Who Invented the Big Swarovski? Bikini Wax and Crystals for $105

A few years after the Brazilian bikini wax tore through the city, New York women were ripe for a new

A few years after the Brazilian bikini wax tore through the city, New York women were ripe for a new gimmick–something extreme to justify the pain and indignity of that half-hour, totally denuding procedure. So some genius came up with the idea of arranging tiny, self-adhesive Swarovski crystals on the newly revealed expanse and charging $65 to $105 for the ordeal. And now that small hordes of would-be Carrie Bradshaws are lining up for the torturous treatment, two Manhattan salons are each claiming credit for this new frontier in masochism.

Donna Turro, 34, the director of Soho Sanctuary on Mercer Street, said she hatched the idea in November. “We were just sitting around brainstorming one day about, you know, what was something new and fun that we could do,” she said. “I’d seen the Swarovski crystals when I was shopping, and I just started experimenting with them. I said, ‘Hey, this is something fun, this is something unusual–nobody else is doing this right now.’ We put out a press release with my P.R. firm, and no one had heard of it before.”

But Cindy Barshop, the owner of Completely Bare on Madison Avenue, made a similar claim: ” We pretty much started the whole thing.” She said that a “rock ‘n’ roll star” suggested it to her when she was getting prepped for her wedding last September, and that rock stars–she wouldn’t say which ones–come in a lot for her crystal tattoos, called Completely Bare with Flair (the Completely Bare bikini wax being self-explanatory). “In all honesty, if [Soho Sanctuary] wants to claim it, that’s fine,” Ms. Barshop said. “They came up afterwards with a follow-up on it. I didn’t do a press release.”

Actually, fashion-magazine sources told The Transom that Completely Bare not only did a press release but mailed it, with sample crystals, to a number of beauty editors.

The resulting press helped the crystal-tattoo wax become quite popular. You now have to wait about a week to get one in Manhattan. (Those willing to travel to Completely Bare’s Scarsdale location face only a three-day waiting list.)

Ellen Taracido, a 34-year-old who works “in sales,” said her recent Completely Bare butterfly crystal tattoo was worth the wait. (Waxees can choose from butterflies, starbursts, flowers, hearts, lips or a custom design in clear or colored crystals.)

“It’s, you know, not exactly pain-free,” Ms. Taracido said. “Anyone who’s had any waxing done, it feels the same. It’s like Ow! and then it’s gone.” Like ripping off a Band-Aid? “Well, maybe like a really big Band-Aid … with hair underneath,” Ms. Taracido said.

The main thing for Ms. Taracido is sharing her butterfly with that special someone–in this case, her 34-year-old boyfriend Tom. “It’s great when you’re in a relationship,” she said. She thought for a second. “I guess maybe if I was a slut, it would be fine, too. It’s such a fun, sexy thing to do.”

Tom concurred. “Every guy should have his girl get one,” he said, while Ms. Taracido tittered in the background. “I love it!” The crystals, he said, are relatively flat and don’t cause chafing.

“It’s a novelty thing–a cute idea if you have a special night,” said Vanessa Penna, 28, senior beauty and fitness editor at Elle , who had little orange stars affixed to her not-Completely-Bare bikini line at Ms. Barshop’s suggestion. “In a way, it’s like wearing nice underwear for your boyfriend–to surprise him, make him interested in, like, that area.” While her boyfriend was indeed surprised, Ms. Penna said that, after two weeks, “he was like, ‘Could you take it off?'”

“When it comes to the random crystals at issue, Ms. Turro and Ms. Barshop should be focusing their energy on devising the next “fun” wax, since the crystal tattoo is clearly a trend–and a niche one, at that. For evidence, they have to look no further than the J. Sisters Salon on West 57th Street, the Brazilian-bikini-wax factory that has had a two-to-four-week waiting list since it started the Brazilian seven years ago. “We’ve had the crystals here for a couple of months, but no one is interested!” co-owner Jonice Padilha said. “Most of our clients are high executives–they don’t want that.”

Tarrying with Gehry

On June 2, the lines to get into the Guggenheim Museum’s Frank Gehry retrospective wound around the corner of Fifth Avenue and 89th Street. Yet those who endured the long wait to get inside the museum were greeted by a baffling sign at the ticket desk: “Due to the continued installation for Frank Gehry, Architect, the rotunda and certain ramps are closed. We apologize for the noise and any inconvenience.”

Continued installation? The Gehry exhibit had officially opened two weeks earlier, on May 18–and yet, on June 2, Guggenheim-goers found dirty white sheets masking portions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s internationally famous rotunda.

You would think that an exhibit glorifying the works of one of the Guggenheim Museum’s favorite sons would be a well-oiled affair. But according to spokespeople for both the museum and Mr. Gehry, the manufacturer of an integral part of the exhibition’s design–long sheets of wire mesh meant to hang from the museum’s ceiling to the ground floor–missed its deadline. So, as a red crane merrily peep-peeped and workmen struggled behind the makeshift curtain to install the mesh, museum-goers discovered that they weren’t going to get the full Gehry. At the very top of the rotunda, the section devoted to Bilbao, Seattle and Los Angeles was shut off. “We’ve seen M.I.T.,” one woman said to the cross-armed security guard blocking her progress. “Now how do we get up there?”

The guard explained that no one would be going up there because, in order to install the mesh, more havoc was being wreaked at the top of the rotunda.

“So we’ll have to come back?” the woman asked huffily. “I’m asking for a raincheck!”

“According to the guard, visitors had been complaining all morning about the off-limits sections of the exhibit. But no one at the ticket desk seemed to be offering rainchecks.

Publicly, at least, Mr. Gehry seems to be taking the snafu in stride. “These things happen in life,” a spokesman for the architect told The Transom. “We’re looking forward to the finished project.” Those who decided to return when the full exhibit is open should wait a while. The Guggenheim spokeswoman said that, though there was no set date for the completion of the project, work will probably continue for another seven to 10 days.

–Elisabeth Franck

Bush Patrol

Geordie Greig, the spry, Gucci-loafer-wearing Tatler magazine editor, was looking particularly chipper as he surveyed the crowd inside the Globe restaurant on June 4. “It was a conscious strategy to make a statement,” he said of his decision to put the aspiring model and Presidential niece, Lauren Bush, on the cover of a special U.S. edition of the Condé Nast glossy. “We deliberately went after this 16-year-old sweetheart who is part of the most controversial, talked-about political dynasty of the 20th-slash-21st century.”

Just as deliberately, Mr. Greig & Co. had thrown this party at the Park Avenue South restaurant, where Ms. Bush could mingle with a New York crowd and generate some copy for Tatler. “With a certain amount of pride and a certain amount of mischief, we call Lauren Bush a great American icon,” Mr. Greig said with a grin. “And that’s the reason 400 people are here tonight.”

Despite Mr. Greig’s attempts at mischief-making, however, the Globe crowd–which included Brooke de Ocampo, Chris Blackwell, Hamish Bowles, Tom Wolfe and Stephen Sprouse–was not inclined to regard Ms. Bush much differently than any other teenager who uses her family connections to launch a career.

Among those who attended, there was speculation–unavoidable in the wake of her twin cousins’ headline-making escapades–as to whether the glass Ms. Bush was clutching contained anything with a kick. The ever-enterprising Page Six editor Richard Johnson even offered to get Ms. Bush a drink. (According to sources familiar with the situation, she alternated between flat water and Sprite.)

But beyond that, no one made any great effort to fraternize with the Texas contingent, which included Ms. Bush’s sister Ashley, their parents. Lauren’s father, Neil Bush, was heard introducing himself to strangers as “the father of Lauren, who is George Bush’s niece.” This prompted an aside from Ann Dexter Jones, the madcap matriarch of Manhattan’s own Ronson dynasty, to say: “That’s like saying I knew the man who knew the man who danced with the Prince of Wales,”

The impression that tonight was simply business as usual on the cocktail circuit had been reinforced earlier by the arrival of Gotham’s equivalent of the Bush twins, the ubiquitous Hilton sisters. The Hiltons gladly vamped for the requisite photo op with the guest of honor. Lauren Bush herself looked less like an icon than a pretty Texas high-school student, albeit one with the figure to carry off a body-hugging, beaded gold Celine by Michael Kors dress. She showed poise far beyond her 16 years as she gracefully evaded The Transom’s attempts to elicit a sound bite. Did she share her uncle’s and her grandfather’s antipathy toward the Big Apple? “No, I love New York,” she said, though she conceded that “I don’t know if I could ever live here, but I love coming to visit.”

In a final attempt to discover the deeper meaning of the night’s events, The Transom approached Tom Wolfe, who was attending in his capacity as Tatler ‘s star contributing editor. Had New York’s media elite shown up tonight in a veiled attempt to gain some access, however marginal, to the Bush White House? The great social commentator answered quietly but emphatically: “They came because it was a party.”

–Dirk Standen

Musto Gusto

Don’t mess with Michael Musto’s image! One of The Transom’s trusty scouts was jewelry-shopping on Fifth Avenue on June 3 when he spotted a sight more interesting than anything in Bulgari’s display cases. The Verizon phone kiosk on the Southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and 57th Street currently features one of those priceless Fortunoff posters that depict the Village Voice columnist, moon-eyed in a tiara and bridal veil, above the tagline “Suddenly, everybody wants to be a bride.” And the Sunday shopper noticed that astraddle a bicycle in front of the poster was– Michael Musto! –more conventionally attired in a black blazer and gray slacks. Mr. Musto was not admiring his image, at least not in an obvious fashion. Rather, he was furiously trying to scrape off a sticker that someone had applied over his mouth–the one on the poster.

“I’ve formed my own decency panel,” Mr. Musto said when The Transom contacted him the following day about his clean-up efforts. He then assured us that he was not patrolling the city in an effort to keep the Fortunoff posters graffiti- and handbill-free. Mr. Musto said that the sticker he had removed advertised a group called the “Society Against Breastfeeding,” which, he said, “doubly offended me because I’m a big supporter of breast-feeding.” The columnist was also annoyed because, he said, “they really glued that motherfucker on.” As a result, although the sticker is gone, the poster of Mr. Musto now has a rectangular adhesive mustache that might cause some people to confuse the columnist with Today show movie reviewer Gene Shalit. Now that’s offensive.

–Frank DiGiacomo

Liev & Let Die

Actor Liev Schreiber left an indelible impression on the film crew that worked his latest picture, Kate & Leopold –just not a good one. According to a source on the set of the recently wrapped romantic comedy, the 33-year-old thespian was nicknamed “Marlon Brando” by the teamsters for his “brooding and serious actorly poses.”

But Mr. Schrieber’s most memorable performance may have come on May 25, the final day of the 13-week shoot. The film’s stars, Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman, had already departed, and Mr. Schreiber was cooling his heels by the Hudson River on the Yonkers set when a passing speedboat pulled up. The craft’s driver asked the milling crew whether there were any famous people around. According to the source, “a 19-year-old kid from the electric truck” standing yards from Mr. Schreiber yelled back, “Nope. Everyone who’s famous has already left.” As the boat sped off, the source said that an awkward silence ensued as other members of the crew awaited Mr. Schreiber’s reaction. According to the witness, the actor did not disappoint. “He stood up and was really pissed and yelled at the kid: ‘I’m not famous? What, you’ve never seen Scream 2 ? You’ve never seen Sphere ? You’ve never seen The Hurricane ? I’m not famous?'”

Reached by The Transom, Mr. Schrieber corroborated the story, but insisted that his response was in jest. “I teased him! I said ‘What do you mean, there’s nobody famous? What am I, chopped liver?'” he said.

The actor also said that he ticked off his credits only because the electrician had said, “I don’t know who you are.”

“So I told him what I’d been in…. It happens all the time,” Mr. Schreiber added cheerfully. “I wasn’t angry that he didn’t know who I was. That would have been so silly!”

–Rebecca Traister

Can You Spare A Joke?

The Toyota Comedy Festival arrived in New York on June 1, and if the punch lines offered at Joe’s Pub signaled any trend, it’s that political correctness is passé. The group of comics, who were assembled by Friars-roast regular Jeffrey Ross, took shots at a host of liberal causes, including the homeless and battered women. Nick DiPaolo, a writer for The Chris Rock Show , tackled both subjects. “[The homeless] have those signs, ‘Will work for food.’ Yeah, that’s what I do, give it a shot,” Mr. Di Paolo said.

Later in his act, Mr. DiPaolo talked about a recent train ride: “I got on the subway yesterday, and I got on the domestic-violence car …. You see that picture of 50 women with black eyes crying that says, ‘Every 12 seconds a woman is beaten by her boyfriend,'” he said. “They don’t say that every six seconds a woman takes a guy for half what he’s worth. There should be a picture of 50 guys up there, crying with their checkbooks open.”

Comic Sarah Silverman said: “I don’t want people to label me as straight, you know, or label me as gay. I just want people to look at me and see me, you know, as white.”

–Alexandra Wolfe

The Transom Also Hears

… Lespinasse is not closing. Ever since the St. Regis hotel’s four-star restaurant stopped serving lunch and breakfast near the beginning of the year, the foodie world has been abuzz with rumors that the eatery was not long for this world. But the hotel’s general manager, Herbert Pliessnig, assured The Transom that that is not the case.

Mr. Pliessnig said that, as it does every year, Lespinasse will close for approximately four weeks in July or August so that its kitchen and dining room can be “overhauled.” Then, he said, “come September, we go full-steam ahead.” That means, he added, that Lespinasse will resume serving lunch “and breakfast, too.” Of Lespinasse’s respected chef, Christian Delouvrier, Mr. Pliessnig said, “He’s one of the best.” But a number of New York restaurant-industry sources are of the opinion that the St. Regis, which is owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., could do a better job of spreading that word .


Who Invented the Big Swarovski? Bikini Wax and Crystals for $105