Oct. 8. Paris. 8:01 A.M. Dear Diary: C’est moi , Phyllis Stine, c’est moi . Here I am in the middle of European fashion for the rigamorole of spring 2000 ready-to-wear shows, which I am meant to regard from a calm yet enthusiastic vantage point essential to my newly employed state– mais oui , I finally got a job, to be described anon–and I find I am all over the newspapers.
Phyllis Stine this and Phyllis Stine that, all because of the hoopla over Mayor Rudolph Giuliani pulling funding from the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Big whoop. The Sensation show includes a painting of the Virgin Mary adorned with elephant dung. Really?! I’ve worn worse with the highest ideals, and heels, and no one pulled my funding–although Mr. Stine certainly wanted to sometimes. (I’ve also had lamb embryos shot into my fanny so I’d feel like the Virgin Mary. We deducted this as a medical expense. Lock me up.)
I mean, does anyone know how a girl feels when she crawls to the door of her room at the Ritz in Paris at the crack of dawn with no other mission than to take her copy of the International Herald Tribune back to bed to read Suzy Menkes’ fashion reviews and your eyes can barely focus anyway from– whatever –the night before, and there’s your name in the paper? That searing glow of scandal is no fun suntan.
To wit, from today’s Herald Tribune under the headline, “Nothing Like Naked Ferocity to Make Junk Sell,” I quote a writer named Denis Horgan. He writes, “Break a leg, but get down there before the philistines”–a frequent misspelling of moi nom –”try to clamp on the muzzle of suppression.” What does this mean? That amusing Mugler hat with veil and bit for the mouth I featured last spring was no muzzle of suppression. I bought it wholesale.
I’m not even close to finding Ms. Menkes’ page, and here’s another mention of my name in an article headlined “The Mayor Is an Astute Art Critic but a Misguided Censor.” The author is that man from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello, the one with the voice you hear on all those recorded tours of the exhibitions and, I think, he also does the voiceovers for the Volvo commercials on TV. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s Ronald Reagan. All these men eventually have the same careers. Anyway, Mr. de Montebello writes, “In the end, what remains terribly disturbing to me is that so many people, serious and sensitive individuals, are so cowed by the art establishment or so frightened at being labeled philistines”–again, misspelled–”that they dare not speak out and express their dislike for works they find either repulsive or unesthetic or both.”
What is this man talking about? Does no one understand how much I don’t buy? How much I refuse? That I express my dislike at every occasion and place from Zitomer’s to Saks? This whole Brooklyn thing, well, I’m beginning to worry that nobody but me thinks art is fashion. So this fellow who does voice-overs at some fancy museum also writes, “That is a crucial issue here, yet it seems to have been mostly drowned out by the clarion call for avant-garde art which cries out to be seen no matter what (translation: unexamined) and to be deemed (again, unexamined) a meaningful challenge to the turpitude of quotidian existence.” Do you know how stranger-in-a-strange-land a girl feels in bed at the Ritz Hotel at the crack of dawn having her name taken in vain in a newspaper story that includes sentences about “the turpitude of quotidian existence”? I mean, when I couldn’t get through to Liz Rohatyn at the American Embassy, I had the Ritz concierge call W.H. Smith Ltd., the English bookshop on Rue de Rivoli. Information, s’il vous plaît . Neither “turpitude” nor “quotidian” get a mention in my little English-French dictionary.
Meanwhile, found Ms. Menkes’ review. Suzy loved Michael Kors’ show for Celine. So did I. The mighty duffel bags, the beached denims, well, I mean, it was like a dose of liquid sunshine. Breakfast was served, dieter’s delight, warm water with lemon, and six croissants. Concierge called with definitions for “turpitude” and “quotidian.” Oh, really? I have one thing to say to that: Yohji Yamamoto. And that’s who I’ll wear when I go to Gayfryd and Saul Steinberg’s drinks party for the campaigning Mayor Giuliani on Park Avenue Nov. 1. I hope Mr. de Montebello is there, too. Because I’m going to march right up to the Mayor and give him a piece of myself, and by the time I’m done he’ll be like a whole new shoe, transformed from a heavy flat into a purring crocodile mule.
It takes a woman.
Wonder if I should add a “de” to my name to distinguish myself from the current Phyllis Stine confusion? Phyllis de Stine. Sounds … very L.V.M.H. vice presidential. No?
Everything is getting so existential in 1999. I feel like the great French writer Jean-Paul Satire. Wonder if the Mayor will pull city funding from the Met when he hears how elitist that Ingres show is? It is the other side of the coin of the Sensation controversy in Brooklyn, isn’t it? The Ingres show? Taxpayers’ dollars supporting a museum showing art about people (Ingres’ subjects) who never wanted you, meaning yours, to join their club? More tears have been spilt because of society people like Ingres’ than faith has been fiddled away under a frock with elephant dung.
7 P.M. Busy, busy. The new job? Editor at large for Luxurygiveme.com, an on-line shopping network. Fabulous! All I have to do is see some terrific item in a store, shoot it with my little digital camera and give it to the concierge to scan into the “system.” I feel so totally modern, I think I’ll start going to New York cocktail parties again, where everyone works for luxury on-line sites. For instance, today after the Chanel show, it was loaded with the news from the Paris collections–return to romance–I stopped at the good little shop Colette, where they were selling faux-mink Kleenex box covers. Faux-mink Kleenex box covers! Catch me, I’m plotzing! About $420. Made a picture and by the end of the day the whole of the free world could call Colette for it. I think.
We’ve certainly come a long way to get where we got to: the end of the 20th century. It was tough, and now everyone is going shopping. On line, or in stores. I’m certain it is an indicator of myriad values, but most importantly this booming, collective hoarding instinct–which I find dandy as candy and Yahoo is quickest, whee! –signals, in the very least, the end of minimalism, which, although I loved it at first, I came to loathe.
Someone like me never knew where to hang her Kelly bag.
Billy’s List: Quiz time!
1. Who or what is Mrs. Tependris?
a. A children’s book, written by Diane von Furstenberg, which Simon & Schuster will publish in May.
b. Enchanting character created by artist Konstantin Kakanias on view until Nov. 13 at the Postmasters Gallery, 459 West 19th Street.
c. Robin Williams’ film opening in December.
2. Oye is a new magazine. Who is the readership?
a. Hip Jewish baby boomers who want an alternative to Vanity Fair .
b. People who read shelter magazine Nest .
c. Upwardly mobile Latino men, ages 21 to 39.
3. Which architect did Michael Kors hire to design his new store at 974 Madison Avenue?
a. Peter Marino.
b. Dan Rowen.
c. Charles Gwathmey.
Answers: (1) b; (2) c; (3) b.