Swelter 47

The toll taken, the sensibilities dulled to the point of oblivion, the physical infrastructure nearing collapse. The imminent autopsy no doubt revealing a suicidal insult to the brain, composed of ill-conceived liquor consumption, attitude assaults, and sustained exposure to Why-I'm-so-fabulous monologues and model-type conversations: "No, I'm not going to Europe A I'm going to France." Still, the flux and fray engulfs the social professional classes, racing against time's winged chariot, heeding Laurence Sterne's clarion call: "Time wastes too fast, flying over our heads like light clouds on a windy day, never to return more. Everything presses on."

Sterne, having the good fortune to conquer eighteenth-century Europe with the success of Tristam Shandy, the world of Samuel Johnson and Voltaire, dining with a "dozen Dukes & Earls" every night. Late twentieth-century Miami somewhat less enticing, the populace, however, still wishing "not to be fed, but to be famous." And throughout, running like lemmings to anything that remotely smacks of a social occasion, traveling with the heedless, heartless alliances of terrorists. The alliances of the night, as always, bringing forth all kinds of oddities. An awkward introduction with a club kid, Miss Sex making various dormant organs oscillate like a tuning fork ("How do I do? I'll do whatever you want...") until common sense and heart palpitations prevail. Feeling even older at Stephen Talkhouse for a concert with the Goods, unable to decipher any lyrics save for "I'm all fucked up." The Talkhouse presentation of Terrance Simien and the Mallet Playboys a tad less alienating, lots of comprehensible, infectious music, the midget organ player wearing a provocative t-shirt: "Nobody loves me but my mother, and she might be jiving."

Over to Washington Square for the Beat Poets, more vital, jolting stuff, fooling around afterward with lead singer Dennis Britt and artist Rafael Vadia, all of us well past the first bloom of youth. Britt working with the Bee Gees and Grace Jones, refreshed after a week in Aspen with restaurateur Jonathan Lewis and looking distressingly good A forever thin and long-haired A having no doubt signed the standard rock musician pact with the devil: "It's a lie that you have to curl up in your house after 30 and get old. Stay out here in the life and it keeps you young. These kids are just looking for something to believe in."

The young and beautiful out in force, to an unbelievable degree, for the opening of the Chili Pepper on lower Washington Avenue, a Southwestern restaurant/Rebar-revisited kind of place with edgy art work, huge cartoon panels with dominatrixes kicking down doors: "I stay away from those frijoles A they make me toot." Tasty savories from the kitchen, shrimp and roasted corn fritters and such, with a disc jockey for added punch. Movie producer Ted Fields back in town with a Spandex-clad vixen, part of the growing Los Angeles contingent: "I love it here; it's so much friendlier and easier than L.A." The crowd staying late, new restaurants-cum-clubs being a happy circumstance, especially when the owners A Eric Levin, Todd Snyder, and Robert Ziehm A so aptly represent South Beach, the land of real estate and good looks.

Lots of post-Hollywood nights, for some reason, at Les Bains. An encounter with Alexis Ogurik, who's opening a club called Bash in the old Butter Club space ("It'll be a place to go, without waiting till two o'clock to have fun ..." ) with Mick Hucknall of Simply Red, and actor Sean Penn. Madonna's inevitable appearance at the club, no doubt, will be fodder for even more media hysteria. Other encounters, other news: the SoBe Amsterdam restaurant, featuring investor/actor Ed Marinaro, opening next to the Paris Moderne space, now being used by Big Time Productions; the 720 Ocean/A Fish Called Avalon crew opening a new restaurant on Lincoln Road with the ex-chef of China Grill; The Whiskey having an end-of-the-era party; another club opening up next to the old Butter Club; Susanne Bartsch calling the staff at Hotel 100 a bunch of "Orchard Street" types.

The opening of Les Bains's gay night, The Baths, a Nicky Narcis/George Mangrum production, equally instructive. A sizable group, feeding off the Monday-night gay frenzy of Hombre and Barrio's drag night, go-go dancers and balloons emerging from the VIP rooms. An incident marring an otherwise enjoyable evening A certain forces apparently unenthusiastic about the invincible drag queen/gay right to use the ladies bathroom. Narcis, awash in a sea of deflated balloons, the Narcisian life force slowly reasserting itself: "I'm starting a traveling series of Monday-night gay parties called ROAM. Really, all I ever wanted to do was have fun and throw parties without politics."

On to a stint hanging out at the door of a local club, in the midst of a real slow comp-central night, a universe of chance and absurdity. The doormen waving through a group of Turnberry types in a limo and every variety of unescorted women, making seemingly random decisions ("Three of you for free, three pay ...") and working the hype gestalt: "You've got to make them feel like they're getting a deal." Noncomps slipping past the cashier, a parade of bitter paying guests ("Hey, it's like a morgue in there..."), the doorman getting the finger from an irate boyfriend after grilling a woman about her employment status with the club. A highlight established with a female employee, wasted on acid, jumping into a patron's black Mercedes convertible, the ultimate valet from hell. Pulled out of the car, the girl running pell-mell across the street A narrowly avoiding a speeding car A and off into the night.

The Miami City Ballet presentation of George Balanchine's Jewels, a quite beautiful performance, with a dinner-dance afterward at the Omni International Hotel. Benefactors Frosene Sonderling, Rosalind Richter, and Rhoda Levitt in attendance, along with Linda and Edward Villella, the ballet dancers adding considerable tone to the dance floor. Several of the guests talking about a less joyous occasion, an upcoming Diabetes Research Institute gala at the Saks Fifth Avenue in Dadeland, dedicated to socialite/designer Sheila Natasha Simrod Friedman, a diabetes sufferer who recently passed away. Well-read, unfailingly polite, extravagant beyond measure, given to tongue-in-cheek declarations ("It's my duty to look as interesting as I am..."), Friedman was that ultimate rarity of both uptown and downtown society A an individual with an instinctive understanding of how life should be lived. Time does, indeed, press on, and an early death always brings to mind the wisdom of Henry James's dictum: "Live, live, live, burn like a hard gemlike flame. Be one on whom no experience is ever lost.

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Tom Austin