When Fashion was the Passion

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Street lamp with moon behind. Photo: JH.

Fashion, that’s the passion of our great celebrities of today.

That’s a reference to a Cole Porter lyric from a song entitled “Farming,” describing a point of view that has disappeared from our natural consciousness in only the last few years. Seemingly accompanied by the “pandemic” that suddenly had grasped our fears and sensibilities. 

These days following our revival from the health crisis, I often hear people remarking how many of us “don’t look good,” referring to the mode of dress. For many it has taken on a sudden indifference to one’s appearance. The change occurred so matter-of-factly that it looks like nothing other than maybe tending to wear old, casual clothes. It’s most apparent with many women who are the ones who normally set the style of community fashion.

La Liz and Rock Hudson.

Thinking about the matter, I was reminded how back in the mid-80s, I went to a special “awards dinner” in Hollywood which are the staple of movieland “events” where people dressed for the occasion. They were basically business events with the gathering together of a lot of stars for major photo-ops. This one was a tribute  honoring Rock Hudson for some cosmic filmland achievement like “Greatest Star of All Time Ever.”

The dinner was held at Universal Studios in an enormous one room building which ordinarily must have been a soundstage with a 40 foot ceiling.  The big draw of the evening — there were several hundred seated at tables of ten or twelve — was Elizabeth Taylor who was booked to do the presenting of the “award.” 

Taylor was at that time (and for years preceding) the most publicized woman on the planet — and recently free from her 7th marriage (to Senator John Warner), including her two marriages to Richard Burton. 

At that moment there were rumors abounding in the community that Hudson had been infected with AIDS. It was also known (and seen) that Taylor had recently transmogrified from tendencies to noticeable overweight into the looking-like-a-jillion-bucks-once-again-star-goddess. And Rock Hudson, an equally Big Star was tragically, starting to appear ill, further fueling all the ongoing rumors about his health.

The event was black tie and several hundred had turned out for it, with the women dressed in their very best. At least a quarter of those attending were also world famous faces. Scores of photographers were working the room furiously. An hour after the dinner was scheduled to begin, everyone was present except Madame Presenter herself. Her tardiness didn’t seem to annoy anyone because they knew enough not to expect her to be on time; nevertheless …

Suddenly the entire crowd was struck silent by a commotion at the main entrance. A bank of bright lights flooding the ceiling burst into the dimly lit room. At the entrance it looked like “Close Encounters” coming toward us.

The aura was in fact the melee of photographers, with full bright lights above them, surrounding the object of their worship. To the eye it actually resembled a low flying constellation, as the photographers moved en masse jerkily across the room, finally hitting on a lone table where, as if suddenly, the Goddess herself who had been shielded by them from the sight of the rest of us, appeared.

ET with son Christopher Wilding in 1981. Credit: Trinity Mirror / Mirrorpix / Alamy Stock Photo

Still pre-her marriage to Larry Fortensky, the beautiful star was with her beautifully handsome son Christopher Wilding.  Seated back-to-back with my table, and just a few feet away, I couldn’t resist — like all several hundred of the guests — getting a close look at the legend. 

Hers was naturally a bravura appearance; astoundingly exquisite: her black coif, the dazzling violet eyes, the white gown, the deep décolletage. And all framed by the diamonds showered on her by Richard Burton (or herself) — luxuriated by great glittering chunks of sparkle dangling from her ears, and against her ample and glowing bosom; as well as protecting her delicate wrists, all flashdancing for the camera lights.

The constellation hovered around her table throughout the meal and then when the star rose from her seat, the circle of light rose with her, following her to the podium where she spoke. Then Rock Hudson appeared. Kisses, kisses, smiles, hahaha, applause applause, and thank you, thank you, thank you.

Then, with awards and praise delivered, the mega-star began to move, as if it were written into the perfect script, as if ordained by Nature; and the cameras and the lights, a high tech personification of Stonehenge, moved too.  Soon a wall of photographers were escorting their goddess back to the heavens of her residence in Bel Air, taking the rest of the evening with them.

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