I can’t help myself. After all, I’m only human. Like any right-thinkin’ New Yorker, I am hopelessly caught in the thrall of hell-raising hotelier Leona Helmsley. Especially after last week’s Leathergate down at the Manhattan Supreme Court.
Who amongst us was not riveted by the torrent of sordidrevelations that poured forth duringthegay-biastrial, wherein La Helmsley is attempting to defend herself against litigious former employee Charles Bell? Mr. Bell alleges that Leona called him “fag boy” and fired him for being gay. It has emerged during the proceedings that in March of 2001, Leona Helmsley’s Park Lane Hotel played unwitting host to a gaggle of gag-wearing male leather fetishists who clogged the hallways and elevators-disgusting and enraging the proprietress, now 82. These inverted kink-lovers were apparently in town to attend the notorious annual underground “Black Party” and, for some unknown reason, had decided that the szhooshy Park Lane-atop which rests Leona’s penthouse suite-would be just perfect for their weekend getaway. Chintz by day, chaps by night!
Is Leona guilty of discrimination? Did ex-manager Charles Bell knowingly rent blocks of rooms to gay leather funsters just to work Leona’s nerves? Who knows and who cares ? All I know is, it’s great to have feisty old Leona back in the news. We haven’t seen the likes of her for a while. ThoughLeona’s Lea-thergate warmed my heart, it also gave me a steely resolve to attend this year’s Black Party, which improbably takes place at the Roseland Ballroom in midtown during the Academy Awards weekend. I am determined to get inside the heads of Leona’s luxury-lovin’ leathermen. And however terrifying this annual international kinkfest might be, it is bound-no pun intended-to offer more trends, style pointers and random titillations than did that tepid Oscars warm-up, the 60thannualGolden Globes.
The men: sartorial-yet funereal! I never thought I would find myself begging for the return of “creative black tie,” but Sunday’s glumly attired male attendees had me yearning for cerise cummerbunds, gypsy ruffles, novelty vests and the like. Arnold, Leonardo and Tom are all stuck with the Prada–Helmut Lang legacy: high-gorge, three-button, narrow-lapeled suits with skinny black ties. In this sea of mid-90’s minimalist restraint, the silver-gray satin tie (Brendan Fraser, Kiefer Sutherland and Sam Rockwell) had the screechy impact of a leopard jumpsuit.
Trend to avoid: the wing-collared butler look worn by Tony Shalhoub. Very Helmsley Palace!
Trend with groovy potential: the nondescript, anti-style tux-rental look. Hugh Grant and William H. Macy both did it, but only Daniel Day-Lewis, with his suddenly shiny pate, managed to make it look stylish. Speaking of pates, another trend to avoid: the Marty Allen dyed-hair moment. Josh Brolin, Nicolas Cage and Michael Douglas all looked as if they had lingered too long at the Clairol counter. Props to foxy Richard Gere for keeping it silver.
The broads: flamenco funereal! Even Elton John, whose girly nickname among his chums is apparently Sharon, was in black. The ghostly bias-cut legacy of the late Carolyn Bessette Kennedy haunted the red carpet, producing a preponderance of sleek hair and forgettably simple goddess frocks for Renée Zellweger and her ilk. Flamboyance is in retreat, as was color. When they deviated from black, stars like Nicole Kidman-the butt of Joan Rivers’ now-we-know-what-happened-to-Michael-Jackson’s-nose jokes-and Cynthia Nixon opted for putrid pastels.
Trend to avoid: the heavy Palm Springs geezer tan-see Uma Thurman, Jennifer Aniston and Kiefer Sutherland.
Trend worth copying: Rita Wilson and Nicole both successfully pulled off the dangly Indian Maharani earring. Also: red, red, red! Kim Cattrall, Salma Hayek, Lisa Kudrow and Susan Sarandon all managed to upstage more tastefully dressed peers with their bad-girl flaming rouge halters.
The affair’s highlights,however, were providedbyLara Flynn Boyle’s pale violet psycho-ballerina, Goldie Hawn in her trampy white Tammy-Wynette-goes-to-hell, lace-upnumber,andSharonStoneina shredded, over-accessorized burlesque outfit. Mad props to these three style-it-yourselfers, who managed to embody the original spirit of the Globes, when everyone got plastered and cheesy entertainers were allowed to dress like cheesy entertainers. Kate Hudson’s 70’s
society-gal-goes-Marrakesh hippie frock, Queen Latifah’s turquoise Escada number and Beyoncé’s goofy bustier also delivered a dollop of that much-missed, old-school Beverly Hills flamboyance.
The unexpected star of the evening? Canadian croonstress Céline Dion in a baffling series of Chrysler commercials. An orgy of dubious synergy, they called to mind Leona Helmsley’s 70’s-to-80’s advertising blitz, wherein a tiara’d Leona was jauntily juxtaposed next to the phrase “The only hotel where the Queen stands guard.”
If the Globes undertaker-chic trend carries over to the Oscars, let’s just pray for a dab of Helmsley kink.