In theory, the life of a social columnist should be unutterably fabulous, what with all the random celebrity collusions and the great gravy train of the complementary life. Unfortunately, the glorious era of Cholly Knickerbocker working the Stork Club is long gone. Now it's all short-order stars and unworthy fame supplicants constantly telling you how fabulous they are. The workings of publicity tend to bring out the worst in mankind, but then, there are the consolations of the perk parade. A bountiful cornucopia lately, slightly offset by a sickening how-low-can-we-go stint in existential degradation, tracking the rumored nuptials of Sly Stallone and Janice Dickinson. Stallone setting up camp in his Brickell Avenue mansion, tabloid reporters throwing money around and illegally entering the property, Rocky finally flying off to Vegas to escape the gentlemen of the press and perhaps A who knows, who really cares A marrying his beloved.

A new player in the Stallone story, the celebrity adjunct Versace A purveyor of gowns to Dickinson, host to Sting during his Miami visit, and a guy who generally gets around A turning up beside us at the Dance Alive presentation of the Pilobolus Dance Theatre. Through some curious alchemy of snobbery, the presence of the fashion icon, whom we'd once completely dissed on VH-1, making the wit and intelligence of Pilobolus even more savory. Thankfully, the gods of largess finally recognizing our rightful stature in this one-horse town.

On to a place at the table in Food World, luxury fare oiling the rake's progress. Jonathan Eismann of Pacific Time hosting a very tasty tasting dinner, the Fourth Estate basking in cedar-roasted Atlantic salmon; Bang doing an opulent "South Beach Meets the French Quarter Krug Champagne Gala." Local chefs Gary Lampner, Geoffrey Murray, and Robbin Haas working with Alex Patout and Duke LoCicero of New Orleans, Remi Krug rolling out the nectar of the gods and getting a key to the city from Miami Beach Mayor Seymour Gelber. The gourmet brigade moving on to Lua, Krug seized upon by an ambitious account executive who'd formerly mounted our knee one sloppy evening, cooing "such a little baby face" in our reluctant wet ear. When the world's a whore, actual sex seems somewhat beside the point.

Saturday night, life taking more fortuitous turns, a complete evening encapsulating the alternating delight and horror of Grub Street journalism. The evening commencing with the packed Gilberto Gil and Gal Costa concert at the Jackie Gleason Theater, presented by the Cultura del Lobo series of MDCC/Wolfson Campus and TransBrasil Airlines, a benefit for the college's International Networks Initiative Program. The performers celebrating 25 years of the Brazilian artistic movement "Tropicalia," a neo-Brazilian artistic revolution incorporating everything from Stevie Wonder's Journey through the Secret Life of Plants to more traditional numbers, "Toda a Menina Baihana" and such. Adrift on a gently insistent rhythm, bypassing the Scala Miami postperformance reception in favor of a hard-won invitation to The Perez Family party at Cafe Ma*ana. A truly jumping affair, another apogee of the burgeoning Los Angeles/Miami cultural cross-pollination: paparazzi staking out the front door for movie stars; an attractive crowd inside, looking fairly handy with the necessary lifestyle accouterments of cellular phones and Rollerblades. A waft of L.A. air all over the place, the personable and very hot Academy Award-winning Marisa Tomei A featured in The Paper and other projects A making a stylish entrance, oozing viability and star power: "It's really wonderful to be in Miami. This looks like it's going to be a great party."

A handful of locals agog in Babylonian pageantry and major fun, liquor flowing and the band cranking up an agitated Latin beat, Hollywood twirling around the floor. Anjelica Huston, unfortunately, not making the party, along with co-stars Celia Cruz and Chazz Palminteri. The Cubans in attendance talking about the new hipness of being Cuban, no longer compelled to be arrepentidos masquerading as Anglos, pinning their hopes on Christine Bell's saga of the Perez clan, everyone still reeling from Scarface and The Mambo Kings. Tomei, an Italian, telling someone about "feeling Latin"; the very talented Indian director Mira Nair ready for new cultural terrain: "It's so embracing here; they feel like my people." Nair later asking for "quiet on the set" and addressing the crew: "We're ready to make a very Cuban movie. I feel the same energy we had during Salaam Bombay! Then it was the streets of Bombay; now it's todo por Cubano." From there the party unfurling nicely. Nil Lara flipping through Ocean Drive, columnist Cyn. Zarco staying the course throughout, both of us conceding that the exalted high jinks were only slightly marred by the presence of each other. A highly placed Cuban source declaring the Emilio Estefan/Albita Rodriguez record deal "unofficially official," Andy Garcia making the Albita pilgrimage to Centro Vasco last Sunday. The tide turning inevitably, a party-crashing promoter slipping us a flyer, a sex-obsessed colleague playfully lobbing a lethal hip into our balls, putting us off the boil for some time.

Time off for a quick detour to Ajaxx Industrial, slick and dramatic-looking, gearing up for an official opening party this week. A contingent of former Les Bains employees working the floor. The club A an old doctor's office turned into a stageset befitting La Femme Nikita A sporting an amazing decor with touches of Frank Gehry and industrial chic. One long tubular-shaped space, a catwalk and steel cables running along a concave aluminum ceiling, an upstairs stage with go-go dancers and a VIP room anchoring either end of the club. The Metropolis effect neatly finished off with epoxy and primary-color walls, manhole-cover tables, crankshaft lamps, and lots of burnished steel. Really well done. Owner Walter Mersich, formerly with Les Bains, looking ahead to a bright future: "A nightclub should not be only boom...boom...boom music, plastic glasses, and attitude. It should be a place of socialization, a place of culture."

Back up Washington Avenue, tea-dance promoter Jody McDonald escorting Beach Commissioner Nancy Liebman and City Manager Roger Carlton on a tour of netherland culture through Paragon and beyond, Liebman absorbing "the other side of the Beach." The Perez Family celebrations entering the raucous side: Tomei spilling out into the street, good-naturedly wrestling with two besotted admirers, the triumvirate later taking over the besieged men's room. If the movie is anything like the party, there should be plenty of high-concept entertainment on hand. Limping home at 3:00 a.m., testicles still aching and the system weary unto death, content in debauchery and debasement. There are, in the end, much worse jobs.

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Tom Austin