The last party, the cartoon universe of Planet Hollywood, the ultimate 21st-century city -- weaned on cheap glitz and operating beyond the pull of the past -- leaping into the next evolution of social history in one long glorious wallow. An unfortunate prelude coming with a series of degrading phone calls to publicists and the connected, the Planet Hollywood public abuse team setting up an effective totalitarian boot camp. Local press, the same people who will eventually be called upon to glorify third-Tuesday-of-the-month parties, relegated to the status of serfs begging at the castle gates. Bureau chiefs of major national newspapers subjected to hardball Exxon-style machinations and Animal Farm control mechanisms: This is the power because we say it is, the rules are subject to change and retribution can strike at any moment. Our own tide of petty misery cresting at 4:00 a.m., a dank night of the soul in one nightclub or another, idly watching a mother-and-daughter sex team ("We'd fuck him dead") work their magic on particularly delectable prey. The darkness suddenly parting, an invitation to join someone at Sly Stallone's house party arriving with the blessedness of a Virgin Mary sighting. God protects those who hustle.

Over to Stallone's bayfront estate the following day, the hookup to Nirvana mightily amused by our patently unhip eagerness ("I thought all this celebrity and money shit was depressing"), our group entering the wonderland of the new Pickford on a wing and a prayer. An enormous main house and three different guesthouses, the grounds equipped with a grotto and moat, coral rock having once been mined on the property for the adjacent Vizcaya. The Gatsby- meets-Douglas-Fairbanks effect rounded off with imported parrots and land tortoises, endless food and drink, mounted policemen patrolling the bayfront, international flags waving in the breeze, and three speedboats lined up along the pier. A flawless evening, naturally, the weather always being nicer in the better neighborhoods, a heady tone reigning inside as well.

Models in matching Versace outfits greeting guests at the front door, the splendors of the house unfolding in an eclectic fashion: a massive two-story ballroom with an enormous chandelier and a stuffed lion, Gianni Versace himself petulantly lounging on his own fabrics, the art collection encompassing dueling Rambo and Rocky statues, Warhol portraits, and first-rate paintings. The wood-paneled gentleman's library stocked with pulp detective novels, leather-bound classics, and Rush Limbaugh's The Way Things Ought to Be, an embroidered pillow setting out a clear manifesto: "He lived his life on his own terms, fought his wars, lost a few, but he never quit." Once you've got the curse of irony beat, success is inevitable. The ever-affable action warrior wearing a casual all-white ensemble with Keds sneakers, Gatsby looking content ("I got my first SAG card here in 1969 A having this house means a lot to me") and being a high-rolling sport, offering to throw a fundraiser for one of his noncelebrity neighbors immediately upon introduction. The famous arriving like brave beasts on Noah's ark, suddenly everywhere at once. Whoopi Goldberg. Lee Majors. Jean Claude Van Damme, warning against the evils of cholesterol intake. Paula Abdul. The perfect pro Gloria Estefan, laughing about husband Emilio being confused with estranged Abdul-husband Emilio Estevez in a Six Degrees of Separation world, the Estefans inadvertently getting Estevez's bills and attracting ludicrous divorce rumors. Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes. Don Johnson traveling solo. Bruce Willis and Demi Moore with their baby. Luke Perry snickering amid the sound of breaking glass: "Willis must be here." Tom Arnold, the polar opposite of most personalities A actually more likable than his media image A fighting the onslaught of Roseanne's divorce proceedings and being enthusiastic: "It's great here; I've never been to a party like this." Shaquille O'Neal in his own logo-clogged clothes, playing the name game in the great American marketplace. Steven Seagal, eerily resembling an overwrought insurance salesman.

A momentarily lull, and then it's Madonna, Ingrid Casares, actress Debi Mazar, an anonymous bouncy lesbo ("Let's go in the bedrooms for a goof"), and Lady M houseguest Paul Reubens, Florida boy Pee-wee Herman, playfully chasing fallen icon Don Johnson. A sublime moment, the party launched into a surrealistic stratosphere, Reubens sweet and remarkably nonflamboyant: "I don't get down to Miami much...obviously." One of the Mo entourage, maddeningly enough, just back from the Andy Warhol museum opening in Pittsburgh ("You know, just that whole Fran Lebowitz crowd"), the sickness of this business dictating constant hungers and reflexive envy, no matter what the circumstances. The evening from there unfolding like a night-blooming orchid: movie executives and respectful actors, Mayor Steve Clark agog in the horn of plenty, the South Beach crash contingent A capable of infiltrating Buckingham Palace A eventually finding their way in, God bless them. Last call, Demi breast-feeding in the living room family style, chanting "real men" and interrupting the cigar-smoking macho boys. In the entrance foyer, Jacquline Stallone rolling her eyes at the mention of possible new grandchildren: "We don't talk about that; I've never even seen the baby. When I'm curious about her, I just turn on CNN." All in all the best party we've ever been to in Miami, actually worth all the unseemly scrambling.

On to Velvet and a series of steadily diminishing returns, Seagal, Johnson, Snipes, Arnold, et al., camped out in the back room, vulture models zooming in for the kill and having mixed success. Out till 4:00 a.m. and dragging ass the next day, stupidly obeying the insane pigs-are-good dictates of Planet Hollywood. Stuck behind the barricades with the Day of the Locust masses for an hour, finally comprehending that dangled celebrity access might never be granted. Back around the building, concealing our slave bracelet credentials and slipping in through a side door, desperately climbing over a banquette into the sloppy VIP room. Stallone's beautiful companion from the previous evening having even less luck, forced to claw her way in after one night of glory, Stallone escorting another woman at the opening. The sweat-equity shareholders of Planet Hollywood, celebrities making gladiatorlike appearances for fun and profit, mingling with the low rent. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver turning out, along with Michael Bolton and Marky Mark, the mother-daughter sex combo winding up in Van Damme's booth, another ballistic star-fucker reluctantly settling for a soap-opera hunk. The party blurring into a nasty swirl, and it's out into the midnight garden of the streets, deserted grandstands, and diehard fans waiting by the limos like sheep. Our companion aghast at the national addiction, the apocalypse of fame: "You know, it doesn't get any uglier than this.

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Tom Austin