What a horrid, torrid week!
It started off with the arrival, on Sunday, July 31, of The New York Times. Lurking in the Book Review was a less than complimentary appraisal of Nasty, my latest book (Simon & Schuster). Let me rephrase that: Lurking in the Book Review was a less than complimentary appraisal of myself, Simon Doonan. Instead of reviewing my book or my writing, the reviewer, one Ben Sisario, chose to focus on me and what he saw as my underexamined self-image. With a daringly un-P.C. stroke of his pen, he dismissed me as “foppish and superficial.”
Was the Old Gray Lady getting homophobic on my ass? It’s hard to imagine her calling Plum Sykes or Cormac McCarthy “foppish and superficial.” Back in the 1960’s, England’s Private Eye mag always used the phrase “tired and emotional” to describe celebs who were drunk in public (e.g., “A tired and emotional Richard Burton arrived at Heathrow airport … ”). Is “foppish and superficial” some fab new Old Gray Lady code for “gay”? Should we all start using it ASAP?
Slightly bewildered, I asked my dog, a feisty, non-foppish Norwich terrier incongruously named Liberace, for his reaction. “Calling somebody ‘superficial’ in this day and age is a bit like accusing them of bad taste, i.e., retarded and meaningless—woof!” he arfed, and paused to slurp some water. “However, honesty compels me to admit that Ben has a point—you are a tad on the foppish side. But so was my namesake, and he was, by all accounts, a wonderful bloke. Woof!” Liberace then grabbed the Book Review in his teeth and, in a half-hearted show of loyalty, began to pretend to gnaw at it.
Unbeknownst to Liberace and me, the fops of Manhattan were circling the wagons in support.
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, I attended a 10th-anniversary bash for Paper magazine columnist Mickey Boardman in the Garden of Ono at the Hotel Gansevoort. This thoroughly enjoyable and superficial event was Fop Central. Co-fops included Isaac Mizrahi (teary and devastated over the death of fop genius designer Donald Brooks), Boy George (an old acquaintance from the heady and insanely superficial New Romantic era) and Village Voice royalty Michael Musto. All were quick to offer words of support, especially Fop Musto. “Darling, ‘foppish and superficial’ is high praise, especially in these times that seem to demand dour seriousness and macho posturing,” he said, reclining languidly on a banquette. “Besides, The Times should talk—now it has all those foppish and superficial Style sections.”
Honoree Mr. Boardman was even more vociferous: “I am proud as a pea hen to be a fop,” he said, giving his signature disintegrating, beaded evening top a petulant tug. “I truly respect all the classic social types who are often maligned: ladies who lunch, courtesans, fops. It takes a lot of work to look shallow, social and superficial.” Mr. Mickey waved coquettishly at host Johnny Knoxville, who was looking rather butch and profound, and then continued, “I want things to look nice and to be fun and make people forget their troubles. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in serious issues.” He surveyed the party, crammed as it was with creative, culturally contributing fops, and let out a satisfied sigh, adding, “After all, I am an Economist subscriber.”
This week wasn’t all parties and posing. Many of my waking hours were devoted to holiday marketing. Yes, I’m talking Christmas. At Barneys, we’re in the throes of planning windows and shooting our gift catalog. Surreal though it must seem, while you were melting in the furnace that was Manhattan this week, I was up to my eyeballs in tinsel garlands and snowmen. Inspired by the Camilla/Chuck nuptials, I have opted for a regal theme. Don’t worry: There won’t be any tampon wreaths.
On Thursday, a fop dropped in: I got a surprise visit from an old L.A. actor friend named Robert Lopez, a.k.a. El Vez, the world’s only Mexican Elvis impersonator. El Vez has delighted audiences for years with such songs as “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Chihuahua” and his version of “Suspicious Minds,” entitled “Immigration Time.” Growing up in Chula Vista, Calif., Robert always thought Elvis was Mexican because, with his tight pants and his foppish black pompadour, he looked just like all of Robert’s uncles.
Anyway, El Vez was in town doing research for a play that he’ll be staging in New York next year, about the life of deceased über-fop John Sex. Those of you who lived in New York in the early 1980’s will doubtless remember John’s brilliant and visionary lounge act. It is no exaggeration to say that the sleaze of John’s shtick prefigured the quagmire of pornographic tackiness into which we have all sunk during the intervening years. (See, Ben—we fops are smarter than you think.)
Friday: My potter husband is scheduled to go to San Francisco. I will be alone all weekend with nothing but my foppish superficiality and my loyal(ish) hound. I am concerned about my fragile mental state. By the time my Jonny comes back, I will probably be wandering round Shelter Island with a skinned rabbit in my purse, like Catherine Deneuve in Roman Polanski’s masterpiece Repulsion.
I resolve to pass the time by planning a theatrical career for my potter husband—who, quite frankly, would benefit from becoming a bit more foppish and superficial. How about the world’s first Jewish Elvis impersonator: Oy Vez?