Are you a dove or a hawk? Do you support the Anna Nicole Show or do you want to see her overthrown? I am a confirmed dove, and when I hear people (usually middle-class, upscale New York Times devotees) inveighing against Ms. Smith’s televised excesses, I can only assume they haven’t been fortunate enough to catch any of the episodes which feature the uniquely femme-y, luxury-obsessed personage named Bobby Trendy.
For many happy souls–among whom I enthusiastically number myself–Mr. Trendy has become more than just a Sunday-night post-Sopranos illicit treat: He is, for us, the heart and soul of the entire reality-TV movement. He is also quite possibly the freakiest homosexualist to arrive in the living rooms of wholesome Americans since confetti-sprinklin’ comedian Rip Taylor. Hired by the mysteriously out-of-it Ms. Smith to glamorize her Studio City, Calif., rental house with his signature gushy satins and brocades, the decorator adds a much-needed piquancy to the otherwise turgid vacuum of the former Guess model’s water-treading existence: She is awaiting the receipt of a multimillion-dollar final settlement after a long and bitter suit with the relatives of her deceased husband, J. Howard Marshall of Houston, Tex.
She has already received half her late husband’s ashes. An early Joe Orton–ish episode showed Ms. Smith lugging them home and waddling from room to room as she goofily procrastinated their placement. The cocktail-shaker-sized urn containing half the man she married (when he was 89 and she was 26) ended up, much to the horror of the Marshall family, perched on top of the TV next to a particularly mundane arrangement of flowers. The urn is now, along with the labels of Ms. Smith’s endless snacks and beverages, discreetly pixilated whenever it appears on-screen.
Bobby Trendy’s on-screen appearances are the very opposite of pixilated. The pert Mr. Trendy is the queen of the crisp sound bite. Part Gong Show, part Gong Li, he dispenses his nutty utterances with a blank affect that is wildly at odds with their often bitchy content. His on-screen contretemps with Howard K. Stern, Anna’s lawyer and "best friend" in residence, and another interior designer-both of whom accused Mr. Trendy of shoddy workmanship in the construction of his signature feather-boa-trimmed pillows-revealed that the diminutive decorator has a steely resolve. His composure is total, and he never raises his voice. This wacky inscrutability begs the question: Who is the man behind the mask? Who is the real Bobby Trendy?
Resolving to–if you’ll pardon the expression–penetrate Bobby’s brittle TV persona, I made the pilgrimage to his store in West Hollywood on a recent scorchingly hot Saturday. I found Mr. Trendy, like Dr. No’s gay son, bethroned and holding court surrounded by swagged furniture, glossy black cock-feathers, burgundy velvets, shocking pink satins and acolytes of various genders.
"I used to be Vietnamese. But now I am a white woman," said Mr. Trendy, adjusting his diamond-encrusted lady’s Chanel watch. "A very rich, very beautiful white woman." I soon discover that Bobby, though wildly withholding about mundane information, is only too willing to deadpan me with outrageous sound bites. After several minutes of questioning, all I can really gather about his background is that he was raised in Valencia, Northern California, and did time as a $5-per-hour cashier at Kmart and a fashion designer. Like most rich white women, he admitted to 24.
I asked about the décor of his childhood room, hoping this might indirectly shed some light on his past. "It was very normal," the haughty, long-necked Mr. Trendy replied unconvincingly. "Everything in my room was very, very pink because I was very, very feminine." He closed the door on his past with a resounding slam, assuring me that he spends every Sunday with his folks.
I asked Mr. Trendy if he was conscious of his haunting, Sphinx-like demeanor. "What the hell is Sphinx-like?" hissed Mr. Trendy in a breathy, sibilant Marilyn voice. "I don’t have emotion. I’m a God-like statue-essssssssssss." He creepily stroked one of the 24-carat-gold-painted Egyptian plaster cats adorning his chaotic lair, prompting me to ask him about his spiritual life. "Cha-ching! Cha-ching!" he ejaculated quietly, doing what I soon realized was his signature imitation of a cash register. "I like money and things I can see and touch. I’m not spiritual. I’ll leave that to Madonna and her Kabbalah. Cha-ching!" On the last "Cha-ching!", Mr. Trendy dove in under a swagged brocade ottoman and pulled out a Burberry box with a pair of this season’s must-have rain boots printed in signature Burberry plaid. "See, I’m a clothing whore," he announced. "And I just bought next season’s Chanel après-ski boots, too."
Mr. Trendy’s regal demeanor-Caligula meets Suzie Wong-has served him well when dealing with the slobs on the Anna Nicole Show. I complimented him on his ability to manage his on-screen mood-swingy employers, and asked him to give me some client-management tips which I might pass along to the interior-decorating professionals among my readership. "Lip gloss by Lancôme," Mr. Trendy said, without missing a beat. "I smother my lips in lip gloss until I look like a clown. Then everybody listens to everything which comes out of my mouth."
I attempted to shift the conversation (if you can call it that) in the direction of aesthetics. Many of the scrolly, oversized boudoir pieces displayed in the salon and on his Web site-www.bobbytrendy.com-are covered in leopard print (he calls it "leper print"). I asked if he was an admirer of the late Diana Vreeland. "What’s that?" Mr. Trendy said. "A new type of strep throat?" A follow-up question instantly presented itself: What book he is currently reading? "I haven’t read a book since Dr. Seuss," he said proudly. "I don’t read–I teach lessons. I taught Carmen Electra how to use her credit card. Cha-ching! Cha-ching!"
Carmen Electra, Usher Raymond, Janet Jackson and Fernando Vargas have all cha-chinged chez Bobby, and judging by the endless phone calls and the frantic visitations by upholsterers and feather wholesalers, business is booming. "Yes, I sell very, very expensive pillows," purred Bobby into his cell phone (which he answered about 20 times during our interview). "They are stuffed with real koo-koo feathers, and they are $1,000. Cha-ching!" Click!
The exotic claustrophobia of Maison Trendy and the deranged evasiveness of the proprietor were pushing me toward a reckless line of questioning. I asked Bobby about the status of his relationship with his on-screen nemesis, Howard K. Stern. "If he pinched those pennies any tighter, they would scream," said the decorator with just a soupçon of agitation. "He should save his money for a nose job. He has the perfect face for toilet paper." I increased the petulance by asking Mr. Trendy if he’s ever thought about pursuing a minimalist style, "I don’t think about it at all. I’d rather put 20 couches in a room instead of one. Cha-ching! Cha-ching! Cha-ching!"
The expression seemed to calm him. Is Bobby descended from the Cha-ching Dynasty? I joked feebly, trying to bring a smile to that implacable face. Mr. Trendy ignored me completely and, in the first demonstration of normal-ish emotion, squealed and leapt over a chartreuse-colored panne velvet couch to greet a client, a young blond lady with heavy lip-liner. "Here’s one of my socialites!" While he took yet another cell-phone call, I asked the newly arrived "socialite"-a loan officer from Seal Beach named Kennedi Hall-how she came to pick Bobby Trendy. "I saw him on TV. Isn’t he fabulous?" she said.
Mr. Trendy told me that Ms. Hall is typical of the adoring "socialites" who now constitute his client/fan base. "They love me," he said, "because I have a tight face and a tight ass and I’m a rich white woman."
I asked if his furniture brings sensual empowerment to his female clients: Is he a feminist decorator at heart? "I feel like a woman and I live like a woman-is that what you mean?" he replied.
The more I bombarded him with questions, the more insanely goal-post-moving his replies became.
Does he see a therapist? "I tell other people what is wrong with them-I teach lessons every day." Mr. Trendy bragged of dining nightly on filet mignon; does he fear mad-cow disease? "I repel all diseases."
Now drunk with the hilarity of Monsieur Trendy’s Dada responses, I revved up the gravitas: Should America wage war on Iraq? "Why? Aren’t we getting along?" Bioterrorism? "Is that some new type of shampoo which I should know about?" Maybe this is, after all, the real Bobby–a wickedly nelly version of the Peter Sellers character in Being There, a defiant little spitfire who is playing the celebrity game on his own naughty little terms. God knows he’s a hell of a lot more fun to interview than the average withholding celebrity: He reveals and appalls in a way that no celeb would dare, and yet, ultimately, he gives away far less.
Despite Mr. Trendy’s antics, I found myself adoring him. What is it about this sinister leper-clad personage that’s so appealing? Bobby provides more fun and diversion than the grunty, horribly real Anna Nicole, but that’s only half the story. As I watch the proprietor bustling around his emporium, it strikes me that Bobby is the most appealing character on the Anna Nicole Show because Bobby has a job !
Yes, unlike the other wastrels on the ANS , who sit around waiting for somebody to hand them an umbrella drink, Mr. Trendy actually has a métier. In the sea of entitlement that is reality TV, where people play games on tropical islands or lounge for days on Ikea furniture that somebody else has paid for, Missy Bobby is the only person viewers can truly relate to because she actually works for a living. Cha-ching!
When I accompanied a heavily made-up and fur-clad Mr. Trendy out onto the La Cienega sidewalk for his photo shoot, the adulation that poured forth from northbound traffic was comparable to the post-9/11 Giuliani-positive frenzy which gripped Manhattan. There were no hurled tomatoes or shouts of "Die, faggot!" Only an unmitigated pro-Bobby chorus.
Every car that passed his West Hollywood store contained at least one person excitedly mouthing his name, pointing and craning his or her neck toward the art-nouveau letters on the awning. At one point, a huge city bus packed with homeward-bound blue-collar types made an unscheduled stop in front of Bobby’s store. The amply bosomed African-American driver flung open her doors and screeched, "Hey, Bobby? Quit hot-gluin’ them pillows!", then roared off while her jubilant cargo cheered and waved. The New York Times may have dismissed the show because it appeals "to the car-wreck mentality that draws viewers to watch other people’s lives in shambles," but the general public has taken Bobby into its heart.
Viewers and socialites are also seduced by the tawdry sexiness of Bobby’s oeuvre and, by association, of Bobby himself. Though Anna Nicole bemoans her reliance on masturbation, Bobby does not. "I like to get fucked everyday, and I don’t care who does it," he told me, quaffing champagne directly from the bottle. "They can be in a wheelchair or a stroller-I don’t care. I don’t even bother to look over my shoulder and see who is doing it. I wouldn’t want to strain my neck."
As the photo shoot progressed, he got looser: At one point Mr. Trendy, wielding a flashlight, even implored the cameraman to "photograph my beautiful butthole."
In an attempt to neutralize Mr. Trendy’s rising libido, I asked him how much he’d have to be paid to have sex with Anna Nicole, "I may be a white woman, but I’m not a lesbian," he said. "However, money talks … so how about $100 billion dollars? Cha-ching!"
Bobby Trendy (310-659-2221) is located at 546 North La Cienega Boulevard. To view the Anna Nicole Show, tune in to E! Sundays at 10 p.m.
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