8:00 p.m. EST, Monday, March 17
In the lobby of Miami Beach's Radisson Deauville, on the eve of the Winter Music Conference, the music stops. President Buzzkill addresses the world. The face of George W. Bush replaces a Dirty Vegas video. The bright chatter among DJs, promoters, record label execs and their entourages dies as Bush's voice fills the silence. "Events in Iraq have reached the days of final decision," Bush says.
A severe thunderstorm warning scrolls across the screens. While Bush speaks of "evil men who plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror," lightning bolts and thunderclaps invade the sky. Bush signs off with: "May God continue to bless America." A hard rain's begun to fall.
The DJs spin on. Tens of thousands of people from around the world continue to arrive for WMC 2003 in the wake of Dubya's ultimatum. For the 48-hour countdown to war and the first 100 hours of fighting, the conferees embed themselves in the Command Division of Party People. Hummers throttle up and down the avenue. Folks litter the sidewalks with thousands of eye-candy party fliers, disbursed like psych-ops pamphlets. On the dance floor, sirens wail over the droning beat of machines. Searchlights slice through smoke. Behind the DJs, night-vision footage of cruise missile explosions shares screen time with attack helicopters shooting laser beams. Military technology flies in the service of hedonism. War doesn't stop the party; it is the party.
Weapons of Mass Distraction
1:30 a.m. EST, Tuesday, March 18
MSNBC ticker quotes U.S. Marine officer: "My troops are ready to execute, mentally and physically."
At the WMC launch party, Back Door Bamby, 1,000 bodies writhe on the dance floor of Crobar. Every muscle absorbs the shock waves deployed by deep house DJ David Morales. Atop the main bar, a female dancer with the ensemble Circ X is dressed as a Headless Nightclub Monster in a suit stitched from newspapers. Beneath the red-yellow-green lights, a male dancer sits in the middle of the bar reading headlines on her body that scream war in French, Italian, German, Arabic, Japanese. Curious clubbers surround the artists.
The man puts on headgear designed by artist and company director Diana Lozano. The glittery sphere with a menacing tube for a mouth is part gas mask, part disco ball. The soldier/disco dancer pulls a U.S. flag out of his pocket. He swallows the flag. He vomits the flag. He is for the moment the dance music community, hyped up on the theatrics of war, outraged and dancing, always dancing.
6:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, March 18
A 24,000-member Force Service Support group delivers food to Marines in Kuwait.
Of all the yummy women poolside at the Winter Music Conference's official kickoff party at the Raleigh Hotel, the bumper sticker across Michelle Pagan's naked breasts proclaims her "The Yummiest."
Pagan, a 31-year-old model, wears only the sticker for the graphic design company she's promoting; a black thong; high heels to match; and gold hoop earrings. Costume devil's horns stick up from her spiraling blond coif. When a handler asks her what she wants from the snack bar, Pagan orders "French fries, lots of French fries." An instant later, she stomps her foot in exasperation. "I should have said freedom fries.' The French suck."
Pagan is pro-war. "I think it's totally necessary. War's been going on for fucking ever, man. You can't stop it. I have these friends from Poland and they say it's all lies and media hype that Iraq is a threat to us or that Iraq had anything to do with 9/11. They could be right, and I realize that the American government is just picking on somebody they know they can beat down while the whole world watches. But fuck it. I take kung fu and sometimes it just feels really good to just beat somebody's ass, you know?"
1:00 p.m. EST, Wednesday, March 19
U.S. Army vehicles move toward the Iraqi border; airspace over Walt Disney World and Disneyland is restricted.
Octavius Prince, 23, isn't the only aspiring artist prowling the pool parties, laptop and headphones in hand, dying to play his latest bedroom creation. But there's something odd about the hard trance composition DJ Octavius plans to launch during his 4 to 5 a.m. set at Club Pump. "Final Justice" is a pro-war anthem. It begins with a snare drum roll that sounds like automatic weapons fire, then thumps at 147 beats per minute over a sample of the president's last State of the Union address declaring, in booming reverb, "We are winning the war on terror."
"I don't particularly like Bush, but I don't particularly dislike him, either, and I'm pretty patriotic. I like what he's saying, which is Don't fuck with us,' basically."