Friday, August 24, 2018

No Holds Barred: Summer from Hell

Source: Metdesk
by Blair Sabol

Where were you in this 2018 summer from Hell? 
Were you in the West’s summer ‘n smoke (three more months of fire season yet to go)?  Were you suffocating in the southwest haboobs (not the name of a porn star, but the giant storm wall of dust and debris)?  Were you looking for any air conditioning anywhere in Europe’s “El Scorchio” (That would be Paris, London, Rome and Madrid topping off at 98 degrees for weeks with no relief). Or did you settle for the East Coast’s perpetual steam bath?  Pick your summer poison and for once, there was nowhere to hide ... nowhere to run!!
A haboob swallows Phoenix!
By the end of August I was sick of hearing about global warming.  I was too busy offering my electrician and AC tech free drugs and sex for every emergency service they could schedule as my AC and power went out regularly in 115-degree heat.

I no longer wanted to know about the reasons “why” we were frying – I was too into “Do or Die.”  For me, that was the 2018 summer theme. 

On the more depraved front, we had more Catholic bishops brought up on the same old sexual abuse charges in Philadelphia, Boston and Nebraska.  I thought we were over with all this in 2002.  And now the #MeToo movement got bit badly with one of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers being accused of her own sexual assault of a 17-year-old boy.  A well known lawyer friend of mine recently suggested that in the end, Weinstein may actually walk since a lot of the women had serious consensual histories with Harvey.

It was definitely the summer of diversity in the arts with Crazy Rich Asians breaking box office records and Spike Lee’s highly successful and “in-your-face” (who isn’t nowadays) BlacKkKlansman.
Crazy Rich Asians and BlacKkKlansman — all the rage.
And speaking of African American popularity – it seems that the September issues of 12 fashion magazines (I didn’t know there were still so many around) featured 12 black cover girls (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Yara Shahidi, Tiffany Haddish, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lupita Nyong’o, Slick Woods, Issa Rae, Aja Naomi King, Laverne Cox, Naomi Campbell, and of course Oprah on her own Oprah mag!).

Fashion folk are calling it  #blackgirlmagic.  In my day (late '60s and '70s) it was Donyale Luna and later Pat Cleveland and even Beverly Johnson did a few Vogue covers.  The real question is who is reading about all these accomplished black stars in these fashion mags.  Most of my black friends don’t even read Essence, let alone Elle or Harper's Bazaar or Porter.
Furthermore ... to me, black women always have set the style trends and never had to read magazines, even in the good old days ... “pre”- Anna Wintour!!  They were too busy establishing looks on their own – and nowadays they don’t even check Instagram all that much.  They watch mostly black popular television – like Empire and Power.  So I guess that leaves middle aged white women reading about Beyoncé’s mental and physical health philosophies and Ross’s idea on activism.  Actually, I don’t even see magazine stands anywhere, not even in my local CVS – and forget about all the doctors’ waiting rooms.

So who is taking advantage of all this Black Girl Magic month?  I realized it was a desperate move by Conde Nast to be relevant – but who IS the audience anymore, and honestly, WHO CARES (a mantra I hear a lot today about our entire culture).  And talk about desperate. Fall 2018 looks to be one of the worst stylistic line-ups ever – with Gucci exploding their pattern on pattern layers (and here we are ALL sweating from May to November).  I actually thought Wintour rewarded Beyoncé the full editorship to curate the entire Vogue September issue – not just the fashion and photos.

French Vogue used to give celebrities (like Alfred Hitchcock and Roman Polanski) the entire December book to create; including reviews, beauty and editorial, and the issues became collector’s items.

Fashion has clearly lost its way and its meaning with the current “anything goes” ideology; the rise of basic street wear, athleisure, sneakers and real lack of quality fabrics, not to mention fast fashion outlets and Instagram – everything seems short lived and instantly boring – as we “swipe” our styles and ourselves off our mental and physical “screens.” Sad.
As for Beyoncé actually being a fashion “spokes model” – I wonder as I watched her recent “Apeshit” music video (released at the same time as her Vogue cover) filmed at the Louvre Museum.  How did she ever get that institution to close down for 5 days while “Bey” and her girl’s twerked their pelvises in front of the Mona Lisa and the great Sphinx of Tanis? Then again, this is Jay Z and Beyoncé, and it is their world.  We are not even guests in it.
But all this was instantly lost on me when Aretha Franklin died and put a formal finale on this challenging summer.  The good news was Aretha actually upstaged Madonna parading her ass cheeks in Morocco for her 60th birthday bash (or maybe it was her freshly injected lips and FACE cheeks – who can keep up with her – or Cher’s nips and tucks and geriatric touring dates).

The reason Aretha meant the most to me was she never plasticized or morphed her body or face and remained as private as she possibly could.  Remember she was the epitome of “Natural Woman.”
I was a writer at Vogue magazine in the early seventies when the editors wanted to do a fashion spread on the rock and roll stars.  Aretha made the cut and they sent Linda McCartney (who was then photographer Linda Eastman and a friend of mine) to shoot Aretha.  I remember Linda telling me how shy and insecure Aretha was about her visual.  All she wanted Linda to do was “make me beautiful.”  Aretha wasn’t thrilled to hear Diana Ross and Cher were also in “the finals.”

In the end, the editors didn’t care for Aretha’s fuller body type and chose Cher for the cover, and of course Diana Ross for a colorful double page spread.  Aretha was delegated to a smaller black and white photo in the “People are talking about” column.  She didn’t make Fashion, and so much for “the greatest female singer of all time.” 
Aretha Franklin by Linda Eastman McCartney.
Certainly Aretha became THE icon for many of my black female friends, especially from Detroit.  For them, Aretha was their Jackie O!!  It was something to see her death announced with a huge picture of her on the entire upper half of the Wall Street Journal and the Post and the New York Times and every other publication that had more impact than all the airbrushed black celebrities on the cover of any September Fashion issue!!

Then again, who but “ReRe” could make a splash at the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors by doing her infamous fur coat “drop” at her song’s finale with her vast unleashed bosom and her heavy outstretched arms.  Not to mention carrying on stage her glitter clutch bag because she was always a stickler about being paid in cash immediately after her performance.
The Aretha story irony is now top beauty Halle Barry is rumored to play Aretha in her biopic.  I bet Aretha would love that.  Leave it to Hollywood to make her a beauty in the end.

There is one personality that puzzled me in the whole Black Magic August – Omarosa!!  So much to say about this 15-minute moment.  My one question is why did she wear a blazing yellow lace one-shoulder cocktail dress during her 7:30 AM Today Show interview.  What message was she sending?  Talk about unhinged!  Even Fox News anchor gals don’t wear THAT getup. 
Omarosa in her morning getup!
Randy Rainbow is the latest and greatest satirist. He uses broadway tunes and edits this all himself and whether you hate or like Trump it is very upbeat and entertaining ... plus he has a great boutique and sells his pink  blinged readers and great T shirts with sequin glasses embellished on the front!
The real kicker arrived at the end of August with a scary reality TV fact!  And it had nothing to do with Trump!  It was announced that the Kardashian family is now officially more powerful than the Windsors!!  From sex tapes to plastic surgery and shotgun weddings – they have taken their “famous-for-nothing” story into a true dynasty.  Don’t forget ... Kim lobbied President Trump to commute the prison sentence of Alice Marie Johnson; Kylie is now a $500 lip-gloss billionaire (they are all billionaires and respected on Wall Street). 
The Family’s interracial relationship has upstaged Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle.  And though the Windsors have their “walk abouts” in village streets and sporting events, the Kardashians have 500 million followers daily on their social media sites. Not to mention dad Caitlyn (let’s bring her back ... never mind magazine covers – why not for political office!).  Mother Kris Jenner has become a recognized and impressive businesswoman who now calls herself “Mom and Chief” of the whole family portfolio!!  Don’t mess with “Momager” – even Queen Elizabeth can’t compete with Kris.  And how about Kourtney’s son making the September cover of Harper’s Bazaar – his name is REIGN!  So goodbye rock and roll royals like Queen of Pop Madonna – or Queen of R&B Beyoncé or even Queen of Soul Aretha.  Who can keep these royals straight?

I guess the whole summer was one of hot and high anxiety (when is it not?) with that overall sense of “send in the clowns” – but as Stephen Sondheim adds ...

“Don’t bother, they’re here.”