October 12, 2005

Guerillas in the Midst of a Gay Gala at Neiman Marcus

Last night I attended a swank party with lots of swanky folks at a swankified new establishment.

The champagne was flowing, the hors d’oeuvre – fabulous – the valet parking, unnecessary, but an elegant touch, since there was a bevy of parking spaces to be found on the street. I guess folks were worried about walking half a block at twilight in an “emerging neighborhood” – but since I ride those streets every night, valet parking seemed a bit alarmist and bourgeoisie.

cheguevara.jpgI pulled up in front of the city’s hottest new restaurant and chained my bike to the light post, which faced the restaurant’s front door. As I said, I ride these streets every night, so while I’m not to worried about getting mugged, I do know a bike as cute as mine would be stolen, if left unsecured. “Better safe than sorry, you hypocrite…”I thought to myself. And yes, my bike is super cute – everyone says so.

As I was getting my Pee-Wee on with bicycle chains, a very nervous, all-dressed-up fella approached me. “Um….you’re invited to the party tonight?” he asked with either suspicion or surprise, his eyebrows raised, his shoulders -- a tad hunched. I couldn’t tell exactly what he was getting at or if he was supposed to be a maitre d’ or a bouncer, because he was doing a piss-poor job on all fronts.

“Yes…I’m with the media,” and I sashayed inside as he nervously looked at me – my bike – and me again. I will admit that making white people nervous gives me a perverse sense of joy. And while I do work in the media, I was mostly just there to be nosey and for some free food.

So I sat down to try the various food offerings, which were all quite tasty, sipping my Diet Coke and eavesdropping on conversations, as is my way. I will admit, I felt a twinge of Carrie Bradshaw….but not the good kinda Carrie – the wheeeeeeee! it’s a party Carrie was somewhere else last night. A better party, I wanna say, but the publicist who invited me would kill me... so lemme say...um....another party, instead.

See, I was standing by the bar and a handsome man entered the front door. The gay that I was chatting with leaned over to me and asked, “He looks familiar….is he on TV?”

“Occasionally,” I replied, “considering he’s the mayor….”

sla-0215.jpgI then engaged another person in conversation who thought it would be a fabulous idea for the newspaper where I work to host an event at Neiman Marcus to benefit our annual PrideFest celebration. He was, by the way, another gay – and was wearing a Che Guevara tee shirt.

“I have a funny story about tee-shirts, “ I said – wanting to turn the conversation as quickly as possible from Neiman Marcus and the gays. There’s only so many times in one day I like to wrap my mind around nervous white people – and talking about a gaggle of gays at a gala would have done me in, for real.

This is the story I told him – kinda – I’ve brightened up some of the language for print screen:

A few weeks ago, I was at my favorite coffee shop, writing away, wearing my Patty Hearst tee-shirt. I stepped outside to smoke my cigarette and this young queen, reeking of Abercrombie and Similac told me he liked my graphic tee.

"Where did you get it?" he asked.

"Oh...I got it at the Tivoli last November when they showed the movie," I replied.

"Madonna had a movie?"

I looked at him quizzically.

americanlife.gif"That's from American Life, right?" He asked - very confused.

"No...this is Patty Hearst.”

“Who’s that?”

I reflected, before saying, “She was kinda like Paris Hilton...except she got kidnapped by some radicals and she robbed banks."

"That's hot," he said.

“You can learn more at pbs dot org, “ I replied.

So that’s the story I told.

And then the person wearing the Che Guevara shirt told me that he didn’t know who Che Guevara was. He pointed to the fella who didn’t recognize the mayor and said, “He told me who this is….he's in a David Bowie song.”

tomford3.jpgI’ll leave you to ponder that for a moment while we turn our lens to Tom Ford’s dramatic return to relevancy, thanks to an allegiance with Estée Lauder. In an upcoming fashion spread, super dreamy Tom Ford is seen posing, nekkid no less, with plastic dolls and freakishly buffed, polished and hairless bois. When asked if he was creating a “frightening image of women,” he replied:

I'm just trying to make a comment to let people see where we are. Sometimes it's hard for us to see our own world. There's a surreal quality to a lot of things, just go to a dinner party and see a lot of 60-year-old women all stretched and pulled. There's real manipulation going on. Sometimes you have to exaggerate these things in order to make the point. So that was really the point of the photo shoot, not necessarily to say it's right or wrong or good or bad or we should do it or we shouldn't do it. But trying to show where we are.
Where are we indeed, Tom Ford?

Now, I don’t know much about Tom Ford, except that he’s handsome, rich and…damn…has a great ass! But I do know that very few will perceive this photo shoot as a critique of “60-year-old women all stretched and pulled.” I suspect it further legitimizes body fascism, will increase visibility of Estée Lauder and will enhance Tom Ford’s own fashion iconography. It gives him a little edge in the fashion-leadership department. Lord knows we don’t wanna see Karl Lagerfeld’s scrawny ass….

Now, I have no interest in being snide here. Well…yes…I do…but I also agree with Tom -- it is up to you to draw your own conclusions.

Here’s mine:

We’re artificial, plastic, stretched and fake. As a culture, we obscenely regurgitate our imagery and iconography without knowledge, history or perspective.

When folks don’t know who their mayors are, when folks mistake Madonna for Patty Hearst and Che Guevara is relegated to the world of Neiman Marcus, our culture faces issues larger than Botox and facelifts.

leporemarilyn.jpgWhat happens when Norman Jean Baker becomes Marilyn Monroe becomes Andy Warhol’s Marilyn becomes David LaChapelle’s Amanda Lepore as Marilyn Monroe and then just becomes and ordinary, unknown and perhaps frightening face on a tee shirt?

In other words, what happens when real people, who have lived and loved and died become pop culture icons and then evolve into another state of iconography, devoid of history, knowledge and humanity?

Is that good?



Is that just what pop culture is? A constant state of self-reflection? A constant state of over-amplified dehumanized commodities – with an inkling of humanity somewhere, forgotten in the background?

And if it is – if it is, indeed, just a constant flow of recycled ideas and personalities….does it deserve to give it the attention it gets?

I’m not here to say the pop culture sky is falling. I’m just a middle-aged queer who understands his referents. And I imagine that some of you do, too. I guess I just worry about the children and the uninformed from time to time. So go tell somebody about Patty Hearst. She, by the way, had a great quote the other day, speaking of celebrity:

"How many times can you look up someone's skirt and think it's fascinating? 'Look, they're pumping their own gas!' … We had a subscription to one magazine, which I won't name - I just had to call up and cancel it because there were 18 pages of people scratching their ass or licking their fingers or blowing their noses."
Go tell the folks buying tee shirts at Neiman Marcus that Che would probably advocate killing their champagne drinking asses. Stop a friend from chopping up his or her face – the world is no kinder to fake people than it is to real people, so what’s the point?

Sometimes you have to accept your own limitations. Accepting other people’s limitations – well, that’s easier to preach than it is to follow, especially when the world they live in is a plastic realm of valet service and cheek-implanted dreams. Speaking of cheeks – after all those carbs last night, I'm gonna spend some extra time on my bicycle tonight. Hope, alone, will not help me achieve that Tom Ford derriere. Lord knows it's not that tight...but trust -- it won’t melt under the glare of spotlights, either.

Malcolm-X-banner.jpgAnd just for fun, you can accessorize your revolution at the officially licensed Che store, which also sells Malcolm X merchandise. Malcolm X, as portrayed by Denzel Washington, of course.....

Posted October 12, 2005 04:35 PM

I love the Tom Ford spread in W. It is so disturbing and sexy.

-- posted by: Teddy on October 14, 2005 09:27 AM

OMG - I had forgotten that I was once young enough to think of Patty Hearst as a romantic rebellious figure!

-- posted by: Chicken Little on October 12, 2005 07:34 PM

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