First, a confession: I am allergic to cats. They make my throat itch (ironically, as if I had a hairball) and my skin break out into hives. But the idea of doing a holiday etiquette video with felines was just too great a temptation. The pun ‘etti-cat’ was just too good to pass up. So on a recent grey day in New York, I trekked it to Brooklyn to film this video with Rightway (the one with spots) and Cutie Patootie (the one with those big baby blues). Turns out holiday-themed videos with adorable four-legged creatures can be an emotional journey. While I started trying to promote the cause of the Classy Cat (and yes, that’s a reference to my book, Very Classy), I found myself seduced by the Messy Kitty. She was just too adorable. And let’s be honest: Sometimes the Drunk Pussy can be fun. As long as it’s not you. Besides, every party needs one!
It’s been a long holiday weekend for me. There was the glutinous consumption of turkey and the annual Blasberg Blowout party. (Related: Did you know that Sam’s Club sells shotgun, cannon and machete-shaped tequila bottles? No really.) So while I was nursing my hangovers from the intoxication of quality family time and the aforementioned novelty shaped alcohol, I spent a lot of time doing what I don’t have a lot of time to do in New York: Watching TV. And I realized that now, perhaps more than ever, fashion companies are entering this mass medium with gusto. Louis Vuitton just launched its first ever television commercial (starring Arizona Muse, shot by Inez & Vinoodh), and I still get chills every time I see Lara Stone cavorting on a private plane in the Calvin Klein advertisement that broke during the Superbowl earlier this year. Cartier did quite possibly the most ridiculous commercial I’ve ever seen, and it was their first once and that launched this year too. (I’m happy to include all there of these commercials at the bottom of this post. Soak in the decadence, guys.)
To be fair, fashion brands advertising on TV isn’t a new or novel occurrence. It was Calvin Klein that got into some hot water for his provocative campaigns on TV back in the day. But what we see now is that exclusive French companies, like Vuiton and Cartier, who had no interest in elbowing with Calvin for TV spots have entered the fray. These brands are realizing not only the power of television, but also the power of the moving image of a fashion campaign. These TV spots are great, but let’s not be foolish: They didn’t make these videos exclusively for the airwaves. Videos have become an integral part of a brand’s entire media plan. (In fact, I’ve worked with a few brands on their behind-the-scenes videos, but more on that in a later post.) Whereas in the golden days of pre-recession advertising, the holy grail was a placement in a magazine, today the plan has to be more layered. Yes, the magazine is and always will be the mainstay, but now a brand is looking for their moving content to be on the magazine’s website and, as I saw over Thanksgiving, on television, and that’s in addition to blogs like this one and on big screens in their stores.
I like this. I’ve always been a fan of anything that spreads the fashion to the masses. I would have killed to have seen these videos on the little 13 inch television in my bedroom when I was a teenager (which I still have, by the way), back when I didn’t know how to say Versace. Yes, I was like Elizabeth Perkins in Showgirls and called is Ver-Says. Shut up. That’s why seeing these commercials on network television tickled me so much. It puts a big smile on my face, in fact! Now there will be little boys and little girls who know that when they see a red box they should think of panthers in diamonds, and they’ll think of all the divine decadence of the house of Louis Vuitton the next time they see a hot air balloon.
One last thing: Lest we think it’s new that a fashion brand do such decadent commercials, I must point out that — like most things in fashion — Karl Lagerfeld has already done it. Back in 2004, the house of Chanel paid Nicole Kidman millions of dollar to swirl some pink tulle around Rodrigo Santoro for what is more of a short film than a TV spot directed by Baz Luhrman. Do you remember that? Wasn’t it ridiculous and divine? It came out around Moulin Rouge and watching the commercial again still makes me swoon.
The fashion industry’s first commercial dream: Chanel No. 5
Louis Vuitton’s recently released first ever TV spot
The Calvin Klein commercial that made me fall in love with Lara Stone. Again.
The Cartier commercial with defies the laws of nature and diamonds
The weather is chilling and my cravings for eggnogg are getting more and more intense. That’s right: We’re look at the end of 2012, and with that comes my Harper’s Bazaar-appointed task of editing the year’s best looks for our special Mr. Blasberg’s Best Dressed: The Best of 2012. So, without further ado, let’s roll out the red carpet!
This is my favorite time of year, and it’s not because of the holidays. It’s because I’m charged with looking at the past 12 months of style and compiling the year’s Best-Dressed List. So when I asked myself who were my favorite girls of 2012, the answer was clear: Rihanna and Gwyneth Paltrow in black and white. I’ve always been a fan of Gwynnie’s, and when she sashayed down the Oscars’ red carpet in Tom Ford’s slinky white column dress and cape, I swooned. I attended Tom’s presentation in London when this dress debuted, and everyone could tell it was destined for greatness. Gwyneth’s greatness, as it were. While I’ve been a longtime Gwynophile, I’ve only recently come around to Rihanna. This year, though, she mixed elegance and glamour into her street-cool aesthetic, and I loved it. One of her best? The Giorgio Armani dress she wore to the Grammys. Surely she was pleased that it showed skin—the neckline just about hit her navel—but it was still polished and sophisticated.
Leelee Sobieski caught my eye more than once this past year. First, when she swanned into a Tribeca Film Festival party last April in my favorite look from Raf Simons’s last collection for Jil Sander, a white shirt that morphed into a ball gown; and second, at Simons’s inaugural ready-to-wear show for Dior, when she appeared front row in my favorite look from his debut Dior couture collection, a red coatdress cinched with a gold belt. Seems Raf is a good friend for a girl to have.
Some women whose blush looks left me blushing? Charlize Theron’s Dior Haute Couture dress at the Golden Globes was one, a favorite of the entire year—just what Hollywood royalty is supposed to look like. Sarah Jessica Parker, no stranger to best-dressed lists, was strong yet sweet at a Beverly Hills event in a greige strapless Calvin Klein cocktail dress. Tapping into the sort of decadence that Anna Karenina could appreciate, Keira Knightley wore a tonal Chanel Haute Couture dress to the world premiere of the movie based on the classic novel. And, last, Diane Kruger deserves a special mention—she killed it at Cannes this year. While my preferred look was a pastel Giambattista Valli gown, as a member of the film festival’s jury she had fashion critics swooning with a nonstop parade of fabulousness, from a lace-up Versus minidress at the start of the festivities to a billowing Dior Haute Couture ball gown at the closing ceremony.
The year was also rife with real fashion greatness as seen on familiar names and up-and-comers alike. With her first Oscar nomination, for her portrayal of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Rooney Mara gave fashion fans a new Gothic-chic muse. Her brand of subversive glamour was a perfect fit for Givenchy, and that collaboration resulted in one of 2012′s most memorable red-carpet moments.
Making a fashionable comeback on the awards circuit was Michelle Williams, whose custom-made burnt-orange Louis Vuitton Oscars dress will for sure become a classic. (Fashion secret: Vuitton dressed only one girl at the Oscars because, well, it’s quality over quantity at the French house.) This year also saw the reemergence of Stephanie Seymour, recently reconciled with hubby Peter Brant and looking better than ever. When she showed up in a flirty red Azzedine Alaïa dress for a party at the art center Brant founded in Greenwich, Connecticut, across the street from their home and polo fields, no man in the room was looking at the art.
Ah yes, the toggle coat. Outerwear has always been an my favorite part of winter dressing. For some it’s the perfect pashmina or quirky mittens. But for me, it’s the top layer. In fact, I can remember being the world’s most obnoxious sixth grader when my mother refused to buy me a wool pea coat from the Army Surplus store. (And she was right. When I bitched and moaned long enough and finally got one, wouldn’t you know it was an absolute lint magnet?) Blame it on my Americana obsession, but come winter I’m obsessed with preppy-influenced outerwear. This winter it’s been about the toggle coat. I scoured high and low (and by that I mean price points and uptown and downtown), so you can imagine my surprise — and my wallet’s relief — when the fine folks at Club Monaco provided this gem. It’s slim fit and only one layer of well, which means it won’t look bulky when over a sweater or jacket. Yes, that’s my biggest fear of winter dressing. The appearance of bulkiness. And bonus points for the twine fasteners and handy dandy hooding. So, that’s a present for me. Next up, what to get others. Check back next week for my holiday gift guide!
Here’s a confession: I love the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Not necessarily for the same reasons that, say, my brother would like it. But with the live music (this year Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber performed) and the ridiculous costumes (my friend Jessica Hart came out with a corset that turned into the handles of a child’s bicycle), it’s like the biggest, wildest gay fantasy in the world. To be in that show, however, isn’t exactly a fantasy. As I learned firsthand when Candice Swanepoel lead me through the paces of her workout an hour before the show, these girls are tough. Like, pro athlete tough. Their bodies are machines and they take their workouts as seriously as they do their runway fittings. In this video, I get down to business with Candice, and then she makes my wildest dreams come true when she makes me an honorary angel for a day. And here’s another confession: After we finished filming this little video, I was sore for three days.
Linda Ramone in the kitchen she shared with her late, great husband Johnny
I’ll be honest: Before I moved to New York, I had no idea who the Ramone’s were. But when I moved into my freshman dorm and befriended the girl who wore exclusively bootleg jeans, old T-shirts and giant sunglasses (no cell phone, no computer and she legimitaely thought it was the 1960’s and couldn’t be convinced otherwise) introduced me to the band and I was hooked. It wasn’t just the music. It was the look: jeans, leather jackets and sneakers all tucked under angsty grimaces and raven bowl cuts. When my friend Jacqui threw me a West Coast birthday party last year, she invited Linda Ramone. Love at first site. She was quick, funny, fabulous, ridiculous, in a big red hat and a fur coat (nevermind it was springtime in Los Angeles) and everything that came out of her mouth was quotable. It was easy to see why Johnny Ramone fell in love with her – even though she was with Joey Ramone at the moment – and became the love of her life. The house that Linda shared with Johnny in LA has become a monument of the fantastic. There’s an Elvis Room, a Disney Bathroom, and a Room of Horrors. In the recent issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Linda gave us a tour of my favorite house in LA. This is the story:
Linda Ramone offers two reasons that she and her husband, Johnny Ramone, of the legendary punk band the Ramones, moved to Los Angeles from New York after the group’s final show in 1996: the weather and a pool. So it’s fitting, then, that I walk past a kidney-shaped watering hole at her Sherman Oaks home to find Linda in the hot-pink-and-tangerine living room, looking like a ray of sunshine in a short bright-yellow shift dress. “Don’t you love it?” she says of the room’s squint-inducing decor. “We were inspired by a Nancy Sinatra album cover.”
We head to the kitchen, which is set up like a ’50s diner, complete with black-and-white-checkerboard tiles and red vinyl bar stools embroidered with the Ramones logo. Linda is roasting a chicken, grilling vegetables, and serving mimosas—all while wearing a Roberto Cavalli tiara and gold knee-high Christian Louboutin boots. Clearly, this is not a woman who dresses down, even if she lives in laid-back California. She owns only one pair of flats (tennis shoes, which she wears on the elliptical machine), as well as cowboy boots, in case she encounters some uneven terrain, like she did during a trip to Disneyland, or a cobblestone street, as she did recently in Rome. “But even those have a heel,” she’s quick to point out. “Why would you put on a pair of flip-flops when you can put on a nice pair of boots?”
“You couldn’t invent a Linda Ramone. If you saw her—or her house—in a film, you wouldn’t believe that character actually exists. And yet, improbably, she does,” says actress Rose McGowan, a friend and a participant in this past summer’s eighth annual Johnny Ramone Tribute. The event, which Linda organizes, benefits the Johnny Ramone cancer research fund and has welcomed fans like the Misfits, DitaVon Teese, and Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. “The word beige isn’t even in her lexicon, and God love her for that.”
Linda in her Tina Sinatra-inspired formal living room
“One never knows what Linda is going to wear, but when she arrives, heads turn. What’s so wonderful is that she’s so comfortable with her- self,” says Priscilla Presley, whose daughter, Lisa Marie, was one of Johnny’s closest friends. (“Lisa Marie visited Johnny in the hospital every single day when he was sick,” Linda recalls.) “She is devoted to keeping Johnny’s legacy intact and alive, while remaining true to her- self,” the former Mrs. Presley continues. “She has all the right ingredients to take him where he wanted to remain—a legend.”
Linda Ramone’s own place in the history of rock ‘n’ roll is well earned. Long before Twilight fans were scandalized to learn that Bella cheated on Edward in real life, Linda was at the center of a high- profile love triangle: After dating Ramones lead singer Joey Ramone for three years, she left him for bandmate Johnny, who played guitar. (Ramones fun fact: The band’s name was inspired by Paul McCartney, who checked into hotels as Paul Ramon, prompting the boys from Queens to adopt it as their stage surname. An autographed picture from McCartney to Johnny can be found in the house’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Room, which is outfitted with memorabilia from the likes of the Sex Pistols and Debbie Harry.) “At the time I didn’t think it was a big deal. I thought, Anita Pallenberg did it,” Linda says. “But I forgot that Brian Jones left [the Rolling Stones] after that.”
Joey had written songs like “She’s a Sensation” and “Danny Says” about Linda, so to say that he was upset by this development is an understatement. At one point she quit touring with the Ramones, fearing that Joey (who never married) would break up the band. “I was in love with Joey at first, of course. I was 18. He was my first boyfriend. But then, with Johnny, I fell in love, and he was my soul mate for the rest of my life and my husband. Now the biggest thing in my life is keeping Johnny’s legacy alive. “They were together for more than 20 years, married for 10, and he left her everything when, in 2004, he died of prostate cancer at 55 on the couch in their Nancy Sinatra–themed living room. “When Johnny died, me and Rusty slept on Johnny for the whole night,” remembers Linda. (Rusty is their beloved cat.) She works to preserve her husband’s memory through the Johnny Ramone Army, a licensing and marketing entity, and she is a president of Ramones Productions. Earlier this year, she oversaw the publication of Commando, Johnny’s autobiography, which he’d dictated before he died.
On a quick tour of the house, it’s clear that Johnny’s legacy is alive and well. The living room is decorated with vintage movie posters, taxidermy, and shag carpeting. (His favorite stuffed animal? A two-headed Siamese sheep.) Linda heads into the Elvis Room, a den decked out in every type of Elvis memorabilia ever created, including the couple’s prize possession: an unopened bottle of champagne from Elvis’s wedding to Priscilla, autographed and dated by the King himself. “Priscilla came over the other day, and even she hadn’t seen one of these things,” Linda says.
Linda in the Room of Horrors
Next is the screening room, known as the Horror Room because it’s filled with scary-movie posters, snake heads, weapons, devil masks, and an actual shrunken human head. Then a quick stop at the Disney-themed bathroom, where a Mickey Mouse–framed photograph of Linda and former First Lady Nancy Reagan sits on the sink next to a scowling portrait of the provocative filmmaker Vincent Gallo. (Mrs. Reagan, whose husband Johnny famously admired, and Linda are pen pals; Gallo gave Johnny the themed jukebox in the Elvis Room.)
At the center of this rock palace is Linda’s boudoir-slash-closet, an entire room devoted to a lifetime of ’60s-inspired glitzy, glam fashions. Miles of necklaces and jewelry line the walls—”no empty hooks here,” she says, laughing—and colorfully painted chains hang from the ceiling to display her favorite dresses, including the lacy mini baby doll she was married in. “You couldn’t fit this stuff in a jewelry box or a closet anyway, so I wanted it to look like the coolest store ever. Now I just keep hanging everything everywhere.”
Though she keeps current on the new designers (she finds pieces at Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, and Cavalli), Linda says she is tempted to shop only when she sees something inspired by the decadent boho vibes that propelled her rock-star life in New York. “What good new fashion has come out? The Ugg boot? Really? I’m going to wear an Ugg boot with a jean skirt? I don’t think so. Not in this lifetime, honey.”
Linda getting ready to rock in the Elvis Room
While still a high schooler and living in Queens, Linda started sneaking into the city to see bands at the famed (and now defunct) clubs Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. She met the Ramones in the mid-’70s after following the New York Dolls around a much grittier downtown Manhattan. It was a different time, she says. “All the bands hung out with the people. There wasn’t a VIP area; you didn’t have wristbands. It wasn’t glamorous. CBGB was a shit hole—it was all about the music. You’d see the best bands every night, and then hang out with them.”
In New York she honed her trademark look: mod meets punk. “I remember going into the city and I’d see [New York Times street-style photographer] Bill Cunningham on the corner. He would run after me and my friends all the time. But if he didn’t, I would think, Oh, God, what a disappointing outfit I must have on if he didn’t run after me,” she recalls. “That would be really sad. Boring is boring!”
Linda’s fashion philosophy also applies to her home. “The whole house is to have a good time, to have fun. That’s why I love dressing up. You feel good. It makes me happy. This place reflects that in my personality,” she says. Adios Amigos, the name of the final Ramones tour, concluded in Los Angeles in 1996, and soon after, she and Johnny made their “California dream” come true, finding a house with the aforementioned pool and giving it themed rooms. “It’s full of collectibles,” she says. “Johnny and me started collecting when we were living in New York in a one-bedroom apartment in Chelsea. At that point Johnny was still on his saving kick, when he wouldn’t spend anything. We were saving for the future. Always. Saving for when he retired. ”
She and Johnny never had children. “He wouldn’t let me,” Linda says, laughing. “Johnny didn’t want to have kids because he didn’t want me to pay attention to anyone else. He’d say, ‘I will never take a chance that you will like anyone or anything better than me.’”
So, just as it was when Johnny was alive, being her husband’s keeper is Linda’s full-time job. “I always feel like he’s around. When Lisa Marie comes over, she says it’s like he’s still here. His spirit is still with us. It’s a happy house. “Asked if she ever wanted to have a career of her own, she shakes her head. “No, never. I was more than happy just to be married to Johnny Ramone.” She smiles and strokes Rusty. “Besides, I had my job ahead of me—being a rock wife. And that was enough.”
Let’s have a Huri-kiki: My humbling, heart warming, hilarious week as a Halloween Hurricane Sandy refugee
Monster and me, newly decamped to the Upper East Side, on his last walk before Sandy came to town
The view up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square Park during Lower Manhattan’s black out
The Hudson River spilling over the Westside Highway and into the West Village: This is the end of West 11th Street, and that’s the top of a bicycle poking out
It was an eerie, surreal night during the storm. I was already on the Upper East Side, and the corner of Madison Avenue and 77th Street was a ghost town. That night, the bar at the Carlyle Hotel was nearly empty, just a few of us, like my friend Eugenie here, wondering what we were supposed to be doing. But that would soon change
First and foremost, I must thank my friend Marjorie Gubelmann. When it became apparent that Hurricane Sandy was indeed headed straight for New York and that I was going to be forcibly evacuated, she didn’t hesitate to invite me in. Dog included. No questions asked. Her only request was that I bring my appetite. (And I did.)
My week with Sandy started sleepily. I flew back from Brazil (where, an avid reader of this blog will know, I was in Sao Paolo with Louis Vuitton and then at the splendid artistic paradise known as Inhotim) on Saturday night, landing Sunday morning. I didn’t sleep on the plane, so crawled into bed when I got back to my apartment. A few hours later, the building supervisor called to say we had a few hours to get out. I live in Zone A, mandatory evacuation. So I had just enough to time to unpack, repack, grab Monster, call the aforementioned generous Marjorie, and then flag down a car and head up town. That was Sunday.
When we woke up the next day, Monday, it seemed like an average day. It wasn’t raining, people were on the street, and there was even a wait list at the spin class Marjorie and I had signed up for. When we walked home after pedaling for 45 minutes in a room with a bunch of pinned and tucked Upper East Side females, it was drizzling, but it was hardly a hurricane. Or so we thought. A few hours later, when we were eating lunch, the winds picked up. The windows started to rattle and there was a howling sound. (I should mention here that Marjorie prepared three home cooked meals a day. This lunch consisted of fried rice and cut up hot dogs. She’d whip up a gourmet meal with whatever was thawed in the fridge, and that’s a skill I could appreciate.) We turned on the TV after lunch and the extent of the damage in other parts of New York started to flash: We saw the intersection of Canal Street and the Westside Highway, which I bike through every morning on my way to work, completely under murky brown water. We saw taxis being tossed like Matchbox cars and trees being blown into the streets. Things on the Upper East Side were minimal: The lights flickered, the internet was done for a bit. We were lucky. That night, a few friends of mine who lived downtown and had decamped uptown met at the Carlyle Hotel. There was a live band and cocktails in the bar and the Balenciaga team (Nicolas and Marie Amelie with Pat McGrath) in the lobby. But all we could talk about was the storm outside. On a cigarette break on Madison Avenue, we all watched as a huge window from the hotel’s 25th floor was sucked out of its casing and shattered with a lethal boom on the corner of 76th Street. Anyone smoking spun on their heels and went back inside at that moment. A little after midnight, when the rain had let up, my friend Evan took us downtown in his truck so we could try and see with our own eyes some of the damage. It was surreal. When we crossed 23rd Street it was a ghost town. We turned off our headlights and drove through non-functioning traffic stands and giant skyscrapers that were dark and hollow.
I woke up late on Tuesday. I had a hard time falling asleep (I was thinking about my apartment building, which was on the wrong side of the Westside Highway, wondering if the bike in the basement was ruined, if our lobby would stink like mildew), so when I woke up I missed Marjorie’s breakfast. Eggs Benedict. I made a mental note not to make that mistake again. Not that it mattered as Marjorie was already on to lunch: fried chicken, pasta salad, tomato and mozzarella. Misery and confusion love company, so Marjorie’s lunch was a revolving door: Pat came up from the Carlyle, Evan and Ku-Ling came over from the Mark (where a whole other fashion contingency was staying), as did friends of Marjorie’s like Simon and Mr. Mickey. Kids came and went. Jess and Stavros and Eugenie came by, so did Nellie and Hayley. It was jovial, but every time someone came over we’d look ominously out the window as the rain stopped and big trucks were moving tree limbs. In the afternoon we settled by a fire, and we laughed and I made tea and we ate the supermarket Halloween cake that Simon and Lyle bought at Gristedes. Yes, the supermarkets were open the day after the Hurricane. The Upper East Side was a whole other place. While downtown was dark, empty, flooded, everyone uptown was happy, shopping, rich. Surreal.
Happy Halloween: Marjorie’s sweet afternoon treats, and a very poor attempt at making a costume out of an extra wig found in the Gubelmann costume closet with my friend Karlie. (This was the first year I had been organized and ordered a costume online, but it was downtown underwater. But at least I have next year sorted already!)
Halloween night: My friend Nellie dressed as the Stay Puft Marshmellow Man, and Emma making one wee Halloween-er extremely happy
What to do with adolescent boys when school is canceled? Hide-and-seek, of course. Also, pets like Marjorie’s kitty Mort are always a good distraction
Marjorie had a karaoke machine with a conscious (of the dozen pre-programmed songs, “Sandy” from the musical Grease was on there); but her son Cyrus was truly the prince of the party, charming the pants off Lily, Poppy and Karlie
Cultural delights: Dyrano de Bergerac on Broadway (with a stellar performance from my friend Clémence Poésy), and the ultimately fashion documentary, ‘Unzipped.’ (Marjorie, if you’re reading this: I left Unzipped at your house and don’t even think about keeping it)
Wednesday was Halloween. I felt bad for myself, briefly, because this was the first year perhaps in my whole life that I had planned ahead and organized a costume in advance. But it had been shipped to my apartment downtown, which was still powerless and closed. But I felt worse for the kids that were staying with us, who were still of Trick Or Treating ages. (I’m too old for that, right? Right?) So I did what anyone would do in that situation: Call up some pretty girls also displaced by the hurricane, and stage a day of karaoke and fashion shows. Worked like a charm. Later that afternoon, Karlie and I took Marjorie’s son Cyrus on a trip around the block, where we bumped into my friends Emma and Sophie, and through the lobby for more candies. When Cyrus went to bed, we had an unplanned adult Halloween experience: The scene at the Carlyle had exploded. I still feel bad for the hotel employees, which I’m sure was operating on a short staff and tortured by a bunch of drunken, displaced downtowners. But what were they supposed to do? Take the night off?
My friend Leith Clark surprised me with tickets to see our pal Clémence Poésy in the Broadway production of Cyrano de Bergerac on Thursday. I love that play. The words! Clémence was apprehensive about us coming to see the play because much of the crew was still displaced by the hurricane, but we came to see her anyway. But who goes to Cyrano to see fake blood anyway? The words! When I came back to Marjorie’s, there were people sleeping off their Halloween hangovers on couches. (It really did feel like summer camp at Marjorie’s.) I had asked a few friends if any volunteering opportunities had been organized yet, but I was told that most places were still getting organized and on their feet. So, with nothing else to do, I did another spin class. I figured I should since all I had been doing that week was eating. Dinner that night was lamb chops, quesadillas and brownies.
The sign in sheet at City Meals on Wheels had some familiar names on it, which made me very happy; as Dan and I were walking through the power-less Lower East Side, we found this ingenious and generous cell phone refueling station
A few days into our life as a refugee, life turned back to normal. Madison Avenue was buzzing with shoppers again, and I met Lily and Poppy for one last drink as displaced downtowners at the Carlyle
My pal Dan Colen surprised me on Friday. Twice. I had seen him the night before and told him to come with me to spin class, and he did. And after spin class, I asked if he wanted to come with me and Citymeals-on-Wheels (go to www.citymeals.org for more info) to deliver meals to elderly people who were living without food and power, and he did. Had we known that Gladys, one of the people we were giving meals to, lived on the 20th floor, we probably would have skipped that morning spin class. Our thighs were burning. We took the subway to Citymeal’s headquarters on 42nd Street, and then walked to the projects under the Williamsberg Bridge. It was a very humbling experience, but very heartwarming. When we got back uptown, I found myself back in the Carlyle Hotel, which had turned into a full on scene. We spent some time in the lobby, but disappeared when the crowd spilled into the street.
Perhaps we could have gone home on Saturday. Many of the buildings around ours had power, and the people we spoke to in our building told us that we had really lucked out on the damage. But uptown became a family for us. A summer camp of all ages and all experiences. I told Cyrus and his friends that we’d stay an extra day, so we did. While other parts of New York struggled to get on their feet, we struggled to get back into the pre-hurricane routine. So many kids had the entire week off. My office was closed.
I came home on Sunday. The cab took me down the FDR Drive, around the tip of Manhattan and then back up to my apartment on the side of Tribeca and the top tip of Battery Park City. It was a surreal view: Trees were still turned over, their roots in the air, in some places; but in others, guys were playing touch football and moms were pushing strollers just as they had a week before. New York is a resilient time, and this was proof. I live in a high floor, and my damage was minimal. The electronics needed some rejigging and everything in the fridge was warm and expired, but there was power. And my bed. And my dog’s bed. The devastation of Sandy lingers, but life is getting back to normal. The outpouring of hope and help is inspiring; my building has organized a food and necessities drive for Staten Island, I have dozens of friends giving warm meals to displaced people in the hard hit Rockaways, and tomorrow and Tuesday my friend Emma and I have signed up to deliver hot meals (need that website again? www.citymeals.org) to elderly New Yorkers still trying to get back on their feet as their power and water turns back on.
God bless America. We needed it this week
It’s ironic that Letitia Baldrige, the former White House secretary who’s whole life was dedicated to teaching people discretion and distinction, passed away on the exact day that a hurricane called Sandy rudely, crudely blew through New York, taking human lives and half of Manhattan’s power grid with her. I didn’t even know that she had passed (Baldrige, that is) until tonight when I found my friend William Norwich’s touching piece in the New York Times. I’ve known of Ms. Baldrige since I was a teenager. As a precocious, glamour-obsessed youth growing up in America’s Midwest, I was obsessed with the Kennedy’s version of Camelot. Before the Internet, I read every book I could on the Kennedy years. My favorite one was called ‘Jackie Oh,’ and I can remember stealing it when I was a bored 13-year-old from the library in my Aunt Arlene’s retirement community in Ranch Santo Fe, California, where my mother made me spend the entire week of Spring Break when my friends were all at Disney Land. Baldrige was a big part of those years, and a big part of shaping the aspirational glamour that surrounded those heady days when Washington, DC. was still a place of politics and style. For more than half a century, Baldrige was the go-to person for journalists to speak to about anything having to do with decorum. (She was quoted as recently as last year in the Times on her time at the White House, according to the paper’s website.) She was the picture of prim Americana, with a sensible way of speaking and dressing, often in pearls, looking a bit like a more sophisticated Maggie Thatcher. She wrote nearly two dozen books on etiquette and worked for the CIA, but what keeps her in the history books is her job as the White House social secretary with Jackie Kennedy, whom she met while at Miss Porter’s School. (For more on her interesting biography, read Norwich’s Times article.) As someone who wrote his own etiquette book — though a much different one, admittedly and humbly — she was the gold standard on manners, on being an assertive woman in an ever changing modern world. Especially in these times, she will be sorely missed.
I learned (or relearned, as it were) a very valuable lesson when I was in Brazil: Sometimes, you can’t be such a control freak. My friends Alexia and Fernanda, who put together the Louis Vuitton store opening in Sao Paolo, told me they were taking me to the mythical Inhotim art sanctuary, and to leave all the details up to them. I have a hard time with that sort of thing; and a few times I thought they were going to kill me when I moaned about not knowing every detail about flights, travel, dietary restrictions and such. And, looking back, they should have killed me. They put together the most marvelous visit to Inhotim, the sort I could have only prayed for and never organized for myself. Glamorous transportation, glorious accommodations in the home of the founder of Inhotim, guided tours. I owe them big time.
I had heard about Inhotim in art circles in the past, but it seemed too good to actually exist: A self-made rich man, who made his fortune in mining, acquired a few hundred acres of wildlife in his native town in Central Brazil, and turned it into an art reserve, inviting artists to come and make their fantasies come true. We met the man, called Bernardo Paz, and the story checked out. Entirely true. A true patron of the art world. Who has he brought to this mecca? Doug Aiken, Yayoi Kusama, Matthew Barney, Cildo Meireles, Olafur Eliasson, and his friend, the one who got him into collecting in the first place, Tunga. And many more. He has built pavilions for these artists, or galleries to house their art. And then there are the gardens. He has more than 1,500 different species of palm trees, the most of any place in the world.
When we were walking around the gardens, we overheard two women talking about Bernardo, saying they should marry him and live here and be his queen. (If they had, they would be his seventh and eighth wives.) But it’s funny: In England, everyone wants Prince Harry. Here, they want this silver haired desert fox with a penchant for supporting contemporary artists. As with anything truly inspiring, the time we were there was never enough. We visited all the pavilions, we swam under the palm trees, we ate delicious food. But we didn’t even tap into the education network that Paz has built, and how his vision has revolutionized the economy of the surrounding towns. As the New York Times said in their interview with him, they call him the ‘Emperor of Inhotim’ for a reason. (And in case anyone, like me, had a problem pronouncing the place, it’s Inhotim: “Eng-yo-chim.” You’re welcome.)
Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Narcissist Garden,’ which was an homage to her performance pieces (she used to sell these silver balls for $2 when she ewas living the life of an avante garde performance artist in 1960′s New York) of years ago
Matthew Barney’s ‘From mud, a blade (2009),’ which was another one of my favorites. (I also loved Doug Akin’s mountain top sound installation, which recorded the sounds from the center of the earth. Hard to illustrate in a picture, though.) Inside what looks like Barney’s mirrored climatron was a beat up, muddy tractor holding a waxed white tree. The experience, especially in this jungle, was surreal
Fernanda in a red room by Cildo Meireles. Like I Instagrammed when I was sat at fiery desk in this same piece, eat your heart out, Diana Vreeland!
Tunga’s hat in his pavilion, the largest and newest. Between the boater appeal and the skulls, all I could think about was ‘Death in Venice’
I learned a new Portuguese expression in Brazil: ‘Um Luxo,’ which means, ‘The Luxury.’ It amused me, Lissy, Fernanda and Alexia to all ends, so we decided to illustrate it at Marila Dardot’s pavilion of potted plant letters
Giuseppe Penone created the trunk of this tree in bronze, and then suspended it on top of four real trees. This was in a grassy, sun drenched field in the middle of the property. For some reason it reminded me of that scene in Jurassic Park where the flock of dinosaurs runs through a field and then gets eaten by the T-Rex. I wouldn’t have been surprised if this guy had dinosaurs down there too
Valeska Soares created one of my favorite works too: Inside this mirrored hut was a virtual dance floor, with Dusty Springfield’s ‘The Look of Love,’ one of my favorite-est songs ever, playing on repeat
Bernardo was kind enough to let us occupy the guest rooms of his house, and this fantastic bell was situated by the pool. Alexia discovered that, yes, the sculpture was entirely anatomically represented
What? This isn’t the traditional way to christen a new retail space?
Growing up in Missouri, not too many luxury brands found their way to my conscious at Affton High school. Even now, with the powers of fashion blogs and a plethora of magazines, some of the girls I went to class with don’t know the difference between Altuzarra and Aldo. Which is no insult. While I lose sleep over best dressed list and deadlines and shoes, they’re raising families and joining book clubs and mowing lawns that I’m very, very jealous of. (Fun fact: My first ever designer purchase was a pair of orange mirrored Gucci sunglasses, which I had guilt tripped my Uncle Bert to buying me as a reward for good behavior when we were in Venice one summer.) But one brand that did work it’s way into the center of the county was Louis Vuitton. I can remember my Environmental Science teacher had a monogram bucket bag, the kind that tied at the top, and I would stare longingly it at when she would draw diagrams on the overhead projector. That reminds me: Do schools still use overhead projectors? I digress.
Perhaps it’s this subconscious appreciation for the French fashion house that has made me such a sucker for the brand. Or maybe it’s Marc Jacobs, a man I admire greatly as an artist and the sort of constantly inspired creative sponge that can only be created in New York City. Whatever the reasons, I rarely turn down and Vuitton invitation. (Need proof? In just the last year I’ve followed Marc to Shanghai and the Pope himself to Rome for spectacular events surrounding LV.) My most recent adventure? São Paulo. Now, I have been to Rio de Janierio a few times. (Most recently, I was there in January for fashion week.) But this was the first time I was in the metropolis that is São Paulo. When I got there, someone described it as this: São Paulo is to New York as Rio is to LA. The only difference, of course, is that it’s only a 50 minute flight between each, so going to the beach for the weekend isn’t as big a deal.
I’ll be honest, I missed the beach. I’ve come to associate Brazil with the bodies, and like I Twittered earlier today, it’s completely common for butch, straight dudes to rollerblade down the street in their sungas. (I dare someone to pull that in New York!) But what São Paulo lacked in beach it made up for in galleries, clubs, museums and nightlife. All of which, I’m happy to say I dabbled in.
With two of Brazil’s best exports: Donata Meirelles, the hostess with the mostest, and Ronaldo, no last name needed. A took a picture of me and Ronaldo together too, which I sent my brother. Despite all the models and pretty ladies I hang around with, this was one of the few times he actually knew the person in the picture
It fills me with great pleasure to be able to quote Anna Dello Russo in this post. As she sings in her song, Fashion Shower, “Somebody wearing your same outfit? Wonderful, you made a right choice.” Such was the case when my friend Lissy showed up in the same dress as local Brazilian celebrity Mariana Ximenes. They glared at each other a few times, and then finally met and became good friends. They’re meeting up in Rio to check out the favelas together as we Tweet
Matching your Louis Vuitton ensemble to the tiles? Now, that’s chic. Well done, Elisa Sednaoui
Astrid Munoz was born in Puerto Rico, then spent some time in Europe and London, then married an Argentine polo player, and now winters in Palm Beach. Some girls have all the luck
Team LV: Faye, Julien, Yves, Lissy, Alexia and my Taurian sister Molly Laub at a dinner at Donata’s house
Isaac Ferry on the decks at a discotheque appropriately named Disco
Elisa and Alex at the store in new Vuitton store at the super luxe Cidade Jardim mall
At the end of the dinner at Donata’s house, there was a very entertaining but also very strange finale: A Woman called Ivete Sanglo took the stage. I had been told she was the Brazilian Madonna and also the “Queen of Carnivale,” so I was expecting something hip-thrusting and vulgar. But she got up there and sang very sweet, very sensitive and very lovely love songs. (Well, that’s how they sounded. I don’t speak Portugeuse, so I don’t know for sure.) And then she never got off. In fact, she invited more people to come up and sing with her. It turned into Brazilian karaoke, which I can’t say ever happened in New York
On our last night, we ended up at a place called Love Story. But something tells me the place is full of more stories than love. (Particularly because, umm, you have to go through a metal detector to get in)
This trip wasn’t all fun and fashion and fine dining. Oscar Niemeyer, who is 104 years old and still working, has always been one of my favorite architects, so we stopped by a museum he designed, the Oca. And, as luck would have it, the São Paulo Bienale was on too. Because I love an amusing, piss-taking art work, this was one of my favorites: invisible sculptures and blank canvases.
Something else I liked? These dioramas of women’s handbags. I’ve always said you can tell a lot about a woman by the state of her handbag, and this work perfectly summed that up. For example, the woman who’s bag was full of loose tobacco, loose change and a broken brush? Not so chic
SPEAKING OF ART IN BRAZIL: CHECK BACK TOMORROW FOR MY DIARY FROM MY TRIP TO INHOTIM, A GREAT OASIS OF MODERN WORKS AND PALM TREES AND BOTANICAL GARDENS IN THE UNTOUCHED NATURAL HEART OF THE BRAZILIAN WILDERNESS.