Uptown, downtown, just one big amorphous herd lately, feeding on fame and cheap thrills, letting the old distinctions slide. It used to be that uptown people actually acted rich, did their drinking quietly at home, avoided ostentatiousness, devoted themselves to an arcane mythology of taste and class that outsiders could never dream of understanding. They were hopelessly out of reach, almost beyond the powers of envy, and somehow easier to digest. Now they're everywhere, messing with the hoi polloi on its home turf, pretending to be like normal people - well, normal fabulous people.

Downtown used to be an impenetrable jungle of difficult poetry, abrasive music, psychotic rebellion: now it's for sale, just like everything else. Both neighborhoods have in common a ruling junta who dictate matters of style, cultivate a frankly symbiotic relationship with the press, and play to the natural human urge to only feel really alive when someone else is excluded and suffering. Either society is depressingly easy to get into. The rules are gone forever, and now it's a brave new world where everything is possible, but nothing is worth having.

Plenty of consumption possibilities at an incredibly opulent charity ball, groaning with thoroughly enjoyable excess. Other people's food and drink always tastes better. The usual black-tie crowd. A table of disgusting but fun people acting with the subtlety of tube-sock salesmen on Eighth Avenue, living out the invariable and unfortunate dictum of society - trashy people are always the most entertaining. Mutton parading as lamb, surely the most depressing spectacle on earth. Lots of what someone calls "frustrating, random, and ultimately pointless contact." Women with just the right mix of brains, push, and pussy, conducting themselves as if they were starring in their own colossally interesting mini-series. In the midst of the usual roundelay of fatuousness, a moment of truth, a baked-potato socialite suddenly lobbing some invective our way: "You think you're something, don't you? But I'll bet you're a huge pain in the ass."

And so it's back to the safe harbor of downtown dissolution, past the aptly named Lolita's convenience store - crammed with the usual assortment of gorgeous Cameo thug-rock youngsters - and a reflective moment before the Roxy Theatre, taking in a placard that speaks volumes: "Feeling lonely? Try some adult entertainment." Adult but not necessarily mature entertainment at The Spot, during co-owner Bobby Brandt's birthday party. Full-figured club figure Efraim Conte singing "Fever" and dancing around in a leopard-skin G-string. Spot girls/faux biker chicks/alien beings everywhere: big breasts, big hair, thoughtfully lip sucking to "Mysterious Ways."

Erinn Cosby marveling at the local after-hours world: "It's just all these hustlers and scam artists, people who've been kicked out of other places." Michael Capponi, the hippest-possible promoter, chatting about The Cave space ("We got rid of some of the bad vibes stuff, the devil signs and everything") and looking forward to the future: "People are too set in their ways. It's time for something new." Bobby Starke of Disco Inferno, reminiscing about the glory days of "Industry." One drink, as it will, leading to another. And then it's 3:30 a.m., a companion slumped on the bar, chanting a mantra, a litany as fevered and intense as the recitation of the Catholic liturgy: "This is just like high school, man, just hanging out, just high school...." Finally, at the terminal stop-me-before-I-kill-again stage, a South Beach socialite throwing a lump of ice at our head, signaling the end of the evening. Thank God for tough women and small mercies.

On to a Miami Light Project benefit,the premiere of Spalding Gray's Monster in a Box at the Miracle Theater in Coral Gables. An evening with just the right mixture of colliding worlds. Mr. Gray's monologue pretty much covering every facet of modern life: his mother's suicide and WASPy New England background ("My father would never go to movies because he refused to miss cocktail hour"), the art of lunch in Los Angeles, loft life, drinking and not writing in assorted circumstances, coming of age ("In 1964 people were just starting to hang out..."). All the great issues, presented with just the perfect blend of pathos, irony, and farce.

A hard act to follow, but everybody doing their best to play out the uptown/downtown theme at the dinner afterward hosted by Ristorante La Bussola. Producer Brad Krassner looking relieved, having finally won approval for the North Miami amphitheater he's been putting together: "They're tough up there, but it looks like we'll have everything done in a year or so. Then there's Sanchez's racetrack, and we're also working on getting the symphony and the ballet to use our place as a winter outdoor home." Benefit chairman Charlie Cinnamon talking about the heirarchy established for Micky Wolfson's Halloween-night "Propaganda Ball," the mysteriously priced ($713-per-ticket) fund raiser for Wolfson's museum of decorative and propaganda arts. The rungs of the status ladder breaking down into the Matriarchy/Patriarchy Committee (Cinnamon, photographer Iran Issa Khan, Mr. and Mrs. Parker Thomson, Mr. and Mrs. Finlay Matheson, et cetera); the Oligarchy (members of Wolfson's family); and The Despot, Wolfson himself.

One of the catered names of the evening in a philosophical mood, speculating about what Spalding Gray would make of celebrity invitee Dave Barry. The South Beach gang clinging together like survivors of a shipwreck, with the usual attitude clinches and talk of looming social possibilities: "Below Zero" at The Cave; the South Beach magazine debut party at the Century; the newest "Sweat Boyz" revue. Much speculation about the new women's support group, which will no doubt address the cruel fact that not one valid single straight male exists in the district.

Another trip to The Spot, an East Coast kick-off party for the Surf & Soul American Journey, sponsored by Life's A Beach Surfgear and organized by professional surfer/former Miamian David Kennedy. High concept, circa-Sixties stuff: a group of surfers touring the country in a psychedelic bus, working that whole surfer awareness thing. The Eighties/Nineties concept crashing in with the Names Project AIDS Memorial Quilt at the Miami Beach Convention Center, formally presented by Gloria Estefan this past Friday. The quilt serving as a prelude to the Community Alliance Against AIDS-sponsored "Heart Strings" show at TOPA June 23, followed by a "Celebration" party at Paragon. Lots of glamour and flash attached, but the quilt itself a very simple, deeply moving work of art. All those names and inscriptions, flowing together into one: sophisticated and crude, celebrated and anonymous, rich and poor. The ultimate equalizer, untimely death.

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