It’s not easy to attract attention in Times Square. It takes an entourage, a Ricky Martin sighting, high-sulfur daytime fireworks promoting the new ESPN boîte , or some shirtless wonder sporting an anaconda around his neck to distract from the marvels of signage everywhere. Broadway is buried in frivolity these days.
But people noticed Candy Pratts Price in the noonday sun on Sept. 22. Towering in ankle-high black suede Manolo Blahnik boots, a black cashmere sweater and skirt by Hussein Chalayan for TSE, and a black denim and silver Kelly bag made especially for her by her friends at Hermès–inscribed “Candida” on the bottom–Ms. Price waited outside the Viacom building at 1515 Broadway. Purring into the handset of her Omnipoint World Phone–and sounding not unlike Diana Vreeland channeling the impresario Mike Todd–she was talking not about the latest John Galliano frock but about the riggers from Las Vegas who wired the flying act at Alexander McQueen’s New York fashion show on Sept. 16.
After nearly a decade as Vogue ‘s high-profile accessories director, Ms. Price’s new title is creative director of the 1999 VH1- Vogue Fashion Awards, to be telecast live from the 27th Street Armory on Dec. 5. The job opened when Gabé Doppelt left VH1 to become editor at large at Talk magazine in January and VH1 officially joined forces with Vogue to produce the awards show.
“Didn’t we always know we’d land up in a place like this?” laughed Ms. Price. Unlike many at Condé Nast, who can’t quite get their vision around Times Square, Ms. Price is pleasantly astounded.
“Let’s go to Sardi’s for lunch” she suggested. “Sardi’s needs a resurgence. Sardi’s could be the new Four Seasons, especially if they took all the photographs of Broadway stars off the walls and replaced them with photographs of the media people in the neighborhood. But I suppose they’d have to do something about the food,” she added. “Right now, aren’t they famous only for their cheddar-cheese ball and Ritz crackers?”
Ms. Price made her way through the bustling crowd to the restaurant on West 44th Street. Sardi’s is red and black, very red and black, but not Diana Vreeland red and black, at least not yet. We were shown to a tight corner table. The restaurant was packed. It was a matinee day. Would a great meow summon everyone to be on time for Cats ?
“Good God, what’s that?” Ms. Price asked, looking over at a Crayola-bright concoction being consumed by a lady in a blue suit two tables south. “She’s eating one of Karl’s patisserie hats!” Once an accessories editor, always an accessories editor: Ms. Price was referring to Karl Lagerfeld’s big hat moment about 15 years ago. The woman was actually eating a heap of cottage cheese dressed with fruit salad and a strawberry crown.
Ms. Price ordered cannelloni.
“John Sykes is a very cool boy,” she said, describing her new boss, the president of VH1. The combined forces of Vogue and the music television network intend on a really big show. British artist Damien Hirst, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s current nemesis, is designing the award statue; Isaac Mizrahi is creating the set; and Robert Isabell is “creating the environment.”
“I want The Ed Sullivan Show up there,” Ms. Price exclaimed.
A spokesman for VH1 said that last year’s fashion awards show, the network’s fourth, had 4.9 million viewers–about 24 percent more than the year before. The show is also shown in reruns, which attract even more viewers. So many millions of viewers at the intersection of music and fashion appeal to market-savvy designers. It’s great exposure, and it’s free.
Among the 1999 nominees: The women’s wear designer of the year contenders are Gucci, Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren. Avant-garde designer of the year nominees are Antonio Berardi, Ann Demeulemeester, Comme des Garçons, Alexander McQueen and Yohji Yamamoto. The most fashionable female artist nominees are Lauryn Hill, Jennifer Lopez, Courtney Love, Madonna and Gwen Stefani. Most fashionable male artist nominees are: Sean (Puffy) Combs, Lenny Kravitz, Ricky Martin, Mark McGrath and Will Smith. The nominees for “Visionary Video” are Fatboy Slim, Garbage, Lauryn Hill, Jamiroquai and Alanis Morissette. Female model of the year nominees are Carmen Kass, Maggie Rizer and Angela, Audrey and Gisele, who work without last names.
One might think television would be a departure for a fashion-magazine personality like Ms. Price. Not really. Her work always had an entertaining edge. Before Vogue and a stint as fashion director for Harper’s Bazaar , Ms. Price was in charge of the windows at Bloomingdale’s stores throughout the United States; her windows were such show-stoppers that Queen Elizabeth II asked to meet Ms. Price when she visited the department store in 1976.
Ms. Price grew up in uptown Manhattan and attended private Catholic schools and the Fashion Institute of Technology. After F.I.T., she worked at Bergdorf Goodman and Bachrach, the society photographers. Her big break came when the Charles Jourdan shoe salon opened on Fifth Avenue in the early 1970’s. Ms. Price started as a saleswoman; “Eleven percent commission, plus wearing the shoes; I was in heaven,” she said.
When the window-dresser quit, Ms. Price asked for the job. “They were reluctant. I told them, ‘If these aren’t the best show-stopping windows in New York, you can let me go.’ Then I went straight to [the Museum of Modern Art], where they had a lending art service, and I borrowed paintings for the windows. That was only the beginning. We were a sensation.”
Ms. Price is married to artist Chuck Price. Mr. Price’s work is currently on view at Homer at 939 Madison Avenue, and his studio was the inspiration for the room designed by Richard Mishaan for the American Hospital of Paris’ 1999 French Designer Show House at 34 East 69th Street.
The couple was married in Egypt 20 years ago. “At the American Embassy in Cairo,” she said. “I was display director at Bloomingdale’s, and I was working in Israel with three days off before I had to go back to Tel Aviv.”
The bride and groom wore jodhpurs. “We went riding after the ceremony,” she said, finding the cannelloni to her liking.
“My mother, when she was alive, always wanted to know why I looked so unattractive for my wedding,” said Ms. Price. “We’re Spanish. Where was the veil and the tulle?”‘
1. Who once said, “I’m not offended by all the dumb-blonde jokes, because I know I’m not dumb. I also know I’m not blonde.”
a. Donatella Versace.
b. Dolly Parton.
c. Marilyn Monroe.
2. What is Fogdog?
a. The on-line sporting goods dealer that will sell the Nike line
b. The name of the fictional narrator’s fictional dog in Edmund Morris’ memoir about Ronald Reagan.
c. According to Details magazine, “slang for male member limpness induced by too many Bud Lights.”
3. Who is Jack O’Neill?
a. The name of the fictional narrator’s fictional guy Friday in Edmund Morris’ memoir about Ronald Reagan.
b. The lawyer hired by Damien Hirst to investigate if the artist has any legal recourse against mayoral censorship.
c. An inventor of the wet suit.
Answers: (1) b; (2) a; (3) c.