Where Dreams Come True
Andy Hilfiger, Tommy’s branding-wizard brother, crossed the runway. “Hey, boy—hey, girl,” he said to fashion commentator Robert Verdi and Janice Combs, mother of Sean. It was last week at Heatherette, in the Bryant Park tents.
“What’s goin’ on, Andy?” Mr. Verdi said. “We were just talkin’ about you today.”
“Hi, baby, how are you?” said Ms. Combs, raising her cheek for a smooch.
“I need two seats for Ashanti,” called the floor manager.
“Uh-oh, it’s the Holly-wood Shu-ffle!” Mr. Verdi sang, and his shoulders did a little dance beneath his brown mink coat.
Later. Amanda Lepore closed the show by marching down and up the runway, holding a sign above her head.
“It’s true dreams come true in New York?” Mr. Verdi asked Ms. Lepore backstage, referring to that sign.
“Oh, yah,” she said. Fastened tightly against her midsection was a plastic doll.
“Didja have fun? You doing anything exciting?” Mr. Verdi said.
“Just, I’m going to the after-party, Happy Valley.”
“No, I meant in general, in life …. ”
“Oh, yeah, I’ve got a new doll out,” she said, and looked down.
“Oh, shit, how come I didn’t know about this?”
“Yeah, it’s coming out in March.”
“Who did it?”
“Is he the same guy who did RuPaul’s?”
“Yes, ’cause that doll is flawless,” Mr. Verdi said.
“They’re selling it at Jeffrey’s,” she said.
“You have a weird smell,” said a woman who’d been standing nearby.
“Yah, mine’s perfumed,” said Ms. Lepore. “Like, smell it,” she said to Mr. Verdi. He bent over and stuck his nose in Ms. Lepore’s doll.
“Is it perfumed by your direction?” he asked.
“Yah,” Ms. Lepore giggled.
“So, what’s the fragrance?”
“That’s the one,” Ms. Lepore said. “I’m going to sell it.”
“Oh, you’re gonna release the fragrance with the doll?!”
“That’s exciting. It’s a big thing. Who knew?!”
“Ooooh, wow, can I take your picture?” said the woman. “Who made this, did you say?”
Mr. Verdi drifted off through the crowd. He had spoken earlier of a desire to do talk television “about issues”—and then he spotted Jenna Jameson, the porn star and porn memoirist.
“Hi, Jenna,” he said.
“Hi, Robert,” she said. They greeted each other like old friends, but in fact they had never met before.
“Day to day, what do you count on?” Mr. Verdi asked.
There was a long pause. “Well, I’m pretty much, like, full on every day,” Ms. Jameson said.
“Really? Done, just done,” Mr. Verdi said, now talking clothes and make-up.
“If I leave the house,” said Ms. Jameson.
“Where would you wear this?” said Mr. Verdi. She wore a sleeveless, strapless Heatherette creation, exposing much of her cleavage.
“The mall?” she said, unsure herself. “I rock it everywhere I go,” she said.
On the back of her neck was a tattoo of a butterfly, the hues of which—blue, green and purple—perfectly matched her heavy eye make-up. “All my tattoos are a remembrance of each pivotal time in my life,” Ms. Jameson said. She extended a leg to show off another one.
“They’re all turning points?” Mr. Verdi said.
“Yeah. And some of them my ex-boyfriends have done.”
“Jenna, German television—the highest-rated,” said a woman, extending a microphone, her camera- and soundmen right behind her. “Is it true what we read today—are you going to be the face of Heatherette?”
“You know, yeah—I mean, it’s amazing,” Ms. Jameson said.
Mr. Verdi bumped into Miss U.S.A., 22-year-old Chelsea Cooley of Charlotte, N.C.
“I thought she was going to walk out,” Ms. Cooley said of Ms. Jameson, wondering why the newly named Heatherette face girl hadn’t taken an inaugural roll down the runway.
“So did I, Courtney,” Mr. Verdi said, astonished.
“Chelsea,” she said.
“ Uhp! Chelsea,” he said. “What did I say?”
“Courtney,” Ms. Cooley said perkily. “Same damn thing. Courtney, Chelsea—same thing, it’s all good.”
Mr. Verdi stroked her royal sash. “I was wearing it the other day,” he said.
“And I just had these on,” Ms. Cooley laughed, clasping a tangle of charms that hung at her bust line.
“This is Stella McCartney, am I right?” Mr. Verdi said, zeroing in on one of the pendants, an amber-colored thing in the shape of an animal.
“I don’t know—my stylist picked it out for me,” Ms. Cooley said.
The reigning Miss Universe, Natalie Glebova, soon joined them. “Are you Russian?” Mr. Verdi asked her. She nodded. In fact, Ms. Glebova won her title as Miss Canada, but then again, she was a brunette when she was crowned and she’s not now.
Mr. Verdi moved further into the tent, to a private room—a pre-after-party.
“[Jenna] called us and said she loves us,” said Richie Rich, half of the Heatherette design duo, “and we said, ‘Ah, we love you—why don’t you come over, we’ll give you a dress, and wanna come to the show?’ She’s gonna be part of our lingerie line, because she’s sexy and fun. Y’know. She lives life.”
Janice Dickinson was distributing business cards for a modeling agency that she’s founded. “I’m going to put American supermodels back on the front cover,” she said. “Models like what’s-her-name, from Georgia.”
She hurdled some furniture to jump into the scope of a photographer’s lens. “I’m in this one!” she yelled.
Ms. Jameson reappeared. “Now I’m doing a big push into mainstream, into fashion,” she said.
“Can I ask you a crazy question?” Mr. Verdi said. “What residue are you left with as a byproduct of your career?”
“Here’s the thing,” Ms. Jameson said. “Everybody knows me, everybody likes me. They’ve read my book, they feel good about who I am. But it’s just getting over that liiiittle hump of people taking the chance on me. That’s all. Richie said that I was cute for his lingerie line, so that’s really cool—really fun,” she said.
But, when sex is your job, “what is real life like after that?” Mr. Verdi asked.
“It’s all about being able to separate yourself,” she said.
“How do you do that?”
“I close myself off …. When I go home, I’m totally different. I’m married!” Ms. Jameson whipped out her pink Juicy Couture–designed Sidekick and displayed her husband’s picture. “We’ve been together eight years,” she said. “I just actually lost 30 pounds. Me and my husband, we’re trying to have a baby.”
“But, but, but—when you watch pornography,” Mr. Verdi said, “it’s so not in real time, it’s so staged, and, like, it stops, starts, stops, starts …. ”
“It really is—there’s no emotional connection at all,” Ms. Jameson agreed. “It’s all about pretty much making yourself look beautiful. You don’t think about what’s happening. It’s just like a job; it’s just like modeling.”
“So what’s the biggest misconception about you?” Mr. Verdi asked.
“That I’m a nymphomaniac sex fiend.”
“Do you ever say no to your husband?”
“He’s lucky if he gets it,” Ms. Jameson said, bursting into a laugh that sounded surprisingly goofy. “He calls me ‘the prude of porn.’”
“Damon’s work is very edgy, very hip,” said Doug Dechert at the party for his 49th birthday on Saturday night; it was billed as his 40th. “ Forbes magazine called him the hottest contemporary artist in the country.” Mr. Dechert, an agent of sorts, was clad in a leather duster and some ass-kicking black cowboy boots. He was steering an attractive young blonde toward his latest project, artist Damon Johnson, who is the son of Page Six gossip overlord Richard Johnson. “He’s got a B.A. from N.Y.U. in fine arts, so he’s a trained artist. I’m his manager; I know where he’s going. His work is still relatively cheap. And this is going to sound corny, but because you’re so beautiful, I could guarantee you a discount.”
By 10:30 p.m., blizzard and all, guests had begun to trickle through the velvet ropes of the nightclub NA. Some found that Mr. Dechert had a tendency to mix business with pleasure. “Wow, she was gorgeous,” he crowed after the blonde and her friend had sought refuge at the bar. “But don’t worry—there are going to be so many beautiful women here in an hour. You’re going to be amazed.”
The birthday boy appeared to have three modes—pumping a client, trying to get laid, or venting about people who he thought had betrayed him—although those three discrete circles of his behavioral Venn diagram often seemed to collapse entirely into one shared and mud-colored subset.
Among those betrayers mentioned on Saturday night were: Mr. Dechert’s 20-year-old former flame/client, the author Abigail Vona; Ms. Vona’s publicist, Jeanine Pepler; Mr. Dechert’s former drinking buddy and Ms. Pepler’s former boyfriend, Jay McInerney; Ms. Vona’s editor at Rugged Land, Webster Stone; and deposed Page Six writer Ian Spiegelman.
The short version: In June 2003, Ms. Vona, then 18, moved in with Mr. Dechert. Mr. Dechert acted as her boyfriend and manager. Ms. Vona sold a book after Mr. McInerney had brought her manuscript to his then girlfriend, Ms. Pepler, who in turn gave it to Mr. Stone, who in turn signed Ms. Vona.
Ms. Vona and Mr. Dechert split. Her book, Bad Girl, was published in August 2004, to little notice.
“It’s a classic story,” Mr. Dechert said. “It’s like every music-business story where the manager takes the band, gets them up there, gets them a record deal and then it’s ‘We’ll take you, we’re gonna make you big, but get rid of that manager!’ McInerney, his girlfriend Jeanine, who became my girlfriend’s publicist, and Web Stone—the moment she signed the publishing contract, they all said, ‘Get rid of Doug, you don’t need him anymore. We’re gonna help you now.’ Well, that pissed me off.”
And then. An item in Page Six, written by Mr. Spiegelman, accused Mr. Dechert of throwing Ms. Vona’s belongings out of his apartment window and other mayhem. A public feud played out in Lloyd Grove’s Daily News column; vicious e-mails were published; in June 2004, Mr. Spiegelman was fired from the New York Post. Now, Mr. Spiegelman has a book coming out in May.
“Doug, are you going to reach out to Ian?” asked Webster Hall promoter Baird Jones; he is an old friend of Mr. Dechert’s and knows how to push his buttons.
“Oh, yeah—I’m gonna reach out with my fist, right in that fuckin’ schnoz of his,” said Mr. Dechert. He gave his prepared (and likely well-worn) quote about Mr. Spiegelman: “He’s a little media mediocrity, and he has the instincts and countenance of a rodent.”
(Mr. Spiegelman, reached for comment, declined to be goaded into battle for a second time. “He seems a little obsessed with me. It’s kind of gross,” wrote Mr. Spiegelman in an e-mail. “I really don’t want to be associated with that person at all. And, no, he’s not in my book. I write dark, but not that dark.”)
Mr. Dechert claimed that Ms. Vona bothers him to this day—that, with some improbable magical all-knowingness, she bombards a number of Mr. Dechert’s newest conquests with phone messages and e-mails, telling them to keep away from him, that he’s trouble.
“The parallels with [James] Frey’s book and Bad Girl are incredible,” Mr. Dechert said. He went on, at length, to savage her book. “Web Stone said, quote, ‘The book will sell better if we call it nonfiction,’ end quote. I was there.”
Mr. Dechert said that Mr. Stone had wanted to include a memory of Ms. Vona being sexually abused; Ms. Vona didn’t want to. “I personally proposed a compromise. I said, ‘Instead of being fingered by your brother, we’ll have a passage where she walks into her bedroom and finds her brother beating off.’ And I put a marker in there, so that I could prove this was my idea. I had her refer to him as ‘the pud-pounder.’ Now that is a term that has an etymological pedigree going back to St. George’s in the early 70’s. In other words, I put that in there as a marker for future reference. It’s not a term that would come up in the mind of a teenage girl in Connecticut.”
Mr. Dechert went on to list other parallels with Mr. Frey. He claimed that Ms. Vona was at one point booked on Oprah, but then was dropped.
Oh, the night wore on—and how. To Mr. Dechert’s credit, there were more than a few beautiful women in attendance.
“Say what you will about Doug, he knows how to turn out a good crowd,” said club owner Noel Ashman, who will reopen the spot under a new name on March 20.
“I think it’s a very nice event; it’s a lovely crowd of people, and I wish Doug the best,” said Stephen Robson, a hedge-fund manager and apparently a friend. “But I would imagine this would be the same scene at his funeral.”
Mr. Dechert finished up the night by going to Bungalow 8, and then to Scores, though he may not have enjoyed that. “I’ve got no use for strippers,” he said. “I’d take an honest prostitute over a stripper any day, and you can quote me on that.”
Next Fashion Week: Sept. 8, 2006
“Give her some room, please! Give her some room!” Two big men with walkie-talkies shouted at the Vera Wang show.
“Can we give her some room?” one paparazzo repeated to another. “I mean, it’s Hilary Duff! She should be giving us some room.”
Nevertheless— pop, pop, pop!—the frenzied flashbulbs continued to crack around the pony-tailed pop star, perched in the front row in a bright blue sweater and diamond skull earrings (rocker street cred!). She had dragged along boyfriend Joel Madden of the band Good Charlotte, who sat next to her looking thoroughly unenthused.
On hands and knees, tape recorder in hand, The Transom crawled through the photographers’ legs for an interview. Up close, Ms. Duff—who had recently lost 15 or so pounds of “baby fat”—looked tired and a bit frail. We planned to ask The Anorexia Question, but first asked what she liked about Ms. Wang’s designs (you have to build up to these things, people). “I love her style. Her dresses are cut well for a woman’s body, and her daywear is really great. It’s a little more classic and simple, and I like that—” A yank on the arm! The Transom was being forcibly removed.
“Get her out of there!” the photographers shouted. “She’s ruining our shot!”
Across the way, Vogue czarina Anna Wintour was all glisteny in fresh highlights and a black fur coat. We asked if she’s ever had a fashion misstep. “Oh, I’ve made hundreds of mistakes,” she said. “My daughter”—Bee Shaffer—”always tells me.”
Soon after, Ms. Wang’s models padded down the runway in flats and short-sleeve structured jackets. For the person with no hips, tulip dresses were still alive and well. Almost everything came with a trench-coat belt. Capes were in effect, along with their gamine younger sister, the capelet. Overall, the collection was a bit cheerless, the color of a sky that promises to ruin your plans for the day.
In fact, gray and black dominated so much of the collection that, on the way out, one photographer joked to another, “Did you set your camera to black and white?”
And there was Glamour editor Cindi Leive. How is the baby? “God only knows—I haven’t seen him all week. I kissed my husband and the baby goodbye on Monday and haven’t seen them since.” How does she do it? “Drugs!”
Week of Feb. 6 through Feb. 12:
Of the 62 women-about-town being tracked by The Transom, can it be said that any of them didn’t win the social competition that is Olympus Fashion Week?
Oh, Annelise Peterson in your shocking white gown at your Calvin Klein after-party! Oh, Tinsley Mortimer, pretty as a Texas doll in sea-foam mint, antique peach and a gown in the orange-red of a dying Duraflame log: Did you change outfits every hour in your town car all through Fashion Week?
But ah, Ms. Mortimer. We spied the moment you came of social age: You were hobnobbing with Agnes Gund at the Zac Posen party. Ta-da! Ra-sha-sha!
Too bad, though, about that weird moment when Getty Images captioned a photograph of you at Heatherette as Jenna Jameson. That’s a mistake that surely doesn’t happen too often! Still, they had a point: It wasn’t your best look of the week by any stretch ….
All through Fashion Week, B.F.F. and fave femme Zani Gugelmann put on a good show as the gal most likely to actually look friendly while posing with other girls and their “It”-ness. A medal of valor for her!
But indeed: the Alexandra Lind Roses, the Olivia Chantecailles, the Eliza Reed Bolens … most bewitching! A fool’s paradise! Lost in a reverie of grosgrain and silk … Aerin Lauder walking Michael Kors … Lucy Sykes making her final assertion of sororal primacy over sister Plum … Little front-row slices of honeyed melon and bias-cut wit, all in a city that, for just another moment now, has the foolish sense and time to glitter ….
Oh, who are we kidding? Ms. Mortimer, you have the win.