Saturday, October 1, 2011

My New Best Friend

A friend of mine was recently interviewed for a food-focused magazine and asked who she’d most like to invite to a dinner party. When I read her reply in the sidebar, I did a double take. Henry Kissinger? Why not invite Nixon, too? You can serve cottage cheese with ketchup, a liter of warm Pepsi, and everyone can be back home in bed by 9:30.

When I called my friend later to see if whatever meds she'd been taking had finally stopped giving her these neo-con hallucinations, she said she had no idea why she’d named the unindicted co-conspirator as the person with whom she most wanted to break bread (or the will of the wily IndoChinese Communists).  "It was the first name I thought of!” she wailed.

While I have no plans for a major interview any time soon (even the Patch is aggressively uninterested in me), I decided that I’d better get my fictional dinner party guest list all lined up. When Brenda Starr, Patch reporter, begs for a response, I want to be ready.

Luckily, I’ve been reading  D.V., so I’m ready with the person to seat at my right. When Mrs. Diana Vreeland arrives half an hour late, wafting along a trail of cigarettes and perfume, I’ll be ready with that vodka cocktail, anticipating an evening of jolly fun. She’ll fasten a cigarette to her holder right away, showing off her lacquered nails while I scurry to find an ashtray. (“When I arrived in America, I had these very dark red nails which some people objected to, but then some people object to absolutely everything.”) Then we’ll settle in together for a great evening.  Who cares if she’s been dead for more than twenty years?  She’s still got more life in her than Kissinger.

While I certainly do love my friends, I realize, after reading this book, that they’re decidedly lacking in – well, glamour, for want of a better word.  Vreeland not only had glamour to spare, she knew buckets of glamorous people, too. My friends’ relationship to celebrity is more of the bystander variety.  Virginia stood in line behind Alan Cumming at the coat check of a gay bar. Deb got her picture taken with Mandy Patinkin when he came back to the theater for his umbrella. Joel won a Chevy on The Price is Right and shook Bob Barker’s hand. 

Vreeland, on the other hand,  knew Andy Warhol. She helped Jack Nicolson apply a plaster when his back was sore. She went to El Morocco with Clark Gable. My friends are nice people, but they never say things like “Did I ever tell you about the Duchess of Windsor’s bathroom?” 

Also, my friends are decidedly lacking in staff, because I've discovered from Diana that they're a great source of interesting anecdotes. I don’t think we’ve got a chauffeur or personal assistant among us. And I’ve never heard one of them say something like, “You really should be talking to Joseph, my masseur. There’s someone who knows the inside stuff.” Also, they don't have much to say about their fittings, whereas my new best bud tells me, “Coco Chanel always fitted me in her private atelier six flights up in the house on the rue Cambon.”

Now that I’ve decided to invite Diana over, I wonder how we’ll get along. Maybe, I am starting to worry, not so well. She’ll take one look at me – the decades-old yoga pants, the hair my kids cut and highlight at home – and feel the need for another cocktail, pronto, and make it a stiffish one. This is a woman who said that unshined shoes are the end of civilization. Also not in my favor, she seemed to concentrate so much on living, that she didn’t have much spare time for reading, which is the one thing I do an inordinate amount of. “Actually I can’t stand novels – I don’t care what happens to people on paper,” she declared.

But I’m a great listener, so maybe she’ll enjoy telling me her stories, and I know I’ll enjoy hearing them. Even though she famously loathed nostalgia, as she said in the first line of her book, she lived big and liked to tell about it. Like when she and her husband were living in London, returning at dawn from parties, and they’d hear the lions roaring at feeding time in the London Zoo. (“Oh, how wonderful to hear a lion roar in the middle of a city!”)

I consider it to be a big day if I meet a deadline, walk the dog and manage to get the kids delivered wherever they need to go.  Here’s Mrs. Vreeland, winding up an anecdote:
“Oh my God,” I said to Reed when we finally got back to the hotel, “what an evening!  The gnome, the girls, the madam … the King of Spain!”  We never did find out what happened to the British consul. This was all one day.  It may sound like too much of an experience, but don’t forget, we were living every hour of that day.  Everything was a lot in those days.  The world was much larger – and much smaller.  Don’t ask me to explain that.

It does give me hope to think that she said, "We all need a splash of bad taste; no taste is what I'm against." Maybe she’ll find me delightful, in a ghastly way.  Or maybe I’m overreaching with dinner, and should just meet her for lunch, instead. When she was the editor of Vogue, she was famous for never taking anyone to lunch. “I had a bridge table brought in with my lunch on it – a peanut butter and marmalade sandwich. And a shot of scotch.”  

I could manage that, I think, if she likes Skippy. If not, we’ll just move straight to the scotch.  Cheers, Mrs. Vreeland.

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