Moving up to a vague approximation of the East Side, stoked with food and liquor, wallowing in luxury and getting a sliver of the pie. A witness to social history in the form of Thomas Kramer's coming-out party, the most opulent local affair since David Paul's French-chef dinner. Pay retail, spend $500,000 for various entertainments, and people will somehow make time for your parties. A far cry from the opening of Hell, and all the dark overtones of Graham Greene's Doctor Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party, the rich man dangling the lure of access to the inner circle, leading on the greedy to a series of escalating humiliations. This time around, Kramer couldn't have been nicer or, for that matter, richer.

Kramer fabled for party-boy extravagancies on the order of hiring circus troupes for galas at his castle in Germany, but nothing could equal the surrealistic circus of Miami society, gushing tangential ass-lickers ("Isn't he a great man?") and living-luxury accoutrements, mixing with royals, Regine's International types, and models. Everyone blending together into one glamour-besotted huddled mass of humanity, yearning to breathe free in the heady neo-American atmosphere of money to burn. A gone-to-seed Egon von Furstenberg, paunchy, balding, and virtually unrecognizable, continually mistaken for a local socialite. The French royals, Sybil and Victoire de Bourbon Parme, mixing with Steve Albee of the Beacon Council, Craig and Scott Robins of DACRA, attorney Thomas Cobb, Bennett LeBow of the Christopher Columbus statue -- a monstrosity that Richie Rich has, thankfully enough, not funded. Developer and Star Island resident Nat Reiber accompanied by wife Carolee -- Kramer's largesse encompassing invitations to all his neighbors on the island. The still deeply tanned Abel Holtz of Capitol Bank (you can't let a couple of lawsuits get you down) in tow with wife Fanna. Jim Stewart of Lone Star Industries and Tibor Hollo missing out on the second wave of the gravy train. Attorney Dan Paul nodding off during the speeches, having, as someone unkindly pointed out, "cashed his check from Kramer already."

Piscopo endorsing the candidacy of Kramer as our next presidential candidate -- a sort of young, good-looking, twisted-but-fun stepson of Ross Perot -- and bombing completely, although to be fair, Barbra Streisand might have had trouble keeping the crowd quiet. The host, however, going over pretty well, doling out $450,000 to various Miami Beach charities -- bringing the weekend's overhead to a cool million. Miami Beach Police Chief Phillip Huber and Mayor Seymour Gelber ("This city is greater because you are here with us...") accepting their checks with all due pageantry, Kramer unveiling his vision of a "new frontier, a cosmopolitan center in the heart of the Americas." The vision including a CocoWalk-style shopping center, a cafe, a hotel called Heaven, a multimedia center, and a spa: "I used to refuse invitations to leave old stinky Europe and travel here; Miami had a reputation for retirement homes and inadequate restaurants and hotels. But despite the bashing by the media, it is a place in one of the best shapes I've ever seen, a hot spot for models and the international crowd."

A hearty round of applause, and then it's back to drinking, gossiping, sloppy behavior, and being generally ungrateful, what the Euros might call la condition humaine. A woman at our table noting that the "Devil always appeals to your higher interests," and later on, drunkenly chanting: "Please allow me to introduce myself...I'm a man of wealth and taste.... Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name. But what's troubling you is the nature of my game." Another social veteran commenting on the paucity of truly important people: "Look at this crowd. For God's sakes, both of us were actually invited." A fave rave Realtor/socialite/philosopher of our acquaintance, speculating about the mystery of her placement at an A table: "Most of the money crowd here have never even met him, including me. But they showed up anyway. People went to Paul's parties because he was on all their charity boards -- this is something different, really amazing."

The amazement and amusement intensifying with the arrival of four-foot-tall jeroboams of champagne arriving at the tables, hired mimes leaping about, whimsically creating penis-shaped balloons for Maguy Le Coze of Brasserie Le Coze. More guest-gushing ("The second I met him, he charmed the pants off me..."), dancing to the Pointer Sisters, and out of nowhere, a late appearance by KISS bass player Gene Simmons, a man with the dissipated look of someone who's savored one too many interesting evenings. Besieged by party girls, of course -- including a moth-to-the-flame assault by a local South Beach personality, normally the soul of probity. Appear on enough television talk shows, boast about bedding 3000 or so ladies, and new victims have a way of popping up. Simmons, decked out in major jewel-encrusted boots and rock-star black attire, perfectly pleasant and as bewildered as everyone else: "I don't have a clue how we got invited; somebody called us up at the Arena last night. We were just over at Hooters -- some girls wanted to meet us -- and then we thought we'd just come over here and check it out. Quite a party, though."

An impossible act to follow, but the ride uptown plunging on anyway. A Concert Association of Florida/We Will Rebuild fundraiser at the Omni hotel, with a great classical lineup, home girl Judy Drucker, Luciano Pavarotti, Itzhak Perlman, and Vladimir Ashkenazy. The opening of the very beautiful, very valid Jason Rubell gallery on Lincoln Road, featuring the work of Whitney Biennial-bound artist Gary Simmons. Afterward, an elegant post-reception dinner at the Century, attended by collectors Nedra and Mark Oren, Nancy and Bob Magoon, and members of the Whitney Museum National Committee, in town for an art tour of Miami. A high point coming with the resident palm reader approaching the head table -- occupied by people like Flora Biddle, well bred enough to actually get away with wearing polyester -- and reading the hand of an imperious upper-class WASP, bemusedly indifferent to his fate. "You will be in the public eye soon...and this line means that you will also be coming into a great deal of money." Our own hand, proffered with the pathetic eagerness of the orphans in Oliver Twist, somewhat less illuminating. And naturally, not promising at all.

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Tom Austin