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Between a rock and a hard place 

"Madonna checked into the Portofino this afternoon," coos a peroxided boy-toy just inside the Hard Rock Live venue.

Well, I should hope so. Tonight's the big christening of the excess-empowered Hard Rock Hotel, and from the looks of things, it's turning out to be yet another loud, ugly, well-lit nonevent for the West Orlando home-owning set. I've fortunately forgone the poolside preparty, where the high and the mighty were set to wander down red carpets, past the shattering flashbulbs and into their publicists' pockets while fake-baked glamour pusses sipped champagne and tripped over their tennis bracelets. You know the drill. I'd prefer a screwdriver.

Screwy, then, that the Hard Rock Live venue at CityWalk is hosting a fuss-free concert from high-spawned everyman Jakob Dylan and his pungent Wallflowers as a means of kicking the gluttony into overdrive. The effect is similar to that of smashing a Miller High Life can against the side of a rusty bass boat, really, and nobody's more aware of that than Dylan himself.

"It feels a little like we're opening up a new car dealership," he demurs 40 minutes into the set, before sinking back into the swaying sulk of the Wallflowers' sepia forever.

Concerted effort

It looks a little more like we're waiting for Godot, as the bursting buttons of Orlando's tragic double-breasts (think Richard Crotty ... then see Richard Crotty) try to hold themselves awake in their fold-away chairs. Not that the Wallflowers have ever really elicited a physical euphoria beyond that of a reflexive knee jerk -- well, there was that one dream about swimming around in Jakob's bluey-gooey bedroom eyes while he composed my personal folk-lite requiem ... naked! -- but really, this dull showroom spin seems eerily, and angrily, inappropriate.

"I'm going to ask you once more," stammers our Dylan drip 10 minutes later. "All you lazy motherfuckers stand up!"

Ooooh, by this time I'm right up against the stage licking the bottoms of his stomping tantrum feet. A battle of the classes seems imminent, and I want my piece of Orlando's glitzy rock overthrow. But which class would a batty flicker from the Dylan dynasty really subscribe to? After all, he's worse than sitting down: He's standing on the stage!

It all goes down like a catheter drip from the open bar (make mine a triple!), and "One Headlight" and "one, two, Three Marlenas" later, a kick into Bowie's personal folk-lite requiem, "Heroes," wraps it all up.

Personal love heroes 'N Sync are said to be bopping around the after-parties littering the hotel's lower level, so the exodus to the exaggerated slumber space seems particularly rewarding. Lance, after all, is gay. So about 40 free drinks and only a couple of celebrity hallucinations later (the kid from *The Grinch* may or may not have been in the peddling company of the Planet Hollywood publicist. I can't remember. I shouldn't.), and I'm running to the can for my humility drain. Only I'm peeing next to and (g)Lancing down at none other than Joey Fatone -- you know, the big one! -- and my humility doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

"I know who you are, Billy," he smirks, while his boy-toy handmaidens cover his perimeter. Apparently, I've covered his perimeter, too, which might be more difficult to do now that we know he's pregnant. Oh wait, it's not him! It's an unnamed lady friend. ("It's a personal matter" is the party line. You know, like VD.) Anyway, I fumble around my objectivity and composure long enough to make my editor take a picture of me with Joey. Maybe I'm pregnant! It's gonna be me!

I'd rather it be me with Lance, though, so upon hearing of his presence in the area, I set out with the Madonna boy-toy for a spirited Lance hunt, peering into limos and checking under stall doors. Alas, no Lance. Luckily, there are a few more drinks to be had, so I join up with some car-dealer types and splash the last of the night away with a series of wretched vodka shots. I don't want to be breathing tomorrow.

Monkee see, Monkee do

When tomorrow comes, I'm not. Instead, I'm arriving on site for the last squeeze of the Hard Rock hype machine: a Continental breakfast and Monkees-hosted drum dedication ("The Largest Drum Roll in the World!"). My impeccable timing places me and my tag-along hangover square in the middle of the drum corps. All attempts to escape are naturally foiled by the helpful event staff who seem to be closing walkways with a smirk of rueful vengeance.

Now, the only thing better than warm orange juice and Monkees hosted drum roll for a bitch's hangover can surely be an audience with Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davey Jones themselves. The once -- OK, never -- viable O-Town predecessors are flailing around in memories again and are even flirting with TransCon representation, beginning with a painful revisit to "Daydream Believer" backed by boy-band hopefuls Natural. I try to pull off the leg-tangling Monkees overwalk, squeezing in between a squishy Davey Jones and a slimy Mickey Dolenz with comb-over, and attempt a baiting eavesdrop.

Something like "I sing the song with the kids, then say, 'You guys are great kids,' then you guys come out, and blah blah blah" pours from Jones' rounding face, and I realize that these guys have been in it too long to even know what they're saying. But hey, hey, they're the Monkees, right? Or is that us?

Madonna never shows.

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