Swelter 47

The frenzy of show business, permeating and corrupting ordinary existence like a plague. Every level of society lately -- the talented and valid, the common and just plain lame -- behaving like imperious movie stars. Modern life nothing but a vast popularity contest, the contenders eventually willing themselves into the collective delusion that every move is being actively cheered on by an adoring public. The celebrity game a very cruel taskmaster indeed. But then, once you've tasted fame, everything else is poverty.

An actual movie star, Sylvester Stallone, becoming the newest specter of renown, suddenly everywhere at once. Stallone personable and fun at a press conference for The Specialist, goofing with costar Sharon Stone and looking content in the new easy-living Hollywood. His Brickell Avenue neighbor and fellow famous creature, Madonna, apparently not quite as tolerable, Stallone commenting that her presence meant he wouldn't have to pipe in Muzak. The actor's name coming up again at a Vizcaya cocktail reception, a neighbor to both stars not happy about the escalating legions of unseemly gawkers and stalkers, an alliance of residents raising money among themselves for a security gate and guard at the entrance to celebrity street. Madonna A who started the problems in the first place -- exercising the rights of trash nobility and refusing to pay more than anyone else. Stallone, conversely, regretting any inconvenience and endearing himself by offering to kick in more than his fair share. A very unusual circumstance, stars normally conducting themselves like old-line WASPS gone astray, studiously avoiding emphatic utterances, apologies, and undue expenses.

The sightings pouring in throughout the week, Stallone just missing Jimmy Franzo's big White Heat moment at Amnesia. The icon of Velvet, agitated by one thing or another, taking off his clothes and climbing the enormous fountain in the courtyard, pissing into the waters and venting his displeasure to the assembled multitudes. The Stallone troops turning up early at a Western-theme party on North Bay Road this past weekend, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees doing a real cross-cultural number: everyone from socialite Kathy Simkins to assorted district droogs in attendance, the entertainment ranging from a petting zoo with pigs to an imported drag revue. Walking in late and uninvited, greeted by the demented spectacle of Craig Coleman as Varla screaming the obvious from the stage: "Fuck you, I'm a drag queen!" Coleman filling us in on sordid news afterward, cabaret society agog over the juicy cat fight between drag columnist Mother and Julian Bain, the town positively lousy with unbecoming legends. A conversational tour of local filth, Coleman touting our show-biz priorities: "Hey, don't worry, he loves drag queens -- they're good for ratings."

The Stallone patrol heating up with a fax worth killing for, a Miami Beach police report detailing an unpleasant instance of "simple battery" at Chili Pepper. Stallone making a courtesy appearance at the club's first anniversary celebrations last Thursday night, destiny in turn meting out a cruel, only-in-clubs fate, nightlife being an absurd and pitiless gulag. His personal assistant, Kevin King, reportedly getting thrashed by Chili Pepper co-owner Todd Snyder; the report of Officer L. Vernon serving as an instructive field guide to the terrors of pleasure:

"...I was flagged down by Mr. Sylvester Stallone in the 200 block of Collins Avenue. He stated that his personal assistant was beaten up by the owners and bouncers at the club The Chili Pepper. The victim, Mr. King, gave the following information. He was at the club with a party of about eight people in the VIP section, roped off for them by the subject, Todd Snyder. Victim left to use the bathroom upstairs. Upon his return, victim claims that the owner prevented him from climbing over the stanchion to get to where he was sitting. A physical altercation followed between both victim and subject. Victim and witnesses stated two (employees) bouncers saw the altercation, came over, and assisted the owner in punching him. Victim had visible signs of redness and swelling under his right eye, a bloody mouth and nose with two or three loose upper teeth. No injury to subject. Fire rescue was called and treated victim; they advised him to have further medical attention. Subject was interviewed by this writer...and asked why he had battered the victim. He stated that the victim was climbing over some stanchions and when he tried to stop him, the victim told him to: 'Mind his own business, he can sit wherever he wants to.' Victim then pushed him, and the physical altercation started. Victim's rights brochure was issued."

Juicy stuff indeed, the report also containing the information that "victim will prosecute" and the name of an independent witness who confirmed the gist of the ugly matter. Another witness reporting that the smallish King had his arms pinned back by bouncers; Snyder, in contrast, being fairly large and well-built. The confrontation, according to witnesses, quickly broken up by Stallone's own security guards. An enraged Rocky reportedly ready to tear up the place but finally leaving the club, no doubt conscious of the legal repercussions attending celebrity violence. Truly, the world has gone mad, clubs becoming nothing but glorified prison camps with boffo production values.

The fame beat wrapping up with an actual encounter, walking into Bang's Sunday-night party and discovering Jason Binn of Ocean Drive dining in celebrity state: Stallone, film director Oliver Stone, various Hollywood types, and the standard gaggle of girls. The circumstances precluding pressing Chili Pepper questions and our usual operating policy of relentless Dick Tracy-style nerve, Stallone forthright, polite, and very vital: "I'm having a great time. Life is real good right now. Looking forward to spending a couple of months away from Los Angeles; it's getting really tough out there. If this town gets a few more production facilities, everybody in Los Angeles will be moving here and inflicting themselves on Miami for the next couple of years."

The opposite end of the gathering anchored by Oliver Stone joking away: "I don't know anybody at this table or what I'm doing here." Stone flying in from Panama that same day, working on a project about former Panamanian dictator and full-time South Dade resident Manuel Noriega: "You can't believe how difficult it is to work down there." Stone introducing Noriega's daughter Sandra, commuting between Miami and Venezuela: "It's very strange to have your family become a movie. Of course, we are expecting some sensationalism and fiction." All of us taking in the nightly carnival: bizarre electric hair and early Cher outfits, reprobates and models, Binn going terminally cellular and affecting introductions. The omega point of Miami, where worlds collide and everyone is equally fabulous, Stone finally leaning back and musing, "You know, maybe this would make a pretty good movie.

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Tom Austin