Field Trip for Foreigners

Something about visitors makes the whole sleazy ordeal of dime-store thrill-seeking oh so wonderful. Witnessing the maddening circus of low-rent nightlifing through the eyes of out-of-towners can make it seem fresh and novel. There is always a new something opening and way too many upstart promoters to keep up with. So many inner circles to permeate. And just who has the time to keep up with what's new and who's who and sleep for more than two hours a week? Argh.

But the pubescent zeal of out-of-town guests can resuscitate your interest in Things To Do When In Miami. That special time when Everyone is Alive with Happiness at the prospect of entering a club filled with so-called celebrities, wet behind the ears with wonderment.

So off you go with your own traveling troupe of pocket-protector-wearing, straw-hat-sporting, tie-dye-shirted Beach voyeurs, driving you to drink at a reckless pace. But then, that's right! Your crew of Midwesterners should get a kick out of the Skin Party, which is still just that -- skin. Kinda the crest of what it all means in the scheme of things. Flesh and liquor bought and sold and consumed as only ravenous outsiders can manage.

Dancing girls proud to show off freshly painted breasts and cute pubic hairdos. Jaws drop, but you've seen it all before. It was only a few months ago when what is now the Vanilla Bar was the Living Room. Once the home of wild revelries hosted by the likes of Dennis Rodman, the Vanilla Bar has lost its folklore status by dropping the name and notoriety synonymous with the old Living Room. But no sense in lamenting with the eager party pupils. That whole section can be left out of the Chamber's visitor's guide.

Not that there isn't still sex and alcohol at the Vanilla Bar's installment of Michael Veneziano and company's humpfest. It is still the place to go for women and the couples who love them. It is still not a "swingers' party," according to its promoters. But it is definitely a lot more sterile since the changeover and the all-white décor. The memo stating "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" got lost on the desk when they decided to reinvent the party wheel at the former locale. Wait, what's this whining? We must party on and not look back!

We'll look forward to the Zack Bush and Erica Freshman affair at the former Breez location, now turned Sabor. An ingrained fear that anything left of Billboardlive will soon be vanishing proves to be a little unfounded. At least for the time being. The entourage gets a brief lesson on the struggling multimillion-dollar entertainment complex's history, an apparent $20 million sinking ship with all essential personnel jumping overboard. The allegations of debts, mismanagement, and money problems mean nothing to this uninformed crew on the hunt for fun.

Introduce the pack to José Ortiz, the consummate host, as he makes his way around. Back home they have never seen the likes of Zack and Erica entertaining the up-and-coming. Handshake here. Kiss there. A cocktail? Help yourself to some genuine hospitality -- these kids have it down to a science. As real a team of party tour guides as the nightlife has seen in some time, with enjoy-your-stay-in-the-land-of-debauchery signature smiles.

"What are we gonna do today?" asks one eager sightseer. Has no one been paying attention during the entire field trip? Today is in direct opposition to the word tonight, which is directly related to the word night, which is the only time we will be leaving the house at all. The bright daylight may reveal character flaws and battle-worn complexions, poking holes in our fantasy world steeped in the myth that all things are beautiful. We resign to wasting away our days like drunken slugs until it's time for dinner and chatter. Let's hope we don't relive the horror of such a blasphemous, sacrilegious outburst during the rest of the stay. Someone could get hurt very badly.

An early dinner at Bolero in the Grove atop the Sonesta Hotel (good to have a field trip within a field trip and force them to accept that there is life beyond Alton Road) offers up some laughs. A few Absolut and cranberries get the gathering loosened up. The class is treated to all-too-vivid images of a certain movie star and his well-documented obsession with women of African-American background and matters of sex, post-sex defecation, and potty training. Now analyze that! You can bet they don't get stories like that back home.

Grooming students in the nature of degradation and general sleaziness involves a little self-destruction as well. Drugs can help. But a steady flow of poison is the weapon of choice. This night finds us at Level, where people line the sidewalks as though waiting for admission to some Busch Gardens amusement ride or to take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Can't go to Florida without going to Disney. We pick up our Mickey Mouse ears at the door and make our way to the bar in haste. It's music. It's alcohol. It's dancing. It's ... not feeling so fresh anymore.

Now the party undergrads have gone. But still there you are. Addicted to the search for vacuous glamorous. The love-hate relationship will prosper as it always has. Your own internal Hatfields and McCoys. Accept it. Accept that you will use any reason you can -- amateur tour or not.

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Lee Williams