On a platform, a go-go dancer in sunglasses, briefs and sneakers is staring off into the distance, absentmindedly scratching his six-pack. Nobody seems to be watching him. Throngs of the young, gay and glamorous seem to be elsewhere. "It's a different generation," says a 40-year-old clubgoer. "The kids want something new." But he knows they'll be back. "Gay people are fickle," he says.
A young man has just returned from the bathroom, excited by the announcement he found taped up by the stalls. South Beach is hiring barbacks and bartenders.
Charles Armstrong likes to visit his empire long after the crowds have gone home. Early each morning, he can be found in latex gloves lugging a huge bag of cat food and a tarp that acts as a makeshift buffet table. A uniformed employee is always by his side.
Armstrong knows the life stories of some of the dozen cats playing nearby, cats he calls the "little angels." He points a gloved finger at a calico. "She's sick, I think, bless her heart," he says. "I've had some of her kids put down."
Sometimes people drive by and offer Armstrong money for his work feeding the cats. It always makes him laugh. "I say, 'No, trust me, I don't need money, that's very sweet.'" Later, he'll feed the birds, give peanuts to the squirrels and take a few injured cats to his private vet.
Not that he's bragging. "I'm not Mother Teresa. I've never pretended to be Mother Teresa," Armstrong says as he leans against his silver Mercedes-Benz. But Charles Armstrong knows Charles Armstrong is one of a kind. "How many wealthy people do you know going around feeding cats?"
Nearby, an employee blocks off one of Armstrong's driveways with orange cones. "Put those two on back further down," Armstrong shouts to him. Quietly and obediently, the employee moves the cones. It's 9 a.m. — his day with Armstrong has barely begun. And as long as he stays loyal, like the cats that return to Armstrong day after day, he'll be back tomorrow.