At a certain professional level in social reporting, going out is almost beside the point. The world, in all it's horror and glory, comes pouring in over the phone. An irritating way to spend your time, but unfortunately, the grunts of pop journalism A like their financial betters in the glamour industries A are addicted to the fix of attention, forever bouncing between grossly invalid hubris and cheap angst. Unlike celebrities, who often conduct themselves with the abandonment of sailors on leave, the press is also expected to exercise the tact and restraint of servants, sacrificing themselves before the higher good of fame. The symbiotic and obscenely exploitative relationship reaching absurd depths lately, clubs and restaurants hyping a clientele that rivals the Last Supper for sheer pizazz, a dizzying parade of names from rock stars to the guy who played the Indian on F Troop. Soon enough the city will be one big VIP room where the ugly public need not apply, celebrities forced to sit on each other's laps, and columnists do double duty as waiters.

But then, interesting things do come over the transom, aside from the usual annoying pleas for plugs: "Write something about me hanging out with Celebrity X, but don't say where it came from and, you know, make it sound cool." A noted pussy-hound developer caught having sex in the women's room of one tony restaurant, the owner only mildly offended: "Of course I didn't throw him out A he was drinking Dom Perignon all night." Calvin Klein, wonder of wonders, drooling over male models at a beach party. A woman disrobing and mounting a champagne bottle at The Spot for an impromptu after-hours show. Everyone wants to be a star, or failing that, a stripper. Lenny Kravitz at the Raleigh, talking about the available model pool: "There's too much to choose from; it's like having a thousand CDs." Various other less-celebrated callers unveiling their sex lives in graphic detail, under the mistaken notion that we're Montel Williams doing a very special open-your-hearts-and-pants talk show. The joy-boy set filing sodomy reports from Flamingo Park, willing to accept whatever Jean Genet-style degradation destiny deems necessary, happily lining up along walls like prisoners being frisked. A lesbian acquaintance philosophizing about a prominent star-fucker: "Poor thing, she's got to lick that rich bitch's pussy and kiss her ass." Another Fagan-like caller gushing about two sixteen-year-old companions and his attempts to lure the lost girls into a threesome-from-Hell, the little buds driving him insane: "They're so sweet and juicy; can you imagine anything better?" Two celebrity teens? The Doublemint Twins?

Vexed beyond endurance by deranged clarion calls, taking a field trip to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts for Miss Saigon, uncannily reminiscent of a night on South Beach. Stretches of tedium vying with diverting spectacle A a hearty round of applause for the prop helicopter A the bar-girl carnality leavened by uplifting thwarted love and melodrama. The thirst for diversion also leading to some interludes at the Jackie Gleason Theater: the Dance Alive '94 presentation of the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, brought to the hinterlands by the Community Concert Association. Taylor offering ultra-modern apocalyptic visions and wisely closing with whimsical interpretations of old Andrews Sisters numbers; the Harlem crew chewing on Medea and wrapping up with Geoffrey Holder's wonderful "Dougla." In high or low culture, always leave 'em laughing. Our companions, awash in the love that screams its name, bitching about the lack of homoerotic interludes and spewing gossip. One gentleman, an AIDS-sufferer, detailing the newest scam: HIV-positive people running up massive credit card bills on an Auntie Mame roll, anticipating being legally released from debt once their T-cell count reaches terminal levels. The human spirit will prevail.

Back to the house, missing a media op with Don Johnson at the upcoming Planet Hollywood outpost in Coconut Grove, the natural extension of the celeb-validation experience: Bruce and Demi like our hamburgers, so they must be good. The much-beleaguered Johnson apparently upstaged by Elvis the alligator, his former costar on Miami Vice going ballistic and lunging for the paparazzi. Making an actual appearance at the first-anniversary celebrations of World Resources on Lincoln Road, very Bohemian and refreshingly nondisgusting, the children of the underground everywhere. A major aesthetic shift with dinner at Nick's, Thomas Kramer dining en famille at an adjacent table, his wife playfully whapping him with a menu, although a steak knife to the not-so-private parts might have been more appropriate. The developer, along with a few civic-minded gambling tycoons, turning the lower Beach into a literal version of Spy's "Casinos of the Fourth Reich." An engineering group from the Sears Tower assuring Kramer that his property could sustain a 120-story skyscraper without capsizing the whole overinflated sandbar. Might as well put Wayne's World into the mix, turn the district into Sex Land, make Washington Avenue a celebrity terrarium, and pluck everyone's entertainment dollar.

The Hollywood-meets-Miami gestalt once again in effect this past Sunday at Paragon for an Earthquake Relief/Operation U.S.A. benefit. A series of dazzling expected attendees lobbed around beforehand, the press hyped up like the Engineer in Miss Saigon, ready to snatch any scrap of the cheesy American dream. Fighting our way in, literally pushing aside cohost/former important person Deeny Kaplan, confronting an eerie landscape of Waiting for Godot nothingness. No stars, waiters in white tie serving food on plastic plates upstairs, a cash bar for a $100-a-ticket event, the discerning public staying away in droves, and everyone posing validity questions. Pouncing on the ever-buoyant Roxanne Pulitzer, motoring down from a Palm Beach birthday party and looking lost: "My publishers want to call the next book Pedigree, but it sounds too much like dog food to me. My romantic life? There's no one, thank God. No more torturing myself over French race-car drivers. If I never see another French guy again, it won't be too soon."

Back down to the lobby, the television cameras doing an Academy Awards number with the lights training on low-wattage people like actress Yancy Butler, the media chumps expecting Sharon Stone, Boris Yeltsin, whatever to stroll in. Stone wisely opting for the Wynton Marsalis concert, another actual expected movie star dining across the street. The evening stumbling into oblivion. Yet another journalist manque, a part-time "psychic entertainer" from Orlando, looking for bit parts; a club owner talking about the financial benefits of rampant celebrity delusion. Another pointless evening, an out-of-town guest marveling at the insanity: "This is so bizarre; there's too much happening at once with no focus. But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- is going on.

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Tom Austin