Dutch and Dutcher
There are still a few people in the city who refuse to wear anything but black, and at sunset on Friday, May 21, they all seemed to be gathered between the very white walls of the Visionaire Gallery on Mercer Street. They were there to look at three–three!–elaborate black-and-white costumes made by Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren, two 29-year-old designing Dutchmen who are known as Viktor & Rolf.
Mounted on pedestals above the crowd was a black pleated pantsuit with white frills pouring from the bodice; a bridal-themed, ruffly-veiled outfit with black from throat to floor; and something involving a complicated pinafore.
“We have nothing against colors,” said Viktor–or was it Rolf?–who had wire-rimmed glasses, pink cheeks, and full pink lips with little droplets of sweat above them. The men had changed from T-shirts and jeans into black suits, black shirts and black square-toe shoes. “But we do find it, uh, difficult to work with colors because they have such a lot of meaning . For us, everything we do has to have a necessity, and often there is nothing of a necessity in color.”
Rolf (Viktor?) was standing close at hand, heels clicked together. He had a 6 o’clock shadow and square black-rimmed glasses. He looked like a Sprocket.
“No, people don’t wear it out,” Rolf said, waving at one of his elaborately poufy designs. “No, not on the street. It’s, like, couture!”
“I guess the people that buy it, or wear it, don’t go on the street much,” said Viktor.
Rolf: “They only go from taxi to taxi!”
Viktor: “Or limo to limo!”
The men have been creative partners since they met at the Academy of Arts in Arnhem, the Netherlands, in 1992. In their tenure together, they have built a reputation as pranksters. Viktor & Rolf have stuffed garments with balloons and confetti and they have sold expensive perfume bottles filled with water. Madonna likes them. A $50 book containing photographs of the duo’s oeuvre was for sale at the entrance, but no one was paying it any mind.
How were they finding New York?
The men pronounced it fantastic–this was their third visit–but for one thing. “The noise,” they said in unison, as a heavy disco beat thumped behind them.
“There is energy, but there is also a negative side,” said Viktor. “So many people, a lot of traffic … Amsterdam is a totally relaxed city.”
“Totally relaxed!” chimed in Rolf.
“You know, Amsterdam is like a village ,” said Viktor. “This is a real city!”
Er–what’s Dutch food like?
“A lot of potatoes,” chuckled Rolf.
“Traditional Dutch food isn’t very good; it’s like farmer’s food,” said Viktor. “I think the food is the same as with fashion and maybe also art. We’re a very Puritanical country, at least the North, so enjoying yourself has for a long time had a stigma of guilt, so probably that creates a context where it is, uh, almost forbidden to enjoy the pleasures in life …”
So what do they do to relax?
“I try to switch off and watch TV,” said Viktor.
“Well, we have cable … But we work a lot. Our work is very important. Also, this is very personal. It’s really our way of translating our emotions, and for a long time it has been a way to command our own demons.”
“Frustration!” said Rolf.
“The things that bother really everyone,” said Viktor. “False hopes. And then you grow up. But anyway, uh, I try to switch off and relax … We also do sport.”
“We do steps,” said Rolf.
Steps? As in, step aerobics?
“It’s so uncool,” conceded Rolf.
What gets them excited?
“Excitable? Excitable as in … gets mad?” said Viktor.
Rolf: “We’re both not really …”
Viktor: “No, I mean, we are, but we don’t show it.”
Rolf: “Only sometimes, and then we are loud.”
Viktor: “We get completely upset.”
Their faces were completely impassive.
How would they feel if people laughed at their clothes?
There was a long, uncomfortable pause.
“It’s up to them,” said Rolf. “But we’re serious. We mean it.”
The Outlaw Gourmands
“We’ll cover food, drinking and dining for the Wallpaper set–young restaurantgoers who don’t know how to pronounce Ruth Reichl’s name, let alone who she is.”
–journalist Steve Garbarino, to the New York Post ‘s Page Six, on a magazine he might start
We were young and wild, and we liked fine dining. Some days it was tender strips of char-grilled octopus served on a bed of frisée lettuce; other days it was pan-roasted monkfish. We couldn’t get enough.
Misty was my little prize. She was 19. I met her at the Manhattan Correctional Center, where she was doing time. I was smuggling dope to a lady friend when I spotted Misty the next seat over, behind the greasy glass. Now she was free … and always up for a scrumptious meal.
We cleaned ourselves up–yeah, Misty and I could clean up real good when we had to–and we went to Casimir, this new place on Avenue B that looked kind of cute. The waiter set down some arugula with roast garlic croutons and parmesan slices. Misty dove right in.
“Baby like the salad?” I said.
“Oooh, Baby like,” she said, folding a purple leaf into her mouth.
As I was biting into a crisp baguette slathered with fresh country butter, I saw one of Misty’s running buddies in the corner–a cheap punk named Zlotnick. He wore a heavy cloth overcoat. His face was swollen and pale. “Nice to see you both,” he said. “Mind if I …?” He pulled back a chair, leaving us with no choice but to have him join us. Zlotnick produced some crumpled bills, only to mention that they were “traceable”–so we would have to spot him lunch.
Soon, the main course arrived: pig’s feet on mashed potatoes with celery root for Zlotnick (“Mmmmmm,” he said, sucking up a mound); salmon tartare with beet sauce for me; and the bouillabaisse for Misty. We grunted and moaned and belched. It was too tasty for table manners.
Misty and I couldn’t shake Zlotnick that afternoon. He got ice cream with us in the park … hung around when we looked at bathroom fixtures at this store uptown … and he was still with us when we helped a guy do a stick-up job at a warehouse in Brooklyn.
That night, at Markt, a new Belgian place on West 14th Street, Zlotnick was practically merging with the Flemish rabbit in beer sauce, and Misty was looking very slinky as she downed a bowl of split-pea soup with trout. “Niiiiiice,” she said. I made some big slurping noises over my gray shrimp coquettes, and this got everybody laughing. Yeah, we were having a decent time. But after the chocolate cake and a funny little dessert wine, Zlotnick and I had words over the check.
Outside, I had to punch him in the face. The punch knocked him out. Then I took his cash. Traceable, my eye.
Back at our place, Misty and I felt queasy. We made love like crazy and we didn’t wake up until the next evening, with the horns honking on the street and the sun going down and all that shit.
We cleaned up until we smelled decent and we went up to midtown. A guy in an office building hadn’t paid a debt, so I had to flush his face. Afterward, Misty and I ended up at this funky little place called Heartbeat on East 49th. She was ecstatic over the roast quail on a bed of dates and mushrooms and I definitely enjoyed my rack of lamb with kumquat chutney (although I was wishing I’d ordered the mackerel ceviche when I saw a guy eating it two tables away). Misty and I licked our plates clean and then we ran like hell, away from the maître d’ and into the street.
Funnily enough, later on at some dive bar, we ran into this couple who’d skipped a check at Verbena on Fourth Avenue that same evening. Nice couple. Anyway, they said if we thought the quail at Heartbeat was tasty, we really had to check out Verbena. Apparently, the chef there does something with game birds that makes your knees knock together. Or so this couple was saying. Anyway, I guess Misty and I will just have to check it out for ourselves.