Liz Smith: Trump on a Cocktail Napkin And Tales of the Fitting Room
“WE WOULD all like to vote for the ‘best man’ but he is never a candidate!” said playwright Kin Hubbard.
Often in past political times, we have relied on the consumers of Valerie Smith’s perspicacious little business, Monogram, on Newtown Lane, in East Hampton, to tell us what people in the supposedly nose-in-the-air environ think of this and that, when it comes to candidates for high office. (We found the shop to be correct when it sold out its dog-on-top-of-the car napkins back during the Romney vs. Obama days.)
Valerie informs us now that her East Hampton shop, Monogram, ordered 2,000 NO TRUMP napkins and she is all sold out, save for six. She ordered some plain HILLARY items and sold over 500. But the JEB napkins had the interest of only about 200 buyers.
Valerie says: “There are so many Republican contenders to be the nominee at this point that I haven’t moved to order more of the would-be GOP top dog names yet, but I did order some RUBIO and I have sold about 100 of those.”
People in this country think everybody in the Hamptons is rich, Republican, conservative, loaded with money to buy multi-million dollar beachfront property and indulge in fancy cars and employ many servants. But if The Monogram Shop is any indicator, I’m beginning to believe East Hampton-ites are mostly Democratic and liberal.
Or, on the other hand, it may be that the rich Republicans out in the East End of Long Island don’t tend to offer cocktails with paper napkins!
“YOU SHOULD never trust anyone, mon petit. This business is filled with the shallowest creatures that ever existed. And actresses are at the top of the list. They should all be buried with a headstone that reads: ‘This is as deep as she ever got!'”
That was the fabled designer to the stars, Edith Head. The incredible Edith dressed almost every single female beauty in Hollywood. Clearly, in the fitting room, she kept such thoughts to herself.
Edith was speaking at the time, to young, up-and-coming designer, Jean-Pierre Dorleac, who had already made a name for himself creating startling costumes for the stage production, “Marat/Sade.” He was inching his way into Hollywood. Dorleac, who became a good friend to Head, includes this quote, and much more, in his new, curious, but entertaining memoir, “The Naked Truth.”
DORLEAC eventually made a fine career for himself, earning an Oscar nomination, Emmys and designing costumes for projects as disparate asLana Turner’s final run onstage (this after her film career finally stalled) … “Battlestar Galactica” … “Somewhere in Time” … “The Blue Lagoon” and more. His memories are gossipy, never bitchy really, and his insights into the particulars of designing clothes on a budget, dealing with recalcitrant stars, attempting something new in a difficult era for clothes (late ’70s-mid 1980s) are fascinating. Why I cite the book as “curious” is that Dorleac begins and stops his story rather abruptly. We learn nothing of him personally, and the book ends in 1983, with Dorleac philosophically musing on his business, show business in general, his standards in terms of creating interesting, beautiful clothes and contentment with his life.
In a way, it’s a good thing; there are no gratuitous or boring excursions into his childhood, relations with parents or siblings, his sex-life or other personal habits. It’s all about the work. But I might have wanted just a smidge more info on him, though he seems grounded. And, as of 1983, anyway, happy.
I suppose at this point, in this age of over-sharing, I’m not used to people who won’t vomit up every intimate detail we don’t need to know. (I went to Wikipedia and his website, to investigate. He still works — his last feature film was 2004’s “In Enemy Hands.” He is also an artist, photographer, gourmet chef, horticulturalist and a feline behaviorist!)
Among those he dressed were Henry Fonda (a real gent) … Brooke Shields(he adored Brooke and her mom, Teri) … Ann Jillian (playing Mae West and splitting the seams of her costumes) … Ursula Andress (‘Push up! Pull in!”) …Lesley Ann Warren … Susan Strasberg (with her shrine to Marilyn Monroe) … Buddy Ebsen … Anne Jeffreys … Kim Cattrall … Britt Ekland … Louis Jourdan and Jon Eric Hexum. (His encounters with Hexum, who accidentally killed himself, fooling around with a prop gun, are revealing and sad.) “The Naked Truth” is peppered with amusing tales of his friendships with Jimmy Kirkwood, Roddy McDowall, Jean Simmons and June Lockhart. (Miss Lockhart, best known as “Lassie’s mother” or “the hot mom from ‘Lost in Space’ is very much the opposite of her demure image — saucy, witty, quite a dame!)
BUT as solid as the entire book is, the go-to chapter, the one worth the price of admission, so to speak, is the adventure in Crazytown with Lana Turner (Or Lawn-a, as she pronounced it.) This was — though nobody knew it at the time — Lana’s farewell to touring in stock. She and Louis Jourdan were starring in “The Pleasure of His Company” in Chicago.
From beginning to end, this is a priceless moment in time with a self-absorbed, aging movie queen, sipping “cranberry juice,” slipping in and out of her breathy screen voice and manner, demanding everything inappropriate and too expensive, rejecting what she at first agreed to, blaming everybody else for her indecisiveness (which was simply her own willful idea of control) and her inability to accept the inevitable changes that time had wrought. She made Dorleac — and all others in her path — jump through hoops. The whole chapter is a master class exercise in placating, getting what is correct through subterfuge, good general lessons in fit and fabric, and finally, knowing when enough is enough.
The designer’s last “suggestion” for Lana, after she changed her mind yet again about a costume, was conveyed to the harried stage manager at the theater where Lana was giving another terrible performance — in front of an audience. Dorleac said: “Tell Miss Turner to lightly sprinkle sugar on her ass, stick a raisin in her navel, and go on dressed as a cookie. I don’t give a damn anymore!”
He paused and then added: “But I still want copies of the notices sent to me.”
The reviews panned Turner, but praised the costumes. (Which, as the designer had realized mid-way through the madness, was all that really mattered to Lawn-a. She was no actress, not a stage actress, anyway. Her fans came to see her dramatically remove a fox stole, or coquettishly flick the hem of her chiffon gown.)
“Alas” he writes “Cookies do crumble. Stars do fall. And karma can be a bitch.”
This book is probably available on Amazon, but go to www.jean-pierredorleac.com anyway. Even if you’re not interested in fashion or movie stars, you might want his advice as a feline behaviorist. How do you get the damn cat to do what you want? Cats are resistant to suggestion, just like, well — Lawn-a Turner.