I believe that New Yorkers can now be divided fairly and squarely into two distinct groups: those who watch trash TV (the new intelligentsia), and those who don’t and inveigh against it (the narrow-minded poo-poo heads).
I am also convinced that being a trash-watcher is not determined by class or money. All you need is a great sense of fun, a deep appreciation for the foibles of humanity and a love of community. Yes, I said community. Watching trash TV is a shared interest that provides the glue vital to the survival of any social group. In addition, watching trash TV enhances group productivity: So desperate are my girls and I in the Barneys advertising department to rehash the previous night’s shenanigans on I Love New York, we all arrive early for work on Tuesday morning!
What better place than the Winter Antiques Show opening soirée to confirm my supposition that rich people in mink stoles were tucking into Ego Trip’s (White) Rapper Show and The Surreal Life: Fame Games along with the rest of us?
Surveying the famous-ish faces on Jan. 18 at the Seventh Regiment Armory on 67th Street (the event tends to have all the restrained humility of a Puerto Rican drag show, and last Thursday’s extravaganza was no exception), I spotted Ivana Trump, looking like a high-glamour flight attendant in a scalpel-cut blue two-piece.
“Do you watch trash TV?” I asked.
“It’s all trash!” said the gorgeous mother of Ivanka and ex of trash-TV titan Donald. “I don’t vatch trash. I vatch CNN for the news and New York 1 in the morning to see vhat’s going on viz ze traffic.”
Similarly unconvincing denials came from befurred Town & Country editor in chief Pamela Fiori. “Absolutely not! It’s the imbeciling of America,” said the always-glam Pam, effortlessly inventing a great new word.
After these negative comments, the evening’s hostess, Margaret Russell, editor in chief of Elle Décor, was a beacon of fiery enthusiasm. “I started with Queer Eye—I just love reality television,” said she, lovely in simple black Lanvin and Prada.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that La Russell’s excitement could have something to do with the fact that she herself has thrown her chapeau into the reality arena. Starting on Jan. 31, Margaret—“Peggy” to her pals—will star in Top Design, Bravo’s interior-design version of Top Chef. And—further disclosure—the fact that I am ranting on about it in this paper could have something to do with the fact that my Jonny, Jonathan Adler, is the lead judge on the same show. Yes, my Jonny has a major TV gig!
Entre nous, I’m actually starting to get a bit worried about my Jonny. Top Design has not even begun to air yet and he has already turned into a deranged spotlight-crazed Gloria Swanson–esque figure. The turning point was a recent West Coast Bravo press junket, where he hung out with his idols, The Real Housewives of Orange County— “They’re my new posse, now that I’m part of the Bravo family,” he bragged—and hasn’t shut up about it since. As his media star rises, mine, of course, is plummeting. If this show is a hit, I will end up in the Erich von Stroheim role, picking up his dry cleaning, chauffeuring him around and keeping my trap shut regarding my own former reality-show glories avec Tyra Banks on America’s Next Top Model.
Back to the tiaras: Having found little enthusiasm for trash TV among the show’s attendees, I decided that I should probably ask some of the exhibitors. I felt sure that I would find some TV addicts among these antique dealers, who are—despite the ultra-snooty nature of their attire and their offerings—mostly just a bunch of tarted-up carnies. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
I went straight to the top and buttonholed the always genial and camera-ready Leigh Keno, one of the legendary Keno twins.
“I love American Chopper!” he enthused with an air of butch bravado that was slightly at odds with his artificially bronzed visage, “and I’m really into racing motorcycles.”
Though Leigh and I might enjoy the same telly programs, our taste in furniture differs dramatically. Maybe I am too flashy and nouveau riche to understand the Keno aesthetic; either way, those lugubrious but stratospherically priced Early American antiques fill me with suicidal melancholy. (I suspect his stuff might appeal to those narrow-minded poo-poo heads.) The last time I saw Leigh, at the 50th Show, he was flogging a monumentally depressing little object, a minute Queen Anne tea table, for an astonishing $385,000. Guess what? He actually sold that one, and now he has another one. Here’s the bad news: It’s even more frowzy and forgettable than its predecessor. Now the good news: It’s more expensive. At $410,000, it is totally imbecilic!
In fairness to Mr. Keno, he was by no means the only carny flogging absurdly expensive (if not roll-in-the-aisles expensive) historic mundanities at the fair. At the Wayne Pratt Antiques gallery, I found a nest of three horrid little muffin baskets. They were so dreary and depressing that I knew that, in this wacky opposite-world, they would surely be worth a bloody fortune. Chatting with Marybeth Keene, the V.P. of Wayne Pratt, I wasn’t surprised to learn that these were special “Nantucket” baskets and that they could be mine for a mere $78,000—for all three! Thanks but no thanks. I think I will buy the entire floor stock of my local Pier 1 instead.
Unable to nail any real enthusiasm for trash TV among the szhooshy guests or exhibitors, I turned to that old stand-by, interior decorators. When asked about his TV preferences, Thomas Jayne immediately confessed to an abiding passion for plastic-surgery reality shows. “Plastic surgeons and interior decorators are basically the same thing,” said the handsome, bow-tie-wearing giant: “We take an old ruin and transform it.”
At last! A real TV enthusiast, I was anxious to probe further. But the clock was ticking. It was 8:45 p.m.; I had exactly 15 minutes to get downtown in time to watch American Chopper. Judging by the stampede of lacquered, perfumed, tweezed incroyables reclaiming their sables at the coat check, about half of the guests had had the same idea. Case closed. Hypothesis proven.
As my cab pulled away from the gorgeous Armory building, a light rain was falling. I waved at the exiting TV addicts—my people, the new intelligentsia. And then a wave for all those still preening inside. Farewell, earnest poo-poo heads! Enjoy your $78,000 muffin baskets!
Vive la vulgarité!