A StaXXX Session

George Cederquist, a senior at Yale, was sipping a beer in a booth at Yorkside Pizza, an establishment near the school’s New Haven campus. He looked mighty pleased with himself.

“We’ve taken metropolitan newspapers for the wildest ride,” he gloated. “What could be better than screwing around with the national media?”

Mr. Cederquist, an elfish red-headed theater-studies major, had come to the pizza parlor at this reporter’s request to discuss the activities of a campus group called Porn ‘N’ Chicken, which in recent weeks has attracted the rapt attention of The New York Times, Fox News, The New Haven Register and other media outlets for its plans to produce “the first Ivy League pornographic movie.”

The promised film, called The StaXXX , is named after “The Stacks,” the maze of tall bookshelves in Yale’s library where undergraduates sometimes go to fool around. The Times story, which ran on Jan. 26, described the Porn ‘N’ Chicken project as “an odd mixture of the salacious and the discreet.”

The sex lives of Ivy Leaguers are famously action-packed, of course, so it’s no wonder that Porn ‘N’ Chicken quickly became a media Halley’s. But does the movie actually exist? No one outside of Porn ‘N’ Chicken’s alleged membership contacted by The Observer claimed to have seen any actual footage of the film. The Porn ‘N’ Chicken movie itself may be a ruse, a device to prank reporters who should know better. Some on campus suspect that the project at least began as an elaborate practical joke.

There is speculation that the culprits are the Pundits, a semi-secret student society known for perpetrating pranks and throwing the occasional naked party. A Yale alumnus and former Pundit told The Observer via e-mail prior to the Times story on Jan. 26 that the forces behind the Porn ‘N’ Chicken movie are “in fact the Pundits.”

Mr. Cederquist said he had nothing to do with the film, though he had hosted a few Porn ‘N’ Chicken meetings. And he cautioned against taking the Pundits at their word. “It would be an expensive hoax,” said Mr. Cederquist.

Pressed further, however, Mr. Cederquist would not reveal too much else. He appeared happy to let the Porn ‘N’ Chicken film fall into the category of documented but not formally recognized phenomena like the National Security Agency, the Delta Force and the New Jersey Nets.

But he sure appeared to be getting off on all the attention.

“How lame is it that reporters come to my room and eat cold chicken?” Mr. Cederquist said. He smiled smugly and added: “The idea of these reporters looking through the phone book, sweating away, while I just go to class and have a good time ….”

–Tinker Spitz

The Tipping Point

It has been well chronicled that New York City’s finest department stores spend countless hours–and thousands of dollars–preparing elaborate window and interior displays to impress and lure shoppers. Less chronicled, however, are the frank and often earnest discussions that department-store personnel have about whether or not their mannequins should bear erect nipples.

Nipples are a surprisingly big deal. Since mannequins can cost up to $1,000 each, but clothing often varies by designer and season, the size, shape and direction of nipples can become a seriously deliberated corporate decision. “If we’re showing a Jil Sander suit, you can’t have two dots poking out,” said Linda Fargo, the vice president of visual presentation at Bergdorf Goodman. She explained further: “I don’t like how they break the line of the clothes.”

Mannequin breasts in general can vary greatly from store to store. The dummies at Banana Republic are nipple-free and near-hermaphroditic, while trendy discount retailers like Strawberry and Contempo Casuals tend to favor Amazonians with torpedo ta-tas. For the most part, however, retailers agree that today’s mannequins are bustier than their predecessors. Bergdorf gets its mannequins from a manufacturer called Adel Rootstein–a company known as the Rolls-Royce of dummies–where the current female mold, called Bubbles, is based on a “Britney Spears-Lolita-type girl,” said Adel Rootstein executive vice president Michael Steward.

Naturally, nipples can be a delicate issue, depending on the retailer. Ann Kong, a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said that when she worked at Henri Bendel in the 1970’s, she and other employees used to darken the mannequins’ nipples with lipstick. But when she went to work for Lord & Taylor, the attitude was different: “They were very, very down on nipples,” she said. Kenneth Cole recently added nipples to its mannequins, but Bergdorf Goodman, Ms. Fargo acknowledged, will occasionally file them down.

Other stores will do a little nipple surgery, if taste or fashion warrants. Barneys creative director (and Observer contributor) Simon Doonan said his store uses a variety of mannequins, and most are of the asexual, nipple-free sort. But when he needs to cover a nipple, “the easiest way to deal with it is with a cotton ball and a Band-Aid,” he said.

Customer reaction can be mixed. Mr. Doonan said that the Barneys stores in Dallas and Houston have received spates of letters from men “admonishing us for arousing them.” The chief complaint Mr. Doonan hears, however, is that the retailer’s mannequins are too skinny and promote anorexia. “I totally don’t understand [that], since most of the population is fat,” Mr. Doonan quipped. “I guess the mannequins aren’t doing a very good job.”

–Christina Valhouli

Groom Service

Over the past several weeks, Geraldine Fasolino, the director of housekeeping at the Hotel Pennsylvania on Seventh Avenue and 33rd Street, has been busy stockpiling extra sheets, bathroom towels and washcloths. She has strolled the hallways and paid particular attention to the hotel’s carpeting and potted plants.

Ms. Fasolino is preparing for the invasion. The Westminster Invasion.

For decades now, the Hotel Pennsylvania–the prewar relic immortalized by Glenn Miller’s “Pennsylvania 6-5000″–has been the hotel of choice for discriminating participants in the annual Westminster Kennel Club competition, which returns to Madison Square Garden on Monday, Feb. 12. This year, nearly every one of the hotel’s 1,705 rooms are set to be occupied by a champion dog–sometimes three to a room. “They take over the hotel,” Ms. Fasolino said.

That means it’s all paws on deck at the Pennsylvania, where longtime staffers feel as excited about Westminster Week as, well, Macy’s sales people feel about Christmas Eve, or the waiters at Asia de Cuba feel about the just-finished $20-a-plate Restaurant Week promotion. Ms. Fasolino drags some extra workers on board, but she admitted that some of her room attendants–scarred from previous bad experiences, or claiming allergies–voluntarily take time off to avoid canine week.

To understand what Westminster Week is like at the Hotel Pennsylvania, imagine the scene inside Tampa, Fla.’s Wyndam West Shore Hotel, the headquarters of the New York Giants fans, during football’s recent Super Bowl Week. Now replace all of those beer-bellied guys in Kerry Collins jerseys running through the hallways with pampered Lhasa apsos, Bedlington terriers, Old English sheepdogs and bichons frisés. (The dogs probably bark more; all told, however, it’s probably the same level of peeing in the elevators.)

Nevertheless, the vigilant Hotel Pennsylvania stations three staffers in the lobby at all times to be on the lookout for doggie accidents. Rooms are cleaned up to three times a day. “Most of the time, the owners are real good about cleaning up after them,” said Ms. Fasolino. When guest deposits are found, its usually in clandestine places–a back stairwell, an alcove, under a bed. “A week will have gone by and you’ll sort of smell something, and you’ll go down to this little alcove and you’re like, ‘ Damn! ‘” Ms. Fasolino said.

With so many dogs on the premises, a few eight-legged confrontations in the Hotel Pennsylvania lobby are inevitable. “Usually, the bigger dogs are more placid,” Ms. Fasolino said. “They’re like gentle giants, where the little ones are prima donnas … they’re like little divas.” But the fights are few and far between, she said.

All in all, Westminster weekend’s bark is worse than its bite, Ms. Fasolino said. Not surprisingly, it’s the bipeds who are the real hotel-housekeeper’s hassle. Said Ms. Fasolino: “It almost seems like the people who come here during the year are more destructive than the animals.”

–Leslie Robarge

A StaXXX Session