"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 22 June 1999. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Dateline: Fashion Front '99



Having been honored with a

counterfeit press pass to the

recent members-only fashion

gala, La Mode Existentialiste

Made-to-Measure Traveling

Evening Wear Show, this

fashionista-cum-journalist made

the most of a chance to rub

well-padded shoulders with the

stuff-strutters and

trend-mongers of the coming

millennium. Natch, next to the

Maori Freedom Concert, the Donna

Karan–sponsored Evening Wear

Show is the biggest "do" on the

annual do-docket of celebrities,

socialites, and the whole

rocking, edgy couture pantheon.


Held inside an elaborately

appointed tent near cosmopolitan

Ho Chi Minh City, the two-day

blockbuster was packed to the

Gucci-gills with glamour, high

jinks, comedy, nouveau fashion

revolutions, and a (presumably)

unplanned climax, when the Dien

Bien Phu People's Memorial

Runway exploded due to an

undetected land mine leftover

from the psychedelic '60s. Good

morning, Vietnam!


As predicted, a freak show of

iconoclasts was in attendance,

and it turned out that this

season's "must-have" outfit

accessory was a Hollywood

Activist armband. Swatches of

colorful arm cloth, representing

various causes célèbres, circled

chic, Martin Margiela–clad

limbs or dangled from toile de

Jouy ball gowns.



These celebrity "statements"

were fabulous, freaky ... and

just a trifle ambiguous. Time

was the fashionable flock

fluttered around well-known

causes. It was a snap to

identify the significance of,

say, a yellow armband. It meant

that you opposed the summary

execution of our American

hostages in Iran. A red armband,

you'll recall, made reference to

drunk driving (pro or con,

depending). Blushing lavender (a

little "in" joke between Anne

and Ellen) lent "material

muscle" to same-sex marriages.

Gray with a red dot was diabetes

awareness. Salman Rushdie's was

a simple strip of tulle with a

Farsi inscription reading, "I'm

Not Salman Rushdie."


Unfortunately, the current

rainbow of fabric allegiances

leads to genuine confusion among

the uninitiated, like yours

truly. Granted, some of the

armbands were obtrusive and

obvious. Nick Nolte, for

example, wore blaze-orange over

his Barbie T-shirt (US$15),

meaning he's taken a bold stand

against gender apartheid in

Afghanistan. Others were

obscure; George Michael, whom

your humble scribe encountered

briefly in the men's restroom,

was wearing twin taupe ribbons,

one around each thigh,

indicating support for efforts

to rehabilitate UK icons Mr.

Blobby and Michael's former

Wham! cohort Andrew Ridgley. And

some armbands were downright

retarded. Superstar Leonardo

DiCaprio, stark naked except for

his antique codpiece (about

$1,200), set tongues wagging

with a proud, if rumpled, band

the color of parasitic ringworm....

Leo was, as is commonly known,

the world's most vocal Boxcar

Willie groupie. He was wearing

the armband in an attempt to get

rare Hee Haw footage of

the late hobo crooner preserved

within the National Archives.



Gimme a break! Even the most

politically astute among us

could hardly be expected to keep

track of all this activist

activity. And God forbid you

should wear the wrong shade of

cloth accidentally, manifesting

support for therapeutically

approved cannibalism when your

genuine cause du jour is

saving Bengal tigers.


Midway between yelling "Dice

Clay!" in the crowded theater

(stampedes were barely averted)

and cross-wiring Christopher

Reeve's iron lung, it occurred

to me that I was in a rare

position to conduct a series of

on-the-spot interviews, right

there at the Evening Wear Show,

waylaying the mouthpieces from a

wide range of real-time armband

causes. Numerous celebrity

spokespersons had, auspiciously,

put in an appearance beneath

the fashion big top.


Ergo, a few remotes from the



Kevin Spacey, looking trim in

his A-line tennis dress from

Prada (about $400), was in a

total psychotic meltdown due to

a missed nap, but I caught up

with him near the chip dip,

where he managed to share a few

semi-coherent words while waving

a Smith & Wesson at the

bartender. He displayed his

Bowie-blue, crushed satin

armband, which was, he claimed,

intended to show support "for

those individuals suffering the

many shades of post-apocalyptic,

electroshock, opportunistic

despair...." Having popped off a

few errant rounds into the

ceiling fixtures and

straightened his Yohji Yamamoto

crinoline tiara (about $290),

Spacey added cryptically, "Wait

till that champagne runs out;

you'll find out who your friends

are." Meanwhile, nearby, between

downing his 14th Singapore Sling

and bitch-slapping his personal

masseuse, socialist lardbag

Michael Moore offered a quick

sound bite to explain the

lunatic-asylum white he'd

wrapped around his left ham

hock. "White used to be for

missing kids; now it's

for missing prime-time TV

exposure," quipped the

oft-cancelled blowhard,

belying his charm, modesty,

and artistic versatility.



I met up with James Cameron near

the eye of the soiree, where he

was feeding raw whale blubber to

our favorite peaches-'n'-cream

Eskimo, Jewel (she looked

stunning in her side-split Dolce

& Gabbana flamenco frock —

$187). Jimbo was dressed to sink

ships in a plunging, black

Versace miniskirt (about $1,400)

and a purple wig. Cameron

proudly displayed an emerald

armband festooned with a

shimmery, shamrock-tinted

tassel. Asked to give the 411 on

his wearin' o' the green, the

regal director responded with a

shrug and a fart sound, made

with a cupped hand to the pit of

his "statement" arm.


Bubble-gum thrush Posh Spice

made a winningly casual mark

in a dirty pair of Whoopi

Goldberg's sweat pants. With her

characteristic catatonic

nihilism, however, she refused

to explain the significance of

her lilac fur armband graced

with Busta Rhyme's jism:

Instead, she curled fetuslike

around a party tray of dried

figs and whined, "Pop's dead ...

It's all been done...."

Whew! What I needed, clearly,

was some sort of focus, a

reference-frame for this

dizzying array of couture

causes. Unfortunately, I was way

outta my league here!


Suddenly, conveniently, it was

Paglia to the rescue! There she

was, Camille, America's foremost

female intellectual, scribbling

in a mesh Ocimar Versolato

notebook (about $14.50) on the

very subject of celebrity

armbands! "Obviously," lectured

the hoydenish know-it-all, "this

particular armband proliferation

amounts to a 'personality quest'

among the 20th-century's final

wave of icons, who are blessed

with looks, sex organs, or

money. When you spend your life

in the artificial glare of pop

culture, you need to touch base,

somehow ... with something

real! ... be it 100,000 starving

refugees of Sudan, the

leukemia-ridden preschoolers of

St. Jude's, or the endangered

wombats of wherever.... What

we're seeing here, in a

social magnifying glass, is

a backlash in response to

the shallow, club-hopping

realities of the '90s."


Camille, incidentally, looked

marvelous in her

trailer-trash-tight, Ralph

Lauren, spandex, bleached jeans

and pink Reeboks (about $65).

courtesy of Chris Kassel

[Purchase the Suck Book here]