ESL Encounters: Attack of the 70-Year-Old Italian Male Model

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I’m not quite sure how the interaction begins, being that, when alone, I often dial my face in at an uninviting hostile resting position – especially when traveling in a foreign country. This, I believe, ensures that I will not be the subject of my own Taken-esque autobiography, provided I survive to tell about how I lived through a pimp-mandated heroin addiction and enslavement in a black-market prostitution ring (though, let’s be honest, I’m probably too old to even be considered for such abductions). Needless to say, anyone willing to approach me thereby has the brave fortitude of a climber taking to Mount Everest barefoot. Or, you know, they’re just an idiot.

Eva is downstairs handling jewelry-line-business stuff while I’ve been left to my own devices, wandering around the cavernous halls of an accessories trade show. I’ve worked these types of environments before as a model and their general unpleasantness triggers a muscle memory release of anti-endorphins, sucking the life out of me while I walk down the rows of leather goods and hand-beaded belts, past sales reps carrying undercooked stacks of Parisian pizza and looking positively grim. Prince plays out of speakers somewhere. Murder me.

Exhausted from a night spent dancing to the same J. Lo song over and over again, I sit down across from a cafeteria selling the aforementioned pizzas.

“Parli Italiano?”

I look up at the face of a man in his mid-60s, wearing glasses and tufts of thick white hair.

“No, sorry.”

I have been mistaken for a few things in my day – Russian model, that girl some guy met at Art Basel last December, Julia Stiles – but never Italian. My German and Dutch heritage paints me all the blonde-haired-blue-eyed colors of a Hitler Youth rainbow. Even Northern Italian would be a stretch.

“Where are a’you from?”

“New York.”

“Ahhh! New York, A’love New York. You are here for fashion week modeling?”

“Yep.”

I lie because it’s easier than explaining that my friend has an apartment and I’m officially one of those irresponsible degenerates who can add “lady who lunches” to her impressive list of accomplishments. I’m in Paris for six days doing nearly positively nothing aside from eating, drinking, and seeing friends, which I guess qualifies itself as a vacation.

“Me too!” he starts. “I’m here for shooting. We doing Hermes tomorrow.”

Given his age, I would assume that he was a photographer, or someone that has otherwise given up vanity in favor of an occupation that requires legitimate skill and intelligence. He sits next to me before I can protest and pulls out a Blackberry from 2006. And then he starts showing me photos from all of his “campaigns.”

“I’m a model, too! See!”

The Male Model of Antiquity thumbs through photo after photo of him wearing futuristic reading glasses and posing with random young Asian women. It’s nearly the same image every time, with badly Photoshopped advertising copy placed with great aesthetic irreverence. I have no idea what the hell I’m looking at. “Oh!” I want to say. “Glamour shots by Deb? I know those!”

Oddly, at this point his English devolves into indecipherable mumbling, as though learning how to purposefully mistake young women for Italians and then share the fact that you’re an aging male model is as far as he got in his Rosetta Stone: English tutorial. From this point forward, there’s a lot of vigorous head-nodding and fake laughing on my part, while he begins to talk to me in full-blown Italian.

I think he complains about agencies.

I think he tells me he worked for Chanel.

I think he says something about making $15,000 yesterday.

I couldn’t tell you; I have no idea what this guy is talking about, or, for that matter, what he’s doing walking around a jewelry trade show if he’s so fabulous and in-demand.

One of the Prince songs that’s been playing wraps up, and I take the opportunity to shut down this interaction before it goes anywhere weird. Maybe not like prostitution-ring weird, but “Can I a’take you out to dinner weird.”

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Getting Ugly

Click through for my story about the Saint Laurent show in Paris last week, along with some music and pictures and all that yumminess.

Getting Ugly

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The Cult of Ugly. Field Trip.

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One more way to get into my brain. If you’re the TUMBLR type, follow my other blog, The Cult of Ugly, for new music and some inspirational images. Sometimes, if I’m feeling cheeky, I’ll write a story.
(Photo courtesy of Vogue Japan)
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I imagine our generation feels the same way about Instagram as our great grandparents felt about toasters: Exactly what was life like before? Just as Great Grandpa Paul Otto Bahn surely couldn’t imagine what it was like to stick a loaf of bread over the open hearth for a BLT, I can’t imagine what I did with all my time before Instagram. Did I, like, actually pay attention to my surroundings? Did I interact with people through the entirety of a meal without that chronic, attention-deficit-disordered, technology-is-making-me-retarded flicking of my pointer finger against a smudged iPhone screen? Jesus Christ, did I even exist before Instagram?

But I digress. This isn’t about me. No, this is about Instagram celebrities, those people who have so many followers their extraneous numbers are merely replaced by a “k” – the scarlet letter of Instagram awesomeness.

Fashion week has provided excellent spying into the world of the underground and the upper crust. Runway shows, after parties. There’s nothing better than sitting home on a Friday night, scrolling through pictures of what other people are doing on their Friday night, especially if these people are popular.

[Side note: Now the good news is that we no longer need children to live vicariously through someone else!]

Through some intelligent lurking research, I have come up with the following recipes for becoming fashion famous.

1. Live a generally edgy lifestyle that Danny Boyle might one day want to document. Heroin abuse optional.

2. Dye your hair. Any My Little Pony color will do.

3. If pink, purple, or periwinkle does not work for your skin tone, try working the platinum blonde with no eyebrows angle.

4. Wear something by Jeremy Scott. Nothing will get you big-time hearted like wearing sneakers with wings on the back or a sweater with Bart Simpson’s head all over it.

5. Become friends with Dev Hynes, Alexa Chung, or Theophilus London and get your pictures taken together. Don’t forget the handle. If you can’t remember the handle, don’t bother. Consider yourself waylaid in anonymity forever.

6. If the up-and-coming music scene isn’t your thing, trying plugging in with well known fashion bloggers. Have them promo you on their own feeds. Shout out to @SOONTOBEFUCKINGPOPULAR!

7. Take pictures of yourself wearing things a lot of people can’t afford.

8. Take photos of your nail art. Make sure they are awesome.

9. Triple points if you are in close proximity to famous people. Stylist, sibling, hanger-on, whatever. You are well on your way to being Instragram-famous-by-association.

10. Man up, dudes. Stop being so goddamn normal. Stop taking pictures of what you’re eating for lunch (unless lunch is crystal meth). Stop taking pictures of your dog (unless your dog is actually a domesticated jaguar on leash). Stop taking pictures of you making a fish face in the mirror (unless you’re Giselle Bundchen, in which case, fish-face all you want). And please, dear fucking god, stop taking pictures of your weightloss progress. I did not sign up to Instagram to be someone’s cellulite cheerleader.

These are my recommendations. Follow them and watch your followers skyrocket, your self-worth take a trip to the goddamn moon. So many hearts and likes and smiles and shit, you’ll forget what it’s like to exist in the real world. Because, frankly, who needs that.

I imagine our g…

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The Social Vampire Diaries: That Night I Spent an Hour Waiting to Get Into the Alexander Wang After Party

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A light rain falls on my new shirt, a silver leather thing with black lapels and a zipper up the back. I look like the inside of a very fashionable lunchbox. I change out of a pair of black horsehair loafers and into my new Balenciaga heels. They’ve been sitting in a box for the last month and a half since purchasing them, and if it weren’t for Lief supporting the idea of me being 6’4 and fancy tonight, it’d probably have been another year before they saw the outside of my closet.

“It’s a shit show,” he texts.

I walk down the street attempting a grace that I am strangely capable of in showrooms, modeling pants for international buyers who don’t give a shit about me. In real life it’s harder; no one’s paying me to look elegant or capable. The fact that I don’t fall over all night is a success story in itself.

A hovering mass of people wearing black encroaches upon the entrance, attacking from all angles. Everyone who’s anyone and everyone who’s no one is here, myself included. I’m freely willing to admit I have absolutely no business trying to get in. If it weren’t for Lief, I’d be at home, likely writing about the underground boxing match we went to last night and watching The Daily Show.

Lief’s standing outside, wearing a shredded denim Acne jacket and a baseball hat. He drank a 32-ounce margarita before he got here and I can tell he’s feeling rowdy already.

“What’s it looking like?”

“Not good.”

Apparently the five people who were supposed to get us in tonight have all but vanished. So-and-so and this person and that person who does this and said that. Lief keeps looking at the shattered surface of his iPhone. “This is so annoying,” he says.

“I might have to get grimy to make this happen. I don’t want to get grimy,” he says.

“We’re here,” I insist. “Get fucking grimy.”

Fashion week after parties are designed to make you feel like a loser unless you’re actually supposed to be there. The whole act of trying to get into one seems sort of strange. For instance, I don’t try to crash random people’s birthday parties or weddings. And if anyone took issue with it and told me to fuck off, I’d totally understand. But at fashion week, you take your inflated sense of self-worth and imagine that’s currency. That and a pair of really expensive shoes and some good hair. Yes, you think, I might not have a ticket, and I might not be on the guest list, but I am list transcendental.

Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Lief and I stand in between two parked cars and assume the affectations of people who think they’re important but clearly are not. If you’re important, you’re inside. Lief groans. I cross my arms. We’re like personified eye-rolls and ho-hums. Lief starts launching into mini tirades about hookups and favors and “Don’t ask me for anything anymores.” I’ve never seen him this annoyed. I think it’s the margarita.

“If you’re on the list, get in the line,” some guy in a black suit repeats from the door. There’s a stronghold of resisters standing on the sidewalk. To get in the line, to barricade oneself between the venue and those horrible silver bars is an admission of defeat, a sacrifice of the little crumbs of ego we have left. On the sidewalk, we are still humans. In between parked cars, we still have power.

I can’t imagine what this whole scene looks like to the security detail. To them, it’s all very black and white: you’re on the list or you’re not, you have a ticket or you don’t. Still, they’re surrounded by cool kids with glittery pants and half-shaved heads, praying to the party gods for a sign of the gray, a glimmer of hope, a breaking of resistance.

The creative director of J.Crew walks past and per the dictates of their corporate culture – the way they interacted with the models like they were human beings, asked our names, looked us in the eyes when they spoke to us when we worked together last week – I say hello and kiss her on both cheeks. She’s with Garance Dore. They both disappear soon after because, well, they’re supposed to be here.

I feel like I’m on Titanic and someone keeps shouting “Women and children first! Women and children first!” and I’m the 75 year old man left to perish on the listing promenade.

Models come up and out of nowhere and slide straight through the crowd like eels, all bones and thin wisps of hair.

“They’ve got a ticket for us,” Lief says, still looking at his phone.

One ticket means one entrance. Lief instructs me to pretend I’m his girlfriend and we’ll probably be okay. Twenty minutes later, our ticket is delivered by Jake. And just as we move off of the sidewalk and into the line for hard tickets, they close down admission. Everything grinds to a halt.

We stand. And wait. And feel a little less loser-y, but we’re still not inside. We’ve been waiting for over an hour.

I’m standing next to some emaciated, French male model version of Robert Pattison and his entourage of cigarette-smoking hip kids when a bass line thuds from inside.

“Is that…” Lief’s ears perk up. White light flickers from the windows of the building onto the façade of the one across the street. “Is that Die Antwoord?”

Now I’m starting to get annoyed. I can hear Yolandi rap on the mic, her voice screeching through the air like a rat caught in a trap. This is just salt in the wound. Everything about this is getting embarrassing – this need to get into a party and dance around strangers, this need to get dressed up and wear shoes that are now making my calves numb. The problem is that when it works, it’s fun. You’ve won some sweet, stupid, superficial victory based on nothing.

The line starts moving again, two by two. They’re only taking hard tickets now, no guest list. Finally Lief and I arrive at a man in a gray suit. “One ticket, one entrance,” he reminds us. We tell him we’ve got a name on the guest list, one we’d been given along with the hard ticket so we could get in. “Sorry,” he says, “we’re not taking the guest list anymore.”

Only one of us is getting in right now. This is like Guest List Gladiator. The man watches on, his eyes relaying zero sympathy or heartfelt desire to keep the team together. Rules are rules. Hard tickets only.

Lief says he’ll wait.

I push the ticket in his hand.

“Don’t do this to me,” he says. “I’m not going to go in.”

“I’m not going to go in either.”

The man continues to watch us argue over who is going to sacrifice the last hour and a half of their life for zero reward and lots of wasted dignity. This is like Sophie’s Fucking Choice right now.

I push the ticket into Lief’s jean jacket. “I’m leaving. You stay.”

And then I walk away, down the street in my Balenciaga heels and my silver shirt, the rain falling lightly again but not enough for an umbrella. There I am, alone in the Financial District: Jenny Bahn, party martyr.

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