In the spring of 2001, Barneys, my employer, unveiled a small co-op boutique on Wooster Street. The budget for the opening party was limited. There was not the requisite cash to throw a celeb red-carpet bash. Look-alikes were the most obvious alternative.
In a cavalier moment I told the top brass at Barneys that I would find someone to impersonate Queen Elizabeth II to add sizzle to the ribbon cutting. Having been one myself, I rashly assumed that Queen look-alikes were a dime a dozen.
A call was placed to a look-alike agency. I requested a Liza, a Marilyn, a Michael Jackson and a QE2.
The agency called back to say that, though they had a queen, she had just undergone a medical procedure and was resting at her daughter’s apartment in Secaucus, N.J. I panicked and begged. She would not budge. No amount of cash would induce her to don her tiara. As a consolation prize the agency offered me something special: a Wolf Blitzer!
An Ab Fab-ian panic now filled the Barneys PR office. The die was cast. A press release had already gone out indicating the arrival of her majesty. We simply had to find a Queen.
Word somehow leaked out about my look-alike career, and before you could say “butt pads,” a professional stylist, hairdresser, and makeup artist arrived chez moi and I was being corseted and painted like a circus grotesque.
It felt good to be, as it were, back in the saddle, especially as I did not have to do all the painstaking prep myself.
After three hours I was looking pretty damn regal. I took stock in the mirror and surveyed my middle-aged visage. Her Majesty and I had been through a lot together.
After a light snack—no Tex-Mex—I mentally prepar
ed myself to leave my apartment en femme. This was the first time I had “done” the Queen in broad daylight. I was used to what we look-alikes call “cover of darkness.”
Ping. The elevator doors opened. I began to traverse the carpeted lobby of my apartment building deploying the measured, flat-footed gait of her majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which is very easy to imitate but nonetheless won Helen Mirren an Oscar, and might have done the same for me had I been given a crack at the role.
My doorman approached. I dropped my front door key into my white purse, clicked it shut and tried to look regal. I waved. He did not wave back.
He came out from behind his little desk and blocked my path.
I looked at him. He looked at my tits. I looked at his eyes looking at my tits. My tiara flashed in the afternoon sunlight, causing him to wince.
I stood my ground and returned his stare.
It was hard to get a read on his expression. Was he about to call the co-op board? Had he already pressed a concealed button summoning men in white coats from Bellevue?
Finally he spoke. “Do you want your mail now,” he asked, “or when you come back?”
(Abrupt cessation of crickets.)
I was too stunned to respond.
I was completely overcome by the profound global, philosophical, and far-reaching significance of this surreal little moment and the thunderbolt of immediate but deep understanding it had afforded.
In an instant, I understood the utter pointlessness of ever being self-conscious, the utter pointlessness of restraint or “good taste,” the utter pointlessness of not having fun with one’s personal style. I had left my apartment dressed as the reigning monarch of my birthplace, and my doorman seemed not even to have noticed.
You can worry obsessively about what people think of you and your appearance. You fret. You feel like you are being horribly judged 24 hours a day. You gnash your teeth. You try to second-guess the world. You imagine all sorts of awful commentary about your ratty hair or your tragic outfits as soon as your back is turned.
But all these concerns are a total waste of time, because nobody cares!
You can leave your apartment with a peacock feather sticking out of your bottom and your doorman’s only comment will be “There’s a package here for you. Do you want it now or later?” By giving way to feelings of self-consciousness you are merely indulging yourself. Nobody is judging you. You are free to express yourself! You can set fire to yourself in front of Macy’s and nobody will bat an eye. People are much too busy worrying about their own lives to ask why you are dressed up as Wolf Blitzer.
Excerpted from ECCENTRIC GLAMOUR: Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You
Simon & Schuster, $24