Swelter 33

White Party week, a crush of the noble and base, the pure and putrid, undercut by the frenzy of renown, from Prince to the luminaries of the gay universe. Off to a rousing start at Paragon for "An Evening of South Beach," coordinated by nine different AIDS organizations and the Dade Community Foundation. Cocktails with the upper-end crowd -- Bob Hosmon, Mark Steinberg, activists Dennis Leyva and Clark Reynolds -- conversation jumping from the fight against repressive referendums to unholy souls scalping White Party tickets. Legendary drag queen Henrietta turning up, a highly prioritized reader ("Back to front, like the Talmud, the gay personal ads first, of course") holding aloft the importance of being fun: "You're so bleak sometimes I want to slit your wrists."

The moveable feast continuing with an opulent supper club arrangement on the dance floor, local restaurants hosting individual tables, the setting smacking of the Beach glory days. Properly chastised, remaining perky through an awkward seating contretemps at the head table, discovering shared glitz-above-all interests with social pro Paula Levy. The aficionados happily absorbing mondo Miami visuals, a fading golden gal briefly mistaken for Liz on a bad day, Love Boat-revisited stars, a creature in purple taffeta brushing past Fifties star Kaye Stevens. Hairstylist and AIDS-sufferer Cami Bonsignore, now rather statesmanlike in the throes of the disease, accepting the first annual "Spirit of Life Award," the party dissolving into a frenzy of giving conducted by the spirited Michael Aller. Cash gifts pouring in from assorted Beach perennials, The Colony's Robbin Haas and Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time offering a catered dinner, the total take mounting steadily. Entertainment with a purpose, the best possible kind of diversion.

Thanksgiving Day, counting our blessings and gearing up for a nine-hour marathon run on Friday night, the social rush kicking in with two cunning little cocktail parties, all clever canapes, strained waiters, and bold sexuality: "Get thee to a nunnery; you could fry eggs on those pecs." Over to movie trailer producer Andy Kuehn's party at the Grand condominium with the power brigade -- Ashton Hawkins of the Metropolitan Museum, fabulati factotum Matthew Rich A the view somewhat alleviating the press of conversations. More chatter and attitudinal views at an airy South Pointe apartment, Genre magazine cohosting a salute to the Red Party, attracting a mixed bag of genres: the great beauty Kevin O'Baby and a faux Bobby Short, shirtless muscle boys in combat boots and pearls, ordinary-looking businessmen. Reveling in our role as temporary "fag stag," basking in gossip: David Geffen jetting off to Barbados for the weekend ("He must be hiding somebody really cute"), Ingrid Casares doing a batter-up-switch-hitter number with a rising male singer, two of the good-family-run-amok Johnson & Johnson heirs marrying gay men. Rich or poor, we all have our little peccadilloes.

La-homo-a-go-go sashaying on to the Red Party in the resolutely hetero former Penrod's space, Bobby Guilmartin and Jody McDonald doing a classic Hombre-throws-a-beach-party number: videos of nude B-boys lost in the maw of narcissism, lots of festive red mylar, the gay ghetto oiled with theme-nectar of the gods, Mount Gay rum, frolicking like insouciant puppies. Switching tracks and ghettos, popping in at the very soft, very soothing opening of The Whiskey at 638 Collins, Paul Montana and Joey Goldman hosting a small group of usual suspects. On to Mickey's, a sloppy center-will-not-hold mess, tantamount to storming the Bastille. Daisy Fuentes wandering around, Mickey Rourke on public relations alert, smiling pleasantly and muttering something unintelligible. The celebrities-we-maybe-just-missed contingent including Roxanne Pulitzer and, stupefyingly enough, Steven Spielberg. As with achievement awards for bird watching, however, celeb sightings customarily require unbiased documentation.

Slipping out the guarded back door, a quick exit from clubs being the true perk of influence. On to the Collins Avenue crawl, running into six Death Rules punks hustling a one-nighter called "Sodomy" -- there's hope for the Beach yet -- and promoter/publicist Richard Pollmann, traveling with designer Wolfgang Joop and speaking Truth: "Sweetheart, my 'Insanity' party was so dreary this year." Into the nutty whirl of Warsaw, the all-star drags -- Kitty Controversial, Constance, et al. A doing a maternity-theme revue in homage to Mother Bartsch. Troupe member Miss Understood inadvertently kicking in the front teeth of a smiling X-head, the boy laughing and offering to "suck dick" to settle the painful misunderstanding. Upstairs to the balcony, old hand Chi Chi Valenti of "Jackie 60" just back from hosting the fetishistic "Rubber Ball" in London, quietly taking in another night of debauchery. Both of us watching even older hand Carmen D'Allessio, the It Girl of Studio 54, simultaneously wondering aloud: "God, how long can we keep this up?"

A hard day's night closing down in the Velvet VIP room with Prince, star-central access coming through Jason Binn, our beloved doppelg„nger in the fame game. Occupying the exact epicenter of the evening, Prince's booth, and still maddeningly removed from the action. The great man shaking hands firmly, smiling inscrutably at our conversational openers, handing out banana lollipops to assorted groupies. Bodyguards gently pulling away unseemly fans ("It depends on how nice they are"), Mr. Fey Guy remaining resolutely unemphatic: "What do I think of the club? Is that for publication?" Swept out in the vacuum of Prince's departure, lingering in the alley as the limo roars off, kicking up a cloud of dirt and debris. Too cruelly metaphorical for words.

Sunday at Vizcaya, the main event undeniably beautiful -- a hopeful sea of white in the gardens created by Miami's first perennial bachelor -- but anticlimactic somehow. Sugar daddy yachts pulled up to the dock, a pianist playing "Send in the Clowns," volunteer make-up artists on hand for the drag queens, carrying trays of condoms like cigarette girls. The carnality-equals-death set prowling the bushes, leading lights like playwright Edward Albee lending tone to the ballroom, the chattering classes taking the high road: "I'm looking for somebody I lost -- of course, that's a life story." The Masque of the Red Death come to life in a Busby Berkeley castle, a defiant waltz of yearning before the precipice of the encroaching plague. Home to another futile stab at sleep without dreams, tooling down the Washington Avenue "White Light Project," a line of lasers and searchlights probing the endless void. An eerie primordial chill settling in over the city, the moon engulfed in a miraculous eclipse, the Earth, as ever, spinning between darkness and possibility.

The White Party, a deliverance into hope and glamour: (clockwise from top) Suzanne Bartsch and husband David Barton; the Devil of Desire; drag queens united in fun.

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Tom Austin