Germ City: Buy Your Purell; Summer’s Best Guest Gift

Summer has arrived: The city is starting to stink, and the bacteria lurking on every subway strap, restroom door handle and after-dinner mint are reproducing faster than a chicken dinner can travel through a senior citizen. You need antibacterial hand lotion!

As a former compulsive hand washer (my nickname for several years was Lady Macbeth), I have enthusiastically followed this trend since its inception in cootie-conscious Los Angeles in the early 90′s. I spoke to a longtime devotee, a Hollywood executive, who wished to be referred to as Gary V., about the birth of his addiction.

“Deal-making involves endless handshaking,” he said. “As you can well imagine my job would be intolerable without Purell.”

Purell Instant Hand Sanitizer claims to kill 99.99 percent of most common germs instantly. “No rinsing required, no towels needed!” It’s in every briefcase and baguette bag on the East Coast, where compulsive, germ-phobic professionals–i.e., normal, well-adjusted people like myself and possibly germ-phobic Woody Allen–are now mainlining it even after dial-a-car rides. Janet Ozzard, deputy editor at Women’s Wear Daily , picked up the habit after a stint in Paris. “I was on the Metro reading the results of a terrifying national hygiene survey in Le Figaro –7 percent of all French people have never brushed their teeth, and 60 percent of French men do not change their undies every day. Eeeuuuuuw ! I called my mom, got hysterical on the phone and told her I was coming home. She assured me that Americans were just as dirty, and sent me a crate of Purell.”

I recommend keeping a bottle with you at all times. The convenient half-ounce bottles (six-pack at Duane Reade is $3.95) are recommended for air travel, while the 8-ounce bottle ($3.95 for one) and some Purell-impregnated towelettes ($2.99 for 20) are vital for the glove compartment as you grapple with valet parking at the golf course.

“They hand you your keys–you can almost see the bacteria,” said Gary V. “You hand them money that is already covered in other people’s germs, and you grab the steering wheel which has just been handled by the valet guy who has touched 100 other steering wheels that morning ! By now you are really tense. You tip, you reach for the Purell … and gradually you start to relax.”

Does Miss Ozzard ever feel that she might have gone too far? “Yes, I’m addicted. Is that so wrong? It makes me feel cool and happy. It’s not washing–it’s more like dry-cleaning.”

Are we germ-obsessed folk inadvertently breeding Purell-resistant strains of bacteria? “Viruses are smart, but bacteria are stupid,” claims Ms. Ozzard, despite her non-scientific background. “They could never figure out how to become Purell-resistant. They deserve to die!”

For special occasions, when Purell seems a little too mundane, I recommend the trendier, fragrant JAO from Bliss (568 Broadway, or call 888-243-8825); it’s $7 for the two-ounce bottle. Though redolent of sage, tea tree and lavender, this special blend of humectants and emollients still has a kill-rate of less than one minute for a wide range of E. coli, candida, salmonella and streptococci.

Planning a summer party or barbecue? Don’t even contemplate issues of party decor until you have perused a Stumps catalogue.

Primarily serving the prom industry, this life-changing resource contains page after page of deliciously unsophisticated party paraphernalia which, if carefully selected, can significantly ratchet up the enjoyment factor of any summer party.

Why not transform your living room or deck with Stumps’ inexpensive, thematic, cardboard prom scenery: the Funkadelic Love Arch ($95) or a 9-foot-9-inch-high Hour of Enchantment clock face ($139.95)? Got a dreary-looking wall in your backyard? For $54.95 you can cover 15 feet of it with giant paper sunflowers. My highest recommendation goes to the “flame-proof floral sheeting”–you know, that textured stuff they use to cover parade floats. In zillions of colors, this stuff can cover floors, walls and tables in seconds, hiding a multitude of sins with a river of vibrant color. Yellow, metallic cerise and a weird pantyhose beige are my personal faves ($7.50 per yard, $14.50 for metallics).

You can even do your table from Stumps: Its personalized napkins, balloons and glasses can work beautifully; inscribe them with a ribald remark that targets the guest of honor. The only thing you can’t get from Stumps (800-348-5084) is your live entertainment.

For this, I always call PromOceans (289-8506)–it does proms on cruise ships, geddit! Prom-planning veteran Deborah Hayes told me about some of her regulars:

Medieval trumpeters. Not right for every occasion, but if the mood strikes you, call Marty at Fanfare Brass (888-4-FANFARE).

An ice-breaking caricaturist to take the piss out of everybody. Call Interactive Entertainment Concepts (516-355-5161).

A magician. At Miss Hayes’ suggestion, I booked Damian (718-573-3310) for my partner’s recent staff party. I can personally attest to the fact that Damian is five times more entertaining and much better looking than David Copperfield. N.B. Damian is a modern-day artful dodger who can remove your wristwatch while shaking your hand, so remember to tip generously.

Stop whining about how you have no time, and start saving some by wearing makeup that contains sunscreen, e.g., Shu Uemura. This makeup and skin-care line, created by the eponymous and legendary maquillagiste, offers a miracle foundation called UV Underbase DF SPF 17.

Squirt this translucent fast-drying foam onto your body, safe in the knowledge that it contains non-chemical microparticle titanium dioxide, combined with glycrrhiza flavonoid (a licorice derivative, not an aristocratic drag queen) to block UVA and UVB rays. Even more intriguingly, this product contains deep sea water ! Similar to human body fluids, deep sea water will give your epidermal layers an orgasmic dose of minerals. Aren’t you dying to know how they harvest it? I know I am.

While you’re in the Soho store (121 Greene Street) picking up some ($30), insist on seeing photos of Mr. Shu’s brilliant 1960′s Op Art make-up designs.

If you don’t have the taste or the money to buy a stylish hostess gift, then at least buy a witty one. Disney purveys amusing beach towels (usually $20; now on sale for $15.99), of which a Hawaiian-themed towel entitled Minnie Hula is the best. The background is hauntingly reminiscent of last season’s Gucci floral towels, the unsold remainder of which have found their way to Gucci outlet stores, two of which are conveniently lurking in the New York area.

At press time, the Woodbury Commons Gucci outlet (914-928-8034) had seven towels and the Secaucus Outlet Center (201-392-2670) had two. These discounted towels are $269.

For that price, I’d opt for 13 Disney towels–particularly if your hostess is germ-phobic. This will afford her the opportunity to (magnanimously and spontaneously) encourage you to use them during your stay. After you have left, she can throw them in the incinerator along with anything else that you may have unwittingly defiled with your germs during your stay.