Swelter 22

Night and day, a psyche at war with itself: In darkness the inner sanctum becomes a vast lollipop of lowbrow magical realism; by day all the short-order fairy tales yield to the cold crunch of truth. And so it's another night on Earth, twelve straight hours on the job -- dazzled, dissed, and delighted on an ordinary Friday -- immersed in spinning orbs of social circles, rife with pain and possibility.

Round one, a plunge into the horror of rush hour, driving up to Turnberry Isle Resort for the taping of WPLG-TV's Fashion Plate benefit, agog in the hubris of serving as a celebrity model of regional import. At long last, a task that suits our appetite for the superficial, the inevitable delusions and dread setting in: anorexia, cocaine addiction, horny bookers, and cheap angst weighed against Revlon contracts, besotted sugar daddies, and the leap into serious action movies and pop scholarship, a la Cindy Crawford and Veronica Webb. What with all the nutso/schizo inner theater, passing right by Bal Harbour and neglecting rock wonderland, Bon Jovi drummer Tico Torres exhibiting his paintings at Neiman Marcus and the Barbara Steiner Gallery in support of the charity Best Buddies. Torres bringing superfiancee Eva Herzigova and fellow Bon Jovians Jon Bon Jovi -- the cute one -- and guitarist Richie Sambora, of Cher and Heather Locklear fame, a true odd couple for the little black book.

More curiosities of the fashionable world at Turnberry, lots of mondo celebrity clashes in evidence: Sexcillia and Kitty Meow prancing down the same runway with Don and Mary Anne Shula. In the dressing room: tight pants that had to be pinned up, rebukes of the banal, and everyone else's pricier Saks Fifth Avenue ensembles, the television guys talking about actually buying their outfits later. To work in the medium of money, we'd dress like a Smithfield ham and yodel odes to Arnold the pig.

As it happens, the soiree -- part of the station's Children First Fund and community outreach campaign -- hewing to a cuisine-meets-fashion theme. Irene Marie models wearing food-inspired creations by local designers, an assortment of chefs, from Norman Van Aken to Allen Susser, providing a nicely done dinner. Event coordinator Barton G. and Channel 10 producer Nanci Ross bopping around, Ross taping the party for a television special this week, bumping Urkel of Family Matters. In a rare instance of good things happening to good people, Ross shortly joining the kinder, gentler Current Affair in New York City, former WPLG newscaster Jon Scott replacing ex-homegirl Penny Daniels as Current Affair anchor. Lately, no one, except for us, stays in one place any more.

Telegenicized, mustering out for hair and radioactive makeup, lip liner putting a Bela Lugosi-meets-the-end spin on things. Surrounded by friends and the great family of fellow Miami survivors, lapsing into Naomi-before-the-fall attitude as a parody of supermodel behaviors, major self-involved fun. And then it's showtime, the co-hosts -- Power 96's Mindy Frumkes and Sun-Sentinel fashion editor Rod Hagwood, going for a defrocked priest look in Donna Karan -- introducing all the distinguished personages. Dwight Lauderdale going on with his wife, Minnie, followed by Charlie Cinnamon and Judy Drucker ("We look too normal"), and then the glimmer twins, our last tango with publicist Norma Jean Abraham.

As with executions, even the lower forms of modeling concentrate the mind wonderfully: Confronted by the lights, music, and the ignominy of falling off the stage, a dull roar rises up in the ears and one either focuses or perishes. Thankfully, both of us surviving with a measure of grace. At the end, hugs, kisses, and promises to meet in Paris all around -- is that all there is to modeling? -- the La Dolce Vita tone continuing with a tidy fire erupting in a lobby planter, one wag commenting that a notorious matron in attendance must have exhaled.

Out of the cozy realities of fashion and television -- as ever, we'd lent dignity to the pop professions -- and down the boulevard of broken dreams to the Deco District, catching the tail end of a Tico Torres party at Max's South Beach. The very pleasant Torres, whose visual art efforts had been touted as dark-underbelly-of-life material, coming off as a case study in how to seize the world by the balls and still remain polite. After all, most part-time painters don't open art shows with teenyboppers and police security. Bon Jovi being the patron saints of New Jersey, naturally bringing up our ancestral roots in downtrodden Bayonne; Torres immediately grasping the gestalt, "That's the real Jersey A Frank Sinatra's still king there." And then a moment with Eva Herzigova, living the model dream with real money and a rock-star companion. Fresh from our runway turn, a mere apprentice to the trade, humbled before a master, gushing something about $10,000-a-day girls being cheap at twice the price.

At that point, someone effecting an introduction to a man who's paid a price or two in life, the likable David Lee Roth, formerly of the party-on Van Halen. Roth, who seems to be channeling Janis Joplin lately, poised to take the Viva Las Vegas route to rock-and-roll rebirth, doing a casino tour this winter. After a preamble with some factotum of courtesy ("Nothing to eat, thanks -- I gave that up"), Diamond Dave, the master blaster of the last good time, launching into a captivating, occasionally witty, and largely indescribable spiel, a cartoon character come to life: "This is not that rock-star, I'm-doing-my-fourteenth-album crap -- it's a return to the kind of great acts we remember. A little Bobby Short and some 'Just a Gigolo' with a Latin band in costume for that extra spike, top-shelf babes doing the back-up vocals. No camp, either -- it's about quality."

The moment of quality time immediately followed by a descent into hype, working publicists everywhere at once. China Grill kicking off with all due fanfare in early November, Dennis Max working on the Astor Place restaurant within the very beautiful Astor Hotel. In the old Barrio space, Digby Leibovitz, designer Rolf Seckinger, and assorted partners opening the Swirl Shop in October, a kind of adult playground: light food and real liquor, cabaret, sandboxes, a liquid bar, drinks floating down a built-in trough. In other late-breaking reports, we're the last person, apparently, to catch the chic 411. The Paloma Picasso divorce, her ex-husband flipping the fashion icon through his close uberpersonal friendship with a man given to impersonating telenovela queens. The teen tycoon of Animal Farm/Pervert clothes, Don Busweiler, chucking it all for the rapture of religious cultdom -- the only way out of this game, save for AA, death, or suddely becoming last week's news.

From there wafting through sound bites ("The only things people won't give you on this Beach are money, blood, and the truth") on the way out to the streets, torturing cab drivers and taking a nightcap at 821. Once there, pondering the possibilities of an act billed as the Supremes: From the glory-days lineup, one's dead, one's solo, and call-me-Miss-Ross hasn't done club dates in some time. After an endless wait, the faux Supremes -- all gold teeth and sad-ass stories -- finally arriving around two a.m., complaining about the traffic and puncturing another illusion of the night. No original members from the group, of course, a guitarist addressing the legal ramifications ("Why you asking me? I ain't no lawyer") as one of the singers gaped at Hotshots magazine.

None of them quite got it together to go on -- their tapes got wet, the dog ate their homework -- and we all entered the netherlands of contented dementia, talking with social pioneer Curtis DeWitz, now backing Andrew Delaplaine on his new-order mayoral quest. In the end, it's a nutty little world. On to the pitiless five a.m. fluorescence of a fast-food dump, and then the sanctity of sleep, gurgling like a happy baby amid a rich nocturnal wonderland. For some curious reason, Miami is the only place where we dream any more.

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Tom Austin