Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Hotelier

He was a famous New York hotelier—flagrant with his affairs, drug use, bisexuality, homegrown pornography (up here, tomatoes aren’t the only thing cultivated at home) and propensity to talk down to anyone and everyone. But, when he spoke, he did so with his head bowed in modest submission, his voice lowered. In his mind, the tall balance that he had accrued with his actions was to be paid off by the humble stance of his short, muscled body and hushed, I-can’t-believe-the-Concord-has-been-retired tone. His wife’s office—and namesake empire— was just across the narrow SoHo hallway, within earshot of the conference room where he dabbled in so many of his Big City sins. Ego maniacs and kept husbands think differently than you and I.
I worked for this man right after the News Channel, just before my writing classes (and myriad other temp jobs). Why? 25$ an hour. That, and I had to believe in something. My New York was humid and moody and persistent—I didn’t think that I could handle it all alone.
This story will be told just so. There won’t be one post, but many. Let’s call the “Hotelier” a mini-series in the cinematic life of Belle. What didn’t kill me, made me… well, you know.
“I have a very important job. And, from what I see, you might just be perfect for it,” the short, Jewish “head hunter” said, perusing my face, hair and jacquard suit. She resided deep in cubicle nation, high in the sky. Of course, Karen wasn’t an actual head hunter—she was a mere staffing company gopher that dealt in the currency of starry-eyed young things from Alabama and Iowa. The girls came to the city, the plan didn’t pan out, they made their way to Karen or someone like her.
“You’d be working for A.Z.” she said with the lift of a brow and a look of both intense expectation and satisfaction.
Never heard of the man. How was I supposed to react? Karen waited for a gush and toothy grin. I had nothing.
“I’m sorry, who?” I asked, trying to quell my bewilderment, feign excitement.
“Well, I suppose he is only known in certain circles,” she replied, splaying her fingers against the paltry expanse of her chest. “He’s the wife of K.D.—head of her namesake agency, “D Models.”
Interesting indeed…
“A job like this will require the utmost discretion. Do you think you can keep those pretty, red lips sealed?”
What an inappropriate question… and fascinating proposition.

Monday, September 25, 2006


“All of us struggle; all of us respond to struggle. In our secret being we are all tormented by the uncertainty, seldom more than in the glowing victories of youth: What if I fail? What do they do when they find out I’m me?”                                                                                           (Willie Morris)
(Monday blues… sad and feeling sorry for myself. I’ll try for something more upbeat tomorrow…)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Daniel’s Disciple

I adore the guinea hen stuffed with creamed spinach,carefully wrapped in tin foil. I love the little cups of chocolate souffle that rest on the top refrigerator shelf. I hate his hours.

(Chef’s whites and clogs tucked away in his bag, Jamie leaves for his first fourteen-hour day at “Daniel”)

Monday, September 18, 2006

Gloria, Jane and a New Kind of Radio

Rita Cosby and I talked television: Murdoch, censorship, fashion (red is best for blondes on-air). I marveled at Jane Fonda’s commanding presence, delivery and habit of wearing dark glasses inside. Gloria Steinem smiled, I followed suit and one of Patrick McMullan’s minions took our picture. A rousing Steinem speech brought down the house.
I met the brightest of feminist stars at Greenstone Media’s launch party held at the Museum of Television and Radio. The goal of these estrogen dynamos? Give Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern a run for their money. Give the women of America other women to listen to on the radio. The dials have long been dominated by testosterone-charged diatribes and agenda-pushing rants. Instead of a forum to discuss strippers and Strom Thurman, Greenstone hopes to provide an alternative environment for open, honest discussion—apolitical at that.
I didn’t tuck any business cards into my clutch (I’m not quite that professional) but I did manage to bring a small, spiral-bound reporter’s notebook. After a few glasses of Chardonnay, I stopped talking shop and started getting real–taking down the email addresses and phone numbers of the young, professional women that made the evening. And let me tell you, this is rare for Manhattan. We women usually end up exiting events with catty comments tucked away, a desire to lose ten pounds and the sudden urge to blow our next paycheck on Madison Avenue (gotta keep up with the Jones’). But, somehow, this evening was different. I left with a wonderful sense of female community and support. Let’s hope the station can make me feel the same way… Check them out and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 11, 2006

“7th on Sixth” Fashion Orientation

Date: Monday, September 11th
From: Belle Style Support
To: Fashion Week Immigrant
Subject: “7th on Sixth” Fashion Orientation
Welcome, Fashionista, to the seven-day orgy of the sublime, superficial, sexy and cerebral that is New York’s Olympus Fashion Week! Whether you hail from a fly-over state or the heart of St. Germain, you’ve purged like a pro, procured your passes, packed your bags—God willing, Louis’ and Goyards—and somehow made your way to New York City, the style capital of the world (give or take a few cities). The extravaganza has begun—do you know what you’re wearing?
Consider “The Tents” your sartorial home base. Inside this chic oasis, the rules are simple: no white triangles, tushes or toying with straps. Unless you’re Beyonce, Christina or Delphine (bien sur, Bernard Arnault’s daughter can dress as she pleases), you’re going for understated elegance. Case in point, slacks over skirts. If you’re lucky enough to get anywhere near the front row, you don’t need paparazzi shots of your nether regions cloaked in white lace La Perla popping up on the pages of “Vogue.” Trust us—it’s happened before.  Save yourself the embarrassment and cloak your comparatively elephantine lower appendages in light gabardine or silk trousers. Lagerfeld and Malandrino (Club Monaco and H&M if you’re poor) are making lovely ones this season.   
Every so often, though, you may have cause to venture outside the cozy protective bubble of Bryant Park, whether for a shopping expedition or a night on the town. By all means, go for it! New York is a vibrant, colorful and most of all fashionable city, and your own aura of unshakable confidence is your most important accessory. But a word to the wise: stylistic landmines litter the terrain.
Do not be alarmed. Below, you’ll find reputation-saving hints on how to make your way—or fake your way—through five of the most fashion-conscious corners of the city. You can thank me later.   
The key to the Midtown wasteland of track-suited tourists and comatose office workers is staying on your fashion game. Although you’ll be tempted to shed your stilettos and Hermes Birkin 40cm for a fanny pack and Ohio State sweatshirt, stay strong and style-savvy. Channel “Bright Lights, Big City” not fluorescent marquees and fighting cabbies. Remember, you’re coming from the greatest show on earth—they’re just going to see the “Lion King.”
Nothing says sophisticated Midtown comfort like cashmere. Layer a Brunello Cucinelli camel-colored cardigan or black shawl over your wisp-of-a-blouse for the cool restaurants and showrooms. Your Malandrino slacks will love you for it! Keep things sensible with large, practical accessories like the aforementioned Hermes or the Prada “boat and tote”-style bag. Your glamorous (and under-eye-concealing) Oliver J. Peoples sunglasses and Barney’s makeup stash will fit inside as will your Blackberry, Mont Blanc pen and notepad and JP Tod loafers  (a quick change from your Manolos; perfect for cross-town walking).
Finally, fashionistas, I beg you to think larger proportions and pared down maquillage. Save the sexy attire for south of 14th Street. This means no tight pencil skirts, open-toed shoes, overly fitted blazers or extreme makeup allowed! You’ll look like Anna Nicole Smith pre-Trim Spa (swollen ankles, puffy face), post awards show (black eyes, smudged lips).
SoHo:You’re in the center of it all and somehow lost. SoHo is the geographic heart of the downtown scene yet still a little removed from the pulsing lifeblood of the city’s youngest and most hip. What is expected of you? Something between Meg Ryan pre- plastic surgery and Sofia Coppola post “Lost in Translation.” Spice up your staple trousers with a jewel-toned “Dear” silk top (from Thompson Street’s “Legacy”), a fun Parisian topper from “The Hat Shop,” “Me & Ro” gold and diamond bangles, a pony-skin Chanel bag.
Meatpacking:Whatever you do, put away the Midtown Manolos. The cobblestone streets of the Meatpacking District and neighboring Chelsea have ruined more expensive footwear than Lapo Elkann (Fiat heir, womanizer, cross dresser). Now is the time for Chanel ballet flats or, if you’re really desperate, dispensable “9 West” 2-inchers. Sneak into the bathroom of Pastis and slip into a Catherine Malandrino cocktail-length dress. Exchange the bangles for some serious vintage “Renee Lewis” diamonds and put on your best, devil-may-care Ellen Barkin smile.
Lower East Side:
If you can borrow a mutt puppy for the afternoon, you’re golden. But if cleaning up Puggle poo is not your idea of a glamorous afternoon, consider shedding the pricey jewels, donning plastic accessories (earrings, belt buckles, jelly shoes) and pulling out the pair of leggings that you wore in 8th grade. You’re angling for the sweet, depressed look of Zooey Deschanel and the hopeless aura of one of Moby’s girlfriends. Understood?
Upper East Side:
We’re back north of 14th Street and trying to go into permanent debt via our college-issued credit cards. Thank God VISA just raised your credit limit. If you have gym-toned or lipo-sucked upper arms, by all means show them off with a “TSE” silk knit sleeveless top. Your cashmere is always welcome in the bistros and gem stores of Madison but why not have a little fun with a “Ralph Lauren” Black Label cropped, linen canvas jacket? Rent a driver for the afternoon (what’s an extra $150 at this point?) and make sure he follows you at a respectable distance. Affect a look of annoyance and disdain—channel Nan Kempner 1969.
Williamsburg:You’re over the river but by no means in the fashion woods. In Brooklyn, you can let down your Fekkai-highlighted hair (that hopefully hasn’t been washed in a day or three—greasy is good ) and have some philosophical fashion fun. Slip into a faded, distressed tee (Pac Man, Poison) that reflects your once-upon-a-time, cushy suburban upbringing or don a cotton, tissue-thin American Apparel tunic dress. Just put away the brands! Williamsburg attire represents ideas, not cash flow.   
**A Q&A session will be held on the rooftop of the SoHo House this evening at 11pm. Please join us if you have any lingering questions about appropriate Fashion Week attire or etiquette (i.e. Should mini Veuves be consumed with a straw? Open-air drug use? Is it okay to corner Karl at the after-party and kiss his papal ring?

Friday, September 8, 2006

Across the Hall

You’re not supposed to know your neighbors in the City. That’s the rule, I’ve heard. They should be strangers— an across the hall, up the stairs, down the corridor annoyance that is tolerated, not embraced. But it was Easter and I saw that someone new had moved across the hall so I deposited a pot of tulips and a plate of brownies at the doorstep. Trying out my latest, most politically correct character, my note wished the stranger(s), “Happy Easter/Spring/ Holy holiday of your choice. Whatever your religious beliefs, I hope that you like chocolate! Welcome to the building!”
Now, 4 years later, I doubt I would ever do such a thing. Leave food, flowers and my china plate on some unknown’s welcome mat? It’s like an offering to the gods but extended toward mere mortals—so much time, kindness and thought expended… But, I didn’t know any better back then because I was so, so green.
There were two of them that moved in—an Irish Catholic and a Sephardic Persian.  How did they pair up? How did an actress from Long Island and an Iranian émigré in finance meet and move into my corner of SoHo? I’d ask them dozens of times to tell me their story. This is one of life’s most interesting riddles, you see: the process of meeting your other half, coming together, making something whole.
Our time to talk and drink was after her auditions…