Priscilla, McQueen of the Metropolitan
Scott and I just got back from New York and, holy shit, it was hot out there! When you add the humidity to the record-breaking high temperatures, it could have made for some pretty sticky fashion moments. Luckily, one of our New York polo gays had tipped me off about the impending heat wave in time for me to switch out the Balmain rocker look I’d planned to pack for a cooler, crisper Hamptons-style wardrobe. Skinny jeans and lace-up boots at 103 degrees? I don’t fucking think so.
Now, I know that we usually share some good times over a quality television show or two but there was no time this last week for watching anything except a couple of late night episodes of Chelsea Lately and, after the kinds of late nights I was having, I don’t really remember too much about those. We have other eye-opening stuff to chat about, though, so not to worry.
Scott and I started out with a night of arrival cocktails at our friend Kelly’s sleek little Upper East Side apartment and that meant that we started our first full day in the City very, very late. The first productive thing we did was run down to the Lower East Side for dinner with the lovely Jill at a beautiful new restaurant Beauty & Essex because Jill always knows the best new places. Once we got through the tacky pawnshop entrance into the cavernous Art Deco-inspired space, the staff was amazing and the food was quite good, the Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup Dumplings deserving special mention. I have to say, too, that they were really quite tolerant of us and our crazy troupe of friends—writers, models, photographers, publicists and bankers—traipsing in and out and making very complicated drink orders once we’d taken over half the downstairs lounge.
The next day found us at The Met for the Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit that ends on the 7th of August. I know that our own Eric Baker reviewed the show in depth at the end of May but I just couldn’t see it without sharing my experience with you, too.
Though originally from Connecticut, Kelly worked the system like a native New Yorker and transformed her membership card, a friend’s card and a temporary card plus a button we found on the floor into all-access, front of the line free passes for all of us. I will now bestow upon Kelly the title of “The Awesomest Person Ever.” Sorry, Nelson Mandela.
The exhibit itself is beautifully curated and very accessible, especially considering the extreme theatricality that made McQueen seem so out of reach for so many. The chosen garments are organized in a way that disregards chronological order but makes perfect sense and the focus on his craftsmanship would bring an appreciation of the work regardless of anyone’s knowledge of fashion. Even if you manage to avoid the $25 entry fee and the two-hour line like we did, I still recommend the $7 audio tour that adds a wealth of insider information from his friends and associates to complete the experience. Remember, though, to remove the headphones between each audio segment so that you can absorb the impeccably chosen music in each room.
The “Cabinet of Curiosities” was clearly the most popular room of the exhibit with iconic scenes from McQueen’s runway shows playing on screens high on the bookcase-lined walls. These cases were filled with some of the more dramatic accessories created for the collections, including a cast ribcage corset with a tail, a gorgeous Fabergé egg-inspired handbag, amazing Philip Treacy headpieces and an array of wildly impractical shoes. My personal favorite, though, was the room called “Romantic Nationalism” with Imperial British-inspired pieces lined up on the right and Scottish tartan pieces to the left, giving us an “England v. Scotland” vibe, though both countries were clearly a huge influence throughout the designer’s career. A close second was the darkly glamorous “Romantic Gothic” room in which aged mirrored walls providing a backdrop for the dramatic, funereal blacks. A stunning gold coat of hand-painted duck feathers shines in a glass casket of looks from the posthumous “Angels and Demons” collection but there were so many striking moments in this exhibition that you really must see it for yourself, if you can.
The evening brought us to Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. I’d heard that the show was outrageous fun but I don’t think anything could have quite prepared me for the amount of G.A.Y. blasting forth from that hallowed stage. There were so many stupendous incarnations of fantasy drag up there that I occasionally felt like my head was spinning like one of the many disco balls. The funeral scene alone, set cheerfully to the tune of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” recalled shades of the McQueen exhibit from hours before. Well, if you tried to recreate Alexander McQueen with felt and a glue gun.
This adaptation of the cult film was faithful to the key moments but took enough liberties with the story to keep it fresh and consistently entertaining. I got a bit bored of the bus changing color and spinning around during the big production numbers but it was really a small price to pay for sharing in the joy that radiated from the audience that night.
And that’s what really got to me. Even though the press may not have universally appreciated Priscilla, the thunderous standing ovation from this huge group of people (that might have even included some Republicans) for an unapologetically gay storyline about three men on their journeys to find love brought tears to my eyes. And the amazing legs on those dancers made me vow to hit the squats when I get back to the gym. Tomorrow, I promise.
After all that urban gaiety, I suddenly found myself in New Jersey Housewives’ territory on the weekend for Scott’s High School Reunion and wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d been cheated by the Garden State on my first visit to Scott’s childhood home, you see, when I expected factories and smokestacks and Bruce Springsteen. Instead, I found an enormous, idyllic gated enclave of beautiful country homes with their own club and their own stables. And. Their. Own. Lake! Does that sound like the Land of Bon Jovi to you? I think not.
Even though I didn’t think this reunion would be Jerseylicious with the silly spray tans and the scary French manicures, I also didn’t expect how chic these lovely ladies, Scott’s classmates, would be. Judging from the high school yearbook photos that were on display, I think they might be a bit surprised how well they turned out, too.
Since Scott and I had dragged our dinner jackets across North America, I was pleased to see that several other gents showed up in them, as well. The other guys were fine, too, but what can you really do with an oversized dress shirt and trousers besides look like a bank teller on a lunch break? Perhaps most important is the fact I felt absolutely welcomed by these wonderful people, who were so thrilled to see Scott after *cough* years, who asked nothing about being gay and so much about life in L.A. and how Hollywood works.
I think we might be on to something here.
I’m glad you got to see the McQueen show finally. They did a marvelous job, no? Lucky for you that you skipped the line. I need better friends. Or I should stop being such a timid little woodland creature and fork over a 100 bucks for a basic membership. Then again, I don’t even have EZ Pass yet, and that’s free.
I’m also glad that you are frustrated in your expectations of New Jersey. The world’s perception of our state is based on the stretch of the NJ Turnpike from exits 11-16, and of some grimy shore towns like Asbury Park and Atlantic City. Ring me up next time you’re in town and I’ll take you and Scott around Princeton.
It was an amazing show and I think we should definitely have more things like it, and more often! I forgot to mention that your take on it was spot on, too. And I think the membership is only $70 so that’s even better.
Maybe the NJ powers-that-be have rigged it so that everyone thinks that Jersey is grimy and run down to keep everyone from moving there. The Vikings did that when they named Iceland (warm and habitable) and Greenland (frozen tundra) and it worked pretty well for them! See you next time we’re in New Jersey.
Glad your trip was so much fun minus the heat. Fantastic!
It would have been nicer without the heat but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Thanks, Tom!