Mr Blasberg
3:28 am


11/07/2013, Observations

Jay-Z, live, with Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York

Last night, I want to sleep pissed off. Umm, was I the only person in the entire world that didn’t know that Jay-Z was going to pull a Marina Abramovic at the Pace Gallery in New York? The king of hip hop performed for six straight hours yesterday, and if the images I saw (which were mainly on Instagram, and on nearly every single one of my friends’ feeds) were to be believed, not only did he interact with Marina in a Pop music salute to her The Artist is Present performance piece, he threw down with the audience too. No really, from artists to fashion editors to assistants to socialites to whoever: Everyone knew Jay Z was going to pop up at Pace, apart from me. (Not that I mind. I’m in Paris! So, na na ni na na.) The kids over at Dis magazine compiled some Vine videos of Jay and Marina rocking out, which you can find here.

I was obsessed with this performance that I didn’t see. Although, the reviews have been a mixed bag. While mostthought it was a clever performance, some  thought that Marina was diluting the purity of her own work by collaborating with a Pop star and, likewise, some people thought that Jay-Z had no part trying to conform his art into someone else’s. But to those people I say: Shut up! To be honest, I’m not particularly invested in what other people have to say on the internet. (The only blog you should listen to is this one, dammit!) What I thought was so marvelous about this performance was how it collided these two worlds: hip hop and performance art. Not that they hadn’t met before: Marina isn’t unfamiliar with the worlds of hip hop, after all. I blame Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci for that; I have a picture of him with Ciara and Marina on my desktop because it makes me smile. Not to mention we’ve seen Jay-Z and that wife of his at art fairs and galleries around the world. I remember two years ago at Art Basel Miami there was nearly a riot when word spread that they were at the Gagosian stall.

Jay is following in Kanye’s tracks into the world’s of avante garde art. And I must concede that it’s not like Jay completely left his comfort box here. The best comment I read on the internet? “If Jay-Z is an artist because he lip synced a song for six hours, then Milli Vanilli deserves an entire retrospective at the MOMA.” But I must celebrate Jay for sparking this discussion at all. That he entered a hall of performance art with Marina, the Queen, to me is feat enough.

It reminded me of another cultural collision, which I was also not physically present at. (Though, for that one I had a much better excuse: In 1979, I wasn’t born yet.) David Bowie performed on Saturday Night Live with the performance artist Klaus Nomi, which may be an uncommon name to some of my readers. If so, Google it! I didn’t know about this particular SNL performance until I went to the Bowie exhibit at the V&A earlier this year with my friends Jack and Lazaro from Proenza Schouler. They featured clips, which I thought were fantastic: There is Bowie, dressed in a purple military jacket and tight pencil skirt, with Nomi and Joey Arias; in another more fantastic clip, there is Bowie dressed up like, well, it’s hard to explain – maybe a pie-shaped tuxedo wedding cupcake? It took some digging, but I found the clips and will imbed them below.

What I find inspiring in any artist, from Jay to Bowie and Marina to Nomi, is the willingness to try something new. I don’t want to say push the envelope, because that expression irritates me. To push the envelope is to try and get by with something that someone shouldn’t, like when kids play the Penis Game on the school bus. (Please tell me you know the Penis Game. If not, back to Google!) I don’t think Jay and Marina were doing that. They’re trying new experiences with new people who want to see new things. I can’t say Marina’s biggest fans are card carrying members of Jay Z’s fan club. I can’t say Jay Z’s fans know Marina’s last name, much less how to spell it. But for six hours one afternoon in New York, they got together, shared ideas, and created an international buzz that is still reverberating. And that, my friends, is the power of art.



9:38 am


10/07/2013, Observations

Despite the naysayers, the haute couture has continued through credit crunches and international recessions. And good thing too because, as Daphne Guinness has been happy to tell me, “the couture is the laboratory of the fashion arts.” As the shows dwindled off the schedule, we’ve seen other parts of the industry rally: Now in Paris, between couture shows, myself and other editors take time to see the Fine Jewelry appointments (Diamonds! Cartier! Rubies! Van Cleef! Bvlgari!) that we sometimes don’t have time to see during the ready-to-wear shows. Also, many designers show their resort collections, and there is time to see the menswear shows too. (Which reminds me: Christopher Kane and J.W. Anderson, if you’re reading this: My shirts have better been ordered.)

What I find so interesting about the couture shows now is the casting. Here’s some insider info: It’s just not worth it for the big girls to do the couture shows anymore. Unless you’re on an exclusive and flights and boarding are paid for, or else you already live in Paris or are here for a job, the cost of coming to Paris and paying for a nice hotel is more than what you would make walking in the half dozen fashion shows on the schedule. So, if a big girl has two options — one to come to Paris and break even, at best, or do a catalogue job somewhere else — she’s going to take the money and run (as opposed to runway. Har har har.) What this situation has created, however, is an opening on the catwalk for fashion’s new faces to showcase their stuff. Which I think is so ironic because the couture shows really should be the upper echelon of design. So, for many of these girls, it is sink or swim. Figure out how to wear this $100,000 gown or go home.

I asked my friend Douglas Perrett of the blog Confessions of a Casting Director about this phenemonon and he agreed. And he also picked out his favorite new faces from the haute couture shows. Think of it as supermodel tryouts. These are the girls who made the first cut, and I’m looking forward to seeing who will be back for training in the fall. The ready-to-wear fashion shows are just around the corner, ladies. Suit up!

Sasha Luss: Sasha was born in Russia in 1992 but didn’t start modeling until 2007. Her big break came more recently in 2013. The 5’10 model has done campaigns for Chérie ma Chérie, Badilo, Tate, Bohemique & Furla.

Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2013

Ashleigh Good: Ashley was born in England in 1992 and later moved to New Zealand with her family where she was discovered while waiting at a bus stop on the way to her job at a local coffee shop. Her big moment came when she booked an exclusive for Givenchy in Fall 2012. 

Christian Dior Fall 2013 Couture by Raf Simons

Pauline Hoarau: Pauline was born in Reunion, France in 1994. In 2011 she placed in the top 7 for the World  Finalists at the Elite Model Look Contest. Since then she has been featured on the cover of Elle Italy and Elle France. 

Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2013

Kayley Chabot: The 5’11 model was only 13 when she was signed to her first agency. Now, at 17, she has begun to enter the spotlight after walking in critical shows such as Alexander Wang in SS13.

 Elie Saab Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2013 

Nicole Pollard: The 18-year-old model was born in Brisbane, Australia and seems determined to stay connected to her home country despite making it big elsewhere. Her first modeling experience came during Sydney Fashion Week in 2011. In 2012 she was named the face of Perth Fashion Week. On a much larger scale, she has scored two exclusives with Dior- including Raf Simons much-anticipated first collection in FW12. More recently she has appeared in the SS13 Dior campaign. 

Armani Privé Haute Couture Fall 2013   

Elizabeth Erm: The Estonian 5’10 model was born in Tartu in 1993. She was discovered at the age of 17 at a local mall. Her breakout came in FW13 when she opened for Lacoste.

Valentino Haute Couture Fall 2013

Tessa Bennenbroek: This 6’0 Dutch stunner is both new and mysterious. After a playing a pivotal roll during the haute couture season in the likes of such legendary designers as Elie Saab, Versace, and Armani, we are sure to be seeing a lot of Tessa. 

Atelier Versace Haute Couture Fall 2013 

with additional reporting from Caroline Mason

10:13 am


05/07/2013, Fast + Louche, General

I didn’t know what was happening with the weather here in Paris: it was sweaty one day, and freezing the next. (Conveniently, on the freezing night, there was a Fendi party. So my girlfriends had already borrowed fur coats and I didn’t need to lend mine to anyone. Being a gentleman is tough work!) But while the weather was rather unpredictable, the haute couture fashion week was expectedly divine.

On the scale of divinity, the highlight of the trip was the dinner that Valentino and Giancarlo Giammetti hosted in honor of Anna Wintour at Wideville, the designer’s chateau outside Paris. I have been to Wideville a couple of times, but one never gets tired of the glitz, the glamour, or the old world romance of one of the world’s most marvelous designers. Cocktails on a terrace, sunset walks through the rose garden, dinner in a converted barn, and dancing in a one-night-only discothèque. Actually, it’s a normal night out for Val and Giancarlo.

But, of course, this week the focus was the shows. Some people lament the dwindling presence of fashion shows on the haute couture schedule. But perhaps that is because they are scared that if more and more designers drop out of the haute couture schedule, the day may come when we won’t have this extra reason to come to Paris twice a year. I enjoy the lazier schedule because it gives one time to breathe, or rather inhale the excellence of couture. For example, Naomi Campbell opening the haute couture shows with her infamous trot in the first look at the Versace show was just the punch one needs to be reminded of the importance of high fashion. Later that night, Naomi joined a dinner at Azzedine Alaia’s house, where the designer cooked a three-course meal in honor of Christian Lacroix’s appointment at the house of Schiaparelli. That was a nice reminder too.

And what of the other shows? I was partial to the knitted eveningwear, an interesting paradox that Raf Simons did at Dior, and I heard none other than Jennifer Lawrence, who had flown in for the show, saying the same. Giambattista Valli did a fabulous white lace passage that looked like a garden in a cloud of heaven. Valentino looked to insects for the first half of their presentation, and then exterminated them with bedazzled glamour. And Karl Lagerfeld sent Erin Wasson out in a tiered wedding dress that made my eyes melt in a dilapidated theater he had built in the Grand Palais.

I haven’t had a Fourth of July celebration in about seven years since the couture shows always fall on the American holiday. But, luckily, this year I wasn’t alone: I welcomed Fourth of July with some fellow Americans in Paris – Karlie, two Traina sisters and the divine Alex Wang – at Chez Julien.

On the night before the Chanel couture show, Bazaar’s editor-in-chief, Glenda Bailey, and myself stopped in at Karl’s studio, where he showed us a picture he had taken of Erin wearing nothing but the boots from the couture show. Not that they were just any boots: he called them stir-up shoes because they were anchored to a belt so that the soft, comfortable leather wouldn’t slouch. That moment reminded me of why I loved the couture shows so much: Not just because I had an audience with the Kaiser, but also because it reminded me that at a couture show, the most impressive details are the ones that you can’t see.

Captions, from top: My spot at the head of a table at Valentino’s dinner for Anna Wintour, which was just a little intimidating; Baz Luhrmann leading Karlie Kloss down the stairs and into the rose garden at Wideville; Valentino in his garden; Emma Roberts and Mena Suvari at Versace; me and Azzedine Alaia, a fashion legend; Riccardo Tisci at Wideville; Karl at work; Naomi on the Versace runway; Milla and Catherine Baba; me and the host with the most, Giancarlo Giammetti; Erden and Christopher Kane, two English designers who came down to Paris; The best actress at the Cannes Film Festival, Lea Seydoux, and Christian Louboutin; Naomi at the Versace party; Baz and I; Nicky Hilton at the Valentino show; Vera Wang snapping me; Tatiana Santo Domingo and Eugenie Niarchos at the Valentino fete; Giancarlo with Natalia and Franca; Erin Wasson’s bridal dress at Chanel; Lizzy, Elizabeth, Alexia and Harry in the backseat; Three Missoni’s: Margherita, pregnant with her first son, and her grandmother Rosita, who founded the family dynasty; Bianca Brandolini and I have a laugh at the launch of Eugenie’s jewelry collection; Giambattista Valli flanked by Eugenie and Noor Fares; my friends Mattia and Jessica Diehl; Alexa at Chanel; Rose McGowan at the Fendi dinner; Kristina O’Neill and Carine Roitfeld at the Chanel show; the view walking into the Dior show; Hanne Gaby leading the pack at Giambattista’s show; Bianca and Giamba; me and Hamish having a nightcap at the Meurice Hotel bar; the divine Lady Amanda Harlech in Karl’s studio; the view of Wideville; Chez Julien’s tribute to the Fourth of July: A vintage issue of French Playboy; my fellow Americans in Paris: Karlie, Nessie, Alex and Toto.

5:13 am


04/07/2013, From Elsewhere

Luis Venegas makes me smile. He’s a rare thing in the worlds of fashion, publishing and transvestites: He is genuinely happy. He publishes several magazines from his native Spain with the intention of spreading joy and smiles and good cheer. It’s the reason why whenever he asks me to contribute to anything he’s working on, I say yes without hesitation. (Last time we worked together, I interviewed Chloe Sevigny for the Candy cover story, which you can read here.) Not that our most recent collaboration took much convincing: Interviewing Jared Leto for the cover of Candy magazine to accompany Terry Richardson’s photographs. After all, who hasn’t been a fan of the part time actor, most time singer and full time hearth throb? Feel free to reminisce on your own Jordan Catalano fantasy here. And when you’re back, check out my chat with Leto.

Derek Blasberg. So, Jared, do you think you make a beautiful woman?

Jared Leto. I don’t think so! Ha! But I do think Rayon [the character Leto played in the film Dallas Buyers Club] was beautiful on the inside. And I think she wanted to be beautiful, and that’s how I felt when I was in character. But I never felt like I made the best woman – which was funny because I always thought I would.

DB. I would have thought so too because, well, you’re very pretty.

JL. It doesn’t matter how much weight or muscle you lose; the hardness of your jaw, your shoulders, it’s more than obvious masculinity. I so wanted to be beautiful because, and this is something that I think the character thought, if you’re beautiful, you’re loved. So I don’t think I made the most attractive woman, but I certainly tried my hardest.

DB. Tell me more about Rayon.

JL. She is a male to female transsexual, and she was a wonderful, strong woman. The film takes place in 1985, the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, and she lives in Dallas just as it is hit by this plague. This part and this film seduced me. This is the first film I’ve made in half a decade, Derek. I was waiting for a character that really spoke to me, and a story that was really powerful. This was it.

DB. What was it like to dress in drag?

JL. High heels are tough. I lost 30 pounds dressing in drag.

DB. How did being in your costume make you feel?

JL. I felt good! It was different for me because it wasn’t just putting on a dress. I had to work out the part in my mind too. I wanted to bring to life a character who was a real life, living person – not just a caricature of a cross dresser. I think sometimes people confuse that sort of character as a joke, or they confuse a transgendered individual as “just a drag queen.” But I will say that I took to the high heels pretty quickly!

DB. Apart from the heels, what other physical parts of the character are the most memorable?

JL. Well, I waxed my entire body, my eyebrows included. That was certainly transformative.

DB. But this isn’t the first time you’ve changed your appearance for a part. You lost 25 pounds for Requiem for a Dream and I remember when you gained almost 70 pounds for Chapter 27.

JL. The tricky thing about extreme weight loss or weight gain is how much it affects you on the inside, not the outside. Altering your shape that much changes your behavior, the way you think. It changes how you laugh and how you move and how people look at you. It’s a double-edged sword, the internal and the external, and it’s not always a lot of fun.

DB. What was it like to go out as Rayon?

JL. As soon as you wax your brows and lose that much weight and you’re walking through a hotel lobby with your high heels cling clanging, you can’t help but draw attention. When people change their gender, they make a real statement. You surprise and confuse people, and I had to deal with that. I went out in drag and lived in that character to do research, and in the process I fell in love with Rayon. She had a heart of gold.

DB. Were you ever surprised when researching the role?

JL. In New Orleans, where we filmed the movie, I met a wonderful 13-year-old girl who was more than six-feet tall and was so gentle, and so sweet. She had been living as a woman since she was 7, going out in Bourbon Street dressed in her sister’s clothes. She opened a side of life I had never seen before. And there was a woman called Kalie, who was a tremendous help to me in LA. I spent the initial formative first days of prepping for this part with her, talking about the difference between transgendered people and transvestites, and the concept that these are real people and not a lifestyle. She taught me a lot. That’s what I liked about this film: I learned.

DB. What first drew you to this part?

JL. The challenge. The script. The role. The director. All of those things. It was impossible to say no. To reach that far inside myself – or outside myself, depending on how you see it – it was something I hadn’t explored. I found that exciting.

DB. It’s been a change of pace to the other stuff you’ve been doing these past few years: Being a rock star.

JL. That’s why I haven’t made a film in so long. We’ve been touring the world. [My band] 30 Seconds to Mars has been on a phenomenal adventure, with more success that we could have ever imagined. We sold out the O2 Arena and the Wembley in London, played the biggest shows of our lives. We got in the Guinness Book of Records for the longest tour ever. I have the plaque in my bathroom.

DB. How was balancing those two worlds?

JL. The hardest challenge was time. Time to do it all and do it well. I loved what Andy Warhol said: “Labels are for cans, not for people.” So now I try and do whatever I’m attracted to. If you have a desire, just go for it and fucking do it. A long time ago I gave myself permission to live like that – to act or design, or do music, or technology. It keeps life interesting.

DB. What do you hope will be the reaction to this film?

JL. I hope that people in that community see on the screen something that is true and honest. Something that is authentic, that comes from a really pure place. It also shares this tragic but inspiring story about how difficult it was when this plague started depleting these communities.

DB. What will you take from this part to your daily life?

JL. I haven’t worn much makeup since 2006. I used to wear a lot of eyeliner.

DB. You mean guyliner, don’t you?

JL. Yes! Maybe I grew up loving The Cure too much. Although, can you love The Cure too much? But, what I learned from this experience was less about the look and more about tolerance and understanding. I can be very intense and very work-oriented, and not too socially graceful.  But there was a gentleness to that part. There was something open about Rayon that I’ve tried to carry on. There was something really fragile and approachable about her, and I hope those sides of her continue to exist in me.

8:12 am


03/07/2013, Fast + Louche

The king of stripes: Riccardo Tisci for Givenchy

The king of florals: Dries van Noten

When I was on my way to Paris for the haute couture shows in Paris, I managed to get to the City of Lights early enough to catch the tail end of mens fashion week. Truth be told, the mens shows are where the action is: The shows are on time, they’re more fashion focused and, let’s be honest here, full of the world’s most handsome men. So, I’m not complaining about having to see some boys before the girls took over Paris. While I was inspired by the mandals that were on the runway in Milan, in Paris I found a few other interesting trends. My hands down favorite was the red lipstick on Hedi Slimane’s runway for Saint Laurent and Thom Browne’s outrageous colorful military men. I bumped into Thom in our hotel and asked him if he had any tips about red lips, and he did: matte. Nothing glossy over here. Of course, I will never try a red lip in public (or will I?), but the other trends I loved in Paris were much more approachable: strips and florals. I’ve always been a fan of some lines in my wardrobe, from sailor strips to pin stripes to everything in between. But Riccardo Tisci hit stripes over the head with his bright and graphic Givenchy collection, one of my favorite in Paris. Another stand out was Dries van Noten’s show, which was full of easy, breezy and beautiful florals. The other tricky part about the mens shows is that, because the way the schedule works out, they happen nearly a full year before the clothes will hit stores. But I reckon it’s worth it to wait to come in full bloom.

The red lipstick at Thom Browne

More stripes, top, at Phillip Lim and Paul & Joe, and florals, bottom, at Annne Demeulemeester and Sacai

With additional reporting from Caroline Mason

11:34 am


26/06/2013, Observations
YouTube Preview Image

I’m buddies with Francesco Vezzoli for a few reasons. We find ourselves often in the same cities, the same events, in the same crowds, and we have an ability to endlessly entertain each other with societal observations, which are typically ridiculous and occasionally profane. We have many of the same interests too. What are those, you may ask? In the above trailer that he put together for a retrospective tour of his decade and a half as a working artist (which already opened in Rome, and will travel to MOMA PS1 in Brooklyn and then the MOCA Gallery in California later this year), he sums them up most eloquently in a list: Art, fame, religion, obsession, vanity, sex, divas, celebrity and, lastly, Vezzoli himself.

8:28 pm


25/06/2013, General

Thick, strappy sandals at Calvin Klein, left, and at Prada, right

I can remember when I was in sixth grade, Nike debuted some footwear that was part trainer and part strappy sandal. Sort of like a Teva that you could play basketball in. They had mesh netting and a zig zag stripe. Looking back, they were absolutely hideous. I was the only person in the world I ever saw who wore them and it was a very odd misstep in the aesthetic artistic career of the fine folks at Nike. While I regret that one purchase, my attraction to strappy mens footwear has not subsided. I still love a mandal. So it is with excitement and glee that I can report that my favorite shoe trend from the recently wrapped Milan mens shows were butch looking strappy sandals. They were worn with swimsuits, of course, but in shows like Prada and Versace, also pairs with trousers and even brightly colored suits. Be still my heart. And my pedicurist. Because, boys, if you want to step out in a strappy sandal, make sure you attend to those toenails first.

Mandals at Ferragamo, left, and Dolce & Gabbana, right

Looks from Vivienne Westwood, left, and Christopher Kane, right

With additional reporting from Caroline Mason

8:24 am

Sketchy Stuff: My Interview With The Illusive Fashion Cartoonist

22/06/2013, General

I’m in an illustrator’s state of mind. And I’m not alone: The editors at V magazine, where I’m the editor at large, decided on an illustration theme for our May issue. (On stands now: Look for Miley Cyrus wearing mens underpants on the cover.) In the magazine we reminisce on the career of influential artist Antonio Lopez, and I did a fabulous story on the illustrator known by only one name: Risko. So when I stumbled across the blog Fashion Cartoonist, which imagines fashion celebrities as ultra glamorous and slightly ridiculous youngsters, I had to meet the person behind it. The one hook: He (or she?) wants to remain anonymous. But I contacted him (or her?) and managed to cull some inspiring information anyway.

Anna Dello Russo as imagined by the Fashion Cartoonist

I think we’re having an illustration renaissance in fashion. Antonio Lopez’s Book definitely had an impact earlier this year, and magazines like Vanity Fair  Are turning to illustrators more often, even for their year best dressed lists. So, why do you think we’re seeing this?

I love those graceful and elegant illustrations! I guess in these days of ever present videos and photographs, instantly shared by anybody, a drawing brings a very personal perspective and a certain old school flair. Since mine are focused on achieving a comic effect, I’d call myself a cartoonist more than an illustrator.

When did you start your drawings? How long does it take to do one?

I’ve been drawing since I can remember, but I started the fashion cartoons only last April. I carry around a small sketchbook to jot down ideas when they struck me. I could think of ten all at once. But I could obsess for days over one detail when I’m actually creating the cartoon.

Why did you start doing fashion people? Do you think they are ripe for parody?

My ‘day job’ is in the fashion industry, so inspiration is simply around me every day. Who knows? Maybe if I worked in the food industry I’d be drawing caricatures of famous chefs when they were kids.

You once said Tom Ford was too perfect to draw. Who’s fun to draw? Who else is impossible to draw?

I enjoy drawing Anna Wintour as a kid who would not take off her sunglasses even at bedtime. The difficult ones are those that are hard to imagine when they were kids. For example, how would I do a toddler Waris, when his most recognizable feature is a long beard?! Luckily he also wears a turban, so I might still find a way!

Why are you staying anonymous? In this day of omnipresent bloggers and social media, I didn’t think anyone wanted to anonymous anymore.

I simply thought it would be more fun this way! I want the focus to be on my drawings, not on me. Now I will need to stay anonymous until I find a good enough excuse to come out. Maybe a book signing one day?

Can you at least give me some basic bio information: Male or female? 20’s or 30’s? Are you a vegan?

Fine: I eat everything. The natural curiosity that helps me find ideas for my cartoons extends also to my relationship with food.

I guess that’s all I’m going to get. I know your blog plays into the humorous side of the early development stages of these major personalities, but it got me thinking: Do you think that a inherent trait like personal style starts to form at that stage? Like, do you think Andre Leon Talley really did wrap himself in carpets as a predecessor to the cape?

The cartoons purposefully distort and exaggerate the behaviors I imagine, but in some cases I have a feeling I may not be too far from the truth! When people have such creativity, genius and of course attitude – I really believe it must have appeared in some way when they were kids too.

Let’s talk about the blog. Is it a hobby, or one day a commercial venture? Do you plan on selling prints?

It definitely started as a hobby. But it is getting more attention than I ever thought, so who knows? Would you buy a print?

Absolutely! OK, last question: Which is your favorite illustration?

That’s difficult to answer. Most of the time my favorite is my latest one. So right now I would have to say the one with baby Anna Dello Russo. But the one I day after that one will probably be my favorite.

Who will that be?

I’m not telling.


3:36 pm


19/06/2013, Fast + Louche

The US Ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, started three days of an American-French arts alliance celebration with a heady question: “Can art help you live?” He didn’t answer his question, but if he had asked me I would have said that art may not make you live longer, but it certainly makes life better. That’s why I traveled to Paris last weekend, along with a hodge podge of other Americans, mainly from Texas, mainly with big hair and big diamonds, for the ‘Liaisons au Louvre.’ Becca Cason Thrash is a force to be reckoned with. She has single-handledly made this event a powerhouse of arts fundraising. This year, the third installment, festivities lasted three days and included a dinner at the US Embassy; a private tour of the Palais du Luxembourg, where the French Senate meets; a tour of the Louvre when the museum is closed to the public; and then a gala dinner. Oh yea, and a performance from the legendary Diana Ross. Thrash, along with her friend Kip Forbes, have raised millions of dollars for the Louvre. And seemed to have fun doing it.

The first night’s inaugural dinner was held at the private residence of the Ambassador, and it made me feel super nationalistic and proud to be an American. (Feeling chic as an American is hard in this town.) Two long banquette tables with simple white and silver tablescaping decorated an evening which was catered by the Ritz Paris. Just because the hotel is closed for renovations doesn’t mean the chefs can’t ship up something special, apparently. The second night was feted with a dinner in the Palais du Luxembourg after a tour of the French Senate. The Senate was marvelous, gilded and divine. Duran Duran’s Nick Rhodes smiled that it was camp in the best way possible. Dinner ended with table hopping requests from The Gypsy Queens.

The third and final day was the most decadent. It started with a morning tour of the Louvre on a day when it’s normally closed. That means we had the entire museum to ourselves, which was great. It also meant that they were running fire alarms and evacuation drills, which was amusing because know I know how to say, ‘Please calmly and evacuate the museum’ in about eight different languages. Aesthetic highlights for me were the two modernist ceilings, one by George Braques and installed in 2002, and the other by Cy Twombly, the most recent addition to the museum, which was installed in 2010. It’s an uncommon work for Twombly, full of planets and celestial shapes and not a single squiggly line. We also spent some time taking in the Islamic wing of the museum, recently opened in 2012. The Islamic artifacts were splendid, but I was more inspired by the gallery itself. It was half submerged under the museum, and topped by a roof of waving gold, a triumph from the architect Rudy Ricciotti.

Dinner that night was the finale of the Liaisons, a black-tie dinner in one of the halls of the Louvre. My favorite dresses: Bianca Brandolini’s lace-ed and rosette-ed Alto Moda couture and Milla Jovovich’s shimmering Saint Laurent column dress, the latter of which weighed, oh, about 60 pounds. Following dinner, there was a live auction, officiated by Becca, of course. Becca wore Jean Paul Gaultier haute couture, but don’t be fooled by a lady in a fancy dress: she is ballsy and aggressive and fabulous. She knew every single bidder and would drop bon mots on the audience like, ‘Oh, it’s only money, who will give me another few thousand?’ I love ‘em from Texas. After she raided her hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Louvre, another diva took the stage: Diana Ross. Bianca, Milla, Giambattista Valli and Hamish Bowles all charged the stage – video proof included below – for a still fabulous performance from Ms. Ross. (She even gave us a little “I Will Survive.”) Her ensemble was my favorite: All Ross, all the time. Big wig, bedazzled red dress and a gilded platform. I loved it so much, I think I may have found my Halloween costume.

Captions, from top: Milla, Bianca and Olga, coming into the Louvre for the Liaisons gala; the Pyramids at night; Becca, giving Ms. Ross a run for her money; Milla and me; The Gypsy Queens live in the Senate; Juliet and Charlotte; my favorite ceiling inside the Louvre: Georges Braques’ The Birds, found in the Greek antiquities hall; a subtle dinner scheme; Duran Duran’s John Taylor (swoon) and his wife Gela; Milla’s Saint Laurent pumps, which looked amazing but weren’t the most comfortable things, apparently; Milla by night; Giambattista Valli arrives; a subtle state room at the US Embassy in Paris; Hamish Bowles in the Ambassador’s garden; the Cathedral of Notre Dame; locks on one of Paris’ many bridges; the ceiling to the Louvre’s new partially submerged Islamic wing; a reminder that the Empire State is everywhere; Becca working her auction; Bianca and I arriving; Diana Ross in all her glory; Becca and Giamba; a video of Diana Ross live, with some cameos from Bianca, Giambattista, Hamish and yours truly.
6:19 pm


17/06/2013, Observations

Dr. Thomas B. Ferguson, in his office circa 1980′s

Dr. Thomas B Ferguson, who went to the spiritual hospital in the sky last month at the age of 90, was a big deal in the world of thoracic surgery. Not that I would know. I know about as much of the world of thoracic surgery as Dr. Ferguson knew about the world of high fashion. (But my mother explained it this way: Uncle Tom, as I called him when I was a little boy, was the Tom Ford of heart surgery. Does that clarify it for you?) The reason why I was so moved by his recent passing, however, had nothing to do with his highly decorated, internationally acclaimed career. The reason was that I would not be doing what I’m doing today, I would not be living in New York, chasing my dreams around the world, surrounding myself with creative people – I would not be the person I am today without him. And I don’t know if I ever told him that.

A bit of biography on TBF: He was born on May 6th, 1923 in Oklahoma City, OK. His interest in medicine was sparked by a grandfather who was a horse and buggy doctor in Boggy Depot, OK, at the turn of the century.  He attended Duke University and Duke University School of Medicine. At Duke, he met Elizabeth Shanley; they were married in 1948, and stayed married for 65 years.

My mother worked in various capacities for Dr. Ferguson for 42 years. She started a young lady as his secretary and ended a grandmother as his managing editor at a series of medical journals. I didn’t see much of him when I was little, but because of his relationship with my mother we always spoke of him, we always sought his approval, and I was always told to be on my best behavior when he was around. (I never did. Which is why I think he liked me.) When I moved to New York, he always asked after me, always checked in on me. He would write me motivational emails when I felt things weren’t going my way, he always told me I could do whatever I wanted. I knew he was in my corner and I never wanted to disappoint him.

Polaroids of Dr. Ferguson and my mother, early in their professional relationship

The last time I saw Dr. Ferguson was three weeks ago in New York. I had flown back for a few days amid the middle of the Cannes film festival and he was in town for a heart valve procedure. My parents were in town from St. Louis too, and so was his son, Dr. Bruce Ferguson, another cardiothoracic surgeon. The five of us met for dinner the evening before he was admitted to the hospital. It turned out to be one of his last meals. Thinking back on that meal is surreal and bittersweet. Dr. Ferguson didn’t order the steak that night because he thought it was too expensive, which I remember poignantly because it was the last time he ever ordered a meal. (Let that be a lesson for us: Get the steak if we want it.) At dinner I asked him about hiring my mother and what she was like as a young person, and I’m happy I did. It was the first time, as an adult with pasts of our own, we could talk about adult things. He teased my mom for being pushy and bullheaded, and she loved every minute of it.

What will stick with me forever about that dinner was when he said how proud he was of me for moving to a city where I knew no one and carving out a life for myself. I had earned his approval. It was something. I didn’t tell him at the time, which I will always regret, but it was his encouragement — both to me and my parents — that convinced me to move to New York and chase my dreams. Like most overly confident people, beneath my exterior of ambition lies a deep core of insecurity. I wasn’t sure about moving to New York, and neither were my parents. It was Dr. Ferguson who told me I could do it, and told my parents to let me. And I will be thankful for that for the rest of my life.

The two of us created an interesting paradox, an unlikely relationship: He didn’t understand my world and I certainly didn’t know much about his. But I’d like to think there was mutual respect and admiration. He was a great doctor, but more importantly he was a wonderful man.

My mother, flanked by Dr. Ferguson, Sr., and his son, Dr. Ferguson, Jr., the last time I saw him, at dinner in New York City in 2013