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City Beat September 18, 2003
Fashion Shows: A Guide for Cowards
By John Dolan Browse author Email

I'm here to do a job, and if that job means covering a fashion show, I'm there -- come sneer, feis kontrol, or snickers. The expression, not the candy bar.

The job: do an article on the Lee Jeans fashion show at the New Manezh City Exhibit Hall in Teatralnaya. The risks: Models. Doormen. Jeans fanatics violently opposed to the sight of a man in elastic waistbands. In short: all mankind's ancient terrors.

But I can handle this stuff. I hit the beach at the BMW unveiling last year. And made it back alive. Even learned some survival tips. Gonna pass'em on, so listen up.

First lesson: what to do on the ride to a fashion show: 1. assume the fetal position in back seat of car. 2. hum loudly. 3. rock back and forth. I did all the above in eXile Sales Babe Tanya's car and survived the trip.

Next step: force yourself out of the car. The ol' "walk through fear." What the poet calls "the stained crotch of the hallway, where it is always sophomore year in high school." Bluffing a smile, but inside:

"What if they see I'm wearing sweatpants?"

Yeah, I wear sweatpants. Not ashamed to say it. Sweats help us endure the vast Dentist's office waiting room we call "Life," because you just pull them up without having to think of the real bad words: "waist size," "blood pressure."

But in Moscow, sweats -- "trackpants," "trainers," -- they got a lot of names on the street, but it's the same bad shit...sweats, ese, they'll get you killed. They've got me killed a hundred times ("killed" in the sense of "politely refused entry.")

I've been refused entry from Lyotchik. From Stolovaya. From a Produkti once. And I'm pretty sure it was the sweats that made those street dogs jump me on Solyanka. They went right for my legs. If you think that wasn't anti-sweatsism, you're just naive.

Once you've faced the anti-sweats Feis Cong as many times as I have, you pick up a few tricks. Like zipping up your jacket so they can't see that dangling drawstring -- Lord, they hate that thing like it was Cain's umbilical cord!

Also remember to hide behind presentable friends. I zipped, hunched'n'hid...and made it in.

Once past the Feiscists, we were free in a huge white room. There were tables everywhere, rib-high to discourage needless nuzzling. People in premeditated clothes -- not exactly nice clothes, or showy, more like clothes that had done a lot of homework and could explain themselves if challenged. Defensive business clothes.

A good sign -- these were fellow fear-dwellers!

Another sign: there was a white gap in the middle of the room and people zipped across it quickly, like reef fish zipping between bommies -- more fear, thank God!

Next check: height. Male height means nothing in Moscow; female does. If more than 15% of the women in a room exceed six feet, call for a dustoff pronto.

This crowd, I saw, was not too tall, for fashion types.

Why, this place was SAFE! Basking, I risked a look around.

First thing: paintings all along the walls. And every tenth was a pair of jeans inside a frame. Um...Frame means art, so... JEANS ARE ART! And they tell you it's not worth giving 11 years of your life to the Humanities!

But these were hotel paintings, not art: seascapes done with vanilla icing...Rocky Mountain valleys of 1963. Why would fashion people risk real paintings when you could just spraypaint safely random crap on canvas the day before the show? Or was that the trick, lo-ball reverse-snob stuff. Saw a lotta that with the Cong in Berkeley...lot of my buddies died face down in the mud 'cause they couldn't spot a reverse-snob Bouncing Betty in the potted Elephant Grass.

Meanwhile, drinks. They seemed to be free. Other people were getting served without being killed. I risked it. Life is all about risk. Just walked up and said, "Uh, Cola Light pozhaulsta." And boom! He gave me a Cola Light. I felt like, "Whoa, get me to a casino before my luck wears off!"

Then came a band, a good tight band doing modern rock covers and improving the lyrics via mistakes, i.e. "I'm a Crip, I'm a waiter...." If you ask me, "I'm a waiter" is about a million times sadder than "I'm a winner." All still thriving, the ancient basslines -- And then the models in the jeans. They didn't have...because this is Russia, not San Francisco...didn't have that, you know, lesbian ice glare thing? OK, OK, it's mostly just a pose even in SF, but see -- urr, long story, point is: they SMILED when they got to the top of the runway, catwalk, thing, and -- like Groundhog Day in the good sense: you get two million strikes minimum. Jeans and amps as if, what Stevens said: the body's beauty lives.

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