Dear Big Al,
I’m writing to call it quits, Mr. Vice President. It was a hard decision, and I’m in a lot of pain. Ours wasn’t a normal kind of relationship-no weekend shares in the Cherry Grove for us.
I first saw you years ago in the U.S. Senate mess hall. Those Clark Kent good looks just about blew my man-bag off-I’m only human. A G.I. Joe with sensitivity- j’adore ! I had no idea if you felt the same way. I didn’t care. I was young (sort of) and carefree, blinded by this superhero with chiseled features who would, no doubt, steer our ship into the next century, with me on his (pardon my nautical vernacular) poop deck.
I fell big time.
I look back now and wonder if we ever stood a chance, we saw so little of each other (in fact, I’m not sure if you ever really saw me; at 5-foot-4, I’m hard to spot in a crowd). But I was convinced that you were my “Mr. Right”-or ” Monsieur Droite ,” as the French might say.
Then everything went all nasty, and M. Droite turned into M. Gauche . Also, Mr. Two Left Feet. Dear Al! Where once I knew exactly who you were-your wooden, lunky hunkiness was as much a part of your attractiveness as your T-square Tom of Finland torso-now you … no longer knew. It seemed as though that slimy crowd of advisors was spinning your head. And suddenly, that strapping sprout, that adorable man-boy I knew was gone, replaced by an earth-toned attack dog one day, a white-pressed-shirt, Muscle Beach bureaucrat the next. Then it occurred to me, the thing that could save us.
Dear Al, let me apply my healing powers to you!
But first, a recap.
In truth, falling out of love with you did not happen overnight.
My ex started to tune me out (along with everyone else) months ago, after the California primary.
I had loved you as a nebbish. Remember your Frankenstein costume on Halloween three years ago? Pathetic-I loved it! You were big, Vice President Herman Munster. Remember the cute, stiff way you defended yourself during the “no controlling legal authority” incident? Irresistible. And I loved you with the Buddhist nuns! Never had you looked so bulky, stolid, so very Edmund Hillary!
But with your series of minor victories-in New Hampshire, in California-it grew harder for us to connect. Suddenly, where in pathetic aspiration your appeal was class-A je ne sais quoi , with your primary victories, and in your front-runner’s attack posture-and don’t take this badly, Al-you became an unreachable, calculating …
I’m sorry, Al. I mean that in a kind and caring way.
And the other guy-this hurts even more-the one we used to deride, you and I, with his perplexed, furrowed frown and empty monkey skull, with his phony Texas-cum-Groton accent and the 8-year-old’s ledge of a brow … started to look good to me.
And I think-I could be wrong-I started to look good to him.
Romance is funny.
I saw you having problems, and I tried to help. I wanted to take you shopping, and, quoting Peggy Lee, I was sure that I could “make a dress out of a feed-bag and a man out of him.” But you hired Naomi Wolf instead-which really pissed me off, plus I knew it wouldn’t work. That drab old-school feminist lunatic had nothing invested in butching you up, and, as predicted by moi , what was left of your animus went straight out the window.
All my dreams were dashed as I confronted this terrible truth. Clark Kent wasn’t Superman, after all-just the high school dweeb who liked to load the slide carousel. G. I. Joe is a dry hump, a window mannequin with a glazed expression. Yes, Bill was a testosterone-riddled thong-twanger, but better that than a “big girl’s blouse.” Al, the boomer who never rebelled, you now looked as if someone had banged you on the head with a skillet.
My Korean manicurist expressed it beautifully one day as she put me in to soak: “Mister W. Bush definitely big moron … but him know who he is … but Mister Al?”
I watched helplessly as you whirled around in a lettuce spinner of image consultants, charisma gurus and clothing stylists, all flailing to insert a dynamic persona into what was left of my man. They played with your hues and changed your accessories-drawing attention to the very shortcomings they were so desperately trying to hide.
Drowning my sorrows in a bar one night, I stared up at the video screen. As I watched the riveting Madonna compilation, I had a heartbreaking epiphany: I can’t love a man who has had more make-overs than she has-and at least she knows who she is.
I was mad as hell. You had put me through changes and ignored my advice. You had used me up, then left me like an empty husk, sucked dry.
Time is a great healer-it’s been 24 hours and I’m starting to pick up the pieces. And, heck, it was fun while it lasted. I’m not in love with you anymore, but I’m starting to feel sorry for you; you’re getting so much shitty advice.
They say Al just needs a good cry, or a new stylist, a Joseph Conrad freak-out or an Iron John workshop. I know you better than you know yourself-maybe I can help you.
I’m told the Democratic National Convention is looming-we gay green-card holders are vague about such things-and you’re running out of time. You may not be able to resolve your complex psychological issues and your charismatic shortcomings-but you could at least try and look as if you have.
Al, so what if you are a charismatic black hole. So what! Pillage the world of highly resonant pop-culture archetypes and just usurp somebody else’s charisma.
Here are my suggestions for you.
1. Gladiator Al : It’s topical, sexy and camp … pourquoi pas ? Who doesn’t love a testosterone-chugging, steroid-abusing, Minotaur-bashing lunatic with bulging, oak-like thews? I know I do. Call Western Costume in Hollywood, (818) 760- 0900, and rent gladiator stuff left over from Ben-Hur : a complete ensemble, skirt, belt, tunic, sandals and articulated arm for $150 per week or (production rate) 15 weeks for a bargain total of $200. Fake tan: Bain de Soleil $9.29 for 3.9 ozs., Neutrogena $9.99 for 3.5 oz-both from Duane Reade.
Finally, the haircut: Heterosexual Antonio Prieto will do a masterful Caesar-Gladiator for $125. Call 255-3741 here in Manhattan and pray that he’s not booked up; finding another competent hetero hairdresser to provide the requisite butchness may take weeks. With his new “do,” Gladiator Al will make Russell Crowe look like Charles Nelson Reilly.
2. Puffy Al . Violence has always been a good marketing tool. Guarantees the city vote, and the Eminem black manqué vote. Sean (Puffy) Combs has his own clothing line-Sean John, at Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. You will lose the lesbian vote if you wear real fur. Log onto http://www.charly.cc and peruse an overwhelming plethora of pimpish faux pelts. At $499 “Noble” is the best value and definitely the sleaziest. Fabricated from one-inch faux shag imported from Europe, this coat enables the wearer to “get by most exclusive guest lists in popular nite spots.”
3. Biker Al . Very Tom of Finland-I’m seeing a fund-raiser at Hogs and Heifers. Call owner Michelle Dell at 929-0655 re: special events. Black leather from John Bartlett: “I would make him black leather pants with the lace-up side panels-so if he’s carrying a little water weight he can release the legs. Let’s not forget chaps-he’s butch enough to carry them off. His trainer might need to add a few squats to his exercise regimen.”
Pants or chaps, $1,200; biker jacket, $1,800 to order from John Bartlett-call 647-9409. Additional jock straps, foundation garments and et ceteras can be purchased from the Tom of Finland store on 19th Street, 229-1375. Potential downside: Tipper will have to get all her suits made with culottes to straddle the bike. Call Arnold Scaasi at 486-7771. Upside: Biker Al gets the lesbian vote, the Chelsea vote, the white trash vote and the Julia Roberts vote.
4. ‘ N Sync Al . Might not get the vote this time-but guaranteed next time when all the Delia’s catalog shoppers come of age. Lots of black, very Emporio Armani, but not the Ricky Martin look. More somber-lots of ominous, swirling full-length coats and a headset…very Matrix . Giorgio’s 25th Anniversary this year-love the synergy. Emporio Armani: 317-0800.
5. Mellencamp Al : a sexy-special farm-boy with oodles of smoldering sincerity. Longer hair-stubble, jeans and tank tops, keeping it real. “Dirty” denim is everywhere this season-Martin Margiela, Helmut or Calvin-let’s be patriotic and get it from Mr. Klein; $88 at Bloomingdale’s. No Jimmy Carter work shirts; Fruit of the Loom tank tops from K-mart, 3-pack $6.99. Six-inch Timberland work boots; David Z’s has them for $110 in suede, nubuck and leather. Potential downside: touring in a bus instead of an Air Force One jet. Upside: J.C.M.’s lyrics are wholesome-Tipper won’t have to label his records.
6. Meet Hugh Hef-Gore, the Playboy Al . Take Clinton’s legacy and run with it. Gets everyone’s vote. Bijan-silk robes $2,500 and up, ascot $650, call 758-7500. Hugh Hefner–ish Briar root pipes from Davidoff of Geneva, from $95, 751-9060. For sleazy bikini underwear log onto http://www.topdrawers.com
7. Falling Down Al . He goes totally bonkers à la Michael Douglas and comes out the other end all butched up with rage. Helmut Lang slacks from $310, the Greene Street store, 925-7214. Mr. Lang also purveys the couture nerd eyewear from $160 to $225. Pen protector from Staples, 98 cents for a pack of three in grained white vinyl “leather.” Don’t skimp on the white short-sleeved business shirt (it needs to fit perfectly on the biceps): Hamilton custom shirts from Barneys, about $160. Other relevant role models: Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now ; Peter Finch in Network .
Pick one and go for it. I can’t wait to see the new, dymanic-did I say that? I meant dy nam ic-you. Just don’t expect me to fall in love with you all over again.
Your humble stylist and former amour ,
Follow Simon Doonan via RSS.