I blame my financial problems on Lucille Ball. When I was sick as a child I would lie on the couch and watch I Love Lucy reruns. For Lucy, money was just an obstacle to be dealt with at some point. It was not the most important thing in life. Ideas were.
America was sympathetic to her financial struggles. I was captivated by her imagination and optimism. If she needed a deep freezer for a side of beef, it would be delivered and installed before ever thinking about how she’d pay for it.
Adopting her nonchalant attitude has created many hills and valleys in my life. After the abuses of the 1970’s, my credit score was in Death Valley. When I received an unsolicited charge card from Bergdorf Goodman in 1981 it was completely unexpected.
Bergies was the nation’s most exclusive retailer and Jackie’s favorite store. I fantasized she’d put up one of her watches as collateral, how else could I have gotten the account? I didn’t get to New York often and they only did one catalog a year but I was still able to max out the account with a major purchase every now and then
San Francisco’s most exclusive retailer at the time was Wilkes Bashford where my friend Cass worked. She was Wilkes’ left nut for years and, at times, his right one too. She swung both ways.
We were in Paris once and she snuck me into a Jean-Paul Gaultier show. The models paraded around in such exaggerated slouches, the backs of their heads were practically sliding down their cracks. It was the mid-90’s and the anti-smoking campaign was at its most rabid. M. Gaultier pointedly made each model puff away on a Camel as they strutted. It was quite dramatic.
I knew the collections created press and brand recognition for the designers. But I wondered why merchandise in stores was rarely as bizarre as what was in the shows.
Cass said it was artistic license, over-emphasizing what the couturier was thinking for the season. Whether it was color palette, shoulder padding or a key accessory, it was exploited to the point of absurdity on the models. The same design elements would be on both runway and rack, just in varying degrees.
In the late 80’s we both were working in New York and met for tea in The Palm Court at the Plaza. As we finished Cass said, “let’s go next door and march through Bergdorf’s.”
Bergdorf Goodman is a holy experience and, like most religions, you either get it or you don’t. They’re so ahead of the game you come across items you’ve never seen before and wonder if you even like them. They linger in your mind, haunt you until you buy them based only on gut feeling. Talk about a leap of faith.
Such was the case with a $1500 Swiss blanket I wanted to show Cass. It was one of a half-dozen uniquely hand painted ones in the home department. They reminded me of art in a Phillip Johnson lobby: abstract. splashy and colorful set against the clean modern lines of the building.
Cass was supportive but noncommittal. She knew it was a matter of conviction and ultimately up to me. So I bought it, came to truly love it but could never find the right place for it. Until Palm Springs when I realized it belonged on the wall where Phil would have wanted it.
Last week I rehung it as the backdrop for my Porno Jesus Portrait. The artwork is from the same junk store gallery, Finders Keepers, in Fort Wayne where I bought my naive winterscape. I gaze at it often thinking about who painted it, why they painted it and what the hell was going through their mind.
Working with the painting put me in the mood for a real-time redeemer in the flesh. On Sunday I took off for Golden Gate Park and the 39th Annual Hunky Jesus Contest. This year’s winner was a little Puerto Rican pepperpot who won over the crowd by tossing rolls of paper towels. Who says we don’t have an inspirational President?
After a taxing week of interior decoration, it was great being outdoors on a beautiful, sunny day. Spiritual (but not carnal) congress was achieved and I feel I can carry on for another year.
Here’s hoping the Easter Bunny didn’t shit in your basket.