Tempest in a Turban: How Tiny Moi Vexed André the Great

doonan Tempest in a Turban: How Tiny Moi Vexed André the GreatI felt like such a turd on the night of Monday, June 2. “Turd’” is a very underused word. At some point soon I will dedicate my life to restoring it to popular usage. In the meantime permit me to elaborate on the circumstances that occasioned this unpleasant feeling.

There I was at the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards at the New York Public Library thinking to myself, “Goodness me! This event is a tad somber. Yes, we are all sad because Yves died the day before, but Monsieur Saint Laurent was a big believer in joie de vivre. Hostess Fran Lebowitz is très drôle, but somebody should really take it upon him or herself to inject these proceedings with a little raucous silliness.” Then it occurred to me: “Maybe that someone should be moi!” Overcome with feelings of altruism and responsibility, I vowed to use my brief stage appearance—I was about to mount the podium to present Belgian genius Dries Van Noten, the most talented designer present, with his “International” award—to perk up the crowd. A little cheeky badinage. A little persiflage. A little British debunkery. That’s all it needed.

I skipped onstage and embarked on what I thought was a thigh-slappingly amusing, Belgian-themed speechlette that revolved around the notion of a fictitious TV show titled The Real Housewives of Antwerp. Funny, right? Apparently not. The silence in the Celeste Bartos Forum was deafening. You could hear the crickets all the way to Staten Island. If the gowned attendees were chuckling, they were doing it behind their lace fans and mouchoirs. In a last-ditch attempt to wring a few laughs out of the assembled fashionrati, I spontaneously suggested that André Leon Talley—Mr. Talley was sitting in the third row in my direct line of vision—should hock “the fabulous diamond pin on that turban which you rented to come here tonight” and use the resulting moolah to fund my Antwerp Housewives show. The turban in question, a Rembrandt/Ingres-esque confection adorned with a massive Fred Leighton pin, was classic Talley: seemingly effortless yet over-the top glamorous. My intention in singling out this remarkable accessory was to express solidarity with the wearer, the majestically life-enhancing Mr. Talley.

It didn’t work.

André was not amused. The phrase “visibly affronted” would best describe his reaction. Ditto his date, Naomi Campbell. My bowels lurched and that turdlike feeling engulfed me. Of all the people in that room, André, the Ab-fabulous, the brilliant, was the last person on earth I wished to offend. My goal—please believe me, André dahling!—was the complete opposite. I failed.

As I staggered back to my seat in a state of dry-mouthed panic, I began to trawl the deep recesses of my consciousness. From whence had sprung this horrid notion of rented accessories? Then I remembered: Dame Edna! She was to blame!

In the mid-1970s I wandered into a Knightsbridge bookstore and found Dame Edna Everage, a.k.a. comedian Barry Humphries, autographing books for a small crowd of admirers. The lady who preceded me in the signing line, an aging Sloane Ranger with an entitled air, seemed to have no idea that she was dealing with a 7-foot Australian bloke in drag and proceeded to ask a lot of turgid, probing questions about housewifery, the climate Down Under and such. When the Sloane declined to purchase a book, the Dame responded by thanking her profusely “for renting that little mink collar to come here and see me today.” Funny, right?

Barely had the sun risen the next morning when orchids were dispatched to Mr. Talley, accompanied by an effusive apology note. I toyed with including an invitation to Bravo’s A-List Awards on Wednesday, June 4. In retrospect I wish I had. I think André would have had a fab time. I know I did. Hilarious, bawdy and chaotic, the Bravo festivities at the Hammerstein Ballroom were the antithesis of the flawlessly glamorous CFDA awards. Maybe I am just unsophisticated, but I felt much more at home amongst these comics, D-listers, Tila Tequilas, attention-junkies and carnies than among the aristocracy of Seventh Avenue. What can I tell you, it was a turd-friendly event.

Though the Real Housewives of Antwerp were not present, the same cannot be said for the Real Housewives of Orange County and New York City. In fact, everywhere you looked there was a housewife. Handlers tried to keep the two gangs apart, but they kept colliding. Tension filled the air. It was as if Biggie and Tupac—East Coast and West Coast—were back in the hood. It’s a miracle nobody got cut.

Comedian Kathy Griffin—maybe she should host the CFDA awards next year?—was in top form. She sang a song in which she mused about celebs: how long would it be, she warbled, before Miley Cyrus had a “down-there virus.” Ms. Griffin was not the only one using below-the-belt vulgarity to generate cheap laughs: presenting the Chrysler Design Award, yours truly assaulted the boozed-up crowd with a few jarring insights into my erotic lifestyle, accusing 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander of being “the hairiest of my former lovers.” Fortunately he took it in good jest, which was a huge relief ’cause my flower budget is used up for the week. Sheesh!

Bravo’s A-List Awards will be televised on Thursday, June 12, at 10/9c. Tune in and turd on!

sdoonan@observer.com