I Visit the Target in Queens and the Gophers Are Groovy

I’ve been penetrated–repeatedly–and so have you.

Over the last three years, we have, at least in the marketing sense of the word, been collectively and repeatedly penetrated by a mass-market giant. I’m talking about Target. As a result, our collective subconscious is now decoupaged with kicky Target imagery. When I close my eyes, all I can see are attractive interracial couples giggling in a red-and-white bull’s-eye-logo’d Nirvana–part Wallpaper magazine, part Pee-wee’s Playhouse. We’ve all been shagged and branded, or shranded as I like to call it. And yet, has anyone ever even been to a Target store?

The shranding process started to get up my nose earlier this year when, in the marketing coup of the century, Target supplied all the tantalizing housewares and et ceteras to the Pagong and Tagi tribes on Survivor . I was officially irate: How come nude Rich on his rat-infested tropical beach had bull’s-eye-logo’d beach accouterments and I didn’t? What gives? The Target ad gang bang was, at least for us New Yorkers, nothing more than a dry hump: under-serviced, over-penetrated, we’ve been humped ‘n’ dumped.

I finally snapped when Mary Loving (of Loving & Weintraub, the P.R. firm), called last month to solicit my presence at the Nov. 9 launch of Mossimo for Target. “The party’s at Drive-In Studios on West 18th Street. It’s going to be a blast. Wink Martindale will be there.” As you can imagine, Mary got the rough edge of my tongue. “I want to go to a Target store, not a promo party, but that’s not possible, is it, Mary? Because they don’t exist. Admit it!” She responded with professional sang-froid: Directions to my nearest Target in Flushing, Queens, issued forth from my fax machine. Mary called to check their legibility, adding poignantly: “You really should come to the event–Valerie Bertinelli’s coming.”

Like most Target stores, the College Point Target Greatland (35-05 20th Avenue, 718-661-4346) is open until 10 p.m. (11 p.m. through the holidays), so we–myself and three other curiosity-seekers–had time to stop for dinner in fabulous Astoria. If you cannot afford to live in Manhattan, then for God’s sake, belt up and move here: affordable apartments within farting distance of Manhattan, gobs of atmosphere and the best Greek food. While Valerie Bertinelli was knocking back the champers over at Drive-In Studios, we were happily ensconced at Syros (32-11 Broadway, 718-278-1877). Highly over-decorated and highly recommended.

When, after a total journey time of almost an hour, the red Target sign loomed through the drizzle right next to the Boulder Creek steakhouse, I felt strangely confident that all my ranting about Target would prove to have been justified. I was not disappointed. It was exactly as I had expected: Target looks just like Wal-Mart or Kmart. A giant wave of told-you-so smugness flooded my solar plexus: Target had been busted. But, having come this far, I elected to cut my losses, load up on paper products and double-check that there is nothing trendy lurking anywhere in this airport-sized emporium.

Suddenly, I spotted some hiply packaged items in the distance: I barreled towards them, through canyons of Revlon. It turned out to be Jovan Musk for Men ($16.49), and the packaging, though rather lovely, is not trendy; it’s just out-of-date. I twirled my cart around and headed towards ladies’ apparel, screeching to a halt in front of disco-ball-reflective Kleenex boxes. I bought all four colorways (mass-retail jargon for “colors”): silver, magenta, sapphire and gold. But these decorative accessories (“dec-accs” for short), though nifty, are hardly exclusive to Target.

I eventually found the women’s clothing– about an acre of it–and, alongside a group of size-14-plus gals, I started raking through the eye-level rounders (mass-retail jargon for “circular garment racks”). The suburban clientele started to eye my enthusiasm for women’s clothing with suspicion. I didn’t want to get tranny-bashed in the parking lot by Flushing locals, so I effected the demeanor of a regular Joe buying something for his broad.

The clothing, though trendier than Kmart, is still sub-Old Navy: The Niki Taylor Collection, for example, is a good deal less compelling than the lissome model herself. It’s not surprising that Target has enlisted Mossimo Giannulli to perk up their assortment. Then I came upon the Xhilaration Collection: faux-python pants ($16.99)–perfect for girls on a budget who want a bit of Posh Spice tartiness. Still no cute bull’s-eye T-shirts. Muttering something like “Maybe there’ll be something for the little woman over in housewares,” I left my chunky co-shoppers to suss out the much-hyped Michael Graves-designed tchotchkes.

The majority of the houseware shelves were groaning with unapologetically twee bits ‘n’ pieces: kitchen witches and little plaques with hooks and hand-painted signs that say “Hang your wet mittens here.” The six or so Michael Graves shelves looked sold down (mass-retail jargon for “only the dregs are left”). I was about to head back to women’s clothing when I spotted a genuinely trendy item: a gorgeous, sculptural glass vase “handcrafted and mouthblown in Poland.” “At $19.99 a pop, these blow jobs are a bargain!” I exclaimed a little too loudly, and scampered off to the safety of the lighting department. This turned out to be the niftiest, most brand-assonant merchandise classification at Target: I snagged a simple, mod, aluminum brutalist table lamp for an unbeatable $13.90. If you prefer mood lighting, simply load up on scented candles: For the price of one Rigaud candle at Bergdorf Goodman, you can buy 66 (count ‘em!) deep mauve, eight-inch candles with a Virgin Mary emblazoned on the front ($1.13 each). Reluctantly, I was starting to groove.

As I entered the toy department, I spotted a Barbie jigsaw puzzle in a Warhol design; at $5.99, it was perfect for my Secret Santa at Barneys. Suddenly I was cruised by a handsome guy with a butch mustache. Wow! It was Joey Fatone (‘N Sync), or rather a $14.44 (sale price) collectible marionette of same. Into my cart he went: If things work out with Joey, I resolve to come back for the other lads so I can re-enact their videos. Also recommended for camp value: a Britney Spears doll ($12.99), and, for two dollars more, a Mandy Moore doll.

Exhilarated, and having done major Christmas and Chanukah gift-shopping, my posse headed for the checkout via menswear. Here we found unbeatable value and a modest amount of style in the Merona collection: Helmut Lang-ish V-necks and polos ($19.99 to $29.99). I now had 15 items in my cart, and I’d spent just over $100. Bonjour !

Before checking out, I cornered a cheery African-American gal named Jennifer (F.Y.I.: All the Target sales help is fantastic–even at 9:45 p.m., they are unanimously on the ball and friendly), and asked her the $64 (sale price) question: “Do people come here and expect it to be just like the ads? Do they demand to see groovy stuff?”

“Sure!” replied Jennifer. “And we’ve got plenty of groovy stuff.” With that, she disappeared behind a towering cliff of chocolate Yule logs. She re-emerged two seconds later clutching something that looked to be a dead beaver in a green cardboard coffin. Jennifer hit a button located between the varmint’s legs and the “The Original Caddyshack Dancing Gopher” ($12.86, sale price) sprang to life. In a stunning coup de grâce of salesmanship, she shoved the gopher in my shopping cart, with Kenny Loggins still warbling “I’m Alright” from a tiny speaker located near the gopher’s ass.

Now, whenever I catch Target spokesdiva Tina Turner bopping through one of the Yuletide TV commercials, instead of gnashing my teeth, I tenderly stroke my Caddyshack Gopher and think rather fondly of my night in Flushing. Who wants to live in a trendy magazine layout, anyway?