The Anti-Club

Beneath the shimmery dresses and couture suits, Miamians are social animals driven into the night by the basic need to connect. No one really likes to be at home on a city weekend, thumbing through old high school pictures. It's just that lavish fêtes and glamorous grand openings now fulfill a primal urge once expressed by campfire storytelling, town hall gatherings, and village meetings.

Yet in our prefab microwave metropolis, conversation as a practice is an endangered species. We would rather read about ourselves in mini-mags and on newsstands than take the time to know someone else. Nightlife denizens have been known to spend hours together under the guise of having a good time, only to be totally unrecognizable to each other on the other side of the velvet rope.

This aloofness makes Miami what it is culturally. The gorgeous hordes lured by our balmy weather and beautiful beaches make for a disposable population. If you fail to instantly connect with one person, there are at least ten others equally as easy on the eyes within five feet ready to serve. If he won't spend money on you, then he will. Of course if she is not willing to bed you right away, one of her friends will oblige. So why bother with small talk? Send a text message. T.M.I. Let's skip the crap.

But maybe social interaction is not entirely extinct. A little fossil of civility has recently been uncovered on, of all unlikely sites, South Beach. At Automatic Slim, a Cheers-like local hang, DJ Shannon greets everyone who comes in to hear her spin vintage platters with the schoolgirl 'do that has been her trademark on the Beach scene for the past ten years. She's the perfect fit for this unpretentious goof spot.

There's no DJ booth elevated high above the masses. No flashing lights. No smoke machines. Just a jukebox-style approach to boogie. And there is a God because "no house music is allowed." Can this be heaven?

It is worth mentioning, however, that there is an accursed velvet rope at the entrance accompanied by a doorman. But the barrier appears to be just for show because no one is denied entrance into this trailer-park site. C'mon, would you think it was a cool place if there wasn't a rope out front? But once you pass the Harleys parked outside for decorative purposes you can leave all of your attitude at the door.

Music ranging from AC/DC's comically nostalgic "You Shook Me All Night Long" to Janis Joplin's "Piece Of My Heart" is cranked at high decibels. And everyone here loves the musical familiarity. It's worth a smile and a good beer. Get full on some of the finger foods served up until 4:00 a.m. if you'd like. Kind of part bar/part dinner. It's just like hanging around the pad with your drinking buddies. Lots of couches. Lots of friendly locals.

But somehow maybe still being in South Beach doesn't give you that feeling of being a part of something special. If you really want to rediscover that prehistoric, mythological good time, pump some Hank Williams III tunes through your Nissan Pathfinder and steer a team of archaeological anthropologists toward old Beach ruins.

Because elsewhere, in a forgotten part of town, far from the neon lights, SL Coups, and thumping Escalades, the team of Zack Bush, Erica Freshman, and José Ortiz continue in the "bullshit-free" vibe of party alternatives. Responsible for shindies at places like the Townhouse, the Shore Club, the Delano, and the Palms, these club kids have set out for an evening of hotel hijacking yet again -- maybe this time a hotel not as posh or well-known for celebrity sightings, but a hotel nonetheless. Yes, way up on 40th and Alton who would've thunk a funky lil' fête could get going?

The first in a series of roaming parties to be called Chic kicked off atop the Ho Jo (Howard Johnson for the less hip) Saturday night. The mood is bullshit lite indeed. Only hotel security gives any indication of party police presence. The guard's assignment may be to keep an eye on wandering partiers and direct them to the restrooms when they, like sheep, lose their way. Clubbed is guessing this is the most activity that he has had in some time in this neck of the woods.

When you've got some "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" from our boys Wham!, some brewskis along with an impossible-to-complete-before-the-party-finishes puzzle game, you've got a great little house party happening -- or certainly what refreshingly feels like one. There is just the right amount of light inside the hotel meeting room. It allows for a comfortable feeling, but enough light to be able to make out who you are talking to inches in front of your face. No strobes, no neon, and no laser beams.

All the guys and gals chat, actually getting to know each other. Strangers strike up conversations about real things like: "How long have you been working on that puzzle?" Wait. That's mindless. Okay, so it isn't utopia. It's close. There are conversations about careers, goals, dreams, and ambitions in life. It's all too much for the senses of anyone used to the regular disco banter. You get the feeling that people actually came out to meet each other and make new friends. Hmm. Something is fishy here. Maybe these are all alien stand-ins and the real folk who came were abducted from the rooftop. Clubbed fears that they are now being forcefully subjected to cruel extraterrestrial anal probing and experimentation. These Stepford Party People here can't be real. Too good to be true.

Further excavation reveals DJs Ames Dean, Alan Roth (one of the owners of Rumi), and our man Jochy are mixing it up with a retro repertoire. Ah, nothing like that old high school feeling music can generate. And thank goodness it is minus the awkward social graces and the acne.

Around the room everyone is oblivious to the absence of bottle service. Notably not in attendance, too, were crunches of Sashas and Ingas trying to cuddle up for free drinks. Is this a party? It's almost like people are really enjoying talking to each other. Looks like the lost ancient secret for fun could be found here, folks.

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Lee Williams