The weather on the hot bottom of the earth begins to change, the cafard slowly lifts, and once again a parade of cultural/charitable gatherings gives a patina of meaning to an increasingly absurd social life. Having an uncanny instinct for doing the worst possible thing at any given moment, we missed several altogether worthwhile events - society caterer Gene Singletary's annual benefit for the New World Symphony at his West Dade commissary, the Community Alliance Against AIDS's "La Fete Francaise" kickoff cocktail party at the Dadeland Saks Fifth Avenue - and instead opted for empty sensation, perfectly symbolized by an evening at The Kitchen.

Located off the lobby of the Esplanade Resorton the Beach at 21st Street, a hotel that apparently caters exclusively to dopey-looking German tourists, The Kitchen is like a mutant hybrid industrial/progressive/feral teen concentration camp for people who can't get into other clubs. Once past a gauntlet of juvenile delinquents and door thugs ("Tell you what, bud, fifteen bucks each and I'll forget you don't have IDs"), the unwary step into a deranged disco slum, presided over by a team of menacing droogs fondling long black police flashlights. The ambiance inside is all pseudo pre-war Berlin decadence (black walls, collapsed ceiling panels, death-as-fashion-statement velvet paintings), pounding music, and sweat.

And then out of the seven circles of hell, this Meat Beat Manifesto purgatory, three remarkably well-spoken people - Christiaan, Encarnacian, and Dale Robinson - emerged from the gloom, as if by divine providence. They stood there, like some twisted, nightmarish triumvirate (black outfits, lots of crosses, lipstick), and obligingly agreed to look decadent. And then Dale Robinson, with his Nancy Sinatra lip gloss and eerily glowing cheeks - it looked as if he'd swallowed something radioactive - suddenly smiled and posed the impossible question, in the nicest possible way: "Having fun?"

Well no, not really, Dale. But then, fun's not really the point, is it? It's more the self-perpetuating process of simply going out, anywhere and everywhere, as vital and self-sustaining, at a certain stage, as the migratory patterns of wolves. Ridiculous. Although in some weird way, even the unendurable is interesting.

The invitation, the destination, and everything else about the Espresso Bongo official grand opening party was totally endurable and a welcome relief from Club of the Living Dead. Retro-sensitive Melanie sang a couple of bouncy numbers and remarked chirpily about "angst and espresso." New music composer and performer Ed Bobb pitched his recording studio on Lincoln Road. Terry Zarikian, director of product development for the Grand Bay Hotel, talked about the upcoming late October/early November opening of Big City Fish, the barbecue and Gulf Coast seafood place that Brad Weiser and Jonathon Lewis are putting together in Coconut Grove. And someone or another wondered about EEUU, the mysterious after-hours club that is still, as yet, only a concept - the perfect establishment for the Nineties.

As always there was lots of Gay South Beach chitchat: the new "Boyz" night at Sempers on Mondays; the notions store "G W" on Lincoln Road, with a full range of necessary accouterments for gay life, from Armistead Maupin novels to lubes; the juicy rumour that drug sales might be arranged at targeted gay clubs as a pretext for a raid; the irony involved in pulling off-duty cops out of questionable clubs, thereby opening the floodgates to more drug dealers.

Another lost evening of gossip and hype ended outside the Cameo Theatre, where we ran into Hippodrome promoter Garrick Edwards: "I just got out of Bootlegger's, you know, the British soul night I'm doing at the Music Room. The Rave scene is incredible. I've seen Rave parties in England with like 25,000 people. In London it's all about segmentizing the market. That's what we're going to do at the Hippodrome - Thursday is Beyond Therapy, a Rave Up with English DJs like Fabia. Sunday is going to be a gay night; Bill Mayer from Bend...Over at Boomerang is doing that. When are we going to open? Well, we're going to get started, I think, with a Halloween blast."

The whirl of money, fashion, and fun - thank God we live in a cartoon city with an actual modeling season - came to a fitting conclusion at the debut of the "Thursday Night Arts & Fashion Salon" at Barocco Beach. The art people clung to one table while a maelstrom of gossipy Irene Marie models ("Can you believe it? He went and had an affair with my boyfriend") and assorted moochers jumped around the place, intent on being fabulous. They sort of mixed with a group of visiting Sheraton Hotel meeting planners who had, along with some other diners, actually paid for dinner. The rapidly escalating comp situation led co-owner Danny Emerman to remark that it might be best, in the future, if "models paid double and ugly people got in for free."

Model, ex-New York resident, and non-mooch Hunter Reno, niece of Dade State Attorney Janet Reno, was "deep into German catalogue work" and taking the long view: "South Beach is kind of a nice transition between New York and Miami. This shows what's going to happen this winter." Nick Constanino, who someone described as "the hottest new male model" was also pleasant and self-effacing: "It's nice to see all different kinds of people mixing together. You don't get that all the time on the Beach." And one of the truly fun artists in attendance had an interesting perspective on the cult of beauty: "I've always thought that a finely developed sense of self-consciousness is important. But in models, it's so irritating."

One of the more vibrant guests was Irene Marie vice president Richard Pollmann, just back from an extended stay in Nice and primed for glamour: "A lot of stars are here tonight. Lauren Hutton was here earlier. Did you see her? And there's Niki Taylor, she's done 62 covers in 16 months. You know, my friend Wendy Leigh - she did the Liza Minelli and Zsa Zsa books - says that South Beach is just Palm Beach on a different level - the same mix of money, instability, and confrontations, with everyone trying to be invited everywhere.... Did you know that we're going to open a restaurant in our building on Ocean Drive? We're shooting for October 28th. It's going to be called The Booking Table. The Beach really needs another trendy restaurant, don't you think?"

An arguable point, but then Pollmann was gone, and there was only an unhappy guest posing another impossible question: "What are we doing here?" And with that, it was time to go.

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