See Shells


by James Tuttle

Gentle reader,

As Scott and I are shown to our seats at this intimate venue, Barre at Vermont in the Los Feliz neighborhood of L.A. to see “The Shells Show,” we remark at how adorable the place is and how we’ve always seemed to miss seeing our friend Jai Rodriguez in his cabaret performances here.  The vaulted ceilings and modernist light fixtures take a back seat to the assembling crowd, which is good looking and pretty homo-heavy.

Shells gives new meaning to open mic.

And don’t get me started on the hot waiters!  I try not to look too much because I’m not the type to gawk, especially since we are on our date night before Scott goes off for three weeks on a movie in Fort Lauderdale.  It’s really not fair when they keep coming right up to your table, though.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ve seen our tall, cute waiter Bryce without his clothes on but I can’t find a reason why that would be.  This kind of thing happens frequently in L.A.

Scott reminds me that I said the same thing when Bryce was our waiter at a bottomless mimosa-fueled brunch a few months ago in the trendy back patio that goes by the name “Rockwell.”  Given the bottomless mimosas, I’m surprised and rather pleased that I didn’t just come right out ask.  And I’m not sure why this restaurant needs a different name for every room but I’m not going to make a big deal because I like it here.

At the show, we’re sharing a tiny table with Grant and Leslie, a lovely couple who have not seen Shells before and we’re secretly looking forward to watching their reactions.  Scott and I attended an incarnation of The Shells Show nearly two years ago at Joe’s Pub in New York and I loved it then.  Each time she’s on the boards is a new deal, though, so there’s no telling what is coming down the pipeline tonight.

Shells double fists it at Barre in Los Feliz.

After the sun finally sets in the big window behind the stage, Shells enters with a bravado performance of Rihanna’s “S&M, ” whip and chains in tow and playfully whacking a few audience members on her way to the stage.  Through the course of the night she also performed songs of Kanye West, Eminem and an amazing balls-out rendition of Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People.”  Here I should mention that Michelle “Shells” Hoffman is not a full-time musician like Rihanna, Kanye or Eminem.  She is a successful senior analyst at JP Morgan Chase by day and a downtown cabaret star by night.  She is also a total fucking emotional mess.  We love her.

I can’t give away the whole show because you should see this amazing spectacle for yourself but here are a few choice excerpts from this latest performance:

Performing in NYC.

Shells introduces a ballad with, “This song is an artistic response to something I read on Bethanny Frankel’s blog.”  After a few glasses of Shiraz, she rifles through her handbag on top of the piano and explains, “I don’t keep my purse in the dressing room because it’s right next to the kitchen.”  She shares a little too much information and excuses it with,  “Art is privacy expressed on a public level.”  Later, when a guy she met in L.A. seems like a no-show, she accurately states, “Apparently Summer’s Eve makes a West Coast douche as well.”

With Shells, we laugh, we cry, we wonder what the hell is happening with the guy she thinks she’s dating.  At the end, this cabaret show disintegrates into an uncomfortable, hilarious mess that the audience goes wild for.

The Shells Show is the creation of the incredibly talented duo Roslyn Hart and Nick Chase, as is Roslyn/Shells’ recently released single “Children of the Night.”  After the show, Scott and I accompanied Roslyn and Nick and their posse on a drinking tour of Vermont Avenue that left us feeling as blurry as we look in the photo below.  Life imitates Art once again.

Getting blurry: James Tuttle, Roslyn Hart, Nick Chase, and Scott Khouri feeling the love so much even the camera couldn't focus.

Now that “Shells” is on holiday here in L.A. and lounging by the Mondrian pool, I thought it would be interesting to touch on the 2012 Resort Collections that sort of coincides with the Men’s Fashion Week.  But first, what is “Resort” and how does it fit in with the Pre-Spring and Spring/Summer collections?

The “Resort Collection” or “Cruise Collection,” as it is sometimes known, was originally targeted to well-heeled ladies who needed something summery to wear as they traveled to tropical climes in the winter months.  These days, it’s more of a capsule collection that gives customers something fresh leading up to Spring/Summer but, in some cases, it forms the bulk of the buy for the season and pieces from the runway are added to spice things up.  It’s important to note that it’s typically much less dramatic and more commercial than the runway collection, where the designer goes for the press attention.

As we go to press, there were over a hundred and seventy resort lines on for 2012.  I know because I counted.  I loved Dior Resort, released on Monday.  It’s playful and chic and has many of the Dior signature details that make the line so beloved of so many.  The photo shoot is done in a series of beachside cabanas that look unfortunately like old Provincetown outhouses but I give them an A for effort.  Burberry, on the other hand, was beautifully and simply shot and I think the yellows and turquoises should be a huge hit.  Very wearable and luxe!

The Burberry collection.

But there were so many more!  About to collapse under the sheer weight of fashion information while trying to follow the men’s shows in Paris and the women’s Resort everywhere, I sent up a flare for help and my super-fashionista friend Maria Fay of the amazing and original blog came to the rescue with some great recommendations.

I agree with Maria that Valentino was spot on.  It was her top pick because the lace, beadwork and tulle were “perfection.”  I believe her exact words were, “We’re not worthy!  We’re not worthy!”

Erdem was new to me but Maria recommended checking it out and the houndstooth checks were great, especially mixed with the florals.  Shooting the oddly lovely Guinevere van Sennus in all the looks was a genius move, considering that their inspirations were Tippi Hedren and Romi Schneider.  We haven’t seen much of Guinevere around lately.  I suppose it’s because, as the review pointed out, she’s in her thirties!  They seemed surprised she was still able to pose without the aid of a walker.

The not-quite geriatric Guinevere van Sennus for Erdem.

The Marc Jacobs collection made Maria’s list but I wasn’t really feeling all the oversized damask prints.  I can see where she was coming from with a couple of the adorable tulle cocktail dresses in pastel colors and I quite liked the fun party dresses that she thought were most “in her orbit” at Erin Fetherston’s first resort collection.

We were most definitely back in sync with McQueen.  I’d already decided that this collection was my absolute favorite with all the great long, lean looks with just enough detailing to make the pieces interesting without being too much.  I was most impressed with the beautiful black and gold evening looks that made me think of Tsarina Alexandra on a summer night in Petersburg before that messy Revolution business.

McQueen: unstoppable beauty.

In the end, the Resort offerings to date are quite tame compared to runway collections, which is why you probably won’t hear much about them.  There were and will be more lovely pieces this season that won’t get the attention they deserve but they’re more likely to be what you’ll be wearing in six months than some marabou-feathered mess on stilts that falls off her heels at the end of the runway, thus garnering front page news around the world.

Perhaps Maria says it best, though:  “The clothes I can afford are so fucking boring that I’ve been buying vintage.”  How do you really feel, Maria?

Much love,


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