You never really thought of yourself as an addict, but one day you come to realize that’s exactly what you are—just another clubland junkie hooked on the sleazy, dime-store thrills of nightlife. An utterly offensive, corpse-like creature, jaded beyond all earthly dimension, given to slumber and vacuity, possessing neither soul nor conscience, and not much in the way of manners, either. You’ve crystallized into a fabulous disaster speed-balling your way through the South Beach pantheon of prurient pleasures, hopelessly hooked on the opiate of foolish fun and free drinks-til-11. And yet, for some deranged reason, kicking the habit isn’t a critical issue.
So night after night onward you march, the Vasco de Gama of sleaze, somewhere out there on the esoteric fringe of reality, dragging your sorry ass from club to club up and down these trashy streets of South Beach, wading through a mountain of vomit, club flyers and Euro-glamour hype. Driven compulsively onward through the moral vacuum by some primal reflex action that’s apparently triggered by alcohol. Waking up at noon the next day, spent, depleted, stinking of death and Margaritas, feeling like something out of Little Richard’s laundry hamper—the simple act of looking in the mirror becoming an ordeal of metaphysical disgust—and all the while formulating plans for your next assault on the hell-high-school of South Beach clubland. We have met the horror that dwells within.
Throughout the past year we’ve made some pretty serious attempts at self-rehab—like actually staying out of the clubs for two nights during the same week, or having a quiet dinner at home with the one remaining non-psychotic friend we have left—but nothing works. Over and over, oh, how we’ve tried to turn away from this…..this Medusa of pointless merriment…..this nocturnal glee-club-of-the-damned.
Yet every night around midnight it happens—the trashman cometh—the clarion call-to-arms in the nightworld’s moronic theater of pain. Like clockwork, the Mt. Etna of bad taste spews forth its foul song of fun luring us back into the darkness with promises of comped cocktails and half-dressed harlots with breasts of fury. Try as we might, we simply can’t resist the salacious lure of a soiled existence among the faintly fabulous…the vaguely en vogue… the moochers, models and butch queens…and all the nonsensical, self-indulgent bullshit that actually passes for existential truth in the grotesque midnight-to-5am world. Overwhelmed by the dark-side’s glittering temptations, over and over we succumb to the forces of evil and hail a cab back into the abyss, sacrificing what’s left of our self-respect for the greater glory of all that fabulousity yearning to be witnessed.
But enough about us, let’s talk about something even more depressing—like Washington Avenue last night at 11pm…
…South-bound on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, in desperate need of a trash-fix, the tone of the evening is set right off the bat by some psycho-mutant wino at 16th and Washington. Standing there in the middle of the road with his pants down around his ankles, his right arm and his main-unit both thrust upward in full salute mode, greeting passing cars like some sort of psychotic-Chamber-of-Commerce-committee-of-one…or two, depending on your point of view.
Walking away shaking our head, momentarily considering pulling up stakes and moving to Canada, then soon realizing that you just can’t get entertainment like this anywhere but South Beach.
On to hopefully less psychotic pleasures at Tantra where just inside, a pair of gorgeous go-go girls dance high above the crowd, hunching their way to better health, adorned with LIMON body-paint. Over in the restaurant section, the Dukes of Crobar, Mykel Stevens and Carmel Ophir with David Bick all dining in state with platter-boy-supreme, John Digweed, warming up for another blowout night.
Scattered around the club at various tables, heavily-hootered, high-dollar babes, having discovered the secret to lifetime employment in South Beach—a thousand dollar boob-job and a ring in your thing—being amenably groped by their playboy sugar daddies. You can’t buy happiness, but there’s some great deals in the rental department. With waitresses frantically serving-up bottles of champagne at $500 a pop, Tantra is not a place for the faint of heart, nor the light of cash. The tiny club way beyond the limits of endurance, too loud to talk, too packed to move.
And then it’s on to Gerry Kelly’s Level 54 where the fun militia is out in full force and gone completely 1970s retro—almost makes us sorry we tossed our disco collection.
At regular intervals throughout the night, the curtain at Level Nightclub’s center-stage goes up and a Maxwell Blandford production kicks off. Elaine Lancaster doing a bouncy little number with a crew of shirtless stud-boys gravelling at her feet. JoJo Infinity—a dead-ringer for dearly departed Divine—blasting through a series of numbers, culminating in a blatantly visual rendition of Divine’s “I’m So Beautiful.”
At one point between shows, Mr. Nightlife, Tony Miros and The Scenestress, Janet Jorgulesco mount the stage and dance a mad disco-hustle all alone, oblivious to the crowd before them. The two hipsters twirling endlessly, lost in the intoxicating scene and driving disco music, Janet’s golden hair flowing in the breeze as she spins to the Village People’s “In the Navy.”
Below them a wild dance floor scene with plenty of visuals. Two guys wearing only raincoats, g-strings and sunglasses, holding lit sparklers in both hands—some sort of political statement, I guess. A topless girl moving slowly through the crowd, aimlessly shuffles to her own rhythm, inspired by the music.
A conversation with Level’s Gerry Kelly, The King of South Beach Nightlife, gives us a crash course on the financial end of the great South Beach fun machine, as our eyes glaze over when the numbers go way into the millions. The conversation proves emphatically that the production end of dishonorable conduct is far more lucrative than writing about it.
Also a brief discussion with Gerry about some of the local nightlife stars deciding not to attend the release party of Michelle McPhee’s new book “Mob Over Miami, The Story of Chris Paciello in Miami.” Michael Capponi, not attending because he was misquoted…Gerry Kelly not attending because “he tried to have me killed, that’s why.” A valid enough reason for sending your regrets.
The next morning—2pm, really—we decide to take a stroll down Lincoln Road, curious to see if anything even remotely interesting happens outside of clubs. Comedian Chris Rock at the Lincoln Road Cafe woofing down a tasty Cuban dish, is soon approached by a pair of young, and no doubt just as tasty Cuban girls, laughing and giggling, giving him the how-’bout-an-autograph routine. After a few moments of laughs and come-hither looks, Rock pays the tab and off they all go, arm-in-arm into the great beyond. Fame apparently able to make-up for all manner of short-comings—even anorexia and bad hair-cuts.
On to our annual visit to Ocean Drive—we check in once a year to see if they’ve started selling stuffed alligators to tourists, yet—noticing that a relatively new place called Studio is closed for remodeling. Originally conceived as an artist’s hangout, Studio is the place where we once viewed an interesting exhibition in the form of artist Kate Flachs’ avant-garde “Ginny Prints,” a series of vagina imprints of various local girls. Even some the waitresses at Studio had taken-up the challenge and engaged the canvas with their most prized possession.
Interesting news coming in from a young waitress-friend of ours giving us the low-down on Ocean Drive’s blossoming tourist sex trade. She reports that certain high profile watering holes are hotbeds for the flat-backing-for-dollars game. The ultimate triumph of capitalism lives on in South Beach.
Back at home by 7:00pm, proud of our little foray into the non-disgusting world outside of clubs and all the wholesome things we experienced—like sunshine, vomit-less streets and no endless am-I-fab conversations. Feeling healthy, refreshed, rejuvenated, absolutely bored to tears and counting the minutes until the clubs re-open. Well, at least we tried…
On the off-hand chance that we had unknowingly developed a taste for Barbara Streisand, French Provincial furniture and sodomy—it never hurts to check—we make a quick Sunday night stop into Michael Tronn’s Anthem at Crobar, the velvet ropes being worked by six foot glamazon drag queen, Asia, vaguely reminiscent of Yvonne de Carlo—s character in —Criss Cross.”
Inside the club, DJ Victor Calderone blazing away on the turn-tables, looking out over a sea of shirtless bodies, the dance floor one big festering mound of flesh with laser lights zapping away in the canyon-like room. Momentarily fabbing it up with a group of post-Warholians down from NY, our traveling horror show rapidly begins to pick-up steam with the newsboy a mere one drink away from achieving total buffoon-ness.
Upstairs along the dimly-lit railing watching the festivities down below on the dance floor, beside us a couple of youngish geechy-boys lip-lock in a passionate embrace. One lad soon slides his hand down the front of the other’s pants and frantically gropes around as if he’d lost his car keys, as the pair slowly dissolves back into the shadows for a quick rub-up. Kind of a tender moment, really. The whole club one big disgusting mess—as a matter of principle we only stayed four hours.
Going for a last-call drink at some no-name/no-fame joint down on lower Washington, a cozy little snake-pit littered with a prime selection of gang-bangers, street hustlers and various other nightworld vermin—the whole scene standing as a monument to mankind’s inherent rottenness. Toward the back a middle-aged perv angles with a hooker for a pre-sunrise punch in the bloomers. Other non-relevant populi scattered about, the well of human despair never seems to run dry in South Beach.
Then, oddly enough, it’s a club-operator acquaintance of ours and his side-kick materializing out of nowhere, drinks in hand, reciting the familiar death-of-fun-in-South-Beach refrain, “Where we fucked up was when our security people started confiscating people’s drugs and then re-selling them.” Says the side-kick, “Plus, when that guy at [club] started handing out business cards that read ‘[name], Ecstasy Dealer,’ I knew we were all going to take a beating from the City.”
The most immediate beating being taken by yours truly thanks to the pounding music and general stench of the joint approaching unbearable levels, a sure signal that it’s time to call it a night—the bartender flashing the lights is another signal.
Facing the final moments of the evening, the omega-point where fun makes it’s natural progression to folly, disgust, and ultimately, total revulsion, walking in the general direction of home, resolving to find the red “You are Here–>” arrow of our life first thing in the morning. Temporarily free from the war-zone of clubland, sailing away beyond the apocalypse as another blood-on-the-highway night in South Beach careens into oblivion.
All in all, a particularly shallow, superficial and meaningless existence.
God help us, but we do love it so …