A filthy little business, the pop parade, crawling with fame-fuckers-I-have-known and other permutations of conceptual humanity. But then, somebody has to provide all the unseemly personal services mankind requires, and even in pimping, there are enduring guidelines for professional conduct. A carefully nurtured grudge can be good theater and also builds character. Envy kills. People will like you more if you spring for checks once in awhile. Attitude goeth before a fall. Hype, like certain sexual acts, requires restraint. Psychotic lying, something of an epidemic lately, eventually ensures self-destruction. When someone hooks you up A whether with drugs, sex, celebrity contact, or major life favors A back-scratch fever demands that the return courtesy be roughly equivalent. The powerless and arrogant beyond reason should remember that a thank-you note works as well in Miami as it does in, say, Newport.

Although most social professionals are inured to the circle of hurt that constitutes the party circuit, it's best not to push people past their delusions. Stay away from real truth, never draw blood, and learn to live with rampant self-aggrandizement. If you're blatantly courting vermin for touted connections to more desirable guests, make an effort to be civil when their sorry ass doesn't bring anybody valid to your affair. Then accept A or reject A them as they are. In modern life, where no one is truly important any more, the most ridiculous creatures consider themselves undiscovered bit players on the cusp of stardom. However, fatuous cordiality is always advisable: The overexposed pariah of today might be tomorrow's unreachable Tonya Harding.

Although importance is fluid, the various caste stratas should maintain reasonable standards, despite the unilateral triumph of corruption, incompetence, and bad taste. Geraldo Rivera is still on television. The evil sleep like babies, the virtuous are cursed by undue sensitivity, and the talented suffer. Charm still counts, though, along with a sense of professional proportion. Journalists and celebrities are both victims and victimizers, public servants accustomed to the greedy chill of exploitation, but it's best not to test the limits of goodwill. Publicists should realize that press relations is an ordinary business exchange, not an occasion for sinister machinations. Stop behaving like CIA operatives, openly declare your agenda, and trust to luck. Amiability goes a long way in life. Let's all just say No to beastliness. The business of fun, after all, is supposed to be fun.

An instance of proper adherence to the manifesto of fun being the premiere of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues at the Colony Theater, a United Foundation for AIDS/Acme Theater Company benefit that actually made honest money. Event producer Robert Levy, blessed with a prescient Allan Carr-meets-Zero Mostel grasp of all the rules, gamely pitching a series of celebrities beforehand, hoping to punch up the opening but promising nothing to the press. A good thing, considering that no one of any real consequence showed up. Levy darting about madly and moaning over a missed celebrity opportunity, Emilio Estefan tantalizingly riding by the Colony on a bicycle. For the hawkers of fame, another carrot-before-the-donkey routine: Levy breathlessly introducing us to a befuddled assembly of lipstick-less lesbians and hipsters-without-a-grip as the "Army Archerd of South Beach," a columnist of our stature ultimately relegated to the "generic VIP" row.

The movie itself fairly awful A not that it really matters A an overreaching Gus Van Sant effort with alternative heroes making Around the World in 80 Days cameos, the Sappho set snickering at all the references to demon-seed jism tainting feminine pulchritude. Staying on forever, breaking the cardinal law of society, immersed in conversation with Lisa Cox of Girls in the Night. The forever unpopular Caroline "She's baaack" Clone breezing through, irate over insufficient status arrangements. Cox taking the high road in the bad theater of clubs, over whorishness ("Women are just as bad as men") and the toll of nightlife. Winding down afterward at Cafe Ma*ana with Levy and friends, leaving just before the arrival of a stripper from Club Madonna, who apparently wound up as a combination table ornament/candle holder for the inner circle. It's no way to live, the nightlife, but it's our life.

The week, from there, taking more curious turns, somehow missing a tasty sampler package of tony entertainments A Jane Alexander's appearance at the National Association of Artists' Organizations conference, a weekend plague of performance artists A and winding up in the netherworld of culture. The civic-benefactor-gone-astray conducting a district club tour for the N.A.A.O. attendees A a friend billing us as "King of the Underbelly" A one of our young charges overly enthusiastic: "Let's see lots of underbelly, and please, write something sleazy about me." The gang having a where-have-all-the-good-times-gone cry at the late Paragon, Tara Solomon and Richard Perez-Feria appropriately materializing from the gloom, Perez-Feria shaking off the local horror and being soothing: "You're having a major bad hair day -- that's the worst thing that can happen to anybody."

Into the land of real trouble, the rape of Miami Beach by satanic developers, the South Pointe Citizens' Coalition having a kick-off benefit at Club Cabana. The three graces of downtown A Tamara Hendershot, Suzanne Lipschutz, and Ilona Wiss A railing against the dying light, dealing with "depressed-looking" hors d'oeuvres, last-minute injustices, and disgusting civic officials, Wiss right on target: "The city is still treating us like invisible citizens, as if we're still some kind of blighted area."

Ending another lost weekend with a bout of foolish hubris in a borrowed neo-Beach penthouse, one of those exalted fortresses of wealth that eerily mock man's folly. The party, unfortunately, very high-WASP in concept: a coterie of valid guests, cheap food, but a truly big-deal apartment. Far above the stench of the city, a pitiless sun bleaching the landscape into banality, the all-is-dust tone nicely captured by Eric Newill of South Florida magazine: "God, you're like J.J. Hunsecker in Sweet Smell of Success. The Walter Winchell of Broadway, coming home from the Stork Club and alone at the top. Except it's just a bunch of cheesy nightclubs now, and you're the eyes of Washington Avenue." In the end we're all a dysfunctional family of cardboard glamour, and home is nothing but a collection of friends who, thank God, understand the treacherous path to fabulousness.

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Tom Austin