Swelter 17

The glitterati constellation, world without end, a black hole of hype and hustle, chance and destiny, ruled by the quantum theory of fabulousness. Random glitz systems colliding only under the spell of darkness, spontaneously combusting at random moments, eventually imploding with sex, fame, and money. Each infinitesimal molecule ruled by ambition and desire, stalking the optimum moment in space and time, the alliance that will secure a foothold in the exact epicenter of possibility, the place to be on any particular night.

Into the heart of the hip universe with Peter Gabriel, closing down the American portion of the US tour at the Miami Arena, miraculously turning up at Van Dome for a post-concert party. Our invitation to the whole shebang provided by Ocean Drive's Jason Binn, of all people, Miami's edgy friend-to-the-glamour-industries normally associated -- and endlessly photographed -- with stars on the order of Donald Trump and Eddie Murphy. The fun commencing with a Gabriel-theme dinner at Cafe Ma*ana, an interesting cross section of strangely complementary modules: the ubiquitous stunners, featuring a woman from the Playboy salute to South Beach; Nicola Siervo of Bang, the consummate restaurateur; William Morris agent Jon Podell, a fellow house guest during our own assault-on-famous-force-fields weekend in the Hamptons. Conversation focusing around a curious celeb story, flirtatious Playboy/Guess model Anna Nicole Smith dining at Rony Seikaly's house, mourning an easily intimidated sperm pool and insisting that she'd gone without sex for two and a half years -- handily beating even our record. Life is full of opportunity for the brave and virtuous.

More strays and opportunities at Van Dome, milling around the upstairs room pointlessly, waiting for world beat central. Gabriel making a low-key entrance, off to his home in Africa the following day for a vacation, all tired blue eyes and quiet graciousness. Wryly detailing his immediate plans for the press ("Well, I intend to eat first"), firing on all cylinders in the big leagues: "I'm working with Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno on a chain of alternative amusement parks, with all kinds of different elements. We're meeting with investors now. In England I put together an 'MTV Rides' bus with Brett Leonard, the director of Lawnmower Man. We're doing one in America as well, sponsored by Pepsi. The bus is sort of a traveling virtual-reality machine: screens on all the walls, the seats moving and such -- like being inside a music video. The technology available now is fun, but it's not about that. What's important is substance."

The weekend bringing an array of less-than-substantive local pleasures, the unholy alliance with the antichrist of the fashionable world continuing on Friday night. Ocean Drive hosting an entertaining glitzarama dinner at Union Bar, honoring the 1993 Ford "Supermodel of the World" pageant, documented for television last week at MGM studios in Orlando. This year's contest attracting some 45,000 very young girls from around the world, the finalists representing 38 countries, from Croatia to Chile. A long dinner with the international misses, trying to avoid drooling and lobbing pidgin English, Miss UK finding it all so distasteful, so American: "Geraldine is from France; she speaks French." An awkward interview with winner Veronica Blume, the sixteen-year-old Barcelona student celebrating a $250,000 cash prize and a professional contract, aspiring to be A of all ill-considered ambitions A a journalist. Binn kibitzing throughout, hyped beyond measure: "Ask her if she has a boyfriend A the public wants to know stuff like that. I'm telling you, these girls are our future." A sudden void as the models leave promptly after dessert, and then a warm one-hustler-to-another farewell hug with Binn, a shared pledge of undying professional courtesy. You gotta love the guy.

Love, fame, professionalism, and just about everything else coming up during Sunday afternoon tea with Quentin Crisp at the Century Hotel, an encounter arranged through a series of fortuitous contacts. The noted writer/personality in town promoting the movie version of Virginia Woolf's Orlando, coming shortly to CocoWalk and the Alliance theater on Lincoln Road, Crisp playing Queen Elizabeth I. England's "stately homo" a true hero of uncloseted gay history, prancing about with long lacquered nails and dyed red hair in the early Thirties, still cutting a commandingly flamboyant figure at age 84. Hands fluttering like a geisha girl, the hair dyed violet now and teased into arcane sculpture, radioactive-looking rouge adding dramatic interest. For the occasion, a true what-becomes-a-legend-most outfit: blue velvet jacket, a sheer polyester shirt, sensible black shoes, a trademark scarf accented with a silver clasp ("A woman from the Gaza Strip -- I thought she was talking about a club -- gave me this"), and a Vikings football team pin. Crisp, as ever, an amazing talker, an early pioneer of the modern style-before-substance gestalt:

"One's personal style should come from within: you should be yourself, but on purpose. When I first left home at the age of 21 or 22 and moved into the bed-sitter where I lived until moving to another bed-sitter in New York twelve years ago, I entered an extreme stage: lots of bright colors, very effeminate but also very mild. Exhibitionism is like a drug -- a dose that would kill you when you're just starting out is not enough after a time. If no one stares, you assume a stronger dose is needed to sufficiently annoy the neighbors. There were always physical assaults, hats torn off my head, people demanding to know who the hell I thought I was. In gay life, the Bohemian bars of the time, I was equally unpopular. No one liked flagrant pansies, since the police raided 'funny' places. The world didn't want me.

"In my late twenties, I scaled back my appearance, looking more or less like I do now, supporting myself in odd jobs: artist modeling, commercial drawing, tap dance instructor. I had no talent for any of this, but what else could I do? When my first book came out, The Naked Civil Servant, the fame from it only made everything worse. When I told people that I'd worked at being famous, they were even more annoyed. The English treasure their indignation.

"In this wonderful optimistic country, I wrote more books, played Mr. Sting's laboratory assistant in The Bride, entered the smiling and nodding business. I live on the lower East Side in New York, right down the block from the Hell's Angels club, but no one has ever bothered me. Well, once for money, but of course anything to do with the pursuit of money is sacred. The easy way is to become famous, and then do something. Mr. Warhol thought everybody would be famous for fifteen minutes. The trick is to cling on so your fifteen minutes are never over.

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Tom Austin