Abusing a fashion model—it should be a dream come true. Wouldn't you love to seize Naomi or Amber by her silken throat and force-feed her a Philly cheese steak? But when the moment comes, it's sadly unsatisfying. "You promote unrealistic body images!" I bark over the phone at my victim, but my feigned rage barely conceals my jealousy.
I've just booked a pal, a semiretired model, to do a photo shoot for a magazine where I'm moonlighting. He's lamenting that he's packed on some pounds since cleaning up, ballooning to a 32-inch waist. Even as I tease him down the line, I cradle my unseen head in my hands. I must remain ever-vigilant just to maintain those dimensions, and here a pro is moaning that he's a heifer at the same size!
But it's not my friend's circumference I find so upsetting; what makes me seethe with envy is the ease with which he rattles it off. When I ask for his measurements, there is no hesitation. Waist, inseam, jacket, shoe size, neck—he's got them all memorized. Me? I'm thirty-something, thirty-something, don't know, eight-something, and don't know.
For somebody who spends so much time looking at glossy magazines, it's appalling how little fashion savvy I have. Blame my mother, who laid out my clothes every morning well into my adolescence, then spent the next few years going, "You are not leaving the house in that!" every time I debuted a new look. I'm never completely confident about what I've got on.
Bryan Ferry does not have this problem.
Gazing at the former Roxy Music front man across the breakfast table, it's apparent that only one of us spent the morning tearing apart his wardrobe, tossing aside Hawaiian shirts and ill-fitting cardigans. Even in casual togs, the seasoned crooner is something to behold, hair cascading across his brow and nary a crease in sight. For an hour, I move only above the neck and below the elbow, terrified any other motion will draw attention to my mustard-colored vintage button-down (which I have ironed especially for the occasion) and meet with displeasure.
Images flash through my mind: Ferry resplendent in a white suit for the "More Than This" video; the futuristic rockabilly look in his early glam days. The singer says something about his art not being timeless. I choke back my observation that a whole generation of men I've gone home with might argue otherwise, since they seem to think Avalon, the sumptuous final Roxy Music LP, is the ideal soundtrack for casual sex.
We chat about his forthcoming album, a collection of '30s standards inspired by his penchant (a word Ferry pronounces exquisitely, by the way) for Billie Holiday. Flipping through the proposed CD booklet art, he stops on a Marlene Dietrich-esque line drawing. "I love that," he admits, pointing out a tiny clasp on her dinner jacket. If god is in the details, I am a philistine. At the end of our interview, we exchange numbers. "Maybe he'll take me shopping someday," I pray wordlessly.
Maybe not, if he noticed what I was carrying when we met. Why didn't I postpone my trip to K-Mart until after our interview? Or better still, tuck my purchases into that pristine Prada shopping bag I've been saving for just such an emergency?
A few hours later, I'm back in front of my closet again, staring at the contents helplessly like in that dream where you're forced to take an exam in a foreign language you've never studied. I have to go to a record release party for the techno ensemble Lords of Acid. What constitutes proper attire for an S&M restaurant? I slap on the Lords' new remix collection Expand Your Head and walk around the apartment naked to their current single "Am I Sexy?"
Hmmm . . . maybe I'd best go with leather.
"Do you always travel with that?" asks a colleague, tugging on my chest harness. I take a slug off my cocktail and suck my stomach in further. Sure, I insist—it doesn't take up any more room than a belt. "Aren't those things hot?" inquires another, sizing up my second-skin trousers. No, they breathe. I watch the staff strutting around in their merciless latex get-ups and thank Christ the only thing I've eaten today is a few spoonfuls of peanut butter.
An emaciated character in aviator shades dragging a handcuffed slave behind him on a leash interrupts my conversation. "We're ready to put on a show now," he deadpans. I look at him blankly, shaking off the vodka. "Oh," he mutters. "You're not on staff. Sorry." Maybe I'm not a complete failure at dressing up. A few minutes later, I'm making out in a doorway with a handsome young buck I've just met. My outfit is a success. I can't wait to take it off.