The Joy of Man’s Desiring

Ecce homo, you homo.

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

Detail of the hand painted silk.

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.

This year’s conclave of Jesi return to the stage to see who will wear the thorns.

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.

Butt Crack Jesus confers with Gun Control Jesus backstage. GCJ’s slogan: shoot cum not guns.

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.

Easter in San Francisco

 

Things I Will Miss, Volume III

I’ve always had a love/hate thing with Beaux-Arts. I’m childishly drawn to the grandeur but, as Diana Vreeland said, “the eye needs to travel” and with all that frou-frou which way does it go? Considering that almost all of its stylistic elements are from previous eras and that its success is based on new construction methods that allowed it to be produced on a large-scale, it’s not that original.

After the 1906 earthquake many doubted that a city should be rebuilt on a site prone to natural disasters. Civic leaders forged ahead anyway with a City Hall that was grander than anything previously imagined. Its dome, fifth largest in the world, stands as a defiant middle finger "fuck you" to the naysayers.
After the 1906 earthquake many doubted that a city should be rebuilt on a site prone to natural disasters. Civic leaders forged ahead anyway with a City Hall that was grander than anything previously imagined. Its dome, fifth largest in the world, stands as a defiant middle finger “fuck you” to the naysayers.

 

While many of us freeloaded on food stamps, Jeffrey had a job at City Hall. I would visit him on breaks in the third floor hallway. He talked about his old-school co-workers who would arrive early in the morning for an eye-opener at the bar across the street before work. Their fifteen minute morning break became a half hour so they could go knock a couple back. More knocking back occurred during their 1 1/2 hour lunch and the extended afternoon break. After work they would avoid the Muni rush hour crush by topping things off with just one more. Their evening homecoming must have been something to behold.
While many of us freeloaded on food stamps, Jeffrey had a job at City Hall. I would visit him on breaks in the third floor hallway.
 
He talked about his old-school co-workers who would arrive early in the morning for an eye-opener at the bar across the street before work. Their fifteen minute morning break became a half hour so they could go knock a couple back. More knocking back occurred during their 1 1/2 hour lunch and the extended afternoon break.
 
After work they would avoid the Muni rush hour crush by topping things off with just one more. Their evening homecoming must have been something to behold.

 

The Feminist Movement made it clear that women had the same job performance capabilities as men. In order to gain acceptance, however, they still had to play the feminine attire game (see Joan in Mad Men). To me that silly expectation is part of the allure of drag. We were leaning on the third floor balustrade one day when Jeffrey said "there she goes." I looked down and saw Supervisor Dianne Feinstein in a determined dash up the grand staircase. He added, "she always runs." Such a camp.
The Feminist Movement made it clear that women had the same job performance capabilities as men. In order to gain acceptance, however, they still had to play the feminine attire game (see Joan in Mad Men). To me that silly expectation is part of the allure of drag.
 
We were leaning on the third floor balustrade one day when Jeffrey said “there she goes.” I looked down and saw Supervisor Dianne Feinstein in her camel skirt and navy pumps doing a determined dash up the grand staircase. He added, “she always runs up those stairs.”
 
Such a camp.

 

In the late 70's I worked in the Mayor's Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her. She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she'd flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk "Hi. How are you." As she flew past me. She didn't know me from Adam but she could always use my vote. Still a camp.
In the late 70’s I worked in the Mayor’s Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her.
 
She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she’d flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk “hi. how are you” as she flew past me. She didn’t know me from Adam but she could always use my vote.
 
Still a camp.

 

Jeffrey found a Feinstein for Mayor sweatshirt at a thrift store for a quarter. It was from one of her earlier failed campaigns. I wore it the day I worked the Wilkes Bashford fashion show at the Kabuki. In the late 70's I worked in the Mayor's Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her. She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she'd flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk
Jeffrey found a Feinstein for Mayor sweatshirt at a thrift store for a quarter. It was from one of her earlier failed campaigns. I held on to it for years and finally wore it the day I worked the Wilkes Bashford fashion show at the Kabuki.
 
It was staged one week after the Milk/Moscone murders and a new mayor had not yet been selected. I realized that many might think my shirt “too soon” or insensitive. All the more reason to wear it.
 
After the rehearsal Willie Brown was meandering backstage. As he walked by me he looked at my shirt, shook his head and muttered, “they’re at it already?”
 
Always a camp.

Previous: Uncle Cookie’s Antique Empire
For the complete saga, From the Beginning

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