Last Wednesday I found myself at the 92nd Street Y supporting my great new friend Fern Mallis in the most recent of her Fashion Icon interviews, Bruce Weber.
Even though these charming conversations have become legendary within the fashion industry… receiving great reviews from all who attend, there’s very little on-line that proves that they happen at all other than tiny, badly edited clips.
Fern deserves her own YouTube channel and somebody needs to organize this for her tout de suite.
Indomitable Fern is known most notably for her creation of New York Fashion Week but more importantly she is the consummate glass ceiling smasher. A brusk Russian jew prone to surliness, an inability to suffer fools, she also has a huge charisma and charm that softens her incisive questioning.
One feels that if anybody can, Fern can.
Interviews with Donna Karan, Polly Mellen, Tom Ford, Andre Leon Talley, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang charting the genesis of their personal style, describing the homes where they were brought up, relationships with their parents and their personal adventures within the fashion industry have moved and delighted her audiences.
I arrived at her Bruce Weber interview expecting a great deal. In the theatre sat fashion luminaries Grace Coddington and Ralph Lauren.
The lecture series was announced, Fern introduces a short film by Bruce Weber with notable scenes including his own days as a model, numerous famous names and an elephant Bruce likes to take pictures of draped with naked boys.
The problem with Bruce Weber? He’s not that interesting. When all is said and done Bruce is a married man obsessed with the homoerotic. With his wife Nan, sitting in the audience it would have been difficult for any great interviewer to ask pertinent question about the other elephant in the room. The humongous pink elephant in the room. The question I wanted answered… like all the others who sat with bated breath wondering if Fern would go there. The question we wanted answering but was never answered, “Bruce Weber, are you gay?
In 2013 post DOMA this would not be an unusual or impertinent question. He has, after all is said and done, devoted himself to photographing naked, young, super-fit, white boys. He is brilliant at photographing naked white boys because he loves them. He worships them. Everything else he photographs dulls by comparison.
Bruce says that taking a picture of a beautiful boy is like a ‘handshake or a hug’ I would go further… every time he takes a photograph of a beautiful, naked, white boy he is fucking that boy, caressing his ass, sucking on his cock. The photographs and the films of beautiful, naked, white boys ooze sensuality, eroticism and the merest suggestion that we are only one shot away from seeing them hard and proud… shooting jizz all over their perfect white bodies.
Bruce Weber, are you gay?
Bruce Weber, why do you only shoot white boys? Why is there never a black or asian or pacific islander in any of your pictures? Why do people like Grace Coddington or Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren let you get away with this appalling racism?
Bruce Weber, have you (like Terry Richardson) ever used your power and prestige to encourage those boys you photograph to do other more extreme things for your camera?
I had lunch with a friend on Saturday who was also at the interview and (once we had discussed Terry Richardson sexual unmanageability problems) both lamented Weber’s lack of openness. We concluded that if we are truly looking for clues about this maybe closeted, married sixty-five year old man we may look no further than a dull, almost forgettable story he told about a beautiful man carrying an air conditioning unit.
Walking in the street Bruce stops and, risking a ‘punch on the nose’ asks a half-naked man carrying an air-conditioning unit if he can take his picture. If it is his true intention to simply take a picture why would the man want to punch him on the nose? If Bruce’s intention is to seduce the man… then a punch on the nose seems more likely.
I can shamelessly ask to take anyones picture if I only desire to take pictures. But if I am shamed by my desire for you, I want you to open yourself up to me, let me take you to a quiet place and take pictures of you as a means to watch you do things you keep private… then the implicit threat of violence seems more likely.
Beneath the chubby, bandana wearing kindly old grandfather facade lurks a self loathing homosexual, terrified of clearly and truthfully expressing his desires.
The interview was not as great as it could have been because we all colluded with Bruce Weber’s charade. If we could have gotten past the crust of self-hatred then a perfectly brilliant interview might have happened. No such luck.
Finally, Bruce expressed his frustration… hatred even for the democratization of photography, for Instagram, for Facebook postings. In Bruce’s perfect, elite white world manned by an army of assistants, he advised us that we should take our most treasured digital images and have them printed on expensive paper and make books as perfect keepsakes. Bruce lives in a world of perfect keepsakes, of platinum blonde golden retrievers bred by east coast breeders. Bruce lives by the sea, in the mountains, in the city keeping his eyes peeled for perfect boys who may or may not become stars in a world where naked Russian dancers come on seven month adventures around the world.
“Sergei, come travel with us.”
A faux commune of beautiful, young, white men, strumming guitars in the moon light. Warmed by flickering log fires, sitting on Navajo blankets and always naked, their abs and lats and still wet hair glistening from skinny dipping in crystal clear water and always ready for another perfect photograph.
Hush now, the girls have gone to sleep. Let me lay beside you and enjoy you for a little while.
The narrative is always the same in the cult of Bruce. The gently spoken, self loathing homosexual who needs his wife’s permission to buy another dog….
Is everything hunky dory?
It better be.
Fern asked how I spent my days and I was hard pressed for an answer. I didn’t have an answer for her.
I collect coupons. I should have said that I collect coupons and write yelp reviews about coffee shop loyalty. I should have said that I tinker with my script and have long conversations with my expensive, world-renowned lawyers about THE LAWSUIT.
I should have told her about the house I want to buy upstate. I should have told her that I dream most of the day and that’s ok.
That my day is full of dreaming and dreaming and dreaming and that’s okay.
I should have replied that I have long lunches with beautiful men that I meet in AA.
I should have told her that I found this piece by Robert Indiana.
I should have said that I go stay in The Hamptons with show girls and equity trading billionaires. Billionaires who say things like, “I saw them at Frieze and I bought all of them.” Showgirls who, knowing someone else is paying, fills up the super market cart with pies and cream and cookies. Knowing that someone else is paying.
I should have told Fern that for the past month I have been seeing this man/boy who makes me laugh so hard I nearly pee myself. That we dress up and take pictures of each other.
We have been hanging out in bars with models and freaks and transsexuals. We have been exploring Williamsburg. We have been to book launches and fancy lunches.
Michael Costiff had a book signing at the Marc Jacobs book store on Bleecker St. There was an after party at the Soho Grand.
Diego arrived from Paris and we ate lunch with Hamish in The Gramercy Park Hotel.
I should have told her that I met Orlando Soria who is a dream and has a huge, winning smile and writes a fantastic blog that you can read here.
My friends from New Jersey supported a young artist so I took Ryan. Ryan comes everywhere. Like a sweet puppy.
We saw Philomena last night at The Paris cinema opposite the destroyed Plaza Hotel. After dinner we sat in their basement and ate bad sushi. Or rather… she ate the sushi and I paid for it.
Philomena, starring Steve Coogan and Judi Dench, is the story of a teenage girl who gets pregnant, is sent away to a convent to have her baby. The baby is consequently sold to rich Americans. It is a gut wrenching film. I cried nearly all the way through. Fern stayed dry-eyed throughout. I thought about my own mother and remembered that this was her story too. Teenage pregnancy, sent away to a local convent to scrub floors until I was born into a pool of blood and shame.
After the film we sat 30 floors above Manhattan in a bar called The Skylark. I met Sophie Kennedy Clark the girl who plays the young Philomena Lee. We smoked rolled cigarettes on the terrace and she explained that Vivienne Westwood had dressed her. That Vivienne had told her to take a pair of scissors to the dress if she needed or wanted to.
I met Philomena Lee and told her about my mother. She held my hand.
The Little Dog is, as usual, very chill. He becomes more trusting as he gets older.
One bright Sunday last month we visited the Brooklyn flea market and looked over the river to Manhattan.
I spent two days in the hospital having a stent removed from my gall bladder. Yes, I did.
I had dinner with Fern Mallis… who, as you know, invented fashion week.
After dinner we decided to attend the Giorgio Armani One Night Only event.
When we arrived we were whisked off to meet Armani who refuses to speak english but spoke english to Fern… because Fern is a legend.
On Sunday we went to the doggy Halloween parade in Tompkins Square Park but we couldn’t be bothered to wait in line.
In Woodstock we met a man wearing a lovely sweater.
I met a friend of Wendy Asher’s.
Lady Rizo and I went to a party in a penthouse on Gramercy Park.
The hedge fund billionaire who owned the apartment also owned a perfect Nakashima coffee table.
The following week we sat with Courtney Love in the Baby Grand, a new lounge at the back of the TriBeCa Grand with Paul Sevigny for a Roger Vivier event.
The lounge is perfectly beautiful and looks like the Beverly Hills Hotel interior on Acid.
For Halloween proper we hung with Cynthia Rowley who looked like this and loved my Asprey tie.
This is my Halloween costume:
It is a paper napkin with two slits torn into it.
The following day I went back to Woodstock to look at a lake house I want to buy.
This is me and The Little Dog in the view taken by Angelo:
Today we watched the NYC marathon. This morning at 7am we ate breakfast bagels in Crown Heights. We ate two further brunches later on in Williamsburg. After my haircut.