcycle gang invaded a local gay bar, a la The Wild Ones, kicking over chairs and using a bullwhip to cow the patrons into submission. A flawless evening in Sao Paulo, Brazil, encompassing an American embassy cocktail party and dancing in the hippest possible club. Stupendous debauchery at a whorehouse in San Miguel, Costa Rica, winding up the night watching a bull being slaughtered. A rough three-day party in Georgia, all corn liquor and arm wrestling, ending with a nude woman walking out of the bedroom, good-naturedly yelling: "Can somebody please buy me a hamburger? I ain't had nothing but a dick in my mouth for two days."

At peace again, and then a series of encounters with true social professionals upsetting the equilibrium. Glenn Albin, now the editor of South Florida magazine, talking about his days as managing editor of Interview. "Andy's wake at St. Patrick's cathedral was mind-blowing, all of his friends coming together for a celebration of that era. Lou Reed was an usher, and there was Bianca Jagger, Philip Johnson, Calvin Klein, of course, Viva, Holly Woodlawn. Everybody taking pictures, fighting on the steps to get in position for the news cameras -- the ceremony was really modern, totally planned for the media. Afterwards, we all walked over for a memorial lunch at the Diamond Horseshoe, this place that Steve Rubell had, and there was Sylvia Miles, Keith Haring, Debbie Harry, Fran Lebowitz, C.Z. Guest, young royalty like Antonia Fraser's daughter. One of Andy's last paintings, The Last Supper, was hanging on the wall, and the contrast was really weird. The whole thing was just so cool."

A sudden gnawing feeling, a suspicion that the real parties might have been missed somewhere along the line, not helped by a chat with columnist Tom Starr, of the San Francisco Sentinel. Something of a lively club scene, apparently, a long way from our own experience with the city: "Here it's like Rent-a-Club; promoters rule and keep things interesting. Clubs open and close at different times over the weekend, so you might go out Saturday night and keep going till Monday morning, popping into different places. The bars stop serving liquor at 2:00 a.m., and then begin serving again at 6:00 a.m., but there's lots of drugs: not much coke, but plenty of crystal, mushrooms, acid, and granola flips, ecstasy with mushrooms. A typical night might start off at Trouble, a warehouse with kind of a rave atmosphere, three or four thousand people. Then, one of the sex clubs, mostly just J.O. stuff and cock-sucking. There's this place called Eros across from the Safeway that's like having sex in a hospital; they have a little cappuccino bar upstairs, with condoms and monitors who ask you to leave if you're doing unsafe stuff. Of course, San Francisco is 50 percent HIV positive. You just assume everybody has it.

"Unleash the Queen is good, Uranus gets the nose-ring crowd, and Decadence will usually have live sex shows, hot wax, cat-o'-nine-tails, that sort of thing. Everybody usually winds down at the End Up, the Sunday night party at Uranus. The weirdest thing I ever saw there was the Miss Uranus contest -- this drag queen called Betty Pearl stuck a carrot up her ass, and then threw it out in the audience, hitting some straight girl in the eye. She sued the club and later on a mock trial was held for Betty at Clubstitute, where she was judged guilty of improper performance art and really, really poor taste."

Chastened, but plunging on. A dinner party at Barocco Beach, a gentleman talking about seeing Turkish wrestling on television in Paris, a national sport with the weird quirk of allowing the winner to debase the loser, plunging his hand down the pants of the vanquished and goosing him. Chatter about Linda Evangelista leaving her mate, David Geffen being the equivalent of an eighteen-year-old socially, having only recently come out, and a troublesome question: "What do you breeders do in bed anyway?"

A party at The Spot after Kenny Scharf's opening at Hokin Gallery, hosted by Ocean Drive magazine, Scharf getting off a great line: "This is awful -- all my friends are here." A brief tour of the club's new decor scheme, then over to Warsaw, taking in a show featuring a guy dressed as the Eveready bunny. The bunny walking across the stage, and disappointedly enough, doing nothing of a sexual nature.

Desperate, heading down to Key West for the evening. Barefoot pilots at the airport, lending a little local color: "God, my liver think's my throat's been cut -- it's way past cocktail time." "Pervert row" at Rum Runner's, men lining up to suckle on the dancers' bellies, going off to booths for private dancing sessions -- ugly sex without artistic pretense. Club One, a picture of a lion sodomizing a young god, patrons singing along to "My Funny Valentine" at another gay bar. Tapped out at the end of the rainbow, but renewed again with a great bar story about Peter Allen's last days, as he lay dying of AIDS in Los Angeles: New York socialite Judy Peabody flying out to nurse him, but eventually, the sight of her solicitous face becoming too much to bear. Allen looking up, muttering, "Enough already," and dying shortly afterward. A rather instructive bravery, facing the end of the social whirl, the beginning of the ultimate long night.