Swelter 17

What with the truly feminine pathology of Hurricane Erin A she might fuck you up, and then again, she might not A the week turned out to be slightly less satisfying than we would have liked, remarkably similar to a nonorgasmic sex thrash with a mean witch you couldn't stand in the first place. In the interests of fleeing a slumbering beast, we immediately ejaculated to the suburban frontier and picked up a few life lessons in exile. There's actually such a thing as too much television, even breathless dispatches from a looming meteorological rebuke. Though curiously oblivious to the fabulous, people are nicer, more earnest, and eerily civil away from the glitzier coastal regions. But in the end, the pleasant just doesn't cut it, and fractious as it may be, there's no place like home. At least something happens once in a while.

And we're nothing, an absolute zero sum equation, if not a service industry for the land of what's happening now. Born anew in the hinterlands, and so it's a return to the paradise of the immediate, South Beach, forever flirting with the monstrous but always interesting in one way or another. Friday night on the town, the nightlife industry transcending the merely speculative, lower Washington Avenue going wall-to-wall clubs. Yves Uzan of Amnesia working on a jazz place next to the Strand, the watering holes Berlin Bar and Boston's Charlie Brown opening in Bash territory, the Ruins and Rebar aswirl in real estate rumors. On Collins Avenue, son of Velvet scheduled for December, some out-of-towner doing an enormous dance place across the street. In the past, visitors bought trinkets as mementos of a great weekend -- now they buy clubs.

Respectable Street full of the standard suspects, lacking the novelty of the club's debut, a private affair that embodied the best and worst variable of this business: You never know what's going to happen until you get there. In mortal dread of the same old district buffoons in full comp fester, we had girded the psyche for yet another opening, and to our great delight stumbled upon a tide pool of unknown creatures slithering around in tribal couture and deeply alternative music. As it turned out, the looks-great-tastes-good extras, way hipper than most local goofballs, hailed from the mother establishment in West Palm Beach. Shame on us regulars, one and all, for our pretensions to the edge.

Back out to the streets, akin to a sort-of-aerated club, surrounded by youth -- we have seen the future, and it is pizza parlors. As ever, remaining a walking, talking metaphor for how not to wind up in middle age, the sidewalks littered with errant buds, ripe for tricks, kicks, and a few laughs. Here, there, and nowhere, marveling at the apparent failure of a local casting call for Lolita, the new Sue Lyon somehow not turning up. Vladimir Nabokov's masterpiece of the heart's topography, pretty well covered by Stanley Kubrick already, destined to be cinematically trashed by Adrian Lyne of Nine 1/2 Weeks fame -- talk about the dumbing down of modern culture. The moneyed haunts in a drool over two notorious developers on the loose -- famed for openly eating steak off some stripper's crotch at a glitter restaurant -- and the juicy prospect of fresh blood, renowned party boy Jack Nicholson doing an upcoming movie in Miami. Throw Roman Polanski into the strange brew, cross Chinatown III with a perky remake of Kids, and the pussy possibilities are endless.

Moving on up to the refuge of Lincoln Road, always adults night out, sanctified ground for lesbians, picturesque lunatics, and the employed. Erinn Cosby, the first sweetheart of nocturnal survival, bouncing around at al Piccolo Cafe, the new Sport Cafe outpost. Old-home week at the Alliance Gallery, all the founding fathers of nightclub society -- Mayra Gonzalez, Fernando Garcia, et al. A turning out for a reception in honor of Damian Rojo's "Kill Them All! and Others" exhibit. Let's do the time warp again, back to the Fire and Ice glory days, our fellow veterans lately prone to regular habits, babies, and staying home. One iconographic figure ruing the passage of time and true fun, and handily summing up the current realities: "The Beach is getting to be a bad Beverly Hillbillies episode, and I'm starting to feel like Jane Hathaway."

Dinner at World Resources, a connoisseur of the eccentric bewildered by the passing urban professionals: "Why would anybody want to know normal people? What would you say to them?" The bounteous pageant of insanity winding down with a quiet night at home, pouring over the National Enquirer, Oprah Winfrey and Don Johnson making the cover. America's newest tabloid couple frolicking on the Riviera together, Winfrey bracing for a clash-of-the-titans struggle with Barbra Streisand over the fallen idol: Get a grip, you superstars -- he's not worthy.

Saturday night, and thank God the phone rings, a clarion call to the mainstream, an invitation to a dinner party on the mainland. From our perspective, nerves jangled by the nasty and stupid, bliss beyond measure. As a soupaon of social spice, one of the more prosperous guests bringing along thematic tone from New York City: wicked long legs, flawless breasts, and dyed platinum hair, leavened with a throaty voice made for honeyed bedroom incantations. Our type all around, a wild thing worthy of worship, and given our dating profile, inevitable self-degradation. Intriguingly enough, she turning out to be a he, one splendid pre-op transsexual secretary, the kind of commanding character who could have stepped out of a Warhol movie.

As a preamble, What's My Line as a Restoration comedy of manners, the new Holly Golightly slowly building conversational steam, reminiscing about Manhattan's annual Jean Genàt-meets-Christopher Street bash aboard the S.S. Intrepid: "My outfit that night, this Mylar sailor thing with five-inch heels, looked so cute A that man-heavy crowd was living when they saw me. Afterward, it started to rain, there were no cabs, and everyone went frantic. I had to pay some limo driver 50 bucks for a six-block ride and he made me ride up front, to hide from his other passengers. Only in New York A I asked him if he wanted me to throw a blow-job into the deal, too. Can you imagine?"

On to other stories of Gotham, downtown girl going gooey over a patron of money-hungry flesh ("He gave him everything A it was love, pure and simple"), the state of drag, and the merits of Fire Island. And then the bombshell, a casual mention of an interesting sideline, moonlighting on the Hellfire, Belle de Jour, and dungeon-chic circuit as Mistress Love. Strong stuff for some of the other guests, but to our way of thinking, manna from heaven.

"It's simple enough work, really, and sort of entertaining. You tie them up against a brick wall with leather straps -- they're nude, of course -- put a horse bit in their mouth, then whip them a bit. When they get all excited, you find out if the wretches are right- or left-handed, unstrap one hand, and let them go about their business. At that point, you can just leave them there, get a glass of wine or whatever, and they're perfectly happy. That's $200 an hour, split with the house. If you help them along, and some of them, trust me, you wouldn't mind helping, that's another hundred. Naturally, you can't report the money: One girl has $300,000 stashed away in a safe deposit box, earning no interest at all. It's hard to invest, save up for retirement -- I wind up blowing it all. Cash can really get to be a problem."

Among the drones who take pride in health insurance, credit, and chump change, a heated argument ensuing. Vice and easy money may be an inalienable American right, but tax-dodging remains another enviable sin entirely. Our thoughts straying toward the good Mistress's potential as a marriage candidate -- handsome private income, an amiable disposition, separate recreational interests. At our insistence, the drift of chatter moving from crime to fame:

"You would ask about that. I haven't had any real celebrity clients, but Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas did have a private cross-dressing appointment with a friend of mine. He'd been on Phil's show, and they wanted to try drag together. They're both so nice and supportive to all of us out here. And there's a very wealthy, fairly well-known gentleman who uses some of the girls at his place. Normally, I don't make house calls, but it was the Carlyle. That doorman got an eyeful, let me tell you, when I waltzed in, with this Chanel suit over my vinyl dominatrix gear, sweating from the heat and trying to look inconspicuous. Anyway, I get upstairs to this beautiful, to-die-for apartment, and this man has his own home dungeon built into a closet, with all the very best equipment. It's a great, big wonderful world, honey, and in this life, the craziness just keeps coming at you.

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Tom Austin