God, we need a war! And not just a turkey shoot, a bloodless, body-bag-less, media-friendly, bum-of-the-month match like Grenada or Kuwait. No, sir–if we’re ever going to convince the twits, nihilists and jackals who run the Information Age that war, Big War, is not a movie, a photo op or an exercise in postmodern irony, we need to fight one. Right now, before the cretins wear down our resistance, before they persuade us that heroism and sacrifice and horror exist only to keep us entertained.
Back in the days before pop culture erased the idea of folk memory, a cataclysm like World War II might have made an impression on the generations born in its shadow. The suffering, genocide and bravery of that epic struggle might have warranted a certain reverence and respect. Not anymore, folks: In the fashion issue of The New Yorker , we are treated to the spectacle of some vacuous bimbo dressed in her underwear posing in a bombed-out bunker and behind barbed wire. The underwear is made of parachute silk–get it?–and various other accessories look like something a fashion designer thinks soldiers wore back in 1944. (The handbag designed to look like and be worn as a sling is especially fabulous. A handbag as a sling! Fabulous! )
It’s all part of military chic, we are told. Some dopey designers think it’s just fabulous, this dressing up of a young woman in battle gear that looks like something actual G.I.’s wore. And somebody at The New Yorker who dreamed up the photo display (called “Craving Private Ryan”) thought it hilarious to have the thusly attired young woman pout behind barbed wire. Spoilsports will note that millions of European Jews were placed behind barbed wire prior to being murdered. Hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war similarly were kept behind barbed wire, and many of them perished, too.
To introduce this odd notion of military chic, a junior-grade ironicist dribbled out a few sentences alongside the Helmut Newton photos, in the course of which he asserted that the phrase “military intelligence” was used by teachers as an example of an oxymoron. That may be true in the schools that produce vapid 16-year-olds who show up on the cover of the New York Times Sunday Styles section talking about their drug-fashion-copulating habits. But a spokesman for the United Federation of Teachers insists that New York public school teachers do not, in fact, use the phrase “military intelligence” as an example of an oxymoron. But those teachers might, and probably do, point out that the military intelligence services of the United States and Britain tricked the Nazis into believing that the invasion of Normandy was a feint. Without military intelligence, D-Day could well have been a colossal failure.
And where would that leave fashion? Well, as the British edition of GQ noted recently, those Nazis really knew how to dress …
Trop Belle Pour Moi
Gurley was in a slump. And just then, a 22-year-old gamine from France named Danielle James came romping into Gurley’s life.
She’d been in town just three weeks and nothing had yet taken the juice out of her show-biz ambitions. She was wearing a gray woolly skirt, tight-fitting, and black Reebok high tops. It was drizzling on Amsterdam Avenue. We found a table in Cafe Monaco. Soon enough, eggs Benedict arrived.
She said more than 20 guys had tried to get her number since she got to New York.
“I don’t know what goes on in guys’ heads sometimes,” she said. “There was this guy at a party. I guess he was trying to impress me with his dancing moves, which were very leg-oriented, kind of knees up, and arms out, and head wacky. I think this was his pièce de résistance , and I felt really embarrassed for him.”
She was born in Tucson, Ariz., moved to Barcelona when she was 3, then to the village of Cadaqués by the French border, then to London, then to San Francisco for a year, then all over Asia and, finally, to Paris for nine years.
We headed over to the outdoor flea market on Columbus. It was really raining now. We squeezed under her umbrella.
“One thing that happens in Paris all the time is you get flashed,” she said. “All the time! You’re standing in the street, in the subway, and you always just happen to glance at somebody’s private parts hanging out! Once I was sitting in the subway, and this guy walked by and he had his coat on and I remember I was daydreaming and I thought, ‘Oh, there goes a bag of onions,’ and then I realized that wasn’t a bag of onions.”
The rain was turning to snow.
“Ah! I love it!” she said. “I love New York. It’s so exciting. The other night it was 3 in the morning and I was being walked home up Broadway and there were no cars and it was covered in snow. It was the best thing.”
Yogi’s bar was two blocks away. She ordered a vodka cranberry; I got a vodka soda. A fellow from India showed her some naughty pictures in his copy of Maxim magazine.
Miss James was telling me about food: “I wake up sometimes at night with cravings,” she said. “They’re very intense. I love garlic. Real garlicky things, sun-dried tomatoes, stuff like that. Pure roasted garlic, I can eat mouthfuls of that. It’s wonderful … I don’t really know what the big deal is with garlic breath, the theoretical idea that garlic smells bad.”
“Really thinly sliced prosciutto with fresh fried pears and shaved parmesan cheese. It makes me gooey all over. It makes me feel just immense pleasure. Your eyes roll back into the back of your head. Ah, wonderful.”
The man from India came over. “I’m an international man of mystery,” he said. He whispered something in her ear. She shook her head and smiled.
I asked her what he had said. She told me he had recited some poetry and said what a “big cock” he had. “He said it was bigger than yours!” she told me. After a while, he gave her a purple balloon, then left.
Outside we got a cab and bolted up Broadway, went into Fez, ordered more vodka and talked some more.
She mentioned an Indian dessert, gulab jamun: “It’s this ball of moist undefinable ingredients turned into this soft, fleshy texture that really melts in the mouth, and that floats in this transparent syrup and it’s one of those things that you don’t have to chew or gnaw on, you can just smash it with your tongue to the roof of your palette and swallow directly and it just slides right down without any effort, which just adds to the whole sensation.”
“I’m very excited about the year 2000,” she said. “I think it’s fabulous that we’re going to be experiencing it firsthand.”
“You and I aren’t going to see 2099. People in 2099 will look at us and say, ‘These people died in 2050!’ “
But she was talking about all the Oscars she wanted to win, the advanced degrees she wanted to get. I broke in: “Doesn’t it upset you that you won’t live to see 2100?”
“Death is something I’ve always been very intrigued about,” she said, coolly, “and I’m sure partly because my dad died. I remember him, actually in the coffin. I pushed myself away from my grandmother’s arms and I ran toward the coffin and he was lying there and I actually crawled into the coffin so I could hug him. That’s my last memory of him, so I’m very happy I rebelled to do that.”
We got into another cab. It was 9 P.M. “I feel tremendously excited,” she said. “There are so many things to discover, so many opportunities–”
“Don’t be all bullshit. What’s it like being 22?”
“It feels good,” she said. “It feels good. I wake up in the morning, it’s good. I don’t need the alarm to wake up–I wake up because I’m excited.”