Beach Head

At the Winter Music Conference, P. Diddy blows up dance music while the U.S. blows up Iraq


Bombs over Baghdad

8:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, March 19

Every muscle absorbs the shock waves
Steve Satterwhite
Every muscle absorbs the shock waves

Acting on "fresh intelligence," Central Command launches 36 Tomahawk cruise missiles at a bunker where it is believed Saddam Hussein may be hiding.

Along a red carpet at Eighth Street and Ocean Drive, reporters await presenters and nominees at the American Dance Music Awards. The Goodyear blimp floats overhead, projecting an American flag on one side. A ticker tape on the other advertises "tires for luxury SUVs."

Although the eyes of the world are fixed on Fox News and CNN, DanceStar host Roger Sanchez predicts on camera that "a billion people around the world will be watching this show." Certainly the British television and radio crews in the media tent are less interested in the war than in the debut on the awards show of platinum-selling rapper and hip-hop entrepreneur P. Diddy's first dance single. "We're really just here for Puffy," says a kid from the BBC's music station, Radio One.

But Puffy does not appear in the media tent pitched in the sand. Only less-hyped DJs and performers file past the press, fielding questions about the awards and the war.

Miami-based DJ Tracy Young wears an American-flag T-shirt. "Apart from the war, I wanted to represent American music," she smiles, her wide blue eyes sparkling. "Music always makes us happy."

Passionate beneath his dark shades and electro-schock streaked hair, progressive house-music producer BT opposes the war. "It's disgraceful to be an American," he says. "That we can say that this war is not 100 percent about oil and money is a disgrace."

Felix da Housecat is down with that. "One-two-three-four, what the fuck are we fighting for?" he mutters. "How does that look? [Bush]'s just going into somebody's country. And then he's gonna get on TV and say, 'Don't burn the oil rigs.' I hope they burn all of them."

Veteran dance-music chanteuse Ultra Naté doesn't know what she can do about the war but sing. "You feel very powerless to change things," she admits. "You've gotta figure out for yourself, what am I going to do that will have some positive impact on the universe?"

The California kooks of Crystal Method already know the answer. "If we could just get George Bush and Saddam Hussein to come when we're spinning some funky breaks..." says Ken Jordan.

Suddenly fresh intelligence flashes through the media tent. P. Diddy will grant brief interviews. Select camera crews pack up gear and move out single file through the dark, scurrying behind the stage. Half an hour later, the crews are still waiting. P. Diddy stands with his feet planted on-stage in a cloud of smoke. He flails his arms, repeating frantically: "Let's get ill/Your dreams have been fulfilled."

Clusters of fireworks explode. Everyone ducks.

"Was that a bomb?" a woman backstage yells. "Are we at war?"

Decapitation Attack

2 p.m. EST Thursday, March 20

CNN reports massive antiwar protests in London, New York, San Francisco, Seoul, Rome, Paris, Cairo, and Jakarta.

East German lord of the trance Paul van Dyk doesn't want to talk about his new album. Van Dyk will speak on one topic alone: his opposition to the war. "When the bombing began last night, I was asking myself, How can I possibly go ahead and play and enjoy myself while I know there's a totally unnecessary war killing innocent people? The only other option would be to just stay in my hotel room and say nothing. It's my responsibility to take a stand. It's very clear: The war is wrong."

Van Dyk sports the same sky-blue "Stop the War" shirt he's worn to all public appearances this year. A few days after his early March show at the Roxy in New York City, he received "a disturbing e-mail from a rather misinformed person." A fan berated him for wearing the shirt in New York after 9/11. "How could someone who's a fan of mine have such an opinion? To really understand electronic music, you have to be cosmopolitan and open-minded. Cosmopolitan and open-minded people are definitely not in favor of this war."

WMC may prove him wrong. "To be honest, last night 90 percent of the people out in the clubs didn't even know the war had started," van Dyk points out. "It's not good, but that's the way it is in America. Otherwise, the Bush administration wouldn't be able to do what they do all the time."

Two hours later, van Dyk is the guest of honor at a listening party aboard a yacht meandering across Biscayne Bay. While servers brandish trays of bruschetta and chicken satays with peanut sauce, the DJ introduces an unreleased track he says was inspired by his encounter with poverty in India. "Be aware of the world/Be true to your conscience," the guests hear through wireless headphones distributed by van Dyk's publicists. The yacht drifts in a sea of tranquility, a world away from the Persian Gulf.


Patriot Missiles

2 a.m. EST Friday, March 21

Armored columns roll across southern Iraq at 15 mph in a globally televised off-road rally the soldiers dub the "Baghdad 500."

The U.S. Army pushed its product in the days before the start of the war with a street team of hot enlisted chicks in camouflage who distributed mock dog tags to spring breakers outside the Raleigh Hotel. They're missing in action now that the bloodshed has begun. Their mobile recruiting unit has been replaced by a sunshine-yellow H2 with two lions painted in black on its doors promoting Firdosi, purveyors of women's lingerie.

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