It's a great life, especially on paper, this play of light and darkness, ferreting out scraps of nourishing filth for a curious sort of Jekyll-and-Hyde existence. Evenings in the bowels of America, restrained at the vast banquet of nightlife like reined-in livestock, held back by domestic circumstance and a pernicious middle-class upbringing. The banality of daylight, and the nocturnal ramblings remain a lingering dreamscape, a sustaining vision throughout the oppressive routine of the ordinary. One hand taints another, and once you reach a certain professional stature -- a touchstone of sleaze, compelled to cultivate a constant appreciation of human folly -- it's all a cascade of degradation, day and night, reams of juicy material pouring in heedlessly.

A shabby scheme of life, but then it all somehow works, tidbits of trash floating through the cerebrum, an endless memory play of Miami. The Hollywood invasion last spring, and it's a bizarre encounter with the personable Wesley Snipes, forthright and fun, the conversation moving on to the great stick men of our time. A derisive gesture for Arsenio Hall -- fending off Hollywood bimbettes and rumored groupie status with Bell Biv Devoe -- Hall apparently not up to scratch: "Yeah, I know that motherfucker." Eddie Murphy, renowned for a prenuptial sex tour of Miami some time back, earning marks for sheer endurance: "Only Midwest housewives would believe that family-man stuff, but he has calmed down A to about an average sixteen-year-old level." The case of Prince's psychodramatic approach to a simple good time particularly troublesome, Snipes ruing the waste of good pussy: "Man, if I had all that money, I wouldn't be playing mind games -- I'd just get it."

For some reason we never thought to ask about the noted pussyhound O.J. Simpson, although a power mommy source, Myrna Kirkpatrick, conveniently encapsulated Juiceomania recently with a story from the witches coven of the Fontainebleau gym. The princesses barking orders into cellular phones ("Don't even ask A I'm not cooking tonight") and fighting back the withering of time, one young warrior mom staunchly defending Simpson while her husband argued for Nicole, mourning the cold tragedy of children losing their mother. Another depressing instance of Madonna-style empowerment, the triumph of role-reversal and celebrity, woman-without-pity hissing a final edict: "She deserved it -- Nicole was a whore."

On to more immediate realms, our own adventures in the killing joke of carnality, rife with whores, saints, and all manner of other beasts. An international dinner party with perfectly respectable professionals, all of us, of course, talking about sex. A Japanese photographer bringing news of Speed Tribes culture, chain establishments called Soapland, where the patrons are lathered up by girls ("like a car wash"). A Spanish artist reminiscing about the sympathetic "cattle chute" of Times Square peepshows; a Cuban painter laughing about the Little Havana whorehouse visible from passing Metrorail cars. Everyone joining in on a debate of societal ethics and private kinks among the powerful, spanning the erotic universe. The issue reaching full fester during an isn't-slumming-great tour some weeks later, the boys regarding a lesbian sex show with patent disdain, as if someone were swinging a rat in their faces. One of our party -- let's call him Dr. Faust -- suggesting a nightcap at an underground sex club, where we'd all have to strip and participate in some fashion, if only onanistically. No real problem there, given that we see plenty of public sex in ordinary clubs. And handily enough, human shame is an alien emotion to journalists -- masturbating at some cheesy orgy would be just another night on the town. An appetizing offer, the guide to the netherworld dangling the ultimate temptation, the sole reason for our interest: "I've seen at least three prominent people -- that you know very well -- at the club."

Labor Day weekend, and the streets of South Beach are a river of piss and vomit, teenagers descending like a plague of horny locusts, fame-challenged locals negotiating all the rough trade. An unendurable specter of chaos, ultimately opting to miss the pressing agenda of appointed rounds: the gloom-and-doom set at the Church; a party at Van Dome for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers and gossip star George Wayne, attended by Killers producer Clayton Townsend and Sandra Noriega, daughter of the famed cross-dressing despot. A perfectly sensible lineup, this being an insane world.

And so it's a weekend at home, cozy and content, catching up on reading and phone calls. Lots of missives and calls, from a variety of sources, about the high proportion of kids and craziness at Rebar. Monti Rock III sending along his media alert newsletter, Disco Tex selling House Guest perfume on QVC and getting rid of negativity: "That's most of the people I used to know." For some reason we kept calling Sandra Bernhard's recorded message-of-hype, culled from her album Excuses for Bad Behavior, the slutty snarl curiously cheering: "I know it's rough out there, and people treat you badly, but I'm here for you -- anyway you want it." Not a bad weekend, despite endless readings of a sobering, well-written letter, the correspondent fretting over meaningless ends and our soullessness: "I am amazed that you seem to enjoy your job."

Of course we're not quite job-happy enough to go out and actually pursue the sudden disappearance of Julian Bain, the promoter passing into legend. Bain's career, among other things, including a celebrated mock game show at the old Aqua, stints with Tara Solomon and Glam Slam, and a self-ballyhooed part in Oliver Stone's aborted saga of Manuel Noriega. Bain primed for fame as the cinematic love interest to Al Pacino's Noriega, as if Pacino didn't suffer enough with his weight and S&M leathers during the production of Cruising. Most recently, or so the gossip goes, Bain ruinously stretched the boundaries of tolerance, partying on loot and finally fleeing to Atlanta in a cloud of flash and attitude, a gay version of Thelma and Louise. The whole sordid story difficult to confirm, naturally, although a conversation with the current occupant of Bain's by-the-week apartment did shed a little light. An anonymous gentleman, who would identify himself only as an emigre from Los Angeles with absolutely no connection to Bain, vastly entertained by all the fuss: "People are calling for him, looking for money, and there have been some great stories. I've only been here a week or two, and I don't think I've ever seen a place so full of bullshit and scams A and I'm from L.A, the land of bullshit. Living in this apartment has been like a little taste of home.

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Tom Austin