Swelter 23

Rosh Hashanah, a new year, a new beginning, a new attitude of unsettling contentment, gooey delight reigning in the house of nice. The first traces of autumn and renewal, born again after a difficult period, the usual endless summer doldrums of whiny personal crises, Freudian black holes, and various fabulous compulsive/addictive problems ebbing slowly. Bravely facing a lewd new season, staunch as St. Stephen in the moment of martyrdom, praying for those who would cast the first stone. Into the long embrace of the night, a genetically doomed descent from the life of the saints, born to the deeper agonies of existence but forever making do with soulless agitation in the absence of true action. A feverish jig on the precipice of the apocalypse, sodden and battered as a cardboard box that's been left out in the rain, and yet curiously happy, delivered from evil and malice.

Peace, joy, and attitude, Manhattan division, in abundance during the International Jeanswear Show dinner at Starfish, set to open to the public in mid-October. Hometown girl/hostess Debbie Ohanian radiating sweetness and light, chef Kerry Simon serving up a tasty spread of preview attractions, the New York fashion press clinging together like snobbish missionaries, bushwhacked by badly dressed albeit colorful natives. The guest list, assembled in New York by the public-relations firm Loving & Weintraub, a real masterpiece of conceptual art. All the most important/useful names in Miami, the Catch 22 being that none of the nonjunket principals were called and actually told about the event. Following the rules of the social twilight zone to its natural conclusion, all of us may have inadvertently missed Versace's construction-theme tea dance, Jackie's let's-get-acquainted brunch for Daryl and John-John on the Vineyard, Michael Jackson's latest boy-love seminar at the ranch. An entertaining evening at Starfish regardless, the gang moving on to Louis Canales's Absolut Denim street party on Lincoln Road, topped off with a triumphant USO-style fashion show in the rain. Big fun all around.

Agitation aplenty on the cocktail circuit this past week, the Latin ritz-and-glitz set mobilizing for the Miss Hispanidad 1993 contestants at a Mano: the men whipping out business cards with the practiced dexterity of gunslingers, the older women on sex alert, both groups posing for countless grin-and-grip photos. The drill, after fifteen years in the trenches, proceeding like clockwork: loading up at the tail end of the open bar, rapid inhalation of the more lavish hors d'oeuvres, a sound bite with Miss Guatemala, the twenty-year-old Jessica Echeverria: "The people in my country stand for you, and the girls here cooperate. We are all from the same culture, the same position." The contestants abruptly leaving in formation like tarted-up ducklings, the Fourth Estate winding down with celebrity stalking stories, college student/photographer Manny Hernandez showing great promise. Hernandez confronting Eddie Murphy at a public urinal, trapping Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown in an elevator, catching Richard Greico singing "Stairway to Heaven" at the Tiffany Hotel. The talk leading inevitably to famous people in disgusting moments, an anecdote about Ed McMahon picking his nose during a Fort Lauderdale judging stint, less-than-vital stuff, not quite big-league material. But then, the kid's still young.

The young and good looking out in force at the premiere screening party for the television show Moon Over Miami at Chili Pepper, sponsored by Ocean Drive magazine. Club girls dancing on the bar, entranced by the television monitors set up around the room; Channel 10 doing a live remote broadcast, interspersed with footage from the juicy new tourist killings. Actor Bill Campbell nervously absorbed in the show ("It's very difficult to watch yourself in front of all these people"), the crowd doing the standard interpersonal shuffle: Video club chronicler Veronica Milchorena, back in town after a summer tour of Europe; Chili Pepper co-owner Todd Snyder looking ahead to the annual infusion of the beauteous: "It was ugly over the summer, but thank God the season is finally here." Tommy Pooch on a roll, working his "China Club" Mondays at Velvet and the October 8 opening of Spo-dee-o-dee, rolling over the passing-into-legend Washington Square. Pooch renovating and putting in pizza ovens, pointing out that the original Spo-dee-o-dee in New York's meat-packing district had a sympathetic dive quality, frequented by the glamour-driven Robin Leach and Malcolm Forbes, given to slumming with his motorcycle boys.

Other clubs, other tales from the dark side. The Baja Beach Club chain, the surfer movie that never ends, taking over the Club Nu space last week. Jeana Giordano, director of marketing and promotions, noting that the company is shooting for a late October/early November debut. A rumor about Cactus Cantina becoming another chic restaurant/club dashed by owner Linda Lou Nelson, reached in Key West: "We're going ahead with the season, doing more original-music nights to fill the void left by the Square, catering to our regulars." The transformation of Mario's into Mickey Rourke's Pub & Club still a long way off, according to DACRA's Scott Robins, one of the ownership partners in the Washington Avenue building: "The Herald item is strictly speculation; no one has contacted us from Mario's." Lincoln Road, little gay way, embracing The Kremlin shortly, a new gay dance club opening October 1 in the Third Rail space. Peter Estrada and Lino Ponton, formerly of the Havana Club in downtown Miami, creating an old-Russia-meets-Miami-Beach outpost with the help of designer George Tamsitt: "It's going to be an interesting environment to have fun in -- chandeliers, deep royal colors from the real Kremlin, a Nineties version of imperial Russian decadence."

The weekend, a strain on sanity and hard-fought equilibrium, fighting dark atavistic urges and unseemly puce envy: several local colleagues off to Paris on a press junket, someone sending an article about the Paris Review 40th anniversary bash in the Hamptons, a celebrity-clogged gathering that banal circumstances forced us to miss. Settling for clubs, an approximation of true decadence. A local perennial raving about the coming thing in body art, selective amputation, scarring already totally over as a trend. In tow with actress/model Simone Finnis and company, taking in the very cozy "Mockingbird Lounge" at 12.03 and then on to Les Bains: Pretty crowd, pretty room, feeling fairly nifty at a prime table. The tide turning gradually, Euro-filth spilling a drink down our lap, a champagne-swilling little sheik eventually given our niche in the VIP ecosystem, business, after all, being business. Still, happy beyond measure, impervious to rebuke, rolling with the punches. In this best of all possible worlds, it's best not to sweat the action.

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Tom Austin