Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Holds Barred - Coming East

There is a lot I don't get; HBO's Girls is one of them.
by Blair Sabol

Coming East there is a lot I don't get; the current phenomena of HBO's Girls (supposedly the new Sex and the City) is about unattractive "real girls" living on Avenues A and B. Obviously the fault is my age — but I find it unfunny and visually depressing. I liked Sex and the City cause everyone looked great, had inexplicable fabulous jobs, lived high and mighty, and New York City never looked more gorgeous. And all age groups loved that show. I'll take that fantasy.

Also I don't get the current best sellers of Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker either. In spite of the popularity I know no one who is actually reading these books. Lastly ... I don't get the fad of "skinny," "pencil," matchstick" or "toothpick" cut jeans .... Forget "jeggings."
And the sight of these styles on fat bodies ("500-pound sausage in a 1-pound bag") is kind of shocking in such a fashion conscious city. And trust me, I saw a lot of "fat asses" (forgive my description ... but there is no way around this issue) on the streets. And everyone is in ballet flats.

Shoe stores are filled with these skimmer shoes in every color. But my sports medicine foot doctor insists they are worse than stilettos or even flip flops for the feet. Absolutely no support.
Ballet shoes are everywhere in NYC.
But a dear NYC fashionista friend of mine confessed that "ballet shoes are the antidote to my Louboutins." Then she took me to Madison Avenue's Roger Vivier to seduce me into buying the latest high end "alternative" to ballet shoes. The classic "Belle du Jour" (as in Catherine Deneuve) pilgrim buckle low-heeled "boats." But at $679 ... is she kidding? No, and she owns three pairs.

Yes, they feel amazingly like Lamborghinis on your feet. But I 'm a Puma sneaker girl ... so no solution there. NYC pals have warned me that ballet shoes and "pencil" jeans have now become the standard uniform for every City woman. But none of these gals were shaped like an 11-year-old or resembled Audrey Hepburn (the "originator" of this look). I even saw 80-year-old saggy-assed matrons dog walking in this getup. I simply don't GET IT!!!!!!!
Roger Vivier Belle du Jour "boat" low heeled shoes for $650. Roger Vivier's answer to Stilettos and ballet shoes.
But here is someone I do get ... comedienne Lisa Lampanelli. She's known as "the Queen of Mean," with her notoriously racy, raunchy material. And though my money was on Lisa and her big mouth to win this season's Celebrity Apprentice, she was only recently fired and she actually made it to the final four. No question Lampanelli became one of the most popular "runner ups" in the show's history.

Here's why I love Lampanelli (and I know I am not the only one who does ... maybe many are too afraid to dislike her): She is super smart ... graduated from Boston College, and did a graduate program at Harvard. She went onto become a copy editor and writer for Rolling Stone, Spy, and Popular Mechanics.

This gal can really "say it." And "say it" she does. From racial slurs to nasty blow-offs, Lisa lets the world have it. Don Rickles (the insult comic legend) is a fan of Lisa's but she has gone way past him in material. Even "The Donald" seems to admire her on his show. As well he should. She's the legitimate and gave this season's Celebrity Apprentice just the right amount of sharp tongued seasoning.
Lisa Lampanelli and her dog Parker in her red/orange living room. Lisa posing in front of her solid gold record album and clothing closet.
Lisa and her performance dresses. Lisa showing one of her performance wrap dresses specially made for her.
What is amazing is her personal style. She's proudly 50 years old and a "large sized" woman. I remember seeing her in her 2009 HBO Special dressed in a Pucci printed "housewife" shirtwaist with a pair of chic patent pumps, great jewelry and perfect hair and makeup. Suddenly I looked at the shirtwaist style very differently. She made it look accessible to all of us. Lisa may talk dirty but she dresses like a lady. "Look, I actually hate clothes and all this maintenance drives me nuts. But it's important for me to look decent and not like a slob."

For that she hired stylist from "Cents of Style" Andy Paige. Who not only dresses Lisa but does her hair and makeup. "And trust me ... it takes a lot for me to look this good ... we shop together and I give her a tough time but she really knows me and I have the final say."
Lisa showing one of her Celebrity Apprentice "win" wrap dresses. One of Lisa's favorite "tighter" dresses.
Cibeline performance shirtwaist for Lisa. Cibeline is her dressmakers label for all her special performance shirtwaists.
Everything has to be organized for Lisa. She is a perfectionist with her visuals. "I have every outfit and piece of jewelry written out on cards and bagged ready to pack for my club dates." And she doesn't wear heels over 3 inches."F--- that sh--." Only in Trump's boardroom did she dare to bare her "upper" chest. After all she was up against a busty Bravo TV New Jersey housewife and a devastatingly gorgeous Miss Universe. "But skinny, pretty girls have it easy. I have to cover my bingo bango upper arms and droopy neck (scarves) and I have two drawers filled with Spanx for every occasion. I won't leave home with them. But style and beauty is not what gets me going. Brains is my business."

The maintenance of her hair extensions, hair dye and skin is exhausting for her. But Lisa feels it is critical to get it "right." "I feel funnier dressed as a "lady." I love the big-skirted and belted wrap dresses cause it goes against my type. I get most of my designs made to order cause I want the fit exact. I love good, comfortable kitten heels. Kate Spade is my fave. After all I have to walk the stage a lot. Actually the baggy/dykey style doesn't look all that good on my big body. But trust me, I can't wait to retire and schlep around with no makeup and a sack."
Lisa's "Spanx" drawer ... "I don't leave home without them."
Lisa's performance jewels all color coded and bagged ... ready for travel. Books on her night table.
Lisa's wardrobe file cards. Everything is listed and described for each performance.
Lisa's clothes and accessories photographed for reference.
Though Lisa professes being "anti-fashion," she was actually very active picking out her elaborate wedding dress ("It looked like Scarlet O'Hara's hoop dress ... very ornate"). A few years ago she married Jimmy "Big Balls" Cannizzaro — a rock and roll club owner from Valley Stream. They live in a great orange/red and acid green colorfully decorated apartment. They HAVE FUN!!!

Lisa knows what looks best on her. "Because my boobs are big and my waist is so high I need to drop a lot of the shirtwaist waistlines. I have to be colorful because color and accessories put me in a great mood." I mention Oprah as another stylish big gal. But we both agreed "Oprah's too serious in her dressing and looks so tightly packaged. And those stilettos ... who is that bitch kidding?"
Wedding picture of Lisa and husband Jimmy "Big Balls."
Lisa's Grammy-nominated "Dirty Girl" recording ... dressed in her "signature" belted shirtwaist.
Lampanelli refuses any plastic surgery; "A lot of the current younger comediennes are going that route. I refuse. Here is my face and "F' you!!! Besides lighting is everything and I make sure I get that down." Her fan base is 20% gay men, 80% straight men and a small amount of women. She started as a single female insult comic on Comedy Central's Roast shows. She was instantly popular. That was some time ago.

"I learned to grab a room as a woman in a tough business." As for her material, "I may be rough but I always leave the audience happy. Nobody comes after me in a rage at the end of a show. Nobody." And though she may not have all the confidence in some visual styles, "I have total confidence in my style of work and in my comedy. I rule in my material because I have to." Interestingly she is fascinated and appreciates the Sex and the City female type.
Lisa's writing room.
Lisa's acid green tile "makeup" bathroom.
"Listen, I would love to be that Carrie or Charlotte character. But I couldn't do it. It isn't me. I was born cursing and saying it like it is. But I love reading about that life." (By the way she was born in Connecticut to a close but "challenging" family). By her bed are two books; How to be Lovely and How to be a Princess — the Grace Kelly Way. "People are surprised I am so girly girl. It goes against type and it is that irony I love. I will admit I enjoy putting on my own makeup before the show. It is very Zen and it calms me."

She is currently creating a one woman show for herself on Broadway called Bring Back the Fat Chick. It will be more than her stand-up act and "the themes will be around my nonstop issues with men and food ... what else?"
Lisa's favorite kitten heel performance Kate Spades. And a favorite pair of Manolos.
But when Lisa is not "dressed to kill" in clubs and TV ... believe it or not she loves "to cruise around my neighborhood in leggings and flats." OH NO!!!!!!!!! I share with her my horror of all those fat asses in tight pants and ballet shoes. But she assures me: "Now understand ... I try to do it differently. I wear a long Eileen Fisher tunic top that hits under my boobs and goes over my ass. And MY cool shoes have a mini wedge to them. Trust me ... I am one decent 'Mother F-----." With Lisa Lampanelli ... I trust her, I trust her!!!!
Lisa and her favorite wedge.
At the end of my most recent NYC trip I went uptown (with my dear editor David Patrick Columbia) to Verdura Jewelers. When it comes to REAL jewelry many insist that all gem roads lead to Verdura. As someone once told me "If you have real cash to blow ... Verdura is THE place you go ... nowhere else." NO question Verdura is the best and brightest for those who not only have the cash but the wit to wear it. Joy Ingham calls it her "hardware store." I assumed I was just going to a lobby/ showroom for a quick "look/see." I had no idea I was going to a Fifth Avenue 12th floor "private salon."

Verdura President Nico Landrigan met me in the elegant foyer and before I knew it I was inducted into the deluxe world of Fulco di Verdura, the Sicilian Duke, and Chanel's head jewelry designer. Yes, the man who started all those famous Maltese cross cuffs now being hideously ripped off in plastic. Verdura didn't just make jewelry — he created real wearable art for the likes of Tallulah Bankhead, Duchess of Windsor, Rothschilds and Vreeland. All the solid gold society broads and Hollywood elite.
Verdura family owner Nico, who heads the archives. Verdura and Chanel, showing his signature '40's cuff.
Verdura's Horst pictures of their "Hall of Fame" from Tallulah Bankhead to Chanel to the Duchess to all the grand dames ...
Recently I noticed an incredible resurgence in Verdura popularity. But it's not coming from the typical pop "Blinged-Out" entertainment stars. Verdura is introducing more of their iconic vintage designs into their current lineup and a lot of one-of-a-kind series. They are not straying from their luxurious past success. Yet they are "updating" their archives. And they are beginning to attract a whole new high-end clientele. OR so I have heard.

And what a successful father and son team ownership. 70-year-old Dad Ward Landrigan is CEO and considered THE "gem genius." While 33-year-old son Nico is now into creating this new awareness of their vintage pieces along with the other 25 members of their company team. Small but genius. Who doesn't want to own a bit of this sparkling unique history. As soon as Nico opened his vintage boxes of famously owned creations (not for sale) I fell into a swoon. I got lost in his incredible stories of times (and people) long gone. And trust me ... they had THE style and THE money at the time. And when I actually put on a real Verdura jade cuff (along with my stack of $10 Forever 21 rhinestone bracelets) I was transported.
Me wearing the green Nephrite Jade cuff with the 1880 English Brooch adornment, which sells for $28,500. It is stacked with my Forever 21 bracelets, priced at $10 a piece.
The actual weight and fit of a "real cuff" was indeed something else. The "Y" shaped Chanel pearl necklace with sapphire not only looked stunning around the neck but "it knew how" to fall gracefully from the collar bone on down. I get why "the real deal" feels like "the real deal." There is nothing like it. I shared with Nico that I unfortunately only buy jewelry that I can do yoga in or shop at the supermarket ... since that is MY life. He agreed. "You gotta wear these designs in your real life or what is the point. We all live differently now." He even approved of stacking or wearing Verdura with other "junk " jewelry.' "I get it," he confessed. "That is the 'high/low' translation today. And why not? It should all look great together."

At one point he was explaining how a pearl and diamond Lily of the Valley brooch was originally made from the baby teeth of a famous clients' child (later, they used pearls). I mentioned the popularity of many rap singers "gemming" up their own actual front teeth with name jewelers for their deluxe "grill" look. Nico smiled politely and said "Wellll, we don't 'do" teeth. But we use teeth in our designs." A cool touché.
From Verdura's iconic collection: Chanel's actual Maltese cross cuff.
Chanel iconic pearl necklace, $28,500.
The Chessman brooch.
Lion's paw diamond scallop pin ... a real shell.
Diamond pine cone. Lily of the Valley pine, which originally had owner's baby's teeth in place of pearls (the pearls move!!).
Iconic ruby and diamond wrapped heart.
Clam shell compact.
Jack Benny's wife Mary's gold and diamond ring.
After Claire Booth Luce won a Tony for The Women, she was gifted the comedy and tragedy pin.
After viewing close to an hour of pins, rings, compacts and tiaras owned by the Whitneys and Chanel (to name a famous few) it was time to leave. Nico directed me through his elegant Horst "Hall of Fame" photo gallery and past the museum spotlight cases of current designs. My head was spinning in color and settings. I decided this was a sacred "style" moment of the highest. I really know jewelry is a very personal expression. Look at all the elaborate choices NYC has in a five clock radius ... from Bulgari to Cartier to Leviev. The list goes on.

I made it down to Fifth Avenue and walked by the packed and popular Tiffany's with tons of tourists all taking cell phone pictures of themselves in front of the store. I realized they all wanted that "Breakfast at Tiffany's" experience recorded. I don't blame them. But, I would also like breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an overnight on a Verdura salon settee. But as I said ... different strokes for different folks. And in the end ... it's all good.
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