A city festering like a mutant amoeba, imploding and feeding on itself in a frenzy of hype, too fabulous for its own good. The media rooting through the carcass for unsavory morsels, gorging on the second wave of expatriate celebrities fleeing Los Angeles, completely doomed and, worse yet, unfashionable. The new Hollywood for the informercial age, Miami, a place where selling out has never been an issue. Sylvester Stallone acquiring the ultimate makeout palace within sugar-borrowing distance of Madonna, trolling through a shooting gallery of the beautiful and the damned, women who revere Brigitte Nielson as a patron saint. Cher exchanging cosmetic tips with Demi Moore, Sean Penn offering dating advice to Ingrid Casares, trapped in the hot glare of pointless agitation surrounding the Material Girl. Versace fobbing off complementary shirts on the whole crew, having everybody over for cunning little theme parties. Love Boat revisited, self-reverential but hell-bent on cancellation, poised to self-destruct on publicity like silent screen star Gwili Andre, who immolated herself on a funeral pyre of old press clippings.

In the meantime, it's virtual reality, a renegade media-trend existence, another onslaught of proselytizers combing Animal House this past weekend: Kimberley Ryan of W, a crew from the BBC show Rough Guide to the World putting together an appropriately youth-oriented documentary of South Florida. USA Today, pursuing dual agendas. Perfect-in-every-way writer Elizabeth Snead researching a South Beach article, editor Patty Rhule coordinating a common-man swimsuit fashion layout, eight fortunate readers flown in from around the country and glamorized by Sports Illustrated model Stacey Williams and Tom Julian of the Men's Fashion Association, CBS's This Morning documenting the spectacle for posterity. The New York Times doing the inevitable death of wonderland piece, marked by violence and born-to-be-bad karma, warring hustlers devouring paradise like so many Pac-Man creatures. The out-of-town press, as usual, communing with local reporters ready to unveil the real story, fanning the flames and creating a further refraction of true life.

The ideal approximation of reality, gossip, sprouting like some kind of demon seed. Super model Naomi Campbell in a Marilyn Monroe moment, threatening suicide over Sylvester Stallone. Model/new mother Ashley Montana reworking a mad moment tattoo, a tribute to almost-former husband Paul Montana. Out on the town, a far gone soap opera star, stumbling back and forth between various bars, searching for his place in the script of life: "I'm just looking for where I was, man." A very young girl of our acquaintance rhapsodizing about the actors-united-for-dissipation rally at the BASH opening: "I drank free all night and overcharged for the ounce of coke I bought for them. We wound up back at this guy's hotel, snorting away, these two lesbians going at it, and then one of them went down on him. It was great. I didn't even have to blow anybody."

More friendly Floridian courtesies coming up with Los Angeles-based producer Ted Field, responsible for such divergent efforts as the band Nine Inch Nails and The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Fields hosting a little get-together at an energetic restaurant, laden with exquisite creatures victorious in the great genetic crap shoot of life. The guest list featuring two seventeen-year-olds who'd been spotted on the street earlier that day, a leap in status reminiscent of Lana Turner's legendary big break at Schwab's drugstore. One of the girls, a very recent emigre from Clearwater, Florida, thoroughly unfazed by the concept of dining with a zillionaire: "This kind of thing happens to models all the time." Fields, who maintains homes in Aspen, Los Angeles, and Hobe Sound, searching for love and lust, a trophy mate amenable to a prenup agreement: "Truthfully, I come to Miami for the girls, looking for somebody special. But if I buy a house here, it might become a problem. What if I started dating somebody seriously in L.A.? She'd never let me come down here."

For uno-coastal Miamians, the specter of another summer on the hot bottom of the Earth looming up, the last gasp of the seasonal whirl. Louis Canales entering the publishing fray, an on-target social column in Wire commencing with an inescapable premise A the imminent death of the district. Marjory Stoneman Douglas at one polite Coral Gables reception or another, 103 and still kicking, waving away a soft drink and playfully demanding a cocktail. The WPBT-TV (Channel 2) show New Florida running their profile of old pro Monti Rock III this Sunday, produced by Robyn Symon, inspired by Monti's relentless quest for celebrity. An unseemly ambition, but as movie star/down-on-her-luck Miami resident Hedy Lamarr once noted in her glory days: "After you've known fame, everything else is poverty." A celebless groundbreaking luncheon for the upcoming Hard Rock Cafe at Bayside Marketplace, hot, noisy, and vaguely nightmarish, pretty much everything a club should be. Various civic types, the beeper-as-fashion-accessory crowd, exchanging business cards in the ugly crush, El Nuevo Herald social veteran Norma Niurka over the concept: "I never perspire; I have no pores. But today I'm sweating."

Saturday night and it's a mixed array of sweaty and sophisticated pleasures, an evening with cultivated professionals, the kind of visitors who immediately inspire a craving for a home anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. A civilized dinner at The Foundlings, the USA Today gang all agog, sliding into a long night of club-crawling with the friends-of-Kimberley, the Fredo Corleone nightlife package tour. The rich pageant of post-Havana squalor beginning on Washington Avenue, various doormen paying the price for hewing to a standards-are-standards policy: death threats, fights, brandished stun guns, and general nastiness. South Beach presence/intellectual thug John Hood patrolling Washington Avenue, cohosting a timely Batista-theme night at "Fat Black Pussy Cat." Drinks at Barrio with John Herman, the restaurant debuting a Tuesday-night "Proud Mary" party, Halston and Edie Sedgwick lending their spirtual patronage. Greg Louganis strolling through the go-boys-go gang at Paragon, two ephebes politely introducing themselves to the girls, shortly before launching into a confront-my-sexuality sodomy routine.

More sexual chess at Les Bains, competing spider women squirming and breast-jutting over a fatuous male victim. The marathon drawing to a close at Mario's restaurant, country singer Wynonna Judd dining en entourage after a Miami Arena concert. In town for a few hours, but eerily cutting straight to the heart of the matter: "This is so strange to me, all these city folks desperately trying to have a good time. At the show tonight, I sang some sad love songs and you could see the hurt in the people. There's a lot of pain and loneliness down here. It's a little bit like Babylon, isn't it


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Tom Austin