At the risk of sounding like a pathetic old-school fag, I must confess that the end of summer always puts me in the mood for a little early Barbra. The looming of Labor Day invariably finds me humming that haunting Streisand number entitled “The Summer Knows.” Don’t pretend you don’t know the song: It’s the one where Ms. Streisand repeatedly refers to the summer as “she,” as in “The summer smiles / The summer knows / And unashamed / She sheds her clothes …. ” A menthol-cool Barbra then speculates about how much “she,” the summer, might have taught us during those sun-drenched months: “And if you’ve learned / Your lesson well / There’s little more / For her to tell …. ”
What lessons did I learn this summer? Why, my notebook is positively bulging.
First and foremost, this summer I learned that celebrities do not always gravitate toward other celebrities; sometimes they fornicate down rather than up. This summer’s celeb trend? Let’s call it Shagging the Disadvantaged.
I guess I’m just old-fashioned in this regard, preferring as I do the object of my attentions to be attractive, clean and successful. Having been born in a two-room walk-up flat with no kitchen or bathroom, I have never understood the concept of downward aspiration. Call me kooky, but if I had to choose between a summer grope in the bushes with a 58-year-old pot-bellied unemployed van driver named Norman Kirtland, and a lifetime of fun and fabulousness with my husband Jonathan, I would pick my Jonny. It is impossible for me to imagine looking at the unemployed van driver and saying to myself, “Gotta get me some of that!” Not so George Michael: Suddenly this summer—or so alleged the tabloid News of the World—the talented George picked the pot-bellied van driver.
As a committed Wham! fan and an incurable romantic, I was hugely relieved to hear that George is denying the whole thing. George! I believe you, even if nobody else does. Now go back to that nice boyfriend of yours, that upscale bloke with the art gallery, and marry him!
Later this summer, we saw an interesting variant on the theme of shagging the disadvantaged: Let’s call it shagging the employees. It wasn’t enough for Mr. Peter Cook to have snagged Christie Brinkley, the most desirable prime rib of the 1980’s; he had to start hamburgering with his 19-year-old assistant, Diana Bianchi.
Of course, there are some undeniable advantages to dating employees: As Andy Warhol said in his diaries, “Employees make the best dates. You don’t have to pick them up and they are always tax-deductible.”
Let’s switch abruptly to a more savory topic: travel, and the educational opportunities inherent therein. This summer, during a 10-day sojourn on the Amalfi Coast, I learned a great deal about Italians. They are still, I’m happy to report, the most fabulous fashion-flaunting, food-gorging, apolitical, self-indulgent, guilt-free tanaholics on the plant. Their nonstop dolce vita contrasts sharply with my own people: Stopping off in the U.K., I learnt that the Brits have all—with the notable exception of the footballers’ wives—morphed into a bunch of self-denying, ascetic flagellants who think they are to blame for everything and won’t put anything in their mouths unless its gluten-free and has been hand-crafted by depressed lesbians somewhere in the British countryside.
While the life-is-for-living Italians are adorning themselves with Dolce & Gabbana, shrieking with laughter and hurling unmentionables into the Bay of Naples (the only blot on my otherwise paradisiacal vacation? Regular sightings of maxi pads floating in the Med), the earnestly multicultural Brits are wearing organic-cotton hair shirts, eating fair-trade gruel and blaming themselves for all the ills in the world, including the emergence of homegrown terrorists.
On the subject of La Mode: This summer I learnt that fashion has changed quite radically. It has now become a theoretical construct. The fall magazines are full of fabulously absurd designs paired with hilariously unwearable shoes (Marc Jacobs, Balenciaga, Miu Miu, etc.). In the old days—my days—trendy girls would have courageously staggered down the King’s Road in these outfits (think Vivienne Westwood). Unfortunately for us, today’s extreme looks will never be seen in public. These fun follies are relegated to an alternative universe, where they are used to garner editorial and press. Quel yawn!
The prices are largely to blame for this disappointing situation; the reckless young chippies that could be counted upon to wear these outré confections simply cannot afford them. Primo example: the July Vogue cover featured Kate Hudson wearing a Swarovski-encrusted Balenciaga dress, the cost of which is almost equal to the ransom demand from JonBenet’s killer.
Maybe it’s time you stepped out a little. Yes, I’m talking to you, the ordinary woman in the street! Don’t let a few dollars stand between you and bit of life-enhancing fashion exhibitionism. Take your cue from Ms. Streisand. She concludes her ditty as follows: “One last caress / It’s time to dress / For fall …. ”
Now run out and blow your budget on something truly demented.