Memorial Day weekend, a nation mourns its war dead, throws sloppy barbecues, drinks too much beer. Miami, as usual, out of sync with the rest of the nation, bracing for the ultimate dialectic: the literary star power of the American Booksellers Association convention vying with the ugly threat of rioting and general unpleasantness. The last gasp of seasonal glamour bringing a personal best of sorts, a dizzying round of obsessive social opportunities. Fortunately, the press of events precluding the possibility of immediately documenting local pop history for posterity, the social whirl being a writer's favorite excuse for fallow periods. The prelude to the orgy of shameless social-climbing, networking, and sucking up, however, proving to be a great training exercise and test of endurance.

Beginning the ascent with an A-gay party in Coconut Grove, a mix of middle-age professionals, the fashion accessory crowd, and gym-beach-bar boys. Rampant good taste everywhere, beautiful people floating around a rather attractive house, sort of like a politically responsible Out magazine lifestyle layout brought to life. The usual gossip, a particular example of maliciousness involving an on-air phone call placed to heartthrob/weatherman Bryan Norcross shortly after Hurricane Andrew hit, the wicked wag demanding the return of a chafing dish for an imminent dinner party. Everything pretty and bright, save for the pain of short-term companionship A the tender wound of new romance, a long way from the dull, throbbing ache of marriage A running like a cutting wire through the crowd. Friends who don't respect others, friends who go out too much and keep bad company ("I'm over his white-trash gym boys; all they have to contribute to society is a tan and good pecs"), friends who aren't friendly enough: "Are you planning on getting ugly?" Each man does, indeed, kill the thing he loves the most. Nice to see that life, across the board, strikes everybody as one big miserable gyp.

Bouncing back to the opening of Union Bar & Grill on lower Washington Avenue, the invitation dotted with an unusual collection of guest host names, from Iris Linares of Postmortem to Richard Perez-Feria of Miami Mensual and conceptual celebrities like Fabrice Morvan, the lending-their-patronage-if-not-their-presence crowd. An eclectic menu of bistro-type food, and an even more eclectic decor coordinated by interior designer Gabriela Dahl: a psychedelia-theme dancing room painted by artist Marcus Suarez; the library, fireplace, and heavy drapery setting a contradictory tone of old English men's club luxury. Point man partner Andrew Costas, a young preppy-theme contractor, incorporating elements of deconstructive club history: "This has a little bit of everything, inspired by all the places I've ever loved A a dancing area like Danceteria in the Hamptons, a zigzag-shaped bar like the Coffee Shop, touches of Nell's. I hate having to eat dinner in one place and then go somewhere else to dance. It's better to stay in one place and the let the night evolve."

Evolving to a lavish tasting dinner at the controversial a Mano, attended by the media and hungry regional celebrities, the people who, as Perle Mesta once said of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, make the weather. The guests talking about this and that, Louis Canales reminiscing about battling outlandish club employee scams: the busboys at Ovo stealing top drawer champagne and hawking the golden nectar as five-dollar-a-bottle swill to passing vagrants; waitresses at Club Nu selling cocaine to customers, letting people charge the sales on credit cards, billing it out as stupendously generous tips.

More of the post-House of Windsor world at Bang for a Drambuie theme party, host/liquor promoter Michael Jacobson reporting an interesting sighting, presidential brother Roger Clinton at The Palace in New York, succumbing to the evil of substance abuse. Michael Musto of the Village Voice recounting an even more vital celebrity sighting: Cher wandering away during an interview in Aspen, Musto opening a bedroom door and catching her in the midst of sex, Cher on top. The prince of gossip flailing away at a desecrated fish, almost meeting the gods of judgment during an encounter with an abusive little bone, annoyingly lodged in his throat. Like any pro, Musto snapping back from the brink of being a martyr to South Beach, coughing and sputtering: "Oh God, I could have gone out like Liz Taylor. And what does it all come to A just a hill of beans."

On to Warsaw for Susanne Bartsch's last drag orgy of the season, in tow with English writer Inigo Thomas, doing a "Talk of the Town" item for The New Yorker. Bartsch and crew working that bitch, Thomas captivated by the splendor: "This is quite remarkable, really. But then, Miami Beach seems to be one big drag show." Nightlife, the show that never ends. The Rave Doctors doing Thursdays at Third Rail, the club recently celebrating its first anniversary. Baja Beach Club hosting a second anniversary party, with a Miss Reef Brazil Model Search contest and a preview party for Carnival's Crystal Palace, a benefit for Project New Born.

The night crawl leading, inevitably, to news bites. Versace in town, staying at the Marlin. Art, or at least the movies, sort of imitating the recent automotive carnage on Espanola Way, the Morgan Creek production of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective having vehicular problems. Star Jim Carrey of In Living Color accidentally running into an official security van manned by one of the production's hired police officers, the cops diligently writing a ticket. More rebukes for the high and mighty, a publishing insider talking about mogul David Geffen using major juice to delete all references to his name in a recent Calvin Klein biography. Geffen bracing for another struggle with an upcoming unauthorized biography, written by a former companion on close terms with "Barry" and "Sandy," the lad coming up with a great title: David Geffen: From Top to Bottom.

Closing down with a strange bottomless evening, a late-night psychic reading A our "warm-hearted, positive energy" apparently shining through a rough exterior A and an encounter with performance artist Penny Arcade. The star of Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! The Sex and Censorship Show gearing up for her Miami debut this past weekend at the Colony Theater, turning out to be a spiritual soulmate: "I grew up as a faghag, but I'm not into that whole gays-as-fashion-statement thing. I'm anti-diva; I don't think I'm any more fabulous than the audience, but I am just as fabulous. And let me tell you, it takes a long time to become a bitch. Ever notice that the nicer you are, the more people fuck you over? What the fuck is that all about


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Tom Austin