Swelter 32

Settle back and relax, it's Prozac time. Life just doesn't get any weirder -- or much worse either -- than this. A dicey proposition of alternating repulsion and fin-de-siäcle pleasures, the city drifting into a bizarre free-trade zone of arrested development, floating somewhere between St. Tropez, pre-war Berlin, and an eternal Saturday night in Jersey City. The whole mess simultaneously hateful and glamorous in a half-baked way, sort of like an Academy Awards ceremony for resentful bit players, the honorees stewing in irateness and professional discourtesy. Nothing is ever enough and success is meaningless unless others -- preferably best friends -- fail miserably. A cruel joke played out in the horn of plenty, the scrambling cast taking their best hold in a precarious popularity contest, a miserable merry-go-round making chumps of everyone in the end.

South Beach, Arcadia lost beyond redemption, the unwashed Pavlovian masses confronted by the happy specter of club saturation. Some currently favored establishments maintaining a semblance of elitism, the others luring in the ugly and horny like strip-show barkers, easy sleazy buck fever infecting the market like a metastasizing cancer. Various unlikely candidates entering the fray, a sad little Japanese restaurant and a trendy drugstore, among others, actually doing after-hours parties equipped with way off-duty police officers. The ghoulish one-more-round-at-10:00-a.m. crowd adding piquancy to an already overloaded landscape, tolerable only to the very rich and the terminally poor, both camps past the bourgeois constraints of pride and good manners. Minions of trash, scouring for good filthy fun in the ruins.

Strolling down Washington Avenue, a wharf rat scampering around a gleaming BMW, adding atmospheric juice to a heady swirl of other nocturnal creatures. Cafe Ma*ana jumping with three simultaneous birthday parties, sister restaurant Bang introducing an optimistic new menu this week: "The Season of Love." Van Dome co-owner Michael Krieger taking over a long-vacant yeshiva next door for entertainment possibilities, in step with the trend toward transforming vital human-service institutions A hardware stores, houses of worship, et cetera A into temples of fun. A procession of pricey Euro-boutiques vying with a stream of hopeless mall rats, one particularly charming trollop lobbing gratuitous offensiveness our way: "The problem over here is all the queers, like that one right there." Mickey's figurehead Mickey Rourke coming in this week for yet another grand wallow, holding down his very own Jack Dempsey's-meets-Planet Hollywood monument to the party hearty life.

On to Bash, the evening improving with the beauteous Wahne from Bang, briefly occupying our lap before the miraculous appearance of an unattached nonhomosexual model. Freelance writer Iris Linares drinking champagne outside, pining for an escape to New York, a bum suddenly walking up and clinking a bottle of Mad Dog against her crystal glass, darkness making democrats of us all. Sliding over to Velvet, the usual go-go girls and madness, partner Nicole Bilu-Brier just back from a tour of the Holy Land, fingering a blessed cross in the "spiritual black hole" of nightlife. The streets teeming with the unprincipled railing about matters of principle, abuse, and small-change scams going around and around, one vast circle of pain. Last call at Spo-dee-o-dee, a local bon vivant tweaking nipples and giggling about impenetrable hetero assholes, quietly lapsing into a grand 4:00 a.m. epiphany: "Have you ever been in the middle of a wonderful party, and then suddenly, for no real reason, you feel totally isolated, that horrible 100 seconds of solitude? That happens to me all the time. Dear God, I'm poor, I'm forsaken, I'm Christlike in my loneliness."

The glitter circuit rolling on obliviously, devouring the sacred and profane alike. Fashion land, as ever, continuing apace: the local outpost of Bottega Veneta hosting a please-open-your-purses party at the Raleigh this past weekend, designer Tommy Hilfiger throwing a postperformance soiree for Duran Duran at the downtown Hyatt, Paloma Picasso appearing at Burdines shortly to flog her newest perfume, Minotaure. The Miami Book Fair International bringing in the obscure and celebrated, Stephen King to the poets of the Inferno, the valid all too briefly occupying the hinterlands. White Party week offering the usual blend of heaven-cum-hell diversions, "Naked Angels: Bodies by God" theme parties and uplifting AIDS benefits, the visually palatable mingling with power gays and the local velveteen Mafia. Martini Club reborn at Allioli, Joey Arias providing spiritualism and downtown firepower for the opening, the show-biz legend capable of ugly moments. An unappetizing memory of Joey-as-Justine at Warsaw coming to mind, urgently backing us into a corner with enormous breasts by latex. The holy grail of glamour, light and darkness, a quest for saints and beasts.

Our own week consumed by a fabulous-but-not-fun Perle Mesta phase, the prospect of a gloriously self-aggrandizing Black & White ball somewhat offset by a caliber of trash beyond the scope of the late Truman Capote: uninvited guests crashing private parties and then making insanely nervy pitches for publicity. Always a pleasure to be ghettoized as a free-marketing conduit and handy receptacle for the refuse of society, although public servants do hear the darndest things. Oliver Stone in town scouting for a new movie, dining at The Strand and the Colony with assorted girls and A who else? A Ocean Drive's Jason Binn. John John Kennedy and Daryl Hannah having too much fun at the Century, Hannah vomiting and flushing all night long, forcing the occupant of an adjacent room to seek quieter quarters. A tough little school teacher irate over being evicted by bouncers at The Spot, rather naively expecting an apology from co-owner Gary James, guilty of stepping on her foot and generally making life unpleasant. After midnight there's no mercy and precious little deliverance.

On the town yet again, tolerance stretched to the breaking point, reduced to screaming at cheesy VIP-room hostesses and young hustlers, ready for a Taxi Driver blaze-of-glory number. Bouncing back from the brink at an instructive Foundlings Club dinner for architect Morris Lapidus, the ultimate Miami survivor elegantly weathering time and the local penchant for shabby behavior. A nice long dirty-laundry chat with a Beach politician, bemused by our request for theme-free cuisine ("We're mortal enemies, but politicians and journalists are both on the same gravy train"), the table laughing heartily at a remark made by a very wise attorney: "Everyone hates corruption, until it swings their way.

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Tom Austin