CHAPTER ONE (cont.) - SHOOTING RACHEL (For the previous portion of this chapter, please read here.)
London was as handsome as usual. Despite how girly the men can be, the city itself is pleasingly masculine, feels as safe as a bank vault. Paris is very femme fatale, a husky voiced former kept woman who now takes in strays and orphans like Brigitte Bardot. New York is all guy, of course, all butch wise-guy swagger, Ayn Rand dressed as a concrete-and-glass leather daddy. But New York is also the apotheosis of that American performance of masculinity: booming aggressiveness that is intimidating if you take it seriously, cartoonish if you don’t.
My hotel room in Mayfair wasn’t at all handsome, despite the façade of the building having given me tremendous hope when the cab pulled up to it. The magazine had already paid for all five nights via money transfer, which took considerable badgering of Annette in accounts to arrange. She seemed to delight in leaving everything until the last minute and inducing a panic attack in me. Like when she didn’t pay a studio where I needed to shoot ninety days past the due date of their last bill, which meant they wouldn’t honor my booking, but I’d already informed everyone where we were shooting. I had to sit there in her little cubbyhole papered with bills and invoices and pretend to be interested in her personal life until I’d wrangled an agreement that she would go and get the fucking invoice signed by Attilo, the magazine’s so-called editor-in-chief.
I could never understand how the editor-in-chief of an ostensibly American magazine, which had already far outstripped its European parent in terms of circulation in its first six months of publication, could barely speak a lick of English. Our editorial meetings weren’t so much meetings as they were impassioned, screaming pleas for justice before the capricious, chain-smoking magistrate of an imperial colony, who needed a translator to speak to the locals. It was like working for a miserly sweatshop owner. Annette, the keeper of the privy purse as well as this Grand Pooh-Bah’s translator, spoke Italian with a heavy southern accent that was soothing compared to Attilio’s sing-song, Germanic-sounding Milanese dialect. My saccharine nemesis, Paula the copy editor, spoke a rigidly fluent version she’d perfected while studying for two years in Perugia, which made me grit my teeth listening to its utter lack of idiomatic inflection. Paula’s Italian reminded me of that computer reading software, which pronounces every little syllable, rolls every R, and tries to fake breaths and vocal cadence. But it’s still the voice of a soulless robot.
Bitch Paula was after my job, too, which made my tolerance of her Italian in these meetings even weaker. And I was sure she was banging Attilio, even though he was supposed to be engaged to that ‘former’ hooker, Gisela Ansberger, whom Natascha was forced to use in a fashion spread once. I had no proof that Attilio was screwing Paula other than my paranoia, but that was enough, and I made sure the whole office thought it was a fact.
So there I was in that dank London hotel room, which reminded me of a chintzy dollhouse that had been left molding for decades in the back of a leaking garage. The corners of the mattress dipped upwards when you sat on it; I was sure to have a backache when I woke up in the morning. The wallpaper had to have been the choice of a manic-depressive contract decorator, who was asked to come up with “subtle luxury” at three dollars a yard, and that triggered prolonged down cycle, which hopefully led to a change in career. There was a damp spot the shape of Poland a foot in diameter near the electric teakettle, which made me feel nauseous, as if I my whole life was boxed into a central European totalitarian state ruled by a mad Milanese, and that led me to snort the last of the smack tucked away in my Filofax.
Feeling like I should at least pretend to be a professional creative, I switched on the news and unzipped the dresses for the next day’s shoot from the canvas garment bags. Laying them out on the bed, I tried to imitate Natascha when she was styling. I put a pair of shoes under the hem of the De La Renta lace gown, a paste diamante necklace around where a neck might be if Rachel Haymaker were lying comatose on the flopsy British bed. Then I stood back, put one hand palm-down on my hip like Natascha did, cocked my head to the side and went, Hmmmm. The ornate necklace and the lace dress were too much together. I felt like I was looking at a black version of one of those doily, overly decorated wedding cakes in Chinatown. This was not what became a legend most.
Natascha would make up a story to go with a look, which would then become the fashion story itself. How did I envision Rachel Haymaker wearing this confection? What was the tale that surrounded her on this occasion? I got a flash in my mind of a New York society matron beaming for the cameras as she ascended the steps of the Met on her way to an opening. The necklace covered her wrinkled neck, her smile pulled back the sagging flesh on her face and made her ten years younger: sixty-five. Diamonds distract from wrinkles. But I didn’t want Rachel Haymaker to be a tottering dowager in lace. I wanted her to be sleek and cool and lashing executive, like she had been in Plexus fifteen years earlier.
If this were a model or a younger actress, I would have ditched the necklace, but Rachel was forty-seven. What sort of a neck did a forty-seven-year-old two-time Oscar-winner have? I suddenly wished we had a proper budget like Condé Nast and we could just pay some wonk to retouch the picture just in case her neck was a disaster. Now I really hated the necklace, and Natascha hadn’t given me any backups. Or I’d been so sure this would work that I hadn’t asked for any backups. You know you’ve got a styling disaster on your hands when even heroin doesn’t make it look feasible.
I gave up and called my friend — okay, good acquaintance — Kiki Blake and whined and hinted and whined some more until she invited me to come stay with her. But by then it was too late, and I was too stoned to pack everything up and move, so I kicked the De La Renta off the bed and passed out. I dreamed that Jodie Foster was chasing me through the streets of Paris demanding in flawless French invective that I retract photos I’d published of her kissing a woman.
I slept badly, of course, and slept in because of the dope and the time difference, so I catapulted out of bed propelled by panic adrenaline, and staggered around wondering where I was and what that scratchy stuff was wrapped around my feet, which turned out to be the De La Renta dress. I extricated myself and stuffed it back in the garment bag, like I was trying to hide the corpse of a debutante who had ODed. At least I hadn’t thrown up on it.
They’d started hair and makeup by the time I got to Hemdale Studios. I entered blaring excuses about how hard it was to get a cab in Mayfair, and despairing over the traffic; there’s nothing the English love more than a good complaint about their country, so I was off the hook instantly. Lord Hemdale was nice enough, way hot for his age, with a gruff voice from too much smoking, one of those upper class Brits who affects sounding mildly cockney. It worked for Hemdale. He also had this perpetually puzzled look on his face that made you think you were his only concern in the world, and that was instantly seductive.
You could tell from the first handshake what had propelled his career to where it was; his pictures weren’t that great. He stuck out his hand to shake mine, and my gaze dropped from the rugged smile down to the bulge in the crotch of his jeans. It was impossible not to. That would be like trying not to look at the tits of some really stacked chick wearing a Hooters t-shirt when that’s exactly what she wants you to look at. All of those lusty art directors and dowdy fashion editors and Oscar-winning legends must have been drawn like mice to Brie over that package; ergo Hemdale’s unwarranted, sensational career.
It’s not hard to take a good photograph once you’ve got the lighting down and have developed your ‘own style,’ which should be somewhat distinctive but so distinctive that the art director has to justify you to an editor-in-chief who is hovering over the light box with her face scrunched up like she’s not sure if she’s smelling a powerful new cologne or a run-over skunk. Aside from being pleasantly competent and “a joy to work with,” the rest is convincing the decision-makers that you’re the dog’s bollocks, as the Brits say. Being well endowed and having a face like Hemdale’s, plus his title, goes a long way to making you a superstar celebrity photographer and husband.
Me, I’m not into big dicks. Don’t know what to do with them. I didn’t like sex that much, anyway, back in ‘95. I’ve certainly made up for it since, but when I was twenty-three it made me queasy. It was all in my mind and I hated myself for it being all in my mind, for not being more relaxed. I was angry at being a pseudo-bisexual heading in slow motion towards full gayhood. My disgust for the culture was becoming exponentially more pronounced as the loudness of the culture itself increased. The annual Wigstock festival seemed to be the ground zero from which the unrelenting shrillness of the New Gay was emanating. Being homosexual was no longer furtive encounters in the dark of park bushes, a ‘vice’ to be hushed away during the day. Now it was loud and ‘proud,’ big and frosty, but worst of all —shamefully, libido-shrinkingly — it kept reminding me of AIDS, and there was nothing I could do to stop my mind from being pickled with fear and disgust.
Natascha’s husband, Pascal, had a big dick, too. Natascha delighted in making lascivious jokes about it, which she punctuated with a naughty giggle and a lusty bite of her lower lip like Bizet’s Carmen. I imagine that the slight twitch of a grimace on my face when she made those comments must have amused her and egged her on. We were closer to each other than we were to our respective siblings; we’d known each other for well over half of our lives — our parents had been friends — so we delighted in causing each other discomfort more often than not. Natascha was convinced my occasional dalliances with men were “just a passing phase,” which contributed to my own hopes and beliefs she was right; her opinions all too often informed mine. However, all that happened is the force of my will, bolstered by my best friend’s opinion, collided with my true nature with such force that it caused me to be celibate.
Hemdale wanted me to call him George, but he just wasn’t a George. He was very much Hemdale. Upper class English girls always seemed to have somewhat interesting names, like Camilla and Olympia, but the men were generally stuck with dull saints’ names, never with diminutives.
“Madame’s upstairs,” Hemdale said, indicating the way to the make-up room with his eyes.
Madame? Uh oh. There is no such thing as a completely amicable divorce, and from what I’d gathered from Rachel’s publicist, she and Hemdale were still waiting for the final decree. And from what I now gathered from Hemdale’s dismissive eyelift and low growl, this was going to be one of the longest days of my life.
I felt oddly calm walking up those stairs to the pokey make-up room. The only reason I’d chosen to do this shoot over one with Cher is because I was a huge fan of Rachel’s, although not necessarily of this “comeback” film she was doing this interview in the magazine to promote. I had already seen an early version of it, and we were going to give it a lukewarm, if not indifferent review, which I’d already commissioned from a freelancer, having heavily suggested to him what to think. The reason I didn’t scribble movie reviews myself is couldn’t tell which I hated more, Hollywood blockbusters or morose film festival dreck like this latest Rachel Haymaker comeback vehicle; at least Hollywood crap was honest and you got value for your buck in terms of production.
There she was in that wee room at the top of the stairs: Rachel Haymaker, legend, two-time Oscar-winner, perched before the vanity mirror with a terrified make-up gal behind her, her face plastered a dull uniform beige with foundation, wearing a scowl like Miss Haversham getting ready to sit at her rotting wedding banquet. My own inner Hollywood switched on as I bounded into the room like this was the one of the more exciting moments of my life, which it was.
“Wow!” I said after I introduced myself, admiring Rachel in the mirror.
“What?” she asked.
“You are so much more stunning in real life than I imagined,” the sincerity of which melted Rachel enough to allow me to guide the trembling make-up troll with my impressionistic garble about how I saw her look for the first set-up in the De La Renta dead debutante lace gown.
Two hours later, after a mild tussle over the hair — I had wanted it up, but Rachel knew her neck wouldn’t stand the glare and correctly wanted it down — we were ready to try on the dress. Rachel came out of the dressing room wearing that Miss Haversham frown I had worked so hard to dispel.
“I’m not sure…” she muttered, clutching the front of the dress to hold it up.
“Let me help you,” I said, and slipped behind her to zip it up.
Oh, boy. It looked bad back there. As usual with all female film stars we photographed for the magazine, Rachel was not the dress size her publicist had assured us she was. Folds of middle-aged back fat were sneering at me: “No fucking way!”
“Deep breath!” I ordered cheerfully, and tried to zip her up. The zipper held for three seconds while Rachel gasped like a hefty Jane Austen character being strapped into a corset. Then the whole back of the dress split open along the sides of the zipper, shredding the poor, much-abused lace all the way down to the base of the bodice around the side to the front, a couture dress-quake.
In that moment, I saw Oscar De La Renta smacking his bald pate and yelling at me: “¡Por dios! Thirteen thousand dollars! Ruined!” But it was far worse than just a single destroyed couture gown I had disliked from the start. If Rachel didn’t fit into this even with safety pins and duct tape, she wouldn’t fit into anything I’d schlepped from New York, which meant I was stuck in London not knowing anyone in the styling or magazine racket. Natascha was an ocean away.
I had no shoot.
CHAPTER ONE - SHOOTING RACHEL
I was standing in the Closet and my head was a blur because even though I was pretending I knew what I was looking at and that I could imagine it on Rachel Haymaker, I really couldn’t. My idea of styling, when I did it once a month, was to just wing it after I got to the shoot and started chatting up the celeb. I didn't style so much as I played Let's Pretend and Let's Dress-up with actors who were household names. I never did fashion shoots, only celebrities who appeared in the features section of the magazine, and I had to do it myself because the fashion department was always too busy trying to get their own stories in on time to be on the set with me; I was lucky if I could convince one of them to go out shopping for my shoots, forget about actually being there to dress the stars.
My trick was, while making the celeb my best friend for the duration of the shoot and subsequent interview, I would ask her to look at the clothes and ask what she felt like wearing and work it from there. I was better at outfitting them with props and coming up with ingenious backgrounds than I was with actually getting them dressed. If the celeb was heading in the wrong direction, I would pull out the dress she needed to be in and say, “Our fashion editor Natascha picked this out especially for you and made me promise I would get you would wear it.” Which was a lie. Like Natascha gave two shits. Actresses were just too much of a pain in the ass for her to make look good. She liked the sameness of models, their predictability. Actresses were never the size their publicists swore they were, and that made them all “tomatoes,” as far as Natascha was concerned. It wasn’t good to be a tomato in Natascha-land. Worse than a tomato was a Hoboken Heifer, which was usually a model who had gone from a size zero to size two.
Luckily, Natascha was a huge fan of Rachel Haymaker’s —who wasn’t? bitch was a legend, two Oscars under her belt, used to be a model — so I managed to get her attention for this shoot rather than be fobbed off to an underling of hers. Which is why I was in the Closet with her trying to focus on what I was taking to London with me for the shoot. And my head was swimming, and then it was thumping amidst all of the racks of clothes and stacks of accessories and cubby holes of shoes, and I was just way to big and tall and non-female to feel anything less than the walls caving in on me.
“I think she’ll look fabulous in this de la Renta, don’t you?” Natascha said, holding a ball gown in front of her and fanning it out.
“Yeah, but it’s all lace. Everywhere. Looks really delicate to travel with.”
“Then be careful with it. It’s a $13,000 gown.” If you don’t think that’s much, remember this was 1995. That was a lot for a frock by an American designer.
“How many set-ups do you have?” she asked, picking at the lace.
“Double-page spread to open, then two more full-pages.”
“Are you making me count for you?”
“That’s three pictures, but please give me lots of back-up. I’m not like you. I can’t get it right just with exactly what I need. Because I don't know what I need."
“You can’t take so much couture with you to London for a week. We’re not the only magazine in town.”
“Did you tell them it’s for Rachel?”
“And everyone’s really impressed. But it’s still too long for the dresses to be out.”
After we’d settled on six outfits, two by friends of ours downtown, she hit me with the terrible, crippling, head-thumping details: “You’ll need to fill out a carnet.”
“You’re travelling internationally with, like, fifty thousand in dresses and accessories. You need a carnet for customs.” It was already night. I was leaving the next day. I hadn’t finished my article about Napa. I hadn’t even started my article about Napa, in fact. Now I had to type up a laundry list of haute couture gowns and every trinket and shoe I was taking with me. I had planned just to sail through customs at Heathrow like I usually did. Just push trolley, walk, ignore the civil servants in uniforms and they’ll ignore the drugs on me.
“Can Patty do it for me?” I pleaded.
“No, Sass! She has way too much work to do. Don’t you dare.”
“S’il te plait, Saucie.” Whenever either of us started with the French or Italian, it was either to have others not understand us, or to get something from each other that was not easily forthcoming. Natascha and I had grown up together in Europe, and now we’d been hired by the same magazine, not just because we were young and talented and cheap, but because the owners couldn’t speak English, and they needed to scream at us and abuse us in their native Eurospeak. To top it off, Natascha and I were living together as well, sleeping in the same bed; her husband was off in Los Angeles trying to get his film career together. Or off in Paris trying to get his film career together because he was French, and members of his family were film producers with very important projects about to go into production all the time, but somehow never with him. I knew Pascal was screwing everything that wasn’t nailed down because he was French, and pouty-mouthed and had a legendary eleven-inch dick. But I never said anything to her; breaking her heart would be like breaking my own. I hated standing in the urinal next to Pascal; my self-esteem just withered, and I was a bitter enough young closet case as it was.
When you looked at Pascal he looked back at you with sex. He flew planes, rode motorcycles, wore well-tooled leather and Yohji and Gaultier — all owned by him, none borrowed from the Closet, like mine; he was married to Natascha, the only fashion editor in New York who just needed one name, and therefore he had limitless access to the world’s most beautiful women; when he wasn’t planning to make films, he took nude art photographs, in a style that was sort of a cross between Sarah Moon and Jean Loup Sieff, but make any reference like that to him and you were in for a fight all night.
I doubt Pascal was as serious about his own work as Natascha was about it. He just used it as foreplay to bang the girls, and as a way to present himself in public, to give himself a raison d’être beyond being simply rich, pouty-lipped and horse hung. Natascha was convinced Pascal was faithful, and that he was pretty much up there with Avedon in terms of talent, an opinion I backed her up on dutifully because we’d known each other since childhood, and she was my whole world: my social life; the mirror in which I reflected my poor self-image and tried to make it better because she was so cool and my best friend; the person who copped smack for us. I didn’t want to know how to cop smack in New York; my excuse was that if I got used to it, I’d become a full-fledged junkie, not just a weekend one. In reality, Avenue A and environs, into which Natascha fearlessly stomped like it was nothing more than a tedious, routine department store sale, scared the fuck out of me. It reminded me of deliberately walking into a nightmare. Heroin was the one thing you couldn’t get delivered by posh dealers like Fat Maggie. Smack was wack, as Keith Haring reminded us from a mural in Harlem, a mural which always made me snigger in defiance.
“T’as pas une petite ligne?” I asked her. Don’t you have a little line? Natasha huffed and zipped the shoes in the carry bag.
“I thought you had two packets.”
“That was three days ago. I know you went downtown again. Don’t lie.”
“I was saving it for when Pascal gets back this weekend.”
“S’il te plait?” I whined. There was no use resisting me. She handed me a little wax paper packet with a red devil stamped on it and I helped myself to a petit bump.
It took me another half hour to convince Natascha’s assistant Patty to type up my carnet the way it should be done in case I got stuck in customs on some technicality with fifty grand worth of couture gowns like some klepto drag queen. I was just barely smart enough to know that customs was not the place to be cavalier and practice one of my favorite lines: “Which part of ‘civil servant’ don’t you understand? The civil, or the servant?”
I had no assistant because I was the features editor of a woman’s fashion magazine, which I kept pointing out to people was actually the lifestyle part of a woman’s fashion and lifestyle magazine, as it said on the cover, except let’s face it, nobody read the lifestyle part, no matter how grand I tried to make it seem, no matter how many celebrity tomatoes I strapped into gowns every month and had snapped by the edgiest photographers. It was all about Natascha and her brilliant groundbreaking fashion spreads. She made us the hippest kids on the block. I just swam in her wake, warmed her bed, sat with her at dinner, did drugs with her, told her stories and made her laugh so hard she once peed herself between cars in the Marais. Natascha insisted I share an office with her, too. Thankfully, I travelled two weeks of the month on assignment, or we would have become physically entwined like two vine plants climbing the same brick wall. Natascha hated being alone. I had to coordinate my trips with Pascal's so that her bed was never empty.
As features editor, I maintained a stable of over twenty freelancers, but I had no assistant, just an artless copy editor who delighted in just slapping my articles up there without making many adjustments, only to humiliate me. I was so flat-out, balls-to-the-wall busy all the time, so behind on work, sliding in at the last minute with everything, that I could barely read my copy over twice before submitting it. I couldn’t share Patty as an assistant because she was also overworked. But this time she helped me out after I had a meltdown in the editorial office. Crying is really easy when you’re cranky on a combination of no sleep and good smack; it’s genuine, it's organic. I managed to get Patty to sell me twenty dollars worth of coke, too; I kept nodding out over the Napa article. Even though I thought the wines I drank when I was out there pretty much sucked from my Euroview, I extolled their virtues, mimicking the language of some oenophile’s book I’d picked up at Barnes and Noble. I finished at 3 a.m. and crawled home to Natascha’s side, got her to give me another bump and passed out.
Natascha was ‘Saucie,’ and I was ‘Sassy,’ or Sass. I got the nickname when we were on location in West Africa; I often travelled with the lead fashion story of the month because I would write the travel articles that would be bartered for the air tickets and accommodation. Some bellhop at the hotel we stayed at couldn’t pronounce my name, Sebastian, correctly, so he kept calling me Mr. Sass. I think he was flirting with me, too. And the more the grinning idiot saw how everyone on the crew laughed at ‘Mr. Sass,’ the more occasions he took to call out for me, like I was going to tip him hugely at the end of my stay for letting him make me the agent of everyone’s giggles. Natascha was Saucie because that’s what her southern mother called her, and few things gave me more pleasure than imitating her mother’s southern accent calling her Saucie. And when dropped into a sentence in French, Saucie had a vague sense of pork product about it, which was cute in a juxtaposing way because Natascha was super thin and hyper elegant.
We were way too young to be senior editors of the American version of a major European magazine with supermarket distribution and nearly half a million readers. I was twenty-three, Natascha was twenty-four. Pascal was almost thirty, but behaved younger than we did. Natascha and I took our roles as senior editors very seriously, and we screamed a lot as a consequence of how seriously we took ourselves. Well, I screamed at everyone I didn’t think was cool or funny, or wasn’t afraid of. She was more subdued. Together, we fought like brother and sister from a hot-blooded, dysfunctional Sicilian family of fishmongers in front of anyone, anywhere, because we could do it in three languages fluidly and the only thing most people could understand about our fights was the rage and the passion, never what it meant.
The next day, somehow, I made the Virgin flight with my fifty grand in gowns, as usual unprepared for my interview with Rachel Haymaker. I had lied to Natascha — we always lied to each other a little when it came to drugs — I still had a packet of smack on me, so I did a petit line and slept all the way across. At Heathrow, I had to go through the red channel and declare my gowns, the red channel that felt appropriate to my blood-shot, pinned eyes. It didn’t even dawn on me that I had half a wrap of smack in my Filofax that might have been better off swimming in blue fluid in the plane’s septic holding tank than inches away from a pair of cops who could incarcerate me for bringing it in to the UK. I’d been crossing borders since I could remember. I was a child of the American empire. Forget the drugs: I was more embarrassed that the customs officials marking off the items on Patty’s meticulously itemized carnet were thinking that the gowns were really for my use. So I name-dropped my way out of embarrassment. “I’m here to do a story on Rachel Haymaker,” I said nonchalantly, suddenly conflated to twelve feet in height by my association with a two-time Oscar-winning actress in front of these civil servants. “These gowns are for the shoot we’re doing with her and Lord Hemdale.”
I had their respect. Everyone loves Rachel Haymaker. As a real drag queen might say, "she's fierce."
“Love her,” one of the officials said. “Especially in that one she got the Oscar for.”
“Plexus,” I said. “Yeah, she was brilliant in that.” And I was brilliant for being associated with her. I shone like Icarus there in the red channel at Heathrow.
“Aren’t she and Lord Hemdale married?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Well, sort of. The rumors are it’s not going well. It’s apparently going to be an amicable divorce, but … you know …”
Having impressed them with the inside dish on people I hadn’t yet met — I was only regurgitating Rachel’s own publicist’s gossip — I was promptly zipped up and on my way, my petal-delicate masculinity intact now that the customs officials were satisfied the gowns weren’t for me, but a higher purpose.
To be continued ....
James Killough is a writer and filmmaker who edits the lifestyle and entertainment blog Pure FIlm Creative.
Once, not twice
I fell in love
And everything was perfect
You and me like
Adam & Eve.
At one point, not two
Our picture fell apart,
All that was left
Was a grain of sand
Which I kept locked
In my heart.
And time passed—
From one place to another
And just like the clouds
I bled tears.
Not one but many,
I rained until
I was left with nothing
Nothing but one memory
Which I no longer
These tears have landed
Here on Earth
This wonderful place
You cannot imagine,
Is pure sand.
And where I unlocked
My heart so that
I could collect
That one grain of sand
And give it back to you,
Enchanting hot honey girlbirds
“I’m, the one that you want”
And so we sing
A song of wearing.
A pre-emptive triumph
Of fertility and virility.
A call of visual lust and love
Sublime notes of folded cloth.
An orchestral sculpture in motion.
Exposing our silent dream.
A rainy Sunday in Rome and the perfect moment to browse through web classics aka The Sartorialist and co. Which brought me back to the 70`s, and then
into a deep depression.
It felt like a nasty virus, but in fact it was the good old vintage that had infiltrated the whole internet. From a never-ending list of blogs and online retailers to retro inspired fashion. Vintage sells, and I started to wonder did she also sell its soul?
I don’t know when it actually happened. But my question is: What did she ask Mephistopheles in return? Was it just the money? Or wasn’t it rather fame
and buying the way out of dusty thrift shops onto the smooth glamour of the red carpet? Yes, I think it went for Fame.
After decades of society’s abhorrence, the sweet taste of Faye Dunaway's perfume must have been too much to let go off. Dunaway, in her 1967 leading role, took us back into the middle 30`s with the reinterpretation of Bonnie and Clyde. Yet she did not only revival the Icon, but also brought to life the look of a bygone age. Hollywood marketing pulls off its proverbial gags. Movie theaters are filled, night after night. And as one could suspect, not only the theaters cash-registers do ka-ching. With this movie a new sort of fascination for the past was created. The film industry gave birth to the phenomenon of nostalgia and through it—and we thank it very much for that social revolution—to the attraction of wearing clothes from the past.
So far so good, but where then did it go wrong?
There’s no point mentioning the late 80`s "Hollywood has it, we want it" publicity effect. I think we all know it oh so well. From Miss Moss and her "Vintage Muse" to Top Shop's internal Vintage store. The Big-money-trend Vintage hit the masses. However, a bit of popularity never wrote one`s Epitaph.
But when Vintage became a "brand", an apparent synonym for coolness, and when people started wearing it, just for the trends sake, that‘s when things went wrong. And yes, I think this is when Vintage lost it. A bloody victim of its own success.
At least I thought so. On the second thought though—it all seemed a bit too simplistic, a great set-up to write it off just like that. Could it be that
we gave up on her in our wishful thinking like we did on Britney Spears after her polished-to-shine hairdo?
There must have been something left of its origin. So I started to look beyond the obvious. And it dawned on me:
Once more, I realized that I had to move from my accuser-position to defendant. Realizing the truth is that we all asked Vintage to stand for our
"individuality", and when it became a mass phenomenon we damned it, suspecting, it was not capable to pull it off any longer. I guess, the waiting room
was too crowded. This is where we went dead wrong, dead-ending in the alley of our own irresponsibility. Wearing Vintage by itself never made anybody
more unique, more "one of a kind". Rather, this was and will always be simply the result of what one does with it.
So is it Vintage that has lost it, or isn't it rather the blind trend follower, who never wore it with soul?
What a barbie-blonde aha-moment from my side with you to share, but once again, it is the attitude, rather than altitude.
This stressed out writer (defending the Vintage) loves the second hand for the Story it brings with it. Its previous owner and its time, which will never be approachable to her—that is what is so unique and so intriguing. Which were the parties where Bloody Mary was in such an overwhelming quantity that it covered my skirt—leaving a bleached pattern despite all dry cleaners' effort. How was the winter's wind when my mink hat was taken out for the freshmen year? And how strong were the sexual needs of that recruit, marching through the greyest paths of humans history?
And yet, in spite of all rich told and untold stories this special something I picked up, preserves me the luxury to write few chapters on my own.
Like borrowing a book from a library and never returning it back.
This is the real thing for me, taking an item that belonged to somebody and turning it into my very own.
And at the end of the day it does not really matter if it is at San Giovanni`s one euro stock market or the Portobello Road Market I got the piece
from. Whether its thrifted, secondhand or whatever you like to call it. Who cares whether this came from a store with the rare and genuine "Vintage
look", whatever it might be, or rather from London`s touristic attraction number 1 where the smell of fast-food curry and hot chilly mingle with
overpriced dusty humidity of vintage—flirting with a 100£ price tag.
Let us ignore the hype around it, and focus on the essential. That sort of anthropology rush, the possibility to express—in the best case for its original price target and not the overpriced due to the huge demand. It is really the story you can extract from touching the garment and from feeling its soul.
All children talk to their toys, Baudelaire said. The toys become actors in the great drama of life reduced by the camera obscura of their mind. And Toys are my garments, my bags and scarves.