"Hello death, goodbye Avenue A," Ann Magnuson, of early-'90s Bongwater, spits her performance art out of my sunroof and into the night sky.
"Oh, how '90s," Jessica vintages. "Hetero-AIDS paranoia."
Fitting, then, that we're traversing the cobblestones of Church Street in our boutique best, aiming our fashion toes in the direction of a Jim Faherty—promoted runway show. Nobody would do that in 2006; in fact, by all appearances nobody else is. Three cranes, a homeless guy and two misted bimbos goading us into Chillers for "free shots" agree. Speculative real-estate optimism never felt so boring.
"Slow down," Jessica blisters, reaching down at her knock-off Chloe platforms, which she'll, given the podunk context, present as the real deal. "I'm pulling myself up by my ankle straps."
"Genius," I dumb. Tonight is going nowhere.
"I dare you to introduce yourself as Billy Armani," Jessica's inner fashionista lights up a skinny cigarette and throws up.
"Only if you're Jessica Versace."
No, it isn't really funny, but neither is the fact that tonight's proceedings — a fashion show at barely-open 23 — celebrate the misleadingly named Clara Herrera, a Baldwin Park clothier whose pieces, if the Evite illustration is to be believed, border on the gownier side of Cher. No Carolina "greige double-face wool coat with fox trim, greige cashmere turtleneck, multi-rust plaid wool trousers" Herrera here. Just taffeta and a bedazzler. I mean, if you're going to knock off, at least knock off with a trim.
"Would you like to sign up for a raffle for a really great bag?" a silicone puff pastry of no discernable features blinks at the door.
"No, you're a really great bag," Jessica bites her tongue.
Inside, a time capsule of 1994 In Style magazine back issues and 1984 Easton-Ellis megalomania seems to have exploded, resulting in the rarely achieved people transplant often associated with condo booms or sales pitches. A makeshift runway lines one wall, while an impenetrable swarm of moneyed bimbos and their chubby husbands attempt to squeeze their egos and their bodies into the smallest possible surface area. It's rich clowns in an expensive phone booth, really, and I'm not having any of it.
"This is like pretend Upper East Side," Jessica bee-stings her lips. "I prefer our pretend downtown."
Behind her, bleeding out of an unkind yellow split-end spotlight, one booming business voice talks over another booming business voice about precisely nothing.
"We need to do business, y'know," booms No. 1. "We should sit down and talk."
"Yeah, y'know," booms No. 2. "Some people I know, it's like, ‘I dunno, I dunno, I dunno.'"
"You want a drink?" Jessica snaps my entrepreneurial hypnosis.
"I dunno, I dunno, I dunno."
Things go a little bit more groovy when I realize that our bartender may actually be the pimp from Pat Benatar's "Love Is a Battlefield" video, and try to muster a hooker shimmy. But the close quarters render my shimmy a mild epileptic fit symptomatic of failed plastic surgery, and unless that drink is rimmed with Botox, I fear it won't do me any good. An acquaintance named Emma, who now books "things" at the CityArts Factory, darts a false eyelash in my direction, and I'm momentarily relieved to know that not everybody here is a figment of my class-war distaste, or somebody that I've never seen before.
"She looks like Ashlee Simpson," Jessica Simpsons. "Back when Ashlee Simpson looked good, not plastic-surgerized."
Anyway, we got here at the invite time of 8, and by 9:30 nary a model has stumbled a coke spoon down a runway. Our little game of "real" or "fake" as applied to eye sockets and breasts has long since become an exercise in unbalanced tedium, and the sort of social commentary that we typically keep under our breaths has now reached an ungainly crescendo, blaring into the back of the head of a fat husband.
"There's a certain piece called a ‘chubby,'" Jessica fox-trims about fur etiquette in earshot of a cropped-fur gaggle.
"Don't I know it."
"And unless you're a stick, heed the name!" she shears. "I mean, I'm already chubby — so I don't wear one!" She isn't, really.
"That's what women are all about: sucking and shopping, sucking and shopping, sucking and shopping," starts Bongwatering through my head, and I'm certain that I'm going crazy. Jessica and I find a windowsill to turn into a periphery bench and stare out the window like two rainy-day kids in an adult Dr. Seuss tragedy. We need to get out of here soon or somebody's going to figure out that we are indeed horrible people.
"Check out the pant," Jessica surveys what appears to be a male escort, dropping the "s" in the name of fashion. "And the shoe …"
"Without the sock?" I play along, but we're kidding no one.
And at about the same time that the sacrilege of a dance-mixed "Sound of Silence" breaks wind, Jessica peers over at the gift-bag-hag table. Sitting there, amid the business cards and worthless promo effects, is a magazine. Not just a magazine — two actually; one is Orlando Style, natch — but the bible of horrific tragedies of taste, the "Who? Why? What?" explanation we've already given up on ascertaining. It's Pageant magazine, and I'm totally not kidding. We are in the midst of a beauty brainwash! That's what's wrong!
"So, do you need to actually see a dress on a real live model before we get the hell out of here?" Jessica spits the rhetorical.
"I can see no more," I imagine blindness (it's easy).
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