Why, oh why, are we so enamored of French women? Why do we hang idiotically on their every word, as if they know so much more than us about style and general fabulousness? How did all these imperious, fag-smoking chiennes manage to coax us all into this state of pathetic insecurity?
The current Chanel exhibit at the Met has only served to fuel our Gallomania. The haughty, highly quotable ghost of Coco Chanel is staring down Fifth Avenue, creating waves of self-loathing. I love a well-cut bouclé suit as much as the next man, but if one more person reminds me that “elegance is refusal” or that “luxury lies in the absence of vulgarity,” I am going to vomir.
Throwing lard on the fire is the ubiquitous Mireille Guiliano, author of the annoyingly successful French Women Don’t Get Fat (Knopf). Every time I turn on the radio, there’s Mireille, hogging every available spot on NPR—airtime that would be far better allocated to certain other recently published authors. The glee she clearly derives from comparing gargantuan Yanks to her petite fellow countrywomen is something she might want to discuss with her therapist.
My ire (something I frequently discuss with my therapist) reached a boiling point recently when I heard her on The Diane Rehm Show (WAMU): “If I ’ave zee little dessert at dinner,” crowed the magnificently restrained Mireille (I am paraphrasing), “zen maybe I say non to zee croissant zee next morning.” Oy vey! If this is the elegance of refusal at work, then donnez-moi un grand doughnut tout de suite.
Imaginez-vous, s’il vous plaît, the chorus of bewildered yawns that would ensue if a Midwestern housewife went on NPR and said the following: “If I overdo the ambrosia salad at night, then I always hold back on the Entenmann’s the next morning.” Fascinating!
Back to Coco, and moi. If elegance is refusal, then I must be about the most inelegant person on the planet. I say yes to everything, especially when it comes to press opportunities. During the course of my climb to the middle, I have been interviewed by late-night Russian radio stations and Chilean newspapers. No media outlet has been too lowly or too obscure for my consideration. If a seed catalog called me for a quote about whether nasturtiums were in or out this summer, I would be incapable of not returning the call.
I am most susceptible to anything involving TV cameras. I just appeared on Tommy Hilfiger’s The Cut and, yes, I recently lensed yet another episode of America’s Next Top Model. When you are an F-list celeb, as I happily am, you would never, ever, ever dream of refusing any media opportunity where a professional makeup artist is provided. For we F-listers, this would be the equivalent of being Jude Law’s nanny and saying non when he asks if you wanted to have a good old snog. Unthinkable!
Here’s yet more evidence of my pathological suggestibility: Whenever I read a book, I enter hook, line and sinker into whatever milieu is being explored. Extrication comes only with the reading of a new book and the embrace of a fresh milieu. I am currently reading Jimmy McDonough’s Big Bosoms and Square Jaws (Crown $26.95), the biography of soft-porn genius Russ Meyer, and I may soon have to stop: With every page, I sink further and further into the sleazy mire of Meyer. By Labor Day (I’m a slow reader), I am sure I’ll be sporting a revolver, not to mention a giant pair of silicone hooters.
This book has proven to be a fantastic antidote to this summer’s freaky Francophilia. The violent, busty Meyer supervixens—Raven, Haji, Tempest, Tura et al.—are, après tout, the antithesis of those withholding, smug French women. And Coco Chanel, with her lifelong battle to rid the world of vulgarity, was the absolute screeching polar opposite of Russ Meyer.
I feel a personal connection to old Russ. Back in the early 80’s—in ma drinkin’ days—I lived around the corner from a strip club called the Body Shop on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. The main attraction was Mr. Meyer’s then-girlfriend, Kitten Natividad. The star of Beneath the Valley of the Ultra-Vixens took quite a shine to me. This manifested itself in a highly unorthodox way: She invited me back to her dressing room. I went (it would have been inelegant to have refused). She then flew across the room and began to bat my head with her legendary appendages.
I had a Proustian moment while reading the Meyer bio. It occurred when I reached the passage where Mr. McDonough describes Russ as “the kind of man who discovers that slapping a leg of lamb is a perfect sound effect for a breast striking a face.”
Put that in your Gauloise and smoke it, Madame Coco!
Vive la vulgarité!