Tail Hook … Hail, Doctor!

Tail Hook

There they were, ascending the stairs of the Bergen Street station on the F train line: pants that zipped up the rear. One hardly noticed the woman encased in them.

Is this what the female sex has come to? We’ve plowed through legs, breasts and midriffs in the course of a century–is the butt crack the only erogenous zone left? Could this be?

Doesn’t the wearing of back-zipper pants imply a certain loss of agency–a primal, submissive offering to males, sure, but also a reversion to babyhood, when one had back-flapped pajamas for easy toilet access?

Sara Federlein, a 29-year-old grant writer for the aptly named Aperture Foundation, defended her size-eight, navy wool butt-zipper pants by Alpana Bawa, which she received in a clothing swap with a friend. “They’re really flattering, because they zip up the back and are kind of low-slung,” she said. “I think it works. I’d like to get more pairs! My boyfriend likes them … I came home from the swap and I tried these on and he was like, ‘Whoa, those are really great!'”

If they were so great, why did her friend, Francine Stephens, give them up? “In truth, the zipper thing never really worked for me,” said Ms. Stephens, also 29, a consumer advocate for the Rainforest Alliance. “They were altogether just awkward. I always wanted to make them work, but … at one point this zipper ripped and I had to take them to a tailor and got them fixed, and still . It just wasn’t working for me.

“The zipper part, my mom didn’t like that at all,” added Ms. Stephens. “And she’s very hip!”

Dayna Lustig, 31, who runs a film-distribution company, made an argument for the butt-zipper pants that she bought at, of all places, J. Crew. (Is nothing sacred?) “I have a figure like a lower-case B,” said Ms. Lustig, a size two, “so I like anything that doesn’t show my stomach … these landed on the hip, and there were little pockets in front. It just makes a nice line.”

Did she get comments on the butt-zipper? “I don’t think anyone noticed that. It is tasteful.”

But there are some for whom such a fastening could never be tasteful.

Melissa Toth, 32, a costume designer, recently selected a pair of $125 Frankie B. butt-zipper pants for a character in Woody Allen’s spring project; she refused, under pain of contract, to describe the character. But you could kind of get an idea. “There’s something that’s, like, psychically imbalanced about a person who puts those pants on,” she said. “It’s like a person who wants somebody to unzip their pants on the subway platform!”

Ms. Toth once knew a makeup artist who sported butt-zipper pants in real life, she said, “but she was a wild German girl.”

–Alexandra Jacobs

Hail, Doctor!

Dr. David Bronster, a dapper, middle-aged gentleman who lives in Murray Hill, is a neurologist at Mt. Sinai Hospital, which means he examines people’s brains and fixes them as good as new. See, now you’re impressed.

But Dr. Bronster is also an equestrian supernumerary at the Metropolitan Opera, which means he rides out onstage at the Met on horseback, wearing a toga and a helmet. See, now you’re really impressed.

Dr. Bronster landed the supernumerary job at the Met through his association with the Claremont Riding Academy, where he’s been riding for over 15 years. The Met rents its horses from Claremont, so that’s how they found out about Dr. Bronster. He’s so good with horses, he didn’t even have to audition for the part.

Over his three opera seasons of service, Dr. Bronster has done everything from grooming to bucket duty, in which he had to linger backstage, prepared to scamper out with a shovel if a horse decided to unburden himself mid-aria. “You’re actually in costume,” Dr. Bronster said one afternoon in his neurology office on East 83rd Street. “You have a period bucket. So if it’s Aida , you have an Egyptian-looking bucket, and for Carmen we have a 19th-century one.”

But riding horses onstage is the fun part. In Carmen , Dr. Bronster almost always rode a gelding named Trooper; in

Aida , he rode bareback on a horse named Bach. “The idea is for you to lead the horse,” Dr. Bronster said, “not for the horse to lead you .”

And it is quite a spectacle, the doctor said. Working on people’s brains is one thing, but Dr. Bronster said he loves the moment when he sits atop that proud horse, before thousands of adoring opera-philes, and for a moment can fantasize that he is not a healer of men, but a conquering hero. “[It] allows you to escape,” Dr. Bronster acknowledged, “to see a whole other life and lifestyle … [and] get away from the cafeteria at my hospital.”

–Beth Broome

Slanted and Unenchanted

Jenny Eliscu, a chipmunk-cheeked writer for Rolling Stone , found herself in an Urban Outfitters not long ago. Ms. Eliscu’s a real hipster, not the type to dig chain-store style, but Urban–with its never-ending collection of cheaply made but somehow cool-looking apparel–is kind of a guilty pleasure. “Then,” she said, “I saw that sign.”

The sign was a portrait of erstwhile Pavement front man Stephen Malkmus made out of dollar signs. Below it said, in block letters, “ENTER TO WIN STEPHEN MALKMUS PROMO KIT.” The kit included all the stuff music insiders usually get, plus a little extra–a CD, an autographed promo photo, a subway poster and a seven-inch record. Forty-four people will win–one at each Urban Outfitters store nationwide.

In other words, Big Freakin’ Whoop. If you’re one of those spoiled, go-go New Yorkers in the media biz–and when you get down to it, who isn’t in the city these days?–how can you get all jazzed about a stinky mass-mailed press kit? Whatever happened to backstage passes? Autographed guitars?

When she saw the Stephen Malkmus giveaway, Ms. Eliscu cringed. “I mean, I get tons of promo kits all the time. I usually throw that stuff away when I get it.” She thought for a moment. “It’s the Urban Outfitters thing. It almost makes you seem like you’re hip and an insider, but it’s really cheap and useless.”

The sweepstakes was the brainchild of Dryw Scully. Mr. Scully is the Philadelphia-based chain’s music promotions manager, which means he coordinates music-related events (like the contest) and makes sure the in-store soundtrack passes coolness muster.

He explained how he got his idea. “I saw the CD cover. It looked pretty cool. I mean, he’s wearing a T-shirt. That’s like our demographic.” Mr. Scully initially thought of giving away just the subway poster. But, he said, “It’s something–if I was in a store, if you’re a fan, you wouldn’t just enter for that. We wanted something to go with the poster.” So Mr. Scully and some execs at Matador Records cooked up the promo-kit promo. “It’s cool. We’re giving away a floppy seven-inch, which is like really rare.” (Mr. Scully also confessed that it would help U.O. bulk up its mailing list. “It helps us gather fan people. You know–we can gather e-mail addresses.”)

Still, plenty of people who weren’t used to being deluged with promo kits were inside the store on Sixth Avenue one recent Sunday, including Buddy Krieger, a 32-year-old former Internet executive. “I love him,” he said of Mr. Malkmus. “I think it would be really nice to win.” Sarah Klug, a 28-year-old student, said Mr. Malkmus was “kind of good. But he should never have left Blur.”

Alas, Ms. Klug didn’t enter the contest. Neither did Todd Jacobson, a round 17-year-old wearing a sweatsuit. “I mean, I already have the CD,” he said. “Do I want a poster? Yeah, O.K. But it’s not like I’m going to fill out the entry form.” Rebel, rebel.

–Ian Blecher

Tail Hook … Hail, Doctor!