Swelter 51

The Avenue -- production of "Rondo" at Mario's South Beach, a very loose adaptation of Miriam Schapiro's book, many spirits unraveling, awash in the "melodrama of being," the solving emptiness that lies beneath everything we do. The evening hours, a world where everything is permitted, but nothing, at the very heart of the gaudy spree, really seems worth having. Then again, the only thing worse than being in society -- any kind of society -- is being out of it.

The "Rondo" commencing with a smallish dinner, everyone geared up to celebrate the debut of the back-room club at Mario's, 12u03. The neo-pagans flitting from table to table, talking about everything from bulimia to one-night stands and celebrity coke dealers -- a perfect Joan Rivers sweeps-week guest lineup -- and generally being either useful or entertaining, the essential ingredients of any lasting social acquaintanceship. Mayra Gonzalez of the boutique Findings, doorperson for the night's roundelay, radiant in an exquisite white gown with wide mantua skirts, handy for intimidating the hordes bent on crashing the inner circle. An old boho hawking lighted yo-yos at an adjacent B-table, someone all agog about the daily diet of one-nighters at the club, hitting all the target markets: a Gary James/Michael Capponi supper club night; Louis Canales's upscale Latin night; "Mixer", a Girls in the Night production; "Fat Black Pussy Cat," with music encompassing everything from swing-to-Superfly, hosted by Michele Savoia of Shabeen; Luigi Scorsia, and BANG/Chili Pepper writer/doorman John Hood; "Imij: a Jason Loeb/Andrew Taplin effort; "Filet of Soul" and other floating concepts. The beautiful people, the evangelists of art and sensation, all with their own niche in the fin de siecle, a refuge from the coarse, the commonplace, the barbarous.

Plunging with a tearing eagerness into the apres-dance, the nightly Greek chorus of South Beach, chatting with the attention span of puppies. Continuing on for a mind-numbing five hours, the result of Capponi's rather novel music selections ("I'll Never Cry Again" to early Jimi Hendrix), a series of absorbing gossip sessions with eager penitents confessing other people's sins, and the pleasant time-warping properties of liquor allowing the social traveler to withstand any atmosphere, even one that, like Uranus, lacks the fundamental elements to be bearable. The evening providing viable entertainment values, though, even for the sober. From there, an endless procession of random landings: Rebecca Amar, a new arrival from France ("Paris is beautiful, but too many shit people...") seeking a place in the local glamour industries; The Stimulators, all rock-star visuals; a panty-less sex kitten A the kind of girl everybody wants to fuck but nobody wants to sit next to A draped over a couch in a provocative way. It's just one party after another, where the fun never ends.

Satiated beyond measure, seeking the diversions of daylight. The Coconut Grove Bicycle Race, a tangential celebrity sighting in the form of Franco Harris, former Pittsburgh Steeler and current owner of the Pittsburgh Power cycling team. A stroll down Ocean Drive turning up Jon Bon Jovi at the News Cafe, in town for a concert, various tips coming up here and there. David Winer of WPA working on a bar called Stray Dog, the gay bar West End up and running on Lincoln Road, 720 Ocean evolving into the American Bistro. Three different groups vying for the Byblos space on 23rd Street, Tony Goldman negotiating for Torpedo, a club that will have to be scorched down to bare earth to kill the stench of evil. Pave Hades, put up a parking lot. New York hotelier Ian Schrager, as they say in real estate circles, "going hard" on the Delano Hotel.

Versace, opening a new boutique, kicking off the new Thursday night parties at Warsaw this week, going very hard on the Revere next to his very own bungalow-by-the-sea, and making a little outdoor wonderland. Young gods, stripped to the waist, frolicking in the golden sun, clinging to the castle that glamour built.

Back into the night and various could-be-heaven/could-be-hell delights. An amazing concert with mambo legend Mario Bauza at Stephen Talkhouse, the crowd beaming up to an unearthly realm of pure ecstasy. Co-promoter Olga Garay of Miami-Dade Community College anchoring the power table with the very talented novelist Oscar Hijuelos, talking, as any writer will, of the really important credits: television appearances. Le Loft celebrating its second anniversary, Squeeze of Fort Lauderdale having a fourth anniversary party, and Paragon renovating for its first year, an even more intense lighting system and a vastly expanded dance floor, the shirtless brigade stretching off into the horizon. The restaurant Chili Pepper setting up as a club on weekends, a new clean, well-lighted haunt for the decorative set. Dinner at Van Dome on big band night, the 25-piece swing band The Flow on the retro track, Susan Ainsworth and her "House of Shameless Promotion" debuting a new "Cabaret Night" at the club April 14. Gael Love, formerly with Interview and the defunct Fame, now a law school student living part-time in the upper reaches of the Beach, unveiling a less-than-cutting-edge Warholian penchant for luxury and snobbery. Love dismissing the District as "a slum, full of the wrong crowd from New York" and touting the delights of the Surf Club: "You meet all the really important people there. It's just like Nantucket."

Winding down the week with a Miami City Ballet luncheon for the forever splendid benefactress Frosene Sonderling at The Foundlings, celebrating the establishment of the Frosene Sonderling Artistic Director's Chair. An all-too-brief interlude with the girls -- Martha Mishcon, Peggy Armaly, Marlene Berg, et al. -- ending all too soon. Talking about downtown, an occasionally grotesque but not inelegant society, and its similarities to uptown: a small influential coterie ruling a self-made universe of style, fighting off marauders and symbiotically indulging the press. Social history as fixed and inviolate as the pecking order of beasts, blurring together in one long pageant A charity balls, club kids and downtown doyennes, seventeenth-century dukes who bankrupted their estates with an obscene mania for collecting dwarfs, the social reporters who were ushered into the court of Louis XIV to detail the newest mantua gowns for the masses, breathless modern-day gushing over corporate pirates. Everyone in society, of course, drawing the line of demarcation beneath their own heels, and as English social critic Christopher Sykes once observed, "Being of their very nature withdrawn and self-confident, the right crowd often supposes that their personal pleasures are supported by the considered approval of mankind.

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Tom Austin