Even though these charming conversations have become legendary within the fashion industry… receiving great reviews from all who attend, there’s very little on-line that proves that they happen at all other than tiny, badly edited clips.
Fern deserves her own YouTube channel and somebody needs to organize this for her tout de suite.
Indomitable Fern is known most notably for her creation of New York Fashion Week but more importantly she is the consummate glass ceiling smasher. A brusk Russian jew prone to surliness, an inability to suffer fools, she also has a huge charisma and charm that softens her incisive questioning.
One feels that if anybody can, Fern can.
Interviews with Donna Karan, Polly Mellen, Tom Ford, Andre Leon Talley, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang charting the genesis of their personal style, describing the homes where they were brought up, relationships with their parents and their personal adventures within the fashion industry have moved and delighted her audiences.
I arrived at her Bruce Weber interview expecting a great deal. In the theatre sat fashion luminaries Grace Coddington and Ralph Lauren.
The lecture series was announced, Fern introduces a short film by Bruce Weber with notable scenes including his own days as a model, numerous famous names and an elephant Bruce likes to take pictures of draped with naked boys.
The problem with Bruce Weber? He’s not that interesting. When all is said and done Bruce is a married man obsessed with the homoerotic. With his wife Nan, sitting in the audience it would have been difficult for any great interviewer to ask pertinent question about the other elephant in the room. The humongous pink elephant in the room. The question I wanted answered… like all the others who sat with bated breath wondering if Fern would go there. The question we wanted answering but was never answered, “Bruce Weber, are you gay?
In 2013 post DOMA this would not be an unusual or impertinent question. He has, after all is said and done, devoted himself to photographing naked, young, super-fit, white boys. He is brilliant at photographing naked white boys because he loves them. He worships them. Everything else he photographs dulls by comparison.
Bruce says that taking a picture of a beautiful boy is like a ‘handshake or a hug’ I would go further… every time he takes a photograph of a beautiful, naked, white boy he is fucking that boy, caressing his ass, sucking on his cock. The photographs and the films of beautiful, naked, white boys ooze sensuality, eroticism and the merest suggestion that we are only one shot away from seeing them hard and proud… shooting jizz all over their perfect white bodies.
Bruce Weber, are you gay?
Bruce Weber, why do you only shoot white boys? Why is there never a black or asian or pacific islander in any of your pictures? Why do people like Grace Coddington or Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren let you get away with this appalling racism?
Bruce Weber, have you (like Terry Richardson) ever used your power and prestige to encourage those boys you photograph to do other more extreme things for your camera?
I had lunch with a friend on Saturday who was also at the interview and (once we had discussed Terry Richardson sexual unmanageability problems) both lamented Weber’s lack of openness. We concluded that if we are truly looking for clues about this maybe closeted, married sixty-five year old man we may look no further than a dull, almost forgettable story he told about a beautiful man carrying an air conditioning unit.
Walking in the street Bruce stops and, risking a ‘punch on the nose’ asks a half-naked man carrying an air-conditioning unit if he can take his picture. If it is his true intention to simply take a picture why would the man want to punch him on the nose? If Bruce’s intention is to seduce the man… then a punch on the nose seems more likely.
I can shamelessly ask to take anyones picture if I only desire to take pictures. But if I am shamed by my desire for you, I want you to open yourself up to me, let me take you to a quiet place and take pictures of you as a means to watch you do things you keep private… then the implicit threat of violence seems more likely.
Beneath the chubby, bandana wearing kindly old grandfather facade lurks a self loathing homosexual, terrified of clearly and truthfully expressing his desires.
The interview was not as great as it could have been because we all colluded with Bruce Weber’s charade. If we could have gotten past the crust of self-hatred then a perfectly brilliant interview might have happened. No such luck.
Finally, Bruce expressed his frustration… hatred even for the democratization of photography, for Instagram, for Facebook postings. In Bruce’s perfect, elite white world manned by an army of assistants, he advised us that we should take our most treasured digital images and have them printed on expensive paper and make books as perfect keepsakes. Bruce lives in a world of perfect keepsakes, of platinum blonde golden retrievers bred by east coast breeders. Bruce lives by the sea, in the mountains, in the city keeping his eyes peeled for perfect boys who may or may not become stars in a world where naked Russian dancers come on seven month adventures around the world.
“Sergei, come travel with us.”
A faux commune of beautiful, young, white men, strumming guitars in the moon light. Warmed by flickering log fires, sitting on Navajo blankets and always naked, their abs and lats and still wet hair glistening from skinny dipping in crystal clear water and always ready for another perfect photograph.
Hush now, the girls have gone to sleep. Let me lay beside you and enjoy you for a little while.
The narrative is always the same in the cult of Bruce. The gently spoken, self loathing homosexual who needs his wife’s permission to buy another dog….
…of what ever dramas he may be initiating. I am really happy.
I was on such good form. Really buoyant and witty.
The whole city was alive with people and late night shopping and drama for Fashion’s Night Out. It’s like a very chic Halloween. Fashion week brings out the very best and the very worst of the gays.
We ended up at 3am on the SH roof. My sanctuary.
I am glad that we got the Order of Protection drama over and done with at the beginning of my month here on the East Coast. In a strange way I really couldn’t justify coming here so often if it hadn’t been demanded of me.
I forgot to write about my health. I think because I was scared and made me look weak.
I had my cancer follow up visit to the doctor before I left LA. All good in the scrotum department. The colonoscopy revealed a forest of ‘pre cancerous polyps’. They are doing further tests. The best bit about it was the sedative. I’ve never like things in my ass.
I’m just not that kind of gay.
Strangely resilient at the moment. Happy to be alive.
Yesterday’s drama made me stronger, more determined. Channeling my father. Harnessing the strength he had to fight anything and everything that came his way. I could feel him. I really could. Urging me to fight. For him.
It was the first time in my life that I felt him beside me. I can feel him beside me now. Sneering at other fathers. Their weakness. Their lack of respect. I am proud to be a fiery Persian…as was he.
I am no longer interested in being compassionate or forgiving.
A price must be paid when fools rush in.
When your back is against the wall…well, we must do what we must do.
Veselka, 9th St. East Village. NYC
Leon drove me and the art to LAX. The little dog loves his traveling bag and climbed into it willingly.
The flight arrived 55 minutes early at JFK. 5am. I was knackered. We dragged the art onto a trolley and into a cab then dropped it off at Phillips. I stayed there for an hour drinking coffee and ate a pain au chocolat. I sat on my own reading The Times waiting for Dan to wake up so I could drag my sorry ass over to the East Village. Finally we just walked from 9th Ave. It was so GOOD to be back in NYC…after the operation I will be here full-time.
The Little Dog was determined to explore Tompkins Square Park so I acquiesced and he got his wish and stared at squirrels for an hour until I just had to go home and rest.
By 10 I dropped off art at the auctioneer. Very cute lighting man to gawp at prepping a fashion week party. The whole area around Meat Packing ALIVE with fashion week events. Bumped into my friend Liz who invited me to Mulberry party.
Took cab back home and slept until 3 when I met the first of my Manhunt dates. Date 1. Nice guy, did not misrepresented himself in any way. Charming. If I had been JB I would have had sex with him but I am not JB so we had coffee and went for a long walk around the East Village. Not much eye contact but I think that might have been my fault.
At 6ish I went home and took more of a nap. Dan arrived at 7.30 and we had dinner at Westville where I saw you know who’s ex. That was rather fascinating. We were obviously aware of each other but were not going to swap war stories any time soon.
Walked to Mulberry party where I had a blast being told how good I looked by old friends. I have lost a lot of weight..mainly because I have been so unhappy-but this seems to have paid off!
Saw Preston and snuggled with him. He’s an ex of mine from LA.
Walked home, ate frozen yogurt. Cute man stopped me in the street and made me feel even better about myself.
This morning I had manhunt date number 2 with very sweet Brazilian man who said that I come off as the sort of bloke who has a very active sex life. HAHAHAHA. That’s FUNNY! I told him my miserable fuck count (12 people) and he was shocked.
JB has probably had 12 fucks in one week. More.
Anyway, everyone I am meeting could be a friend…maybe more but to tell you the truth I am just not feeling it. After feeling so connected with JB and so loving and SO intellectually compatible…I don’t know if I will ever feel that again for anyone.
Onward and Upward!
I remember the first conversation Tim and I had was at Celia and Andrew Lyttleton’s frescoed apartment in Ladbroke Grove.
I remember showing him the invitations I had just had printed for my play The Host starring Lady Georgia Byng who would later become Mrs. Danny Chadwick and after that Mrs. Marc Quinn. She is now probably best known for writing the Molly Moon children books.
Tim was unimpressed with the invitations.
I was prolific in those days, writing, making plays, living my life between London and Whitstable.
Tim was strangely nonjudgmental for one of the new elite who were making names for themselves during that time in London.
Remember, I was only a couple of years out of prison for a huge, unpaid credit card debt.
The story behind that debt had, the day I was sentenced, appeared in every British newspaper. Christened: Lord of The Lies by the News of The World Sunday tabloid that title, unlike the one I had assumed, tended to stick.
Pretending to be Lord Anthony Rendlesham was the defining moment in my young life. It set me on an unintended course the night I told that 4-word lie to the man I told it. I wonder what happened to him? Dermot Verchoyle-Campbell.
By the time I met Tim I was just ordinary (as the press loved to call me) Duncan Roy but he didn’t seem to mind how ordinary I was. We were both social misfits. The others came from good pedigrees and were gearing up to take their places in the British social stratosphere. Their roles already defined.
Unusual for a heterosexual he was socially mobile. Flexible. The girl he was with that day on Sloane St went on to become Mrs. Detmar Blow and invigorate the world of British fashion. Today her legacy, after a tragic suicide, is still evident as Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, Stephen Jones and Phillip Treacy are testament.
Although homosexuality offers the same kind of social flexibility (as I found when I told my big lie), I was wholly disinterested in the ‘gay lifestyle’ on offer at that time in London.
I knew a few other ubergays but we were frosty with each other as all of us wanted to be the only gay pet around. Mario Testino, Patrick Kinmonth, Johnny Shand-Kydd were three other ‘about town’ gays but, as I said, they were all pretty disinterested in me.
I had had a brief affair with Patrick when I was Lord Rendlesham.
I discovered Peter Doig’s degree show at St Martin’s Art School and bought one of Doig’s paintings that Peter then stole from my house whilst I was in prison.
Craigie Aitcheson the minimalist painter of crucifixes and Bedlinton Terriers accused Patrick of handing me over to the police when they were looking for me. He squealed, “Look, there’s the man who handed his gay lover over to the police.”
I had, of course, explored everything gay in London but it simply never inspired me enough to keep me going back.
Tim was really the first person I met whom I could share my wonderment with. One was encouraged, when in a huge and ancient houses, to take everything for granted but with Tim I could behave like a tourist. Ooing and arring about what we discovered there.
A few years later after Jay Jopling discovered Damien and the new British artists all of our lives would change irrevocably. We would no longer be living in someone else’s shoes, delighted by other older peoples choices, and would ride the British New Wave.
Meeting Kay Saatchi the other day at Amanda’s I now have a far more complete picture of what was going on when I knew Jay Jopling. I certainly remember Jay telling me about meeting Charles Saatchi. That Charles had discussed the possibility of running the Saatchi gallery on Boundary Road and how Jay had scoffed (to us) at that idea.
At the moment that Charles was offering Jay a job, Jay had other plans, he knew, and said as much, that Charles would ultimately work for HIM. I am, and have always been, in awe of Jay’s balls. Who wouldn’t have accepted to work for Charles? Only a man with massive ambition knew exactly what he wanted and exactly how to get it.
It was at this time that Jay would bring a harem of girlfriends to my tiny cottage on Island Wall in Whitstable. But that was all to end the day he met Maia Norman with whom he would fall deeply in love.
Visits to Whitstable became rare as they ensconced themselves in his house on Shakespeare Road in Brixton. The last memorable Jay visit was with Danny Moynihan, Louise Jackson and Maia. We would take ecstasy, drive to a ghastly local gay bar and dance to Pink Cadillac.
I think we may very well have had a rather wonderful orgy that night but Maia and Jay ended up alone as he was loathed to share her. The events of the next few years proved deeply unsettling. Maia would leave Jay for Damien and break his heart.
Jay submerged himself in the international art world, making huge amounts of money, marrying a girl he did not love and ending up in locations he loathed.
The last time I sat alone with him he told me how incredibly bored he was seeing the same faces day after day, the same gossip, same conversation and hankered after a the life he had at the edge of the world.
I will never, ever not love Jay. He was the one who looked out for me when I had my stint in hospital and collected me when I was discharged. He, for the longest time, was an occasional lover if no other pretty blond girl was available. He was an inspiration to a legion of young artists and remains so, something they all aspire to: a show at one of his many galleries.
I watched from the sidelines as he and Lily Allen publicly shattered the vestiges of his marriage.
The truth is, I couldn’t bear Sam Taylor Wood because she wasn’t Maia. It wasn’t her fault; she’s a perfectly nice girl. Not a very good artist.
So goodbye Tim, have a safe flight back to London. You make me remember the life we shared with this extraordinary cast of characters. I miss you when you are gone. You are a good friend.
Everything falling: today’s theme. The unusual sound of rain falling over Hollywood, Luna falling off of the bed at 3am and having to be helped back up. The little dog burrowed beside me. I think his dewclaw has fallen off. He looks more comfortable. As for claws or nails or rain or cats and dogs falling-the little fingernail that fell off after my Big Dog was killed has finally grown back. A full seven months it took.
My therapy session yesterday with Jill cleared my muddy mind.
People ask all the time about the clothes I wear on the show Sex Rehab. The sunglasses I wear are either Paul Smith ($65 on sale) or Tom Ford ($350 not on sale). Let me put your minds at ease: I usually spend NOTHING on clothes and keep them forever (I still wear a Romeo Gigli suit I bought 25 years ago) wearing them well after the moths have eaten them. The secret, of course, is buying beautiful pieces and developing a specific style. I love the cut of my Dior pants, the theatrical kick of a Vivienne Westwood jacket..and her accessories-my favorite sweater full of moth holes is a Westwood classic. I used to wear tons of Helmet Lang before Gucci fired him. I bring out the Lang for special occasions. I have a beautiful Helmut bondage cardigan that I am going to wear today.
I love talking to you because you remind me..
My favorite designer is Rei Kawakubo for Commes des Garcons. Oh Rei, how I worship you-I worship Japanese designers: Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei. REI! Every time I wear the navy cardigan I bought in Paris from your hidden store on the Rue Saint-Honore people jump out at me! They notice the elegant detail, they want to know where..who..how.
Well people, the secret is in the search and the timing. I never buy anything unless I LOVE it. Every season I buy just one item at the full price to enjoy the experience, having it served properly, having it wrapped beautifully. Then for delicious bargains, getting to Barney’s or Fred Segal at just that moment when sale items crash from 40% off to 70% off.
If you arrive in Hollywood with a suitcase and a dream then you have come for one thing and one thing only…the film industry. The most handsome boys and the most beautiful girls from all over the USA. The prom kings and queens who sparkled in their High School musical all end up here. From all over the world writers, directors, producers they too turn up in LA sooner or later. Some of them end up leaving as fast as they came, others become waiters or waitresses looking to be discovered and for a select few there will be a place at the table. It’s the same thing in Paris. The streets jammed with hopeful, hopeless lovers of fashion. As I would arrive in Hollywood years later in search of the studio-I arrived in Paris aged 17 totally in awe of the big fashion houses, worshiping at the iron gates of St Laurent as I would the gates of Paramount.
Paris! What an amazing adventure. Apart from reinventing myself as Lord Anthony Rendlesham I also illustrated for fashion magazines, styled for photographers (where r u Jim Greenburg?), formed opinions about haute couture, prêt-a-porter and ‘tendance de la mode’, I went to every show every season, met every designer: Karl, Yves, Chantal, Emmanuelle, Angelo, Thierry, Jean-Paul…I watched elderly women with soft voices cover an entire couture frock with 14 lbs of tiny jet beads. I learned how to sew a cuff onto a sleeve, a collar onto a blouse, a placket, a peplum, to drape, a toile, organza, interfacing! The language of fashion became my language.
These are the languages I learned during the past 45 years: fashion, cuisine, film. I can speak all of them fluently.
It was in Paris that I met Fred Hughes, elegant mercurial Fred Hughes. His slicked back hair and beautiful apartment on the Rue de Cherche Midi, his paintings by Girardot , his linen sheets, his vetivert. He showed me how to take cocaine and heroin. You know, I was such a prude. I didn’t have sex ever with any of them. Now they are all dead.
Fashion, take it as seriously as you want to take it. I love it as much as I love cooking and film making.
Within a few years I would learn an altogether different language: the language of prison. I can speak that fluently too but I seldom get the chance. Thankfully.
I read about Bernie Madoff in his medium security prison yesterday. Harlene Horowitz, who lost her Brentwood, Calif., home and other assets in Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.
“For someone who lived so high, he can’t be happy in his surroundings,” she says.
It struck home forcefully. Not because I agree with her but because if Bernie is anything like me then he’ll be doing just fine. He’ll be making the best of it. He’s a survivor. Bernie Madoff is cushioned from the reality of prison by fantasy. The same fantasy that persuaded him he would never get caught. I know what that feels like. I know what it’s like to be in prison, treading carefully, never looking anyone in the eye or speaking unless spoken to.