Swelter 41

Nothing human is entirely foreign, although the recognition of la condition humaine somehow offers small comfort in the interactive zoo of Miami, a jungle habitat freed from the constraints of normal society. The animals rule, lawlessness prevails, and the polite are left in the dirt like so many spoor droppings. The idealistic baggage of youth -- real books, convictions, everyday decency -- gradually falls by the wayside in the social hustle, an inevitable coarsening has taken hold. To become a beast is to rid yourself of the pain of being, the irksome tug of responsibility, guilt, and civility. But then, monstrousness has its own seductive power, the inevitable price for loutish behavior materializing in mysterious ways.

An infinite capacity for shamelessness coming in handy, however, at the Cultura del Lobo presentation of Stewart Copeland & the Rhythmatists. An ethnocultural mob descending on the charming little Gusman ticket booth like hungry wolves, necessitating an unseemly maneuver on our part, resulting in a triumphant snatch of prized tickets from a side window. Into the world-beat immersion course with attitudinal companions ("All these green's like a 3-D Benetton ad"), our group whining steadily among an adoring audience, processing to a wholly different drummer. The program commencing with the talented Percussion de Guinee, sliding off into surrealistic vaudeville with a flamenco guitarist/dancer and the singer Vinx doing a bongo-accented rendition of "My Funny Valentine" and not exactly endearing himself: "Come on, white people, clap along." Stewart Copeland, a truly fine musician, joining the troupe after intermission, working weird terrain. On to a postperformance party at Hard Rock Cafe, whimsically demanding courtesy liquors and hamburgers for fun, the guests filtering in gradually. Copeland a long way from the Police era ("This is a completely different kind of audience than rock music"), his big-deal brother Miles, mistaken for just another schlepper in the shadows, rude and ridiculous beyond measure: "You actually don't know who I am?" Angela Rodriguez of Billboard interpreting rock protocol, advising against pressing questions about Sting's meteoric rise and opting to bail out early: "Well, this party has burnt another day."

More parties, the willful burning of time. Downtown again for the opening of "The Art of Seduction" show at the Centre Gallery on the Miami-Dade Wolfson Campus, curator Bonnie Clearwater bringing various cutting-edge women artists to the provinces. White-wine conversation ranging widely, from the similarities between the ancient Sumerian text, the Gilgamesh, and modern Miami ("All of life's a circle, and we keep running until we fall off") to high-maintenance gals: "As Jackie Kennedy said, you have to choose between your ass and your face after the age of 25." Back to the Beach for a very pleasant dinner party on San Marco Island, everyone talking about a conceptual artist who photographs his own asshole and not-so-private parts for posterity, the discussion naturally seguing into matters of finance. Wrapping up the evening at Lua, Joe Delaney of Cafe Iguana working on another outpost in the old Faaade space and telling tales. Our good name, according to Delaney, bandied about earlier that day at a district restaurant, a vulgar middle-age woman conducting a loud seminar in press relations: "All you have to do to make him nice is give him a frozen margarita; he loves the things."

Returning to the warm embrace of culture, the Concert Association of Florida inaugurating a new Dance Alive! series at the Jackie Gleason theater. Impresaria Judy Drucker and benefactor I. Stanley Levine announcing an appetizing lineup, Paul Taylor and the Joffrey Ballet, among others, the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company getting things off to a great start. The whole program -- ragtime dances, a Cole Porter medley with recorded renditions by Annie Lennox and Tom Waits, an agitated harmonica waltz -- infused with the proper proportions of irony, feyness, and classicism. As always the human factor of a maddening audience intruding on the proceedings. Bused-in old people rushing back to their furnished rooms during the curtain call, a party of vulgarians spewing forth inanities: "I'm sorry, but that was not what I would call entertainment." Switching tracks afterward at Starfish, settling in with a frozen margarita for added merriment, the entertaining female impersonator Jimmy James traipsing through the standards and bravely facing his own audience problems. Miss Jimmy scolding an amused but wary society lady: "What are you, rich as shit? Don't you ignore me, now." Another table of priss-balls irate over James playfully stealing their champagne: "Cheers and fuck you. I'll bet you loved Liberace, too." In one way or another, it's all theater -- keep smiling between acts or lose your mind.

Or simply go out, anywhere and everywhere, and let the brain unravel. Into the fashionable world, picking up tidbits A she-beast Roseanne Arnold now sporting a nose pin; David Geffen funding a remake of All About Eve set in high school, a Lamar Damon effort entitled Slap Her -- She's French. Missing, alas, a Love Boat-revisited luau theme party at the Raleigh, mogul Rupert Murdoch inadvertently occupying the same lobby with grudge-savorer Barry Diller, the glitz tribe including the Calvin Kleins and Sandra Bernhard. Another evening with the gay brigade, a paparazzo turning nasty ("Maybe I put a gun in one hand, then ask for a picture") during a celebrity stalking mission. The hawks cruising Collins Avenue later on for amenable boys, one of our party swinging out on the moving car door like a horny cop on T.J. Hooker, and then it's Warsaw at 3:00 a.m. Winding up alone in the maelstrom, abandoned by fickle fans: "You're still a star, darling. Well, maybe a little tired." Battered and numb, limping home through the apocalyptic streets, the Road Warrior of nightlife.

The social jag closing down at a slick party, all harlots and grotesqueries, reminiscing about the glory days of the Seventies with a personable political animal: "My Dad was an old-line Boss Tweed politician. Nothing surprises me after being raised down here. You had the big drug money and anything could happen; insanity just permeated the culture. The guys from Steely Dan hanging out at the Mutiny, Stephen Stills holed up in a Palm Bay Club suite for a month, doing God knows what. It all filtered down from there. The city commission offices then were wild: piles of coke, the secretaries posing with dildos for cameras, people going ape-shit. Joe Gersten was just part of that Miami-anything-goes culture, but he didn't know when to quit. I tell you, this city made me prepared for real life. It's always been like a pile of raw hamburger plopped down on a hot sidewalk: All you have to do is step back, let it fester, and watch the madness bubble up.

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Tom Austin