Performance art. It's brilliant, irritating, verging on the psychotic, irony-clogged stuff that neatly dissects the angst of the modern metropolis. Or maybe it's just television: Short, brutish, nasty, lots of jump cuts, kind of like real life but with better production values. It's Laurie, it's Mary, it's celebrity parties as guerrilla theater, performance pieces whose sole artistic function is to provoke envy and nausea. Clubs that open and close in milliseconds, nights that go awry, a devotion to personality as art form that would have shamed Oscar Wilde.

It's places where worlds collide. Miami Mensual's Richard "Mr. Wonderful" Perez-Feria, this week's winner of the glamarati-bearing-celebrities awards, on the La Dolce Vida beat with Gloria Estefan, Joan Collins, and of all people, Edward Villella, whooping it up at Victor's Cafe. Better yet, yacht cruises and late-night Burger King take-out with Hollywood mogul David Geffen and Kevin Sessums of Vanity Fair. Other celeb worlds, like serious actors James Spader, Robert DeNiro, and Johnny Depp happily stomping around the Beach. Lee Radziwill, in the shadows of mega-glamour, having dinner at The Strand. Designer Gianni Versace, back again for more Warsaw high jinks. Ivana Trump at the Doral Saturnia, surgically superior, pleasant enough even when surrounded by the less rich.

Former downtown cult figure Laurie Anderson moving way uptown, being feted amid the mega-Eighties splendors of the International Place sky lobby, the world spread out prettily below. Her Miami Light Project performance earlier at Gusman an interesting counterpoint to General H. Norman Schwarzkopf wowing the Temple Emanu-El troops at TOPA, with lots of insights about the Gulf War ("It was a cut-rate video production that was almost as dangerous to win as it would have been to lose") and everything else. The culturati nation trekking out for the summit gathering - people like new music impresario Steve Nestor, Mitch Kaplan of Books & Books, publicist Charlie Cinnamon - also getting a heavy dollop of Anderson's easily digestible songs and videos, as well as fey-beyond-belief patter: "The laugh track, the Greek chorus of American life.... Is it `artistic attitudes presented in an unappetizing manner?' With Bush, it's like nothing is important and everything you ever worried about is happening on Mars...a Fellini party that's gone horribly, tragically wrong."

Fortunately, nothing went horribly wrong at Acting Out: Seven Unspeakable Acts - the debut of the Island Club's new Wednesday-only performance art series "Lower East Side of the Beach" - and there were just enough jokes and psychoses. Master of ceremonies Matthew Owens, simulating a clown corpse, working the death-humor angle: "There's nothing more attractive than a disaster." Producer Joanne Butcher, wrapped in paper, beating on drums, engaged in Silence/Speech/Writing. An unappetizing artistic attitude screaming, "I want to murder what's already dead." Erotic dancer Rick Cockerell. Roly Chang-Barrero doing a heartfelt reading from the work of Reinaldo Arenas. The Goods, rock band/performance artists, presenting Five Steps to Getting Signed: An Operatic Parable About Patience. Club regular Yoda looking confused. My number-one fan on a downtown frolic, posing the impossible existential question: "What are you doing here?" Overseeing it all, the very likable Island Club co-owner, Tom Bellucci: "South Beach just never stops. There's no real season here like the Hamptons. The party goes on all year long. I'll tell you, it really tests the mettle of people."

Fave rave and performance art pro Mary Luft, of Tigertail Productions, presenting a selection from "Passarela," part of her Stories from Miami and South America. Readings from real immigration forms, tales of life in our fair hemisphere: "Of all the things I've lost in my life, it's my mind I miss the most.... In Brazil the people are poor and beautiful, and art is everywhere. Living in Miami has taught me that art is meaningless and people won't come if it's in the wrong neighborhood."

And more art/nonart mettle-testers happening all the time, in all the right and wrong neighborhoods. A dinner at Northern Trust Bank to kick off the 30th annual Miracle Ball for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital - Anthony Abraham, singer Julie Budd, et al. - coming to a ballroom near you February 15. Another new Miami City Ballet production. The unveiling of Mariana's, "Miami Beach's Most Intimate New Restaurant," last week. The grand opening of the aptly named Gallery of the Unknown Artists last Friday night. A kickoff party at Barocco Beach restaurant on the same night for the Miami Chapter of the City of Hope National AIDS Research Center, which will be taking part in the upcoming nationwide exercise party, the Workout for Hope '92 benefit. Aerobics against AIDS: push, push, stretch those thighs. The right people stretching: local chairperson Cheryl Patella, committee member Sherri Krassner, national chairperson Kirk Prais. Weird kind of modern symmetry to the whole thing.

In the fashionable world, the first semi-symmetrical Avenue A party of the season at Les Violins. Miami Rocks Vol. 4. The Thursday-only party "4AD" at the Patio on Eighth Street. Something called "Metro" club in Fort Lauderdale - "live kickboxing, four ladies nites," and God knows what else. "A Kick Off Jam for Jamaikin Me Krazy Night" at the Roxy, also in Fort Lauderdale. Ah, Broward County. "Bohemian Artist Night" at Sencle's on Mondays, dinner for five dollars and exhibitions by artists like Fernando Sucre and JP Pelletier-Troupet, and upcoming, Carlos Alves. "Cocktails and conversation with Interview magazine's Patrick McMullan," at the World Gallery, tomorrow night. The Ninth Miami Film Festival, opening February 7 with the Mambo Kings. And a juicy tidbit just out on the lesbo hot line - a female club-owner getting involved with her partner's ex-wife and being forced out.

Openings and closings, like the rapid semi-rise and ugly fall of 32 Grand in Coconut Grove. Ex-bartender Mark J. Vander Sande, among others, not happy about being owed back pay, writing an open letter/press release to partners Jimmy Asher of the Asher Insurance Group, Barney Kaufman of Premier Films, Steve Kraus of International Cinema, Richard Abel of the Tropics Hotel, Peter Polo, and attorney Mark Singer. Real personal and real irate: "We do not take the fall if your business suffers.... Jimmy Asher told me, `I don't care.... This is a pimple on my ass, people take chances....' You are in violation of federal law." The other side not real happy either, according to Mark Singer: "Some money was missing and some staff was let go. These things happen in the bar and restaurant business." It's real life, not performance art, messy and not shapely at all. The kind of situation that calls for tough culture, like The Goods, with just the right dose of post-Sid Viciousness: "You Make Me Sick - Fuck you!

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