I park on the street because I don’t like to valet. The remnants of sweaty palms on my steering wheel, the likelihood someone’s going to put a dent in the door, the mass amounts of embarrassing garbage I have lingering in all corners of the vehicle. It’s an unpleasant experience for me, and for them.
I walk into the boutique – the designer’s name I will not mention, but think…Paris…white hair…tweed. A security guard presses a button, ushering me into an elevator with another security guard. He presses 3. The walls are lined with cartoonish camellias layered over a dusty lime green. It is a thoughtful and beautiful elevator, but I would expect nothing less from this brand. Even the florescent lights in the kitchen are covered with a picture of a hyper blue sky and cherry blossoms.
The woman who is in charge of us briefs me, saying that today will be terribly easy and they only really need us for 45 minutes. As I am scheduled to be here for just under 5 hours, this is impressive. The event will be for their most “loyal” customers who will be treated to a very special private dinner. Our role is to saunter through the small group in between the entre and dessert, dazzling them with jewelry worth more than the GDP of some small countries.
I sit in the kitchen under fake cherry blossoms and stare at a poster of the Eifel Tower in construction from 1888-1889. It makes me think about the nature of work: how everything starts with an idea, then a solid base from which to build, and so on and so forth. What I am doing to day is not work by any means.
I am ushered back downstairs to get my makeup done. When it’s done I go back to the kitchen and wait. And wait. And wait. The other three girls eventually make their way into my holding cell and they wait along with me. We talk about banal and yawn worthy things like dying our hair, what it means to be a “dishwater blonde”, how much root is too much root, the hair on Mo’Nique’s legs, and so on and so forth. We are in too close quarters for me to curl up and read something decent, ignoring my social graces and everyone else, so I am forced to participate for an agonizing three some-odd hours.
Around 8:30 we are corralled into the alterations room where we are each handed a not so simple, four-digit, little black dresses. As we will be modeling fine jewelry today, they wanted to downplay the clothing. Security guards watch as a man clasps necklaces around our necks and puts rings on our fingers. A pearl here, some black diamonds there. Amanda is wearing 3.2 million worth of diamonds – a respectable house in the Hollywood Hills. I have been blessed with approximately 1.5 million – a cozy remodeled Craftsman in the flats of West Hollywood. The other two come in at under a million, but still look respectable.
We stand in the hallway until someone opens the door and releases us into the crowd like lethargic, over-medicated greyhounds. And they’re off! There are four tables, each of which is filled predominately with quiet white men and louder, grabbier women. To be sure, most of them of very well behaved. I bend gently, allowing them to marvel at my necklace of countless carats and movable diamond camellias. I give them my hand to see my giant camellia ring. The light is forgiving and they don’t notice the pink polish chipping away on my fingernails.
After everyone has seen the goods, we are told to stand in the hallway and wait for Amanda, at which point we are allowed to leave. The glasses are tinkling beautifully and the chatter is tony and light hearted and then all of a sudden, the evening goes terribly, terribly bizarre.
Whitney, Cat, and myself are just launching in to gossip about one of the men at the tables who had been overly aggressive and strangely flirtatious when that very same man steps in the narrow hallway and corners us. We are alone with no security guard or employee to aid us; they are all watching the rich people glitter and laugh.
Initially, we all thought he was perhaps of the gay persuasion; he wore a brown sweater tied around his neck and sat in between two ladies whom he fawned over and who fawned over him in turn. It became immediately clear in this hallway, however, that this man was not gay. In fact, he was a vile, terrifying predator of women and we were unfortunately on the menu.
Now, to better give you an idea of what we were looking at, I can best describe it thusly: imagine Pepe le Pew had sex with an Egyptian bulldog, who then gave birth to…him. His conversation was peppered with bedroom eyebrow raising, followed by “uh huhs” that sounded like a bad impersonation of the French. This all came after disgusting and inappropriate innuendos, which will be described in detail momentarily.
Although his demeanor and swagger are suspicious right from the go-get, his conversation starts out in talking about the actual jewelry. He talks about the Egyptian motifs they use, about the black and white of Cat’s outfit and how the original designer used to live in a monastery, how we should all be so enthused to be wearing a product of that same woman’s vision. He talks about the kohl eyeliner she brought back and points out that that, too, is Egyptian. He mentions how she was the first to wear pants.
He then uses this iconic woman of fashion as a platform from which to degrade the women having dinner down the hall. “Cows,” he says, then goes on to say something about someone having never been to a museum. At first I think he’s talking about me because he makes his leery glance my way, but that’s only him being disgusting, not overtly insulting.
The rest of the conversation is a snowstorm of WTF. For example:
Pepe Le Nasty: Something, something, big socks. Grunt, uh huh.
Innocent Girls: Uhh…
Pepe Le Nasty: It’s okay; we will have buckets of ice. Grunt, uh huh. Vintage, baby. Grunt, uh huh. Eye Raise.
Allow me to translate the interaction for you, as I was there and was better able to witness all of the grotesque body language that accompanied these coded comments of filth. Big socks = big you know what. Ice = what we’ll need when he’s done. I’m sure his comment about a “magic carpet ride” applies to whatever sacred event he is proposing.
We can’t figure out if he’s on cocaine or not. He is violently aggressive, relentless, and unstoppable. There are few moments for us to even get a word in edgewise. Most of the interaction is spent with us shooting each other looks and praying for someone to come save us before this man physically defiles us.
At some point I sneak around Bollywood Austin Powers and flag down a security guard. In addition to the fear of being raped, I pondered whether this man was going to maybe rip our jewelry off and head down the stairs. The latter being infinitely more preferable. The security guard takes note, but the girls are still trapped there for another minute or so.
One of the store’s employees comes over and apologizes for “that” saying, “There’s always one at every party.” He then deems the experience a valid reason to advocate abortion. I laugh and grab his arms. He half-heartedly apologizes for being offensive. I imagine Whitney winces at the comment although I can’t see her.
We stand waiting for Amanda again and Cat says she feels like she’s been verbally raped. Ain’t that the truth.