Low life, high life, it's all pretty much the same thing in the brave new American bordello, this tropic of psychosis. A social career standard set with a bizarre party at Mar-A-Lago, hosted by Donald Trump and Jason Binn of Ocean Drive magazine, the worlds of downtown and uptown colliding and discovering shared tastes and interests: money, power, fame-fucking, short-circuited morality. Thank God we all live in a country where a barbarian can own an exquisite landmark of the American nobility and entertain in truly democratic fashion, hosting a beyond eclectic assortment of people, many of whom wouldn't pass muster at our own somewhat less commodious house.

The collision beginning with a convoy of buses and cars from South Beach, roughly 260 quality-questing souls, rolling way uptown with endless champagne and a soundtrack of early Kinks ("Live this life of luxury") and the Doors. The first awe-inspiring glimpse of Mar-A-Lago itself, the property stretching from the ocean to Lake Worth, looming on the horizon like Citizen Kane's Xanadu, the Donald outside dealing with the media: "But why are there so many models here tonight, Mr. Trump?" Into the vast main living room, all Persian rugs, ornate frescoes, a twenty-foot-tall fireplace and gilded ceilings, designed by Ziegfeld designer Joseph Urban, a masterpiece of Grand Guignol architecture. In the Marjorie Merriwether Post heyday, when she entertained robber barons and daughter Dina Merrill frolicked through all 118 rooms, writer William Wright described the place as "embodying a magnificence that transcends questions of beauty, taste, discretion, and financial good sense." The current owner adding his own transcendent touches, photos of Marla Maples with various children, magazine covers encased in glass ("Trump: Triumph of the Will"), Reader's Digest books and a surrealistically bad portrait of the master of the house in tennis whites adjacent to an elegant oil painting of Mrs. Post.

Through the loggia, on to the pool and ballroom set up as an impromptu disco with DJ Luis Diaz, rather reminiscent of the scene in Brideshead Revisited when the arrivistes convert the family home into a nightclub. Standing at the water's edge, looking across the grounds to the aircraft-warning beacon in the five-story tower and recalling the blue light at the end of the pier in The Great Gatsby. Another generation of the new people at play, ushering in the social apocalpyse.

Very new people in this instance, a brilliant Sixties-style thrash of humanity, when Baby Jane Holzer and the like opened their homes to the downtown demi-monde. Nightclub promoters, doormen, district celebrities clutching cold cuts and plastic cups, mingling with Atlantic City gambling types and money: Adnan Khashoggi, Estee Lauder, movie producer Ted Fields, Peter Brant of Interview, and a guy billed as the "Hawaiian Tropic tycoon." Hundreds of women, ranging from average-looking homegirls to blond bombshells in gold lame with a silicone jones, subtle as a pork chop slapped down on a butcher's counter, to the hippest, most delectable models in the known universe. The hype meister dashing about in a what-hath-God-wrought mode: "I don't think there's ever been such an assembly of talent. I really wanted to get a different crowd here tonight. The most beautiful girls, the guys from the Hurricanes, people like Estee Lauder -- she lives down the street, really young at heart. Hey, you're doing a great job, Tom."

The liquor flowing, the party getting weirder and weirder, an adolescent dream come true: taking over the ultimate adult's house for a no-holds-barred bash. A guy from Rebar jumping in the pool nude, much to the Donald's delight, then a fully clothed girl, taking off her wet clothes poolside and handing over her pants to the host: "This girl is beautiful -- I've got to have her!" Another beauty standing by the pool, ripe for a good time: "I want to swim, do something wild. I feel like I could do anything tonight." Aging Lotharios in full drool, proper corporate lawyers run amok, whipping out an array of business cards as bait: "My friends and I just wanted you to know, you have a film look, not just a model look. You have that special Bo Derek quality -- Bo's a personal friend of mine -- but you look even better."

Trump bless us, every one. A bartender working the crowd: "Have a double, be an animal. What else are you here for?" Anthony Shriver of the Kennedy family joy-riding around the property in a Jeep, having a little contretemps with the police. Someone talking about a party Trump gave for a busload of models, the ladies in a lather to meet socialites, arriving at Mar-A-Lago and finding only the Donald waiting patiently with a colleague. A walking-around-young guy, telling an endearing story about the host: "I was dating this girl, a Buffalo Bills cheerleader, and he invited the whole cheerleading squad over, boyfriends and everything. We all stayed overnight, and the next morning I had breakfast with him alone, and he was talking about how he'd been disappointed with women so many times. He'd had a big fight with Marla; she was jealous or something. I think he'd also been dating this girl in Atlantic City who walked around at the fights, carrying the round cards. Anyway, he said he'd never met a woman who wouldn't do anything for fame and money." Karma coming around for the King of the Eighties, dealt another cruel blow by fate.

Back on the bus, a deranged, unappetizing mess. On the causeway over to I-95, a car bouncing off the party cruiser, all of us grinding to a halt, confronting the specter of being stuck forever with the animals. A stroke of Trumplike luck, Garrick Edwards and Sebastien V., the twin angels of mercy, pulling up in a huge limousine. Motoring down to Miami, lying on the floorboards in an ecstatic trance until a tire goes out and the great beast dies on the side of the road. Mr. Fix-it, Jason Binn, calling for a cab, noting that the whole nightmare had remarkable similarities to Airport '79.

Miami, and it's business as usual, the glory of the big night out slowly dissipating like dew on a rose. Door trouble at Sinatra Bar ("Don't touch the ropes, buddy"), back to the same old, same old. Plus Models opening with a party at STARS. The Id also debuting, an entertaining warehouse-style space, music with an edge, and a quote on the wall from Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, with interesting parallels to all of nightlife: "The warehouse was conceived as total theater, a continual happening. What happened ten minutes ago or what is going to happen a half-hour from now tends to fade from mind.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tom Austin