Remember the William C. Loud family of Santa Barbara? Bill and Pat and their kids Lance, Grant, Kevin and Michelle? They were the subject of the first, and best, reality-TV show. A camera crew moved into the Louds’ ranch home and immortalized seven months of minutiae with Warholian ineptitude. The 12 resulting episodes, entitled An American Family , were first aired in the early 1970’s on WNET. I have the entire gorgeously riveting, 12-hour 70’s style-fest on tape and watch it endlessly. You can’t rent it, or borrow my tapes: Your best chance of seeing it is to petition Channel 13 to rerun it.
During a recent viewing of the episode where Mother Pat goes to visit ultra-nelly son Lance (he’s living at the Chelsea Hotel and hanging out with the various underground trannies), I was struck by two things. First, I could not believe how shy the Louds are in front of the camera. Each episode is characterized by tentative conversations and severely moderated behavior. Michelle and Kevin hardly speak at all; Pat and Bill only loosen up after a few scotch-and-sodas. There is no comparison with today’s Real World-Big Brother exhibitionists who loudly process their “feelings” like Bryn Mawr lesbians while shaving their body parts. Even Lance Loud, who flits around the mylar-wallpapered family room knotting the fronts of his crêpe de Chine blouses, has one-millionth the media poise of camera-lovin’, hair-dyin’ cuddle-monster Brittany (from Big Brother ). The Louds are shy, and their embarrassment reads like a quaint, long-forgotten custom. Whatever happened to embarrassment? (E-mail your answers to email@example.com.)
The other thing that struck me was Pat Loud’s eyewear. A transparent homage to Jackie O, her blue-tinted, dessert-plate-sized bifocals are, in the absence of a riveting plot, the stylish leitmotif that drives each episode. And they also perform a vital function: She clearly wears them so that she can see her food and convey it to her mouth without risk to her pantsuits. Watching Pat tuck into family brunch, I realized I hadn’t seen my food properly since my eyesight changed in my mid-40’s. I have no intention of wearing my dreary reading glasses to a restaurant. Inspired by Pat–and by the fact that my clothes have, in the last couple of years, become a canvas for all manner of food stains–I decided to get myself a pair of sassy bifocals.
I called Anne Slater and grilled her re: her oversized blue cat-eyes. “I found them at Lugene in Philly in the 1960’s. Cobalt blue, not Yves Klein blue–very snappy, and they went perfectly with everything I was wearing at the time: Cardin, Pucci, Gernreich, Bonnie Cashin. I came back to New York and bought 36 pairs at the Lugene store on 57th Street and I’ve been working my way through my stash ever since. My prescription never changed–my reading glasses did–but I don’t read much when I’m out. Who does?”
When I explained to Ms. Slater that I was on the hunt for an image-defining pair of frames, she offered some sound advice: “Stylish frames require that you dress simply–I always wear beige, ivory or black. No dangling earrings, and you can’t wear veils. No tiaras–the Queen of England is the only person who can get away with that many accessories.” She was referring to Her Majesty’s endearing habit of wearing her blue plastic bifocals simultaneously with a crown, an emblazoned sash, a bejeweled scepter, an orb, various medals, an ermine-trimmed cloak, an 18th-century necklace with matching shoulder-sweep earrings, three bracelets, four large rings, long white gloves, etc.
Lugene being long gone, I headed to Selima Optique (59 Wooster Street, 343-9490). Steven, the mother hen of this trendy eyewear store, showed me various demented frames: Peggy Guggenheim explosions; rhinestones for men (“It’s the Korean Mafia look–very glamorous for the holidays”); Le Corbusier/Hockney doughnut-sized circles; orange plastic Swifty Lazar-ish face furniture. In the world of extreme eyewear, there seems to be a real overlap between goofy and sophisticated. Suddenly, Singapore-born Steven hit pay-dirt: “These are the original frames worn by Aristotle Onassis–Selima contracts to the factory in Nice which made his frames.” J’adore!
With Pat Loud and Anne Slater in mind, I ask about blue tints. Steven tells me that “blue doesn’t filter all the U.V.–I think. Anyway, blue will make you dizzy. Try the amber.” I’m sold. The total cost (frames, $240; lenses, $180; eye exam, $60) was $480. A bit steep, but it’s nice to see my food again–and my dry-cleaning bills are plummeting.
How do you expect to have a good time this holiday season if you don’t dress like a good-time girl? And a good-time girl, in case you’ve forgotten, wears a party dress: simple, short, black and severe, with a suggestive detail, a dash of fringe or a low-slung rhinestone belt. You only need one party frock per season; it’s actually very naff to worry about being seen in the same thing twice.
Pick one of the following and wear it to death:
Gucci’s Gernreich-esque black leather-collared halter, $1,425 at Saks Fifth Avenue and Gucci; Cesare Fabbri’s pleated chiffon with a rhinestone/crystal belt, $1,335 at Jeffrey New York; Marc Jacobs’ black silk charmeuse halter dress, $820 at Barneys and Marc Jacobs; Prada’s black lace dress, $1,770 at Prada and Barneys; Vivienne Tam’s black mesh over purple short dress, $265 at Vivienne Tam and Barneys Co-op; Imitation of Christ’s destroyed black silk cocktail dress with attached pearls, $1,350 at Barneys. The wear-and-tear of the party season will only enhance the deconstructed look of this tattered frock.
Your feet? The Christian Louboutin stiletto T-strap–called Glori–is $455 at Jeffrey and the Christian Louboutin store at 941 Madison (396-1884). And no purse: Good-time girls keep their front door key on a string tied to their bra.
You’re a nervous wreck because you’re dating a Wall Street guy and you are completely at the mercy of his mood swings. He’s swinging up and down in tandem with the vicissitudes of the stock market, and you have emotional whiplash from riding his roller coaster. Dismount and get yourself a more laissez-faire boyfriend.
Snag yourself a rich artist on Saturday, Nov. 18, when the Coalition for the Homeless presents the sixth Annual Artwalk N.Y. Scrape together $300 and buy a ticket that includes any studio tour and attendance to the gala auction and reception. (Call 344-8420.)
Here is my guide to the eligible talent:
Many straight dudes are already spoken for; rumor has it Julian Lethbridge has already been snagged by Ann Bass. Gorgeous Alexis Rockman is married–but that doesn’t mean you can’t get kittenish on his studio tour (Tour G2). James Nares (Tour D2 ) is single (again) and cute. Ditto Bryan Hunt (Tour G1). Gorge Damian Loeb and shy Matthew Barney (the Helmut Lang of the art world) are both rumored to be attending the big event at Pier 59 studios.
Before you hit the gala auction, run to Moschino at 803 Madison Avenue (639-9600) and check out the artist-designed totes ($240) created in conjunction with Artwalk N.Y. These bags are definitely a bit déjà vu : The whole “let’s get artists to design a …” is tragically 80’s–maybe that’s why it’s back. I recommend Richard Prince’s bag, emblazoned with the following one-liner: “I said to my mother-in-law–’My house is your house.’ Last week she sold it.” It might just be the ice-breaker you need when you launch yourself at Matthew Barney.
Talking of Her Majesty, Jermaine Jackson (as reported in Page Six on Nov. 4) has named his newborn son Jermajesty Jackson–what a great way of guaranteeing extra confidence/delusions of grandeur, hmmm? And the “majesty” trick works with any name with an M at the end of the first syllable, e.g. Timajesty Hutton, Tomajesty Cruise, Pamajesty Anderson, Normajesty Mailer, Hermajesty Gingold, Hermajesty’s Hermits, Simajesty Doonan.