Manhattan is as dry as a Dead Sea Scroll. And so are my thighs. Scratch, scratch, scratch. And I’m not the only one. This is that time of year when itchy skin plagues us New Yorkers, rich and poor alike, indiscriminately. Global warming and polar-icecap melting seem to have had no impact on the humidity, or total lack of it. The situation is, if anything, getting worse. No matter how much Aveeno Daily Moisturizer (with colloidal oatmeal, 12 fluid ounces, $12.99 at Duane Reade) I lard myself with each night, I always wake up in a state of dermatological turmoil. I’m as dry as a nun’s Triscuit.
Overheated social events find me clawing at my extremities under the table like a deranged smack addict. I find it’s much better for all concerned if I stay at home and refrain from frightening people.
Fortunately for itchy me, there is some really diverting TV unspooling at the moment. Kath and Kim, the big Aussie hit, is back on the Sundance Channel. A recent episode saw the mother (Kath) and daughter (Kim) team donning fancy hats and heading off to the races, where they get so drunk they end up disgracing themselves in the hospitality marquee—Kath coughs up an hors d’oeuvre on Rachel Griffith—and vomiting in the Porta-Potties. Kath tops things off by getting a chunk of regurgitated carrot stuck in her fascinator (alluring eye-veil). What a couple of fun-loving crazy Sheilas! (Down under, all females are referred to as Sheilas.)
Despite TV’s fascination with high fashion, there would appear to be a giant disconnect re the overall message. The big news from Europe—those skinny Sheilas are mincing up and down the Parisian catwalks as I write—is that Belgian enigma Raf Simons has taken over the helm at the house of Jil Sander. Gushing reviews of his fall 2006 collection optimistically herald the arrival of a new and intellectual sexuality to fashion. This message contrasts sharply with what is currently happening in TV land, where, thankfully, people continue to get tartier and sluttier and ever more whorish. The new series of Footballers’ Wives on BBC America is impossibly steamy and sleazier than ever. The characters, all of whom have dewy moist skin (thanks to the dismal damp climate of my homeland), are bursting out of sarongs and tights skirts—and that’s just the men. The first episode was replete with bare bums, boobs and, yes, strap-ons. Highly recommended.
The biggest portion of my TV-watching time is currently accorded to more wholesome fare: I’m talking American Idol. My husband and I, along with anyone with half a brain, are rooting wildly for one-namer Mandisa.
Yes, Paris Bennett is as cute as a button and her voice is perfection, but Ms. Mandisa has something petite Paris doesn’t have: Mandisa is larger than life. The lady has heft. Mandisa is a big, bad mama-jama.
What is it about large black ladies that makes them so compelling? Why do we, straight and gay alike, derive such good vibrations from their big cuddly selves? Here’s my theory: We love big black chicks because they are genuinely comfortable with their girth. Their heapin’ helpin’s of joyous self-acceptance are universally attractive. All that jolly self-esteem is positively contagious. It’s the opposite of the depressing I’m-never-thin-enough wretched self-hatred that emanates from Hollywood white ladies.
I hatched this theory a number of years ago when, filing a report for this very newspaper, I interviewed Lane Bryant shoppers in Harlem. These gorgeous gals were bursting with pride out of their size-26 halter-tops. I watched them as they strutted off down 125th Street, spreading joy and good vibrations in their lovely wakes.
While American Idol is sizzling, there are, on the reality-TV front, few innovations this season. The formats, with their bitchy judgments and eliminations, have become cliché. The exception would be Style Me with Rachel Hunter. Though typical in much of its structure, this show breaks one very fundamental principle: The grand prize is an un-prize. It is, in fact, a total, horrifying dud. As a result, we audience members, instead of rooting for the best person to win, find ourselves wishing the putrid winnings on the worst person.
Just how wanky is said grand prize? Are you ready? BRACE YOURSELVES! Here goes: The winner of this show gets the privilege of becoming Rachel Hunter’s personal stylist!!! Can you stand it? Yes, there’s a $10,000 check as well, but, personally speaking, I would rather scrub out Porta-Potties at the racetrack than spend the rest of my days hauling Ms. Hunter’s gowns back and forth to the dry cleaner. No offense, Rach.
Let’s talk about the lady in question: It may well be that the Kiwi former model and former Mrs. Rod Stewart is a wonderful, fun-loving Sheila in real life, but you’d never know it from watching her low-key (no-key?) performance on Style Me. She comes across as being a humorless, schoolmarmy sort of Sheila. No chunks of vomit in her fascinator. To become her personal stylist would be to enter into a cruel mistress/handmaiden relationship—I’m thinking Jean Genet here—where every day would end in ripped stockings and mascara tears. It’s no wonder that when Maîtresse Hunter says, “You don’t measure up!”—the show’s version of “You’re fired!”—tears of relief come streaming out of the lucky loser’s eyeballs.
The thought that one of these poor suckers is going to enter Rachel’s closet and remain there for the rest of eternity, deeming it a bonanza prize, gives the show an air of overwhelming sadness. Compared to America’s Next Top Model, Style Me views like an episode of Bleak House.
Re ANTM, the next spellbinding series starts March 8. Don’t expect to see yours truly upbraiding any of the young hopefuls. Tyra Banks appears to have lost my phone number.
Scratch. Scratch. Scratch.
Follow Simon Doonan via RSS.