No doubt you will be disappointed, possums, that this is a Wednesday without a new and disappointing episode of Top Design. However, we are committed to not disappointing you, and so, as ever, we bring you our weekly helping of Diana Vreeland’s tips for decorating your home and ornamenting your life. Without further ado, Why Don’t You…
In your home:
* Use those low bamboo Legomatic folding beach chairs in little pairs around your drawing-room? They are easy to move about and divinely comfortable. Cover the rubberized cushions in green satin with crimson buttons. [This one’s for Carisa Perez-Fuentes.]
* Consider using the yellow of a zinnia and the purple of a petunia in your decoration? [This one’s for Michael Adams and Jonathan Adler.]
* Keep your telephone wires from curling and driving you wild by using telephone coils? (At H. Morgan, 2 West 46th Street.)
* Do your closet shelves in immaculate white organdie, pleated, with Lubin’s scented pink flannels wrapped around your things? [This one’s for Matt Lorenz; drink a shot of tequila.]
And to make up for the fact that there’s no new episode tonight, we’ll throw in a few more, non-décor suggestions. So, Why Don’t You…
* Wear black breitschwanz† mules with red heels?
* Help litter the beaches with these three colors—capucine, pine green, and black?
* Give the wife of your favorite band leader an entire jazz-band made of tiny baguette diamonds and cabochon emeralds, in the form of a bracelet from Marcus?
* Own, as does one extremely smart woman, twelve diamond roses of all sizes? Wear one as a buttonhole on a tailor-made. Wear five for a necklace around the top of your dress. Wear them all at once one night, in the hair, on your bag, up and down your dress.
* Go serenely out in the snow in a court jester’s hood of cherry red cotton velvet?
† Breitschwanz, according to the International Fur Trade Federation, is “the pelt of a still-born Karakul lamb, where the mother has aborted naturally as a result of the harsh weather conditions, natural illness or pregnancy difficulties. Broadtail pelts are extremely rare and only account for a very small percentage of overall Karakul production. The broadtail pelt is flatter, softer and silkier than the traditional curly young lamb pelt.”
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
No doubt you will be disappointed, possums, that this is a Wednesday without a new and disappointing episode of Top Design. However, we are committed to not disappointing you, and so, as ever, we bring you our weekly helping of Diana Vreeland’s tips for decorating your home and ornamenting your life. Without further ado, Why Don’t You…
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Delicious reader "AnonymouSe," though not in the least mousy, is nonetheless as taken as we with Margaret Russell's feline charms. AnonymouSe sent us this tribute, which made our spines tingle. Just like our Margaret, Catwoman looks like she starved herself into her catsuit. Note to Paris, the Bravo "stylist": think about giving Margaret a whip, and a little black patent leather. You would make a lot of men (and not a few women) very, very happy.
Monday, February 26, 2007
Possums, we have a recollection of an episode of Absolutely Fabulous in which Edina dismisses the way her gay ex-husband has been smitten by Patsy’s fabulous sister thus: “Typical! A bitch with a drug habit, and you’re anybody’s, aren’t you?”
We’ll cop to that, but, as it turns out, this week’s bitch with a drug habit, er, Pink Navy Girl in Every Port, happens to be Miss XaXa’s selection, and our first American (so you don’t think we wander only in foreign ports)—the one, the only, the fiercest bitch the State of Alabama ever produced, Miss Tallulah Bankhead.
Endowed with a voice that one writer described as “steeped as deep in sex as the human voice can go without drowning,” Miss Tallulah came from Alabama aristocracy. Her uncle and her grandfather were U.S. Senators, and her father was the Speaker of the House of Representatives under Roosevelt.
Like every Southern belle, Miss Tallulah tried at every turn to get her own way, with some occasions more successful than others, and stated, “To deny me anything only inflames my desires.” Her tantrums were treated with a bucket of water by her no-nonsense grandmother.
At fifteen she moved to New York to be an actress, and checked into the Algonquin Hotel. Yes, the one with the round table. John Barrymore (Drew’s grandfather) put the moves on Miss Tallulah, exposing himself to her in his dressing room, after which she swore publicly that she would never bed a man who wasn’t “hung like Barrymore.” She later claimed to have kept her word.
Like many another ingénue, she tried lesbianism and cocaine. Her first experiment was with the great lady of the theater, Eva Le Gallienne; she took to introducing herself to strangers at parties with, “I’m a lesbian. What do you do?” She may also have had an affair with Billie Holiday. Not that she could exactly make up her mind, as she also declared, “I could never become a lesbian because they have no sense of humor.”
She eventually ended up in London, where she had a great success, until she was rejected by Somerset Maugham (the gay novelist married to famous decorator Sirie Maugham) to play Sadie Thompson, the floozy who tempts a minister in the tropics in his play, Rain. As a result, she tried to commit suicide by swallowing 20 aspirins and writing a suicide note that read, “It ain’t goin’ to rain no moh.” She awoke the next day in fine fettle to the news that she would star in a Noël Coward play.
She then made her way to Hollywood and a well-paid career in undistinguished movies. She had loads of fun, though, including a tryst with Tarzan himself, Olympic swimming medalist Johnny Weissmuller, in the swimming pool of the Garden of Allah, after which she declared herself “a very satisfied Jane.”
She eventually married John Emery, a good-looking man who was a second-rate actor, but whose charms were undeniable. According to a piece in The New Yorker:
One of Tallulah’s party tricks was to escort guests to the master bedroom, fling back the covers from the bed in which Emery was sleeping, and crow, “Did you ever see a prick as big as that before?”….Soon she was telling people, “Well, darling, the weapon may be of admirable proportions, but the shot is indescribably weak.” Within a few years, the marriage, such as it was, was over.
She contracted a severe case of gonorrhea from actor George Raft, which led to hospitalization, a hysterectomy and severe weight loss. She left the hospital weighing 70 pounds, but proclaimed to the doctor, “Don’t think this has taught me a lesson!”
Like some of today’s celebrities, she was given to flashing audiences. Because so many people in the audience complained during the run of a Thornton Wilder play, Actors’ Equity had to order her to wear knickers while onstage. The same problem came up, as it were, while she was filming Alfred Hitchcock’s Lifeboat, which, according to a biographer, led Hitchcock to respond “with his much-quoted deliberation about whether the matter needed to be referred to the makeup or the hairdressing department.” Sounds like Kelly Wearstler.
Unfortunately, her film career didn’t add up to much, and the stage work dried up as well. By the 1950s, she had a radio show, a rather saucy memoir on the bestseller list, and made appearances on I Love Lucy as herself. In 1968, she died from double pneumonia. A giver of great quote to the end, her final words were, “codeine—bourbon.”
Miss Tallulah, referred to as “Humphrey Bogart in silk panties” and as the “most thoroughgoing libertine and free-swinging flapper of the age,” left a trail of anecdotes and quips. Apparently, she was given to swimming in nothing but a string of pearls. Her reasoning? “I just wanted to prove I was a natural ash blonde.”
And Miss XaXa’s favorite quotes:
- I'll come and make love to you at five o'clock. If I'm late, start without me.
- It's the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.
- My father warned me about men and booze... but he never said anything about women and cocaine.
We ought to have known better, of course, but even we (yes, it's true) make mistakes on occasion. Last week, trying to demonstrate that Margaret Russell holds her own when it comes to magazine-posing audacity, we brought you the results of Ensign Laz's archival research into her photo shoot with Horst's last studio assistant. We declared the shoot had been for Cat Fancy Magazine. Of course, we were wrong. As you can see from the cover Ensign Laz sent us, it was actually Fancy Cat Magazine. But of course, or, as Miss XaXa put it, "Like, duh, right?" Pink Navy regrets the error and extends its apologies to Ms. Russell for the confusion.
Friday, February 23, 2007
Possums, we like to start our viewing with a drinking game.
Every time Matt Lorenz says or does something that could be considered gay, we down a shot of tequila.
Oh, come now, possums. We know he says he’s straight, and is married, and has a child. Blah blah blah; spare us the disclaimers. It’s not our fault that we need a drinking game to make the show entertaining.
So, the show begins with Matt saying, “It was a little scary to be in the bottom three. It’s not a place I like to be.” Drink one shot of tequila. “I was there because I did not take an active role….” Um, Matt, possum, that’s kind of the definition of…never mind. Drink another shot of tequila. “I’m going to have to be a little more vocal.” Drink a third shot of tequila. Then, as the designers make their way into the PDC, we see Matt swinging a tote bag. Drink a fourth shot.
So, it’s two minutes into the show, and already we’re sloshed.
The designers sit on the grass outside the PDC with Todd Oldham sitting in front of them wearing some piebald shirt that looks like it came from a garage sale. Hmmm, could that be yet another example of Bravo Foreshadowing™? Todd tells the designers that for their next challenge, they will get to meet their clients first. Forced, weirdly emphatic laughter from the designers. But, he says, they may be the most opinionated and difficult clients the designers have ever had. Forced, weirdly emphatic groans from the designers.
It was then that we realized just what this little scene reminded us of, one of our favorite films and guilty pleasures, The Sound of Music. A preternaturally cheerful and boyish novice sitting on the grass with his charges, wearing brown, and telling them about how they’re going to start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. It was all the same, down to the forced, weirdly emphatic reactions. We half expected Todd to bring out his guitar.
Instead, he brings out the “clients,” interior design students from schools around Los Angeles, including (in freaky Todd voiceover) students from Otis College of Art and Design. The clients, Todd said, would be randomly assigned to the designers. Immediately we saw a really hot guy who sat down in the back, and on whom the golden afternoon light seemed to pool, and we said to Miss XaXa, “Whaddya wanna bet the Bravo producers ‘randomly’ assigned him to Matt?” (Sorry, when we’re sloshed, our diction gets more colloquial.)
The challenge is to design a post-college living space for a design student. The designers meet with their clients, and, of course, Matt ends up with “Chad.” Drink a fifth shot of tequila. Matt and Chad, Matt and Chad, two pretty blond boy interior designers sitting together in the sun in West Hollywood. Nope, nothing remotely gay about that. (Jesus, Bravo, sometimes you really do go overboard.)
Goil’s client brings the proceedings to a halt with her shocking declaration that she is in possession of art books! Good luck, possum, trying out for Season 2 of Top Design (if, indeed, such a thing were to happen at all). Art books? As in reference points? As in cultural literacy? What planet are you from? (Sorry, when we’re sloshed, we pontificate even more than usual.)
Of her client, Felicia says, “Gosh, she’s a mini me.” We hear the cymbal clash of true Bravo Foreshadowing™ at work. Oh dear, hasn’t she heard of Freud and the anxiety of influence and the child killing the parent? Oh wait, she’s a Scientologist, so she probably doesn’t cotton to Freudian readings. Oh, well.
Tortured, WTO-hating artist Ryan is finally happy with a challenge that doesn’t require him to conform to what St. Tropez is. To demonstrate his glee, he gives a Bronx cheer and flips both birds to the camera. We got a little frisson. Oooh, how subversive, how punk, how épatez les bourgeois! And then, when they go shopping for fabric, he admits he has never bought fabric before. Outlaw!
It’s the next day, and at 6:25 a.m., Todd breaks into the women’s loft in a ski mask to carry out a panty raid. Oh wait, sorry. Wrong show. He’s come to wake the women up, and turns on all the lights. And he laughs a gleeful, boyish laugh that is the most natural, spontaneous and adorable thing we’ve seen about him the entire show. Carisa tells us, in perhaps the most unsurprising statement of the series, “I never in my life thought I would wake up to the sound of Todd Oldham’s voice.” No doubt you’re one of the few women who’s had the privilege; enjoy it, possum.
Then we go to the men’s loft, and Bravo treats us to many a lingering close-up of a shirtless, tousled, sleepy-eyed, angelic Matt lying on his stomach and looking Bel Ami-cably into the camera. Drink a sixth shot of tequila.
Once the designers are all gathered around the muffins Todd has brought as compensation (and don’t think we haven’t noticed Bravo’s penchant for these early-morning, host-comes-in-and-wakes-contestants-up-so-viewers-can-ogle-them-while-in-bed-and-in-their-sleepwear shenanigans; not that we’re complaining, mind you, and the boys get to look at Felicia’s splendid muffins), he tells them they’re going to go shop at garage sales. The closed captioning helpfully points out that “ominous music” is playing, and Andrea informs us that she has never been to a garage sale and that the prospect frightens her.
The garage sale montage is a sort of blur again, what with six tequila shots. Oh, make that seven, as we just heard Matt say, “My client wanted clean, straight lines.” We do remember Felicia’s cleavage being prominently displayed throughout, and Goil putting on a Catholic schoolgirl skirt and transforming it into a kilt by trying to do a "Lord of the Dance" routine. And for all the wonderful qualities attributed to the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, we had yet to hear that it was chock full of garage sales featuring cool mid-century furniture for a song. Now we know why the hipster Munchkins are so happy there.
Back in the work room, Todd tells them that the carpenters are going to be randomly assigned. But! Of! Course! First! There’s! A Twist! A hook hand, and an accordion lick. Oh, wait, this isn’t a Judy Tenuta show. Felicia helpfully utters a loud “Uh-oh!” God, the editors are going to miss her. So, the twist: after this challenge, the carpenters will no longer be “randomly assigned.” Instead, the designers can pick whom they want after the carpenters parade around in black slips.
Carisa gets a make-up wearing, softly-butch female carpenter, Sarah. Not for nothing is The L Word set in L.A. Carisa then tells us that the Los Angeles water has caused her to fixate on the green & orange color combination. It’s like a gay dénouement to Chinatown: all that struggle to get water for L.A., and in the end all it leads to is hot colors.
Ryan, true to his rebel rocker self, is following the Rolling Stones’ injunction to paint it black, although we don’t recall the song saying anything about adding ground glass to the black paint. Meanwhile, Goil and his hot carpenter Jared talk about something being “9¾ inches, dude.” And we drink another shot of tequila. Oh, wait, there’s no "Goil Is Gay" Drinking Game. Never mind.
Carisa’s plan to build a rolling desk doesn’t work out, and she acts the abusive, bitchy femme of the couple with her carpenter. In the end, she declares, “I’ll never trust another carpenter again.” Then she marries a male lawyer, moves to Scarsdale, and falls in love with her son’s female art teacher when she’s 40.
It’s time for the judging. And the guest judge this week is Larry Kramer. Oh wait, it’s Joe Stewart, a set designer who, in addition to working on stylish series such as The Drew Carey Show, also is responsible for the White Room. Well, that explains a lot.
Margaret is wearing a stunning, but simple, red Narciso Rodriguez dress. Of course! Why didn’t we think of it before? Margaret is the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. Off with their heads! And on his video blog, Bravo’s “stylist,” Paris, explains that he and Margaret had a bet. By the end of the filming, he would lose ten pounds, and she would lose enough weight to fit into the Red Dress. But, naturally, she couldn't wait until the end. She surprised him by dropping the weight and appearing in the Red Dress on the fourth episode. Paris, for his part, gained ten pounds. We found this anecdote of competitive bitchery delicious, like a cross between Heathers and a Special K commercial.
We also found the anecdote illuminating. So, basically, Margaret’s been starving herself. That definitely explains a lot. If we so much as miss a meal, we are ready to reduce the upholstery to shreds. We can’t imagine what it’s like to starve ourselves into a Narciso Rodriguez.
Kelly, meanwhile, is in a dangerously sheer, vintage (Paul Poiret?) beaded potato sack. (We worry that with the Joe Stewart-designed shiny and reflective black floor, we may well see her, er, fabric swatch if she ever pulls a Britney on us; as we know, Kelly has a, well, casual relationship with underthings). She’s also wearing what we swear is a wig recycled from a Beyoncé video. Basically, the ensemble is a big fuck-you to Margaret and to good taste, a way of saying, “Ok, you starved yourself into a red Narciso Rodriguez and you’re looking good, but NO ONE WILL NOTICE, because I will show up looking like a flapper whore who had an unfortunate encounter with a threshing machine.”
We suppose this is as good a place as any to begin discussing the Margaret-Kelly dynamic. Now, we don’t fall into the usual misogynist trap that says two women who work together on television must automatically hate each other and want to claw each other’s eyes out. But this is a situation straight out of George Cukor’s 1939 classic bitchfest, and one of the Four Gay Gospels, The Women, with Kelly as the brassy, mocking, perfume-counter-girl-made-good Joan Crawford, and Margaret as the prim, tasteful, ladylike society-matron-who’s-grown-jungle-red-claws, Norma Shearer.
At the beginning we wondered, knowing Bravo’s notoriety for being cheapskates, why they had bothered to put Margaret up for a month at the Four Seasons, when she could just have stayed in Kelly’s guest house. Kelly, after all, lives in Beverly Hills with her hotelier husband. But after the first eye-roll in the first episode, we wondered no longer.
The judges do their walk-through. Goil demonstrates he went to Yale by describing his space as “sort of like a scene of domesticity, but it’s also broken.” Ryan tells us that he doesn’t care what the judges think: “If I lose, fuck ‘em.” We watch yet another commercial for The Real Housewives of Orange County, which we never quite believe is a Bravo show rather than a piece of propaganda broadcast by Al Jazeera to show the world why we are a decadent and evil empire.
Felicia’s room doesn’t fare too well. The afghan she purchased at the garage sale is her death knell. Her client, Mary, wearing one of Jane Fonda’s dresses from 9 to 5, declares that if she had to live in the room, she’d shoot herself. If we were looking for root causes for suicide, wearing ugly 80s dresses and calling oneself Mary might be good starting points, but that’s just us.
When reviewing one of the rooms, Kelly deploys the word “adjacencies,” which impresses us no end. (But we hate the way she pronounces “accessories” as “assessories.”) And Erik is so cute, so boyish, but obviously has been hanging around Jonathan Adler too long, for when he is criticized, the old Adler eyebrow move is deployed. Also, we long to apply that weed-killer spray to Erik’s chin.
Jonathan takes Michael to task for the use of grape and banana colors in his room. Kelly “Fusilli Head” Wearstler thinks it’s more macaroni-and-cheese colored.
And then comes the dialectical showdown of showdowns, between Ryan and Margaret. He actually says to her, “I think recycling’s important. I feel like a lot of people shop to satisfy some need, some keeping up with the Joneses.”
We half expected the world to stop spinning on its axis from the black hole about to be created in the White Room. We said to Miss XaXa, “Did he just call out Margaret--the woman who starved herself to get into a new Narciso Rodriguez dress, who’s staying at the Four Seasons, and who runs a magazine dedicated to making people shop--on her materialism?” We'd say he should consider this bourgeoise very much épatéed.
Instead of saying, “Off with his head!,” the Red Queen comes back with, “Actually, there’s nothing wrong with paint samples and fabric swatches.”
Gollum Adler gaily agrees, “I love a swatch. Love a swatch.”
Ryan says, “I can make a room pretty, but I don’t feel like that’s a hard thing to do.” Funny, that’s exactly what Kelly said on the first episode when discussing Goil & Elizabeth’s room. Hmmmm. And she loves recycling too, since she is wearing a vintage dress, and on the last episode wore vintage lingerie and a vintage Claude Montana belt. And, like Kelly, he’s clearly opposed to Margaret.
No wonder Miss Kelly defends him tooth and nail against Margaret during the judges’ colloquy, while Jonathan Adler tries to make a gang sign while saying the words “bad-ass” and “maverick.” In the end, Carisa wins the challenge, and the Red Queen is outvoted and does not get Ryan’s head. Instead, Felicia becomes a casualty of the afghan war. As the Red Queen notes on her blog, she was not happy to be outvoted. Democracy’s a bitch, n’est-ce pas?
And so we leave you with how Ensign Laz’s snapshot of how the Red Queen viewed this episode.
On Wednesday's episode, Jonathan Adler repeatedly took Michael Adams to task for the colors in his room, decrying the use of "banana" and "grape," apparently a serious crime in the interior design world.
But lo and behold, we had a look at the cover of the current issue of Elle Décor, and what do we see? Why, it's banana and grape. Hmmmm. We don't know what to make of it. Disagreement with Margaret Russell? Can it be? And how is it possible that kitschmeister Jonathan Adler, of all people, doesn't countenance the use of banana and grape? It's all too much to think about on a Friday.
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Possums, if you thought Kelly Wearstler was the only Top Design judge whose past includes a stint in the Cheesecake Factory, you're in for a bit of a surprise.
As so many of you have seen for yourselves over the past week, Kelly has no compunction about unveiling her cabana and showing us that, regardless of where it's actually located, the one place it's not located is Brazil, if you catch our waxy drift.
The more patrician Margaret is another story entirely. But our indefatigable on-ship photographer and archivist Laz dove headlong into the archives of Cat Fancy to see if he could track down the early 90s Margaret Russell cheesecake shoot presided over by Horst's last studio assistant.
Laz emerged covered in enough cat hair to stuff a few verboten pillows, but also with a few photographs from the fabled shoot, which Pink Navy is publishing for the first time ever.
Given the testimony of flaming, fauxhawked Bravo "stylist" Paris about Margaret's Ra-like affinity for the sun's rays, it should come as no surprise that she sports an extraordinary tan that subtly goes against her entire brunette Lana Turner image.
The very Italian Miss XaXa whispers to us that a real WASP would never tan so well, and suspects that there might be...Italian blood in the family. We cross ourselves at the very notion. Come mai! Our Margaret Russell cannot be Margherita Rossellini. Cannot compute.
Instead, let us turn to the stats listed in the accompanying and unpublished Cat Fancy article:
BIRTHPLACE: Somewhere more fabulous than you can imagine, even more fabulous than St. Tropez. Something on the order of a Botticelli seashell inside Zeus' head.
BUST: A lady never discusses her bazooms. Only her dressmaker, Narciso Rodriguez, knows for sure.
WAIST: She's WASP-waisted.
HIPS: None visible.
HEIGHT: Larger than life.
WEIGHT: The weightiest thing about her is her opinion.
AMBITIONS: To rule the world. Sorry, Nina. You can be assistant World Ruler.
TURN-ONS: Pirates, theme rooms, gauzy curtains, country clubs, the color blue.
TURN-OFFS: Pillows, theme rooms, burger shacks, the color green, uppity artists, nudist neo-courtesans who try to upstage their betters.
ROMANCING MY MAN: As that Duchess in Proust says, "I never discuss love, but I make it often."
I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF: Being fabulous.
"Top Design" Shocker: Raggaydy Andy "Dogged" by New Mexican Foot Fetishist!! Lifetime/Logo to Co-Produce TV Movie for Their "Gaymen in Peril" Series
Possums, our thoughts and prayers go out this morning to Bravo VP, blogger, boy reporter, and online salonnière Raggaydy Andy Cohen.
Ever since the success of "quirky New Mexican" dramedy Little Miss Sunshine, the denizens of the Land of Enchantment have felt liberated, perhaps entitled, to bring their quirks out into the open. Unfortunately, our Raggaydy Andy has now become a victim of this revolution. Read this excerpt from today's edition of his blog as he describes the horrors he is enduring, and for which our hearts go out to him:
Oh hey, remember last week when someone called from New Mexico asking Jonathan Adler and I to remove our socks? I thought it was so quaint and hilarious that someone from across the country would be able to impact two people to take off their socks. Well, it turns out we got a ton more emails from our NM buddy last night and he was, from my estimation, a little desperate for me to free my feet from my boots and show my ankles. No, I mean he was desperate to see my bare naked feet and ankles.
Mommy, why is the man from New Mexico so interested in my feetsies?
I actually am pleased that someone is interested in my dogs because I pretty much am not too into them. So, keep them cards and letters comin'!
Andy, possum, you seem understandably shaken. Perhaps you should get Chris What's-'is-name from Dateline NBC on the case. You can't be too careful with these New Mexico quirky pervs. They start out NM and end up SNM.
So it's goodbye to Felicia Bushman, the latest casualty in the afghan war. It strikes us as amusing that Kelly Wearstler, of all people, has no tolerance for kitsch, but Granny's afghan definitely did Felicia in.
Something else strikes us, though no doubt it is purely coincidental.
Ages of eliminated contestants:
We hate to go all Agatha Christie / And Then There Were None on you, but, Uh-oh, Andrea (36) and Ryan (35). Watch your backs.
We're actually sort of sorry to see Felicia go. Bad plastic surgery aside, she seems to have some taste, and the judges threw her a sop in their blogs by linking to her website. And judging by her rather sweet interaction with Gayest of the Gay, Michael, we believe she has a bright future ahead of her as what Defamer calls a "Scientology war bride." She would be the perfect beard for ["Up and Coming" Movie Star] because she not only has design talent, but her profession would provide perfect cover for ["Up and Coming" Movie Star]'s boys: "Oh, that hunky carpenter? And that flaming decorator? They're not [["Up and Coming" Movie Star]'s boyfriends. They work for me." Works for everyone, possum. Good luck, Felicia, and may Lord Xenu be with you.
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
From Margaret Russell's blog:
Would you like a behind-the-scenes look at Top Design’s fourth episode? First of all, the judging was taped on a Sunday evening at the same time as a boisterous bar mitzvah was going on one floor below at Wolfgang Puck’s WP restaurant at the Pacific Design Center. The music was pounding, we couldn’t hear ourselves think, and at one point production was shut down because the band’s rendition of "It’s Raining Men" was drowning out anything going on in the White Room.
Pink Navy Taps 48-Year-Old Elizabeth Moore on the Shoulder and Gives Her Some Figures That Are Sure to Be a Comfort to Her
From a September 29, 2005, press release from Elle Décor: “Published ten times a year, Elle Décor reaches more than 1,800,000 young, affluent, and style-conscious readers….” (emphasis added)
From Hachette Filippachi, publishers of Elle Décor: “ELLE DECOR readers are among the youngest and most affluent in the shelter category
Median Age: 47.5
Median HHI: $139,905.
Source: 2006 Mendelsohn Affluent Survey.”
Sorry, Elizabeth. You're all of six months over the median age of the magazine's young and affluent readers. Better luck next time.
A passel of days, possums, and then, tout d'un coup, we are upon the most famous Wednesday of all, Ash Wednesday. But do not be afeared, as the Diana Vreeland aesthetic does not believe in sackcloth and ashes. And so, without further ado, Why Don't you...
* Work a set of dining-room chair seats—each set marked with a musical instrument: drums, fife, bagpipe, violin, et cetera—in brown wool on a natural-colored background and from each instrument a ribbon of a different color, fluttering as from mandolins of troubadours?
* Remember that Jansen of Paris has a shop in New York and go and see their gilt bronze palm trees dripping with Bristol drops and chains of beads—or order from them one of those lovely and not expensive needle-point rugs in fawn wool scattered with pinky brown ostrich feathers?
* If you paint a dark dining-room in a city apartment, stop trying to brighten it and paint it dark grape red and drape the windows in festoons of real Scotch tartan?
* If you have an awkward, impossible sitting-room, why don’t you give up all idea of a grand salon and make the whole thing as snug and compact as a little yacht, with walls lined with comfortable banquettes covered in sailcloth or bed-ticking?
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Thanks to the exclusive dispatches of our pals at Fishbowl LA, Andrea "Ally Sheedy" Keller is fast becoming the girl we would most like as our fruitfly. After all, a girl whose cri de coeur is, "Give me lumber," is a girl after our own hardwood coeur. And the way she ever so delicately and elegantly thumbnailed Matt Lorenz as "showing raised pinky and being particular," well, we couldn't have done it better. Andrea knits, and she may well give Madame DeFarge a run for her money. Well done, possum.
Monday, February 19, 2007
If Judy Garland had had a disco period, access to peroxide, a beauty-queen past and a string of men who killed themselves, she might have been this week’s Girl in Every Port, Dalida.
Our girl was born Yolanda Gigliotti in Cairo, Egypt, to a family of Italian immigrants who expected her to go to secretarial school. As usual in these circumstances, however, she had other ideas. In 1954, she entered and won the Miss Egypt contest. She changed her name to Dalida, played a bit part in an Omar Sharif movie and then promptly left for Paris to make a name for herself.
After the usual struggles, she was taken up by, and took up with, Lucien Morisse, the married artistic director of the Europe 1 radio station, and recorded her first single, entitled, wouldn’t you know, “Madonna.” But it was her second single, “Bambino,” that turned into her first number-one hit, and she eventually became the opening act for Charles Aznavour.
After the usual montage of hit singles and concert tours, she returned a star to her native Egypt. Then it was back to Paris, more hit singles, and an ultimatum to Lucien Morisse—divorce your wife, or else. She and Morisse married in 1961, but a few weeks after the wedding (which had involved the expense of flying her entire family from Egypt), she traveled to Cannes for a concert and there fell in love with a man named Jean Sobieski (who later went on to father Leelee Sobieski), and left her husband for him.
She bought herself a chateau in Paris, on top of Montmartre, behind the Sacré-Coeur. Then she divorced Morisse, broke up with Leelee Sobieski’s future father, and became a blonde.
More hits and world concert tours, and lonely years in the chateau. In 1966, the RCA record label introduced her to a young Italian songwriter, Luigi Tenco. Naturally, they fell in love while working on a song for her for the San Remo music festival in Italy. Indeed, they decided they would both perform at the festival, each with their own version of the same song, “Ciao Amore.” In January of 1967, they arrived in San Remo, and announced that they would be getting married in April, a marriage that, alas, was never to take place. Neither Tenco nor Dalida won the song festival, and Tenco got smashed on tranquilizers and alcohol, and accused the festival’s jury members of being corrupt. He then went back to their hotel room and killed himself. A few months later, Dalida tried to do the same by taking a full bottle of barbiturates.
She reinvented her look again, started wearing a long white robe, and was dubbed “Saint Dalida” by the French press. More hits and world concert tours. And in 1970, her ex-husband and Svengali, Lucien Morisse, committed suicide. (For those of you keeping score, that’s two.)
In 1973, her duet with Alain Delon (yes, that Alain Delon) was a huge hit, and she met a new love, Richard Chanfray, who claimed to be the Comte de Paris, but was most likely an impostor (shades of Zsa Zsa Gabor and her prince). More phenomenal hits and world concert tours.
Then she went back to her roots (recording in Arabic) and had her disco period. In 1978, she had a smash show at Carnegie Hall, which (in the symmetry of these music-star narratives) made up for an unsuccessful American tour in the 1950s.
In 1979, she had her biggest disco hit with “Monday, Tuesday (Laissez-moi danser),” which we have included below in two versions for your delectation. The first version, from one of the numerous variety shows on French television, is not to believed—hydraulic lift, white fur stole, clones in leather pants. And the best part occurs about a minute into the clip when, having thrown her white fur stole to the floor in a grand and fabulous gesture, a fan or flunky sneaks in on his knees to save the white fur from the trodding feet of her back-up dancers. The other version is a remix by Cerrone, and, oh boy. Once again, you are advised to pull the shades down, and hide anyone you want to protect from the huge, gay-making ray that will erupt from your computer and lay gayste to everything within a two-mile radius.
Returning to Egypt in 1979, she was met by President Sadat. More hits and world concert tours. Then she broke up with Richard Fresnay, got in trouble for supporting President Mitterrand, and left on a year-long world tour to get out of the spotlight in France. She returned to France in 1983, and later that year found out that Fresnay, erstwhile Comte de Paris, had committed suicide in St. Tropez, albeit not in a cabana. (That’s three.)
More concert tours, more failed affairs, and on May 3, 1987, the woman who sold something like 80 million records (back when there still were records) and became the foremost European gay icon, killed herself with an overdose of barbiturates. She has, indeed, practically been elevated to sainthood. The French government released a Dalida postage stamp, and one of the main squares in Montmartre has been renamed in her honor. Her gravesite is a place of pilgrimage. Oh, and did we mention that during her last-ever photo shoot, with Mario Testino for Vanity Fair, Princess Diana was listening to Dalida’s hits? (Oh, and Di's boyfriend, Dodi al-Fayed, was also Egyptian.) Hmmmmm. Makes you think, doesn’t it?
Friday, February 16, 2007
Well, we were torn between a Bart Simpson shout-out (Ay, Cabana!) and a nod to Japanese flower-arranging (Eek! Cabana!), but we simply couldn’t pass up the chance to refer to Jonathan Adler as a fairy potter, so there it is, possums.
The Bravo Foreshadowing™ is deployed as soon as the episode opens, with Ryan telling us that he is an artist, that he feels he is being judged, and that he wants his work to become an icon. Um, we thought he wanted to convince America of the evils of consumerism?
Carisa demonstrates Bravo Hubris™ by confessing that, although she is a set designer (as, incidentally, was Kelly Wearstler) and not an interior designer per se, she has done very well thus far and is very pleased with herself.
Having thus foreshadowed that hubris will lead these two astray and into conflict, Bravo shuttles us to the PDC, where Gay Uncle Todd is handing out beach bags in preparation for the contestants’ next challenge, to build a beach cabana. They are divided into teams of three, based on which postcard was included in their beach bag—Team Tahiti (Andrea, Felicia, Michael), Team Miami (Matt, Elizabeth, Erik), and Team St. Tropez (Goil, Carisa, Ryan).
Goil and His Technicolor Dream Glasses confess that they don’t know what a cabana is, for which Goil received a scolding and a one-day suspension of his gay card from us, as well as clenched-teeth muttering and fist-shaking from us about the state of Gaydom and the cultural literacy of younger gays today.
But for Goil’s benefit, and for ours, too, since it will lend clarity to the final product, consider that Merriam-Webster defines a cabana as “a shelter resembling a cabin usually with an open side facing a beach or a swimming pool.”
And throughout the episode we suffer as a cheesy but lovable song from our youth, Modern English’s “Melt with You,” is repeatedly butchered by some pabulum-voiced singer on the same commercial for that idiotic car that the show's winner will get, roomy enough to fit the ego of anyone who has created "the top design."
Each designer on each team has a specified task—to get lumber, to get fabric, and to get furnishings. True to the foreshadowing, Ryan and Carisa get into it. Being a set designer, Carisa feels that she is better suited than a baby-faced sk8terboi with WTO-disrupting delusions to buy furniture for the space, but Ryan is dead set on shopping at Pier 1, because, naturally, shopping at Pier 1 is the way to teach America about the evils of consumerism.
She crabbily goes shopping for fabrics, Ryan comes back with tacky furniture, pillows and tchotchkes, and then the guy from Ashtabula, Ohio, calls the girl from New York “conservative,” and all dialectical hell breaks loose. He also makes one of his trademark left-handed cracks (e.g., John the “aging prize fighter”) about her weight, albeit not to her face, which avoids a bloodbath. Meanwhile, Goil pretends that none of this is happening and that he is somewhere else and working alone.
The following day, they’re off to Santa Monica Beach, and it’s time to assemble their cabanas. But there’s a catch! No electricity on the beach! Well, except the electricity generated by a small herd of shirtless carpenters. So what are the contestants to do? Use, er, hand tools, of course.
Frankly, possums, most of this construction section of the episode is a blur, as all we remember are the marmoreal, rippling, naked torsos of the carpenters, and the self-satisfied expression on their faces at the knowledge that they were being ogled, that it was entirely justified, and that it might just lead to a call from an understandably besotted casting director.
Well, we do have a vague memory of snickering every time we saw Felicia wearing a t-shirt with the words “Sag Harbor” printed right over her bazooms. And then there was Carisa. It was as if a Bravo producer had taken her aside and said, “Psst! Carisa! You wanna know how to make yourself unsympathetic and thus set up the footage for your eventual elimination? You do? Ok, this is what you do. Wear all black to the beach in California’s famously hot autumn weather, and then whine about how you’re a New Yorker and you hate the sun and the sand.”
Of course, you can hate the sin and love the sinner, and this is what Carisa proceeded to do, putting sunscreen on at least one of the carpenters. For all the world, it looked like she was spraying him with melted butter, and frankly, who can blame her? We know our kernels were a-poppin’.
The judges, who must have been hanging out up the street in a cabana at the Viceroy Hotel designed by Kelly (and which looks like a Regency brothel as designed by the Wedgwood porcelain people, where a Georgette Heyer rake might seduce a production assistant or a D-girl), make their way onto the beach to sniff at the cabanas. As we’ve mentioned before, we were disappointed not to see Kelly in a bikini. Looking rather too much like Nicole Richie, she wore a brown sundress and oversized shades. Margaret, sporting a ladylike gray frock from a 50’s Douglas Sirk film, gave a good imitation of life as she inspected the shacks. Jonathan didn’t show any skin either.
Then it was time for the White Room. This would be a good time to trot out the definition of “cabana” again: “a shelter resembling a cabin usually with an open side facing a beach or a swimming pool.” Team Tahiti’s cabana was well-constructed and had gauzy curtains, but, lacking a roof, would seem not to be a shelter and thus not a cabana. Team St. Tropez featured Goil’s overturned beach chair-inspired roof, Ryan’s tacky furniture, and Carisa’s choice of russet and navy blue as colors, inspired by the French tricolore.
Jonathan hates Team Miami’s choice of fluorescent lime green and aubergine as not being Miami. Former Playboy Playmate Kelly, looking like a Marielito streetwalker in aqua knee-high stockings and high-heeled sandals, authoritatively says it’s more Vegas than Miami. Team St. Tropez doesn’t fare much better. Jonathan dislikes the furniture Ryan chose at Pier 1 while battling the evils of consumerism, and complains that—horrors!—it says, “Buffalo,” rather than “St. Tropez.” Meow, and shuffle off to Buffalo! Margaret tells them she knows St. Tropez, and this ain’t St. Tropez. We’ve been to St. Tropez, too, and we took copious notes on her technique for using our St. Tropez sojourn as a sort of fabulous cudgel with which to beat the unfabulous about the head. It was a master class in the master class, and we were, and are, in awe.
Now it’s time for the judges to deliberate in the giant K-hole that is the White Room, though in this instance the “k” stands for “Kafka” as much as for “ketamine,” for what we are witnessing in the White Room is the capricious, arbitrary nature of the Law. The judges are going on again about how purple and green are not Miami colors, well, cuz they say so. And Elizabeth must be punished for it. Of course, had Team Miami used pastel pink and Ladurée green, they would have been faulted as clichéd and trite. Only the Law, and the wielders of the Law, are always right. In a corner of the White Room, the ghost of a naked Michel Foucault smiles knowingly and pendulously from his sling. Mais oui, Michel, you were right; it is all about systems of power.
(Kelly even gets in a dig about Elizabeth being passive-aggressive. Kelly, darlin’, passive-aggressive is: not being the lead judge but wearing epically, deliciously, deplorably, toothsomely awful outfits to hog all attention and outshine the other judges. Jonathan attempts to combat the attention-hogging by rapidly raising his eyebrows at odd moments. It worked for Groucho Marx, but not for Jonathan, and we are constantly reminded of Pauline Kael’s quip about Greer Garson: “a viewer can get weary watching that eyebrow that goes up like the gold curtain at the old Met.”
And Margaret imperiously and world-wearily dismisses one of the cabanas as looking like “a hamburger shack at the country club,” which gave us quite a laugh, and not only because of the unapologetic and perhaps unconscious elitism of her frame of reference. It’s not any old hamburger shack, say on a boardwalk; no, it’s a hamburger shack at the country club, which would seem paradoxically to make it a compliment. Of course, for a hamburger shack at the country club to look as designed as, say, the Miami or Tahiti teams’ shacks, it would probably have to be a restricted country club. Unfortunately, this would mean Jonathan and his Groucho eyebrows would not be welcome (possums, this is where you insert Groucho’s own quip about not wanting to be a member of a club that would have him). But we are amused at the memory of Gregory Peck pretending to be Jewish in Gentlemen’s Agreement.
The Law speaks, and the shelterless Team Tahiti cabana wins the challenge, and Andrea, Felicia and Michael win a “girls’ weekend” at the Viceroy. Elizabeth is then dismissed on the Kafkaesque caprice that her color choice was so un-Miami and so tragic that she must not be allowed to remain a moment longer in their blissed-out midst, a vote that seems positively and suspiciously Floridian after all. Elizabeth, possum, we can’t blame you for dropping the F-bomb after that; we would have dropped the H-bomb (as in, “Ho! Bitch! Skank!”)
Our advice to the remaining contestants: If the judges become too harsh or intimidating, just imagine them naked; it’s easier than you think.
Well, it is Friday, and what with shirtless carpenters, topless designers, and Raggaydy Andy Cohen in the Virgin Islands for the weekend, we do seem to have a theme going, so here's another taste of St. Tropez. It's "Sea, sex, and sun," as performed by the dirtiest Frenchman ever, Serge Gainsbourg. Serge can currently be heard on television in his duet with Brigitte Bardot, "Bonnie and Clyde," which is the theme of a commercial for some massive SUV--the Escalade, we believe.
Serge is the father of Charlotte Gainsbourg (whose mother is Jane Birkin, as in the Birkin bag). In 1969, Serge and Jane scandalized an entire continent with their own duet, "Je t'aime, moi non plus," which was banned on the radio and condemned by the Vatican (we also include it below; as with "Sea, sex, and sun," it's better you don't know what the lyrics say.) Enjoy, possums, and imagine yourselves on Nikki Beach in St. Tropez.
And just for the hell of it, here's Charlotte Gainsbourg continuing the family tradition by doing a duet, in this case with Etienne Daho on a very witty song called, "If."
Oh, possums, and here you thought we were going to write a headline about a designer matching carpets and drapes, or about Gallagher’s watermelons.
Frankly, possums, we’re hurt that you would think us capable of that. Just how do you see us?
All we want is equality. Seeing as how this week's episode of Top Design has such a large soft-core component to it, what with the plethora of rippling, muscled, hairless carpenters with dime-sized nipples, why should our straight brothers and lesbian sisters be deprived of similar delights?
And it is on behalf of our straight brothers and lesbian sisters that we were disappointed in this episode. As should have become apparent to any sentient Bravo viewer, judge Kelly Wearstler is running in the Fug Cup against Top Chef’s Padma Lakshmi, though it appears that, even this early in the race, she is leaving Padma in the Jo Malone-scented dust. Now, when Top Chef had a beach challenge, Padma dutifully put on a bikini and some truly god-awful accoutrements, and we were looking forward to the same from Kelly.
There has been some debate in the servants’ quarter at Withering Depths as to whether Kelly actually wore Balenciaga to the beach, which would be fabulous in its own way. But whether it was Balenciaga (the parlor maid’s theory), or Donna Karan (the cook’s theory), or Michael Kors (the footman’s theory), it was still a dress and not a bikini. We were very disappointed indeed.
Then a little bird, a cormorant nicknamed Coleridge after The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, whispered in our ear that our Kelly had once, when she still used her nom de jeune fille Gallagher, been Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. We were thrilled, though not surprised. It should be clear to anyone that Kelly is a woman who is used to being looked at. And with good reason.
On-ship photographer Laz, braver and hardier than we, pored through the Playboy archives, and--wouldn’t you know it?--there she was, our Kelly, as roofless as if she were on the beach in St. Tropez (Ryan did say that St. Tropez was about topless women).
And we were right about the drawl; she hails from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Furthermore, according to Wikipedia, her September 1994 centerfold “appears very briefly in the 1995 film Welcome to the Dollhouse, affixed to the inside of a school locker.”
These are Kelly’s stats from the Playboy website:
BIRTHPLACE: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
BUST: 34" C
HEIGHT: 5' 6"
WEIGHT: 105 lbs
To own my own marvelous design and furnishings business.
Fabulous, intense minds, honesty, huge smiles and a man with a colossal heart.
Lack of communication, cruelty to animals, slackers, and bad design.
ROMANCING MY MAN:
Breakfast in the boudoir, a bit of physical activity, trip to the museum for some mental and visual stimulation, a nibble for two to satisfy the palate and a trip to the beach to see the sun set and the moon rise.
I CAN'T GET ENOUGH OF:
Swap meets, blended coffees, Nicholson Baker novels & good loving.
Our favorite part of this? That she gives a shout-out to literary perv Nicholson Baker. We have memories of reading the punningly titled phone-sex novel Vox in our university library, behind the covers of a linguistics textbook. We were subsequently delighted when the novel came up in the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal because Monica bought it as a gift for Bill. And then there’s also The Fermata, about a man who likes to stop time and take women’s clothes off.
Sly comedienne, interior designer, fashionista, mother, Playboy Playmate, museum-goer, animal-lover, Nicholson Baker reader—could she be any more fabulous? Kelly, we don’t know how it’s possible to love you more, but we think we do. Welcome to the dollhouse indeed.
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Goil, possum, we hate to do this, but we run a, er, tight ship, and we couldn’t just let this go.
Possum, you’re gay, you’re 33 years old, you live in New York City, you’re from Thailand for God’s sake, you went to Yale, and you don’t know what a cabana is?
“And did you mention he's gay?” interrupted Miss XaXa.
“Yes, darling. And it’s implied, since he went to Yale.”
Now, Goil, possum, this is a serious offense, don’t get us wrong. But since this is also a first offense, we're not going to take your gay card away. Instead, you'll be subject to a one-day suspension of your gay card.
You may chalk up our crotchetiness to a pronounced case of misantropez, but we’re afraid you’ll also have to spend one day in the Pink Navy brig, watching the Jean Seberg-Deborah Kerr version of Bonjour Tristesse and the Brigitte Bardot version of And God Created Woman to get a better sense of the fantasy St. Tropez.
You are certainly welcome to appeal the sentence. David James Elliott has agreed to join Pink Navy's FAG (Fruity Advocate General) program, and should you choose, he will act as your defense counsel.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
"It's Been Great Stuffing with You": An Architect, a Scientologist and a Homosexual Walk into a Cabana
It does sound like the set-up for a joke, but what do you know? The team of two non-bespectacled Wonder Twins and their younger (ga)Y-chromosome, in an Annie Leibovitz-worthy group portrait taken by our on-ship photographer Laz during their girls' weekend at the Viceroy (make that Vicereine!) Hotel, brought home the win. Congratulations to you, girls!
Now, possums, we want to make it clear that, having read guest judge Kathryn Ireland's blog on the Bravo website, we actually agree with what she had to say about the cabana designs.
We couldn't keep quiet about a couple of things that gave us pause.
1. Ms. Ireland doesn't appear to be a particularly gracious loser. To wit:
"Last year, I had done my own reality show in England, “Design Wars,” so I really felt for the contestants under so much pressure...I was representing the UK against five different countries. The UK did not win; the Indians won. There are more Indians doing nothing at 5 o’clock in the afternoon than Italians or Scandinavians. I was neck and neck with them, but the Indians won. It was a telephone-voting thing...."
There are more Indians doing nothing at 5 o'clock in the afternoon than Italians or Scandinavians?!? Wow. Just, wow.
2. Sitting next to label queens Kelly Wearstler and Margaret Russell while clad in a brown tie-dyed tent is not good for anyone's self-confidence:
"Overall, for me, it was hard to come in and become a guest judge. The others had developed a huge camaraderie by this point, and they all had such nice clothes and I was like the poor relative. They could’ve brought me something! Look at Kelly -- she’s the kind of woman you love to hate, she’s so divine."
3. Ms. Ireland is prone to Freudian slips:
"If I could give the contestants any last advice it would be that I hope for them to be positive. I hate that whole Simon Callow bitchiness thing. It’s just so tired. I don’t believe in it. Comedy is when you laugh with someone, not at them. Good for Simon Callow for making his living but he’s so godawfully mean! I can’t believe he hasn’t destroyed his career. Let’s only say things that are constructive."
Um, Kathryn, possum, we're not being godawfully mean, but we think you meant to refer to Simon Cowell, he of American Idol and the UK Pop Star. Simon Callow is a British actor (remember his splendid turn as clergyman Mr. Beebe in A Room with A View, flopping willies with Julian Sands at the swimming hole while a not-yet-unhinged Helena Bonham-Carter giggled?) and the author of a comprehensive, prize-winning, multi-volume biography of Orson Welles. Simon Cowell is callow, perhaps even "callow" with a capital "C," but not Callow. It's not nice to go around confusing people's names. Imagine what would happen if people confused you and Kathy Ireland, who has also jumped into the design game. Wouldn't do at all.
We observed that, out of the nine remaining contestants, only two--Andrea and Felicia--weren't wearing glasses. What gives? If they're all blind as bats, does that explain things? Inquiring minds want to know.
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
Speech... center... im... im... immobilized. Cannot... form... sentences.
After a good slap from Miss XaXa, however, we were almost back to ourselves. Ofttimes we fault Bravo for obviousness, but sometimes, when they present you with the cover from Lumberjackin', or Hardwood 2, or Nailed!, it's really hard to object. What's a little pandering when it leaves you hankering?
Miss XaXa's sole rhetorical question: "What's that on his right bicep?"
Our final rhetorical question: Who's going to send this picture to Ted Haggard to test his sobriety?
Ahoy, sailors, er, possums. As our little way of thanking you for traveling with us on the HMS Snoozefest that is Top Design, we offer you a special valentine, a brief scene from François Ozon’s film 8 Women, his fabulous French take on The Women.
You don’t have to know any French to understand what’s going on; in fact, it’s better if you don’t. All you need to know is that Catherine Deneuve and Fanny Ardant are sisters-in-law, and that they hate each other. Well, that’s what they say....
Hide the women and the children, and household pets and the elderly, too. And anyone on medication. This is not for the faint of heart.
Simon Doonan, madcap spouse of Top Design lead judge Jonathan Adler (the pair is scheduled to appear on the Web-only broadcast, "Watch What Happens," after tonight's episode) is in particularly fine fettle in this week's column. As ever, the cherce bits:
* I’m totally haggard. What I’m really trying to say is, I’m totally Ted Haggard—or rather, I’m totally jealous of Ted Haggard. Last week, the former crystal-meth-snorting, hustler-hiring evangelist declared that he is now, after three weeks of counseling, “completely heterosexual.” What a huge relief this must be for the poor bloke. How much simpler and less shrill must his life have now become! I’m really quite envious. After spending a week in the screeching nelly maelstrom that is New York Fashion Week, a life of low-key heterosexuality—ahh! The Dockers, the golf shirts, the cell-phone pager strapped to one’s belt!—sounds appealingly serene.
* The female British schoolteachers of my youth were irate, nihilistic, fag-snorting closeted lesbians, almost to a man. If an ordinary pink-cheeked lass were to have shown up at my school looking for employment, the headmistress would have said, “Go away, and come back when you have become an irate, nihilistic, fag-snorting closeted lesbian—then we can talk.”
* The same lily-livered prissiness is being directed at American Idol. The judges continue to be criticized for their blunt mockery of the contestants. As a loyal viewer and person with functioning eyes and ears, I can honestly say that the contestants are not at risk, my new favorite phrase. Far from it: They are all suffering from extremely high self-esteem and will definitely survive the verbal lashings that they occasion upon themselves. Besides, aren’t there enough pleasant smarmy people on the telly? We could use more abusive, foul-mouthed and unremittingly surly people, non?
Um, isn't this like talking about rope in the house of the, er, hung man? Perhaps tonight of you possums could ask Jonathan Adler to be more abusive, foul-mouthed and unremittingly surly, and thus improve the show's entertainment quotient?
* Finally, to affairs of the heart. I normally try to avoid getting in the middle of celebrity break-ups, but I am dumbfounded as to why Olivier Martinez would leave Kylie Minogue (non-stop Aussie good times) for Penélope Cruz (gorgeous, but, like many actresses, takes herself a bit too seriously.) Any insights would be gratefully received.
Oh no she di'n't! Mira, Simoncito, con la Peni no te metas, porque vas a tener mas de una Cruz que cargar. Honey, the Penny is going to drop on this one.
Possums, can it really be that good ole mercredi is upon us again so quickly?
Indeed it is, and with it comes our favorite duty, scattering Diana Vreeland tips like so much gay confetti.
And so, without further ado, Why don’t you…
* Study closely the perfection of taste and amazing variety in the paneled boudoir of the Vicomtesse Charles de Noailles—buttoned brown satin, straw baskets and fruit, a Cranach, an engraving of Byron, a straw hat, and exquisite objets d’art?
* With black lacquer and pearl Victorian furniture put Kapa shell, a wall covering made of actual sea shells—Frank Haberl—and against that, dressmaker’s tinsel flowers framed in glass holding a mirror?
* Use pineapples for decoration? In your paneled room, low sofas, no flowers but pineapples piled in large bowls, on the floor, on low tables, wherever you can put them. When the fire is lit and guests arrive, the aroma from the fruit is wonderful.
* Use eggplants, complete with their green stalks, in a bright yellow room? The effect is very Chinese and delicious?
And because it’s Valentine’s Day, and we love you, possums, we’ll throw in a few more, totally unrelated to interior design.
* Why don’t you call up John Powers, the model agency, for a professional model just your size and measurements who will fit your clothes for you? The cost of a stand-in for fitting eight dresses, which would take about three hours, is $7.50.
* Why don’t you dress for the theatre, you and your escort? Think how much it means to others in the audience.
* Why don’t you get a little brown satin hemstitched cushion? It is pretty with pink sheets, and it shows off blond or grey hair to perfection.
* Hair-dressers! Install silent dryers in your beauty parlors as they have done in France.
* Telephone Company! Put in an S.V.P. service as they have in Paris. “S.V.P.” meaning s’il vous plait. You simply ring up the S.V.P. girl and she answers anything from the simplest to the most fantastic questions.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Possums, it's no secret that contestant Ryan Humphrey baffles us.
We've had many moments where we've asked ourselves, "He can't be for real, can he?" That is, when we're not chortling over some unintentionally gay remark.
To hear him play the word "pink" like a xylophone, or watch his twitchy-browed declaration that he has a "boy aesthetic," shortly before showing up in a jacket covered with fuchsia blossoms--well, those have been some of the most amusing moments in a show that sorely needs them.
Thus far, a Unified Theory of Ryan had escaped us.
Is he an adenoidal, quirky gay along the lines of occasionally-too-precious-for-words David Sedaris?
He certainly bears an uncanny resemblance to Sedaris, albeit with better, rosier skin, and a voice that isn't quite as nasal.
Or is he an adenoidal, quirky straight guy along the lines of occasionally-too-weird-for-words David Paymer?
He certainly bears an uncanny resemblance to Paymer, albeit with better, rosier skin, and a voice that isn't quite as nasal.
And then we came across this bit from The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and everything was clear:
Artist Ryan Humphrey thinks interior design is worthless.
"It's one of the most unnecessary things I can think of," Humphrey said. So why sign on for Bravo's new reality show "Top Design," which is all about interior design?
Humphrey, who is originally from Ashtabula, said he wanted to reach middle America with his ideas about the evils of consumerism, labeling and branding.
The audacity, the sheer genius, the noble futility, of the enterprise took our breath away. Well, we tried to come up with some appropriate variant of “taking coals to Newcastle,” but decided he’s more like a preacher trying to save souls in a whorehouse.
Bravo, the Painted Whore of Babylon when it comes to product placement, has welcomed little Ryan into its great, gaping maw. We are watching not only a morality play--Consumerist Pilgrim's Progress--but also a work of performance art. If you take everything Ryan says as a post-modernist put-on, the show becomes very entertaining indeed, sort of what we imagine it must be like if you watch it while stoned.
And now we are caught in the suspense of the perennial struggle--will Preacher Man Ryan change the heart and mind of America's "Gucci'd-out self," or will he end up Sinner Man Ryan, the Vuitton logo shaved into his head a la Kanye West? Watch what happens!
Of course, Miss XaXa had to ask, "Aren't you giving Ryan and Bravo a little too much credit?"
We admitted that it was possible, but insisted that recasting the show as a post-modern romp by way of Bunyan was just about the only way it could be made bearable. And, we reminded her, it's certainly not as tricky a mental contortion as David Gest had to perform in order to kiss Liza Minnelli, or John Travolta to procreate with Kelly Preston.
Monday, February 12, 2007
This is one of those instances, possums, when we are grateful for the “other matters of taste” rubric in our blog description.
As we’ve mentioned, we’re more than a little bored by Top Design, but let us introduce you to something that has us very excited indeed. We present our first-ever Girl in Every Port, none other than Mexican actress María Félix, diva extraordinaire and one of the most fabulous women who ever lived.
She was the original barefoot contessa, an admixture of Ava Gardner, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. She had four husbands, and numerous lovers. Her second husband, Agustín Lara, was the Irving Berlin of Latin America. Her third husband, Jorge Negrete, was a Mexican amalgam of John Wayne and Frank Sinatra. Her fourth husband, Alex Berger, a millionaire French financier, financed the construction of the Mexico City subway, modeled after the Paris métro, in order to please her, or at least that was her version.
Her lovers included Diego Rivera, who painted her twice, once in the nude. (She was also painted by Jean Cocteau, though, of course, they didn’t become lovers). King Farouk of Egypt reportedly offered her Nefertiti’s crown in exchange for one night of love.
Her most passionate and longest-lasting relationship may well have been with Cartier, whom she famously commissioned to make necklaces based on her pet snake and pet crocodile. She reportedly walked into the Paris branch with her pet baby crocodile and asked the Cartier jewelers to make her a scale replica in gold. She was dressed by Dior and outfitted by Hermès, which also provided all the gear for her stable of race horses in Paris.
In addition to her beauty and her reputation as a femme fatale, she was also famous for her quick wit. Of jewels, she said, “Some friends have told me that pearls make people cry. The only pearls that have made me cry were the fake ones.” When an audience in Colombia protested after she cut short a musical performance, she retorted, “Others have seen less, and paid more.” To a lady reporter who dared to ask her age, she witheringly replied, “Look, young lady, I’ve been very busy living my life and haven’t had time to count.”
Other examples of her bons mots:
* “I don't count the years, I only limit myself to living them.”
* “A man has never made my life difficult, because I have never bet all my chips on only one man.”
* “Women will never be like men, although sometimes there are men with the heart of a woman. From the beginning of time, men have taken the largest piece of the pie. I have the heart of a man and that's why things have been good for me.”
* “I cannot complain about men. I have had tons of them and they have treated me fabulously well. But sometimes I had to hurt them to keep them from subjugating me.”
* “‘Diva’ is something made up, but I was not fabricated, life made me and it possibly made me very well.”
She made films for Jean Renoir, Luis Buñuel, and Emilio Fernández. She was celebrated by writers Octavio Paz, Carlos Fuentes, and Kiss of the Spider Woman author Manuel Puig, and it is said that she is the “spider woman” of the title. She titled her delicious memoirs, All My Wars. She was the first Latin American woman to be made Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
But her greatest achievement may well be this: she might just be the one who made us gay.
So we advise you NOT to watch the video below unless you are prepared for the consequences of so much fabulousness unleashed.
Friday, February 9, 2007
Actually, our first reaction was an overwhelming desire to take the much-maligned “Home, Sweet Home” pillow from Michael’s design and put this granny of a show out of its misery. After all, the Bravo website has a snarky “Deathwatch” feature for television shows on other networks, and perhaps, in a “Physician heal thyself” gesture, it’s time to put Top Design on there.
And pardon our French, but while we’re at it, we’d like to call “bullshit” on that whole pillow incident. It’s not that we were fans of Michael’s design, but Todd Oldham and Jonathan Adler themselves are master purveyors of kitsch, and we can easily imagine either of them including the pillow, perhaps with a few modifications, as an “ironic” or “kitschy” or “campy” gesture.
(Although, let’s not forget that Margaret Russell seems to hate pillows on principle. Indeed, it’s rather striking that the Oldham aesthetic itself seems to be in conflict with what the show’s judges are preaching. Todd notes that, pace Margaret Russell, you can design a room around a pet, since he designed his apartment around his dog, and client Amy Sedaris’ apartment around her rabbit.)
It rather seemed that what the judges hated was that the pillow was from Target. Oh, pardon us, from a department store. We can’t imagine how many retakes that must have taken: “I got it at Target—” “Cut, cut, cut! You have to say ‘department store,’ since those cheap bastards wouldn’t pay the hefty ‘promotional consideration,’ and there’s no way they’re getting their name on the air.” Alas, they forgot to pixellate the Target logo on the shopping carts.
We’d like to note that our rant is due not to testosterone injections, but to the fact that the show is unforgivably boring. You may not be able to design a room around the cat, but you can certainly design a blog around the catty, especially when the subject thereof is this dull, and we are therefore forced to entertain ourselves by letting it rip.
The episode begins with the usual panting musical theme, which the closed captioning helpfully identifies as “dance music.” As the scene opens, our merry band of plucky designers is gathered like the Waltons in a living room of sorts. We hear Michael squeal, “Get those things out of my face!” but then realize it’s nothing to be alarmed about; it’s just Ryan showing, rather than telling, Michael that he is a foot fetishist.
Ryan’s diabolical instrument of infantilization, the skateboard, is at the moment under Goil’s feet, as Mr. “Small and Spicy” tries to caper and gambol on it. Alas, he is unsuccessful, and a real man, Carisa, has to show him how to do it right. But pay attention, possums. This isn’t there just for the sake of entertainment (apparently, not much is); it’s yet another small example of Bravo Foreshadowing™, for his time on the skateboard will serve as the inspiration for Goil’s design.
A mild-mannered John brings the party to a halt by introducing the specter of mortality as he calmly announces that he is HIV-positive, and that what Carisa terms his “fiery eruptions” (which makes us think of Mount John, though as a noun rather than as an imperative), are due to a high dose of testosterone administered by his doctor. He says he is not making excuses, and not apologizing for his feelings; he is just clarifying things.
Perhaps it’s just the Bravo editing, and we all know about that, but John’s announcement seems to be met with silence and discomfort. Michael adopts the patented Sam Talbot/Molly Shannon gesture of putting his hands in his armpits. Erik looks uncomfortably into space.
Elizabeth dispenses some appropriate, perfunctory pabulum about how John is suffering, and how she hopes he will be well. We concur with the sentiments, but possum, get thee some conditioner, pronto. And then Ryan pays tribute to John in a bitchy, left-handed compliment that almost makes us like him, comparing John to “an aging prize fighter.” Meow, Ashtabula boy; you can certainly design for the catty.
The show can’t wait to get away from the discomfort of John’s announcement and into the PDC, where Todd is handing out the new challenge. They will be designing a bedroom for “a mystery client.” We roll our eyes and think of Edina Monsoon, who, as soon as her accountant began speaking, dropped her head on the desk with a cry of, “Oh God, I’m bored!” We know how you feel, sweetie darling.
The contestants pick client files at random, and Todd tells them they will be provided with a mattress (ooh!), but they will have to design the headboard. Montage of the contestants planning their design, picking out flooring, and Felicia taking the floor sample John had planned to take, which prompts him to call her a bitch good-naturedly under his breath.
Todd makes the rounds, and stops at Goil’s work station, where Goil is playing with his small and spicy maquette. That’s a scale model, possums. Todd is thrilled. “You made a maquette? Dude, that’s so impressive.” But then, just as with the first episode’s challenge, Todd tips his hand again, asking loaded questions about the scale height of the person in the maquette. When Goil tells him it’s a six-footer, Todd nods, clearly bursting to say, “Ha! Gotcha! You don’t know that your clients are actually children, and there are no six-foot-tall children.”
More montage. Yawn. They “shop” in the PDC. Michael is imperious to a shop assistant. Faced with an unaffordable piece, John says, “You’re killing me, sunshine.” More shopping. Yawn. And then it’s time for the client reveal, but not before 20 minutes’ worth of commercials.
And then, oh ma gawd, the clients are…children! All the Tinky-Winkies clap, and Todd looks and sounds more than ever like a children’s-show host.
It should come as no surprise to you, possums, that children aren’t quite our thing. For us, Village of the Damned is a documentary. However, we’re not promoters of the Albigensian heresy; we understand the necessity for the propagation of the species. After all, someone has to staff the Starbucks. But not everyone should reproduce. (And we include ourselves in this rather large class. We can’t imagine what we would have done if we’d had to marry and breed; we would likely have closed our eyes and thought of England’s rugby team.)
And perhaps Project Runway is one of those entities that should not reproduce either. Each copy gets fainter and more dull, and you end up with something like Top Design, the cross-eyed, feeble-minded offspring of a morganatic marriage gone wrong.
No doubt Top Design sounded like a good idea. We can imagine the idea being born over Cosmopolitans and appletinis. “Ohmigod, we should have an interior design show! And wouldn’t it be neat to get Todd Oldham to be the host?! And maybe we could get Jonathan Adler as a judge? Oh, and somebody from the Elle stable; they breed their fillies bitchy down there. Oh, and maybe a judge who wears really awful outfits, to drive the bloggers crazy?”
And it sounds great in theory, which is why we were so excited about it. It had the air of a recipe for the gayest, funnest (if we may be permitted a malapropism) show ever. And yet the execution, the reality, is off.
It’s evident that Margaret Russell, she of the thin-lipped hauteur, could curdle milk with one look, but she’s still developing her talents. Someone send her the DVD of The Women and fire whoever styled her hair on this episode and next week’s show. And may the Lord and Simon Doonan strike us dead, but though we find Jonathan Adler cute, adorableness only takes you so far, and the winsomeness has itself curdled.
We read about off-camera conversations that include lines about how something looks like the product of the year 1987 mating with a drag queen in a back alley, and we think to ourselves, “Why aren’t we getting to see that? That’s what we tune in for.” Jonathan mentions in an interview how a professor at RISD did him a great service by telling him he wouldn’t succeed, because it made him want to prove the professor wrong, and we think, “Why aren’t you continuing the legacy? Pay it forward, Jonny.” We think an internship with Michael Kors is in order.
If there’s a reason to watch, it’s for Kelly Wearstler’s outfits, which look even more dizzyingly disastrous than Padma Lakshmi’s. We’re positively salivating about next week’s haute skank ensemble with the aqua knee-highs and strappy sandals. We also like her sly, good-natured humor, and do we detect a trace of a drawl? (As for the two children, we’re incredulous; she looks less like the kind of woman who delivers children than the kind who has them delivered.) We’re fickle, and we are officially switching our older-woman crush from Margaret to Kelly, at least for this week.
Oh, wait, we’re supposed to be writing a recap or something, right? Sorry about that. Right, so the kid clients come in to meet with the contestants, and Ryan dries his hand on his pants before shaking his client’s hand, which we found strangely endearing. John’s client is a little girl who is “50% tomboy and 50% girl,” and we drew blood by biting our tongue so hard. Ally Sheedy, er, Andrea, amusingly tells us, “I know nothing about girls, actually.” Possum, we know how you feel.
And poor Matt. It’s like the entire series is fraught with traps for him, in this case, working with a little girl who makes him visibly uncomfortable. She apparently also has the nicknames “Hollywood” and “Fabulous,” which means that poor Matt has to say those words like shibboleths, or like Eliza Doolittle trying not to drop her aitches (oh, and then of course he also has to say the word, “glam”; poor, poor Matt). And to top it all off, he gets assigned the hottest carpenter of the lot. Poor, poor Matt. And then John asks him, incredulously (accusingly?), “Who puts silk in a kid’s bedroom?” Poor, poor Matt.
The contestants go shopping at Target, er, a department store. There, Ryan shops for a variety of pink items, including a pink boa, telling us that everything is, “Pink, pink. Pink. (beat) Pink.” And then, as if to reassure us (himself?), he says, “I definitely have a boy aesthetic.” Yeah, honey, tell that to the pink flowered jacket you’re wearing.
They construct, and we file our nails, though we are tempted to poke our eye out with the nail file from sheer boredom. John’s in trouble. His space has no floor, and he is running a campaign to become, as Jonathan Adler later terms him, “mayor of Excuses Village.” Erik is building a pirate room.
And then it’s time for the time-consuming and pointless judges’ walk-through. Our favorite part of this is right before the judging starts, when it becomes overwhelmingly clear (as if the White Room itself weren’t sufficient evidence) that someone on this show is a huge fan of Bob Fosse as channeled by Rob Marshall. In addition to the Chicago-esque black floor in the White Room, the contestants are made to stand next to their rooms, some with legs akimbo, like Amsterdam hookers in their windows, as the lights are theatrically switched on one by one for the judges to inspect the wares. We half expect the contestants to break into “Big Spender” the minute Jonathan Adler walks in the door. And at the end, the poor soul cast out of the PDC paradise walks in between the rooms as the lights are turned off one by one.
In the White Room, the judges like Goil’s design, which (here comes the Bravo Foreshadowing™ pay-off) incorporates…skateboard wheels! Goil also reveals himself a philosopher, telling Margaret, whose “we are not amused” expression is priceless, “Space doesn’t go anywhere, right? So, it would just get displaced in another space.” The judges also like Erik’s pirate room, though Kelly feels that he went “a little overboard.” See, Margaret? That’s a pun. Nonetheless, Erik is declared the winner.
The judges dislike Ryan’s pink, kitty-centric room, the catalyst for Margaret’s “You just can’t design a room around the cat” remark. They hate Michael’s room, with the “Home, Sweet Home” pillow, describing it variously as very “granny,” “an assisted living facility,” and as being the work of “a state-appointed designer.”
In the end, though, John’s unfinished room proves the kiss of death, and he is subjected to the further indignity of Jonathan Adler’s “See you later, decorator,” before making his way toward the Top Design logo. Sniff sniff. And now that John is gone, Top Design is left an opera without a Libretti.