Out of a tainted house, fleeing the satanic jingle of the phone, gearing up once again for the Miami Film Festival, theater of the absurd. This year's opening-night festivities at Gusman Center for the Performing Arts featuring the festival's first made-in-Miami movie, Miami Rhapsody, starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Mia Farrow, Paul Mazursky, and Antonio Banderas. Unfortunately, none of the stars in attendance, the paparazzi mistakenly assaulting a Banderas look-alike who had the good sense to arrive by limousine. One television crew reduced to filming an obvious glitz-meets-grit irony, a bum obliviously picking soda cans from the trash receptacles outside the Gusman, surrounded by klieg lights and local notables. All the Mr. and Mrs. First Nighters drifting inside for sound-bite visuals and maximum public exposure, the seating frenzy followed by a cameo chat with Palm Beach Illustrated managing editor Eric Newill, climbing out of the South Florida magazine debacle, the latter publication lately taking a Miami-style nosedive toward breaking fluff and terminal stupidity. Newill motoring down from Palm Beach for the weekend and, as usual, agog with tales of dukes, duchesses, and cafe-society fixture Bobby Short, posing impossible existential dilemmas: "Darling, what are you doing way down here in Florida?"
Then it's lights, cameras, and speeches, festival director Nat Chediak extolling "this crazy, cockeyed city we all dare to call home," and introducing David Frankel, the co-producer, director, and writer of Miami Rhapsody keeping things light and fun: "This is such an exotic, sultry, sweaty city, and tonight is even more exciting for me than my bar mitzvah. Please, God, I hope you enjoy the movie -- the expectations are so high for premieres." No masterpiece, actually, but amusing enough fare, full of one-liners ("Mental masturbation is my second-favorite kind") and indigenous rhapsodies, club veteran Naomi Campbell doing an art-versus-reality number as a self-immersed model, prancing around in the creations of costume designer-South Beach pioneer Patricia Field. A perfect movie choice for opening night, given the general intolerance for Peruvian tone poems.
The caravan moving on to the Hotel Inter-Continental for the "Rhapsody in Blue" gala, budding actors forming a gauntlet of interactive movieland tableaux, one faux star couple breaking character and kissing in an abandoned fashion -- oh, sweet horny youth. Party coordinator Norma Jean Abraham almost knocked over by automatic fire doors and going into walkie-talkie overdrive, the ballroom backing up with sustenance-driven guests. Michael Musto of the Village Voice bouncing in for a gossip fix, both of us staying on attitude alert and fishing for column items: "Michael, I'm too big in this town to even think about eating from a buffet. And please don't ask me to betray private conversations -- the trust between an ordinary person and a celebrity is sacred...so then she said..."; Musto, as he will, firing right back, "An important person from Miami is a contradiction. Just remember that vagrants take your free column out of that little red box and wrap themselves up in it." Really, you gotta love the guy.
More film fun from there, Gregory Peck turning up at Williams Island for a festival benefit, a walking, talking icon of old Hollywood. The very pleasant Antonio Banderas making a press conference the following day, dealing with all the usual pressing questions, the family man-romantic symbol laughing off the "sexiest man alive" trivia ("You have to see me in the morning -- it's pretty disgusting") and his talent for spanning the movie sexuality spectrum: "I've played some homosexuals and I'm sure the press wondered about my life. It's so far from what I really am, but I would have no problem playing a homosexual again. Maybe a queen, if the right part came along."
Back to true, as opposed to cinematic, reality, sliding through all manner of semigracious vignettes. An ordinary evening at a suburban movie theater, and suddenly there's David Letterman goof-adjunct Larry "Bud" Melman, in tow with a real looker -- a truly cheering spectacle. Melman commuting back and forth from New York, joining last week's Super Bowl VIP list, featuring everyone from Jesse Jackson to O.J. Simpson attorney Robert Shapiro, given to controversial sun-kissed weekends away from the trial of the century. The very new Nemo restaurant trendy at birth: Antonio Banderas at the bar, a woman reminiscing about Simpson's attractions, thankfully not fatal.
Club news, as ever, mounting steadily. Andrew Sasson of Groove Jet off to New York's very hip Bowery Bar, Gary James leaving the Frenchified Amnesia with All-American pomp. Brian MacNally A of "44," the club Trog in Prague, and the upcoming Delano Hotel A coming down from New York shortly to look at possible bar spaces with Austin Harrelson, riding the tide of fortune. Friday night, missing the soft opening of "A.A." on Washington Avenue, co-owner Adam Devlet turning his homage-to-surfing bar, the former Lucy's, into a Nell's-goes-bordello lounge with partners Jimmy Franzo -- formerly of Groove Jet -- and Conner Lumpkin, the team going for a "warm, fuzzy, and nice" look. Fairly whimsical stuff, Alcoholics Anonymous being the unpleasant destiny of many nightlife creatures, clubs operating on the drink-or-die principle.
Coconut Grove, the truly sober Arnold Schwarzenegger showing up at Planet Hollywood, the chain of celebrity cauldrons eternally hyped by a series of let-us-now-praise-fabulous-people investors. Schwarzenegger allowing himself to be witnessed by the press and stoking the publicity furnace, coming to town to meet with local suits and to discuss bringing his Inner City Games Foundation to Miami, looking to stage citywide competitions in sports, academics, and "entrepreneurial programs." Step right up and check it out, the wayward Olympics geared toward making good citizens out of violence-and-drug-prone youngsters, all the disagreeable personal qualities that make a Saturday night on South Beach such an unsavory prospect. To set the proper booster tone, the action hero noting that he'd had a great time while here shooting True Lies: But then, a schedule of limited public appearances keeps anyone cheerful, the temple staying sacred and profitable.
Wrapping up the whirl with the life of the mind -- well, sort of anyway -- overcoming the seductions of despair and having a grand time. Saturday night, a real-people party for Jill Eisenstadt -- author of Far Rockaway and Kiss Out. Eisenstadt visiting from New York with her husband Mike Drinkard of Disobedience fame, the acclaimed novel about Los Angeles, City of Angst. The gathering hosted by friends Elizabeth Lichtenstein and poet Campbell McGrath, responsible for a collection of his work with our absolute favorite book title, American Noise. Lots of talk about neo-Hollywood and the literary brat pack: Drinkard's personal copy of Disobedience signed by everyone from Eric Stoltz to various young writers, in the manner of a hip high school yearbook. Eisenstadt, along with four other writers, working on an information superhighway novel, an on-line project, Mr. Showbizz, commissioned by Microsoft: each writer, in turn, forced to write one chapter a week. Falling into a reverie of journalism -- going on-line on death row may be the only way off the treadmill -- literature suddenly looking very attractive. The couple charting a flat, disaffected national landscape, and yet, like their friend Bret Easton Ellis, remaining perfectly sweet and nice. Go figure. Our companion in glowing gloom rousing himself, lobbing the ultimate question: "So, you two are like happy and everything, right? Let me ask you -- how did you do it?