2011 December 23

Memories: Betsey Johnson, Forever Indie

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Betsey Johnson Betsey Johnson
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We chatted with so many people over the course of 2011, but our July visit to Betsey Johnson's Hamptons abode was a definite highlight. Take another look...

(NEW YORK) If you’ve ever seen her in the flesh, you’re not likely to forget her. But designer Betsey Johnson, 68, tends to go under the radar when she’s in the country. Who knew that the ultimate indie spirit is right at home in East Hampton?  EDDIE ROCHE

When did you first start coming out here?
The Sixties. I was going out with John Cale from the Velvet Underground, and I came out with Edie [Sedgwick] and Andy [Warhol] and the troops. Edie was my fit model at the time. I think the Velvets came out to play a gig in somebody’s mansion. I wasn’t a Factory Girl, but Edie and Andy liked my silver clothes and blah, blah, blah. I’m very unlike Keith Richards in the sense that I don’t remember everything. Coming out to the Hamptons at that time was a very uncomfortable experience, like, “Look at the freaks!’ Almost like segregation. It was the very rich, and very elitist. Andy, of course, was adored, respected and honored. He had made it, but for his kids, like us, it was a little rough. I bought this house about 10 years ago, and now, when I go through town and see a real hip-hop, rapper type with a mohawk or tattoos, it’s like, ‘Whoa! East Hampton?!’

What would Andy think of the Hamptons culture today?

He probably wouldn’t have said much, as always—maybe something like, “Yup, that’s the way it is!” I’m sure he would have done a piece with Botox and retinol.

Would Andy have gotten Botox?
Probably. He knew he was photographed a lot and liked to look as good as he could.

Did your first experience in the Hamptons turn you off?
I didn’t come back for years. 

Obviously, you gave it another shot. 
The first summer I came back was right after my nightmare former husband and I had just split, thank God. My daughter Lulu and I spent the summer here together and really calmed down. We went to Judy Licht’s house a lot.

Do you shop here?
No, I don’t like shopping or the social thing. I’m out here for the green, the flowers, the lack of schedule. I get on the damn train on Thursday at 4 p.m. and go back on the bus on Tuesday morning.

Let’s talk about the house.
It was so perfect for me when I was alone, and now it has to be cleared and clean for the kids [her grandchildren]. It’s not worth the energy of screaming, ‘Don’t draw on the walls!’ It’s easier to clear the tchotchkes away.

OK, enough small talk. How old is your sexy new boyfriend?
Oh, my God! I think he’s 46, 47 or 48.

Good for you!
I was so over guys, but he’s the real deal. It’s quite amazing. We connected immediately. I’ve never been happier living with anybody. I keep thinking, ‘How come I really like being with this person?’ For me, nothing lasts for more than two years, and the second year is always painful. With the last guy, I knew I was making a huge mistake going down the aisle, but I didn’t have the strength to say no at the altar.

Are you guys spending July 4 together?
I’ll be out here with the kids, and if my former partner Chantal (Bacon) and her husband Phil are out here, we’ll watch the fireworks in Amagansett with them. It’s a ritual every Fourth of July: We walk down these long stairs and see the fireworks on a wooden pier. Last year, I got the date wrong and I missed it!

In the spirit of July 4, what’s the most indie thing you’ve ever done?
In 2002, I showed my collection right here at my house, on August 10, my 60th birthday. I worked on the house for a year for that party. Two buses filled with press that I love came in from the city, and there was champagne, a margarita station, and even a tequila booth. We had models standing in vignettes, and Little Miss Muffet made an appearance. A girl in a beautiful chiffon sequined dress was watering the plants in the garden with acid plant killer. It was real Gaga!

Sounds like it!
I also feel it was a very independent move to not tell anyone that I had breast cancer except (my daughter) Lulu when I was diagnosed. I thought it would ruin my business. 

Did you do chemo?
I didn’t. I was really lucky—I had implants, which I never liked, but one day, when I was having a massage—here, actually—I felt a little bump in the scar tissue. I caught it so early. I went into the hospital at Cornell two days before Christmas to get it treated. I was supposed to go to Mexico with Lulu, but we secretly came to the Hamptons after the lumpectomy. I needed to crash. The house was in total demolition, though. There were no floors, so we went to the Maidstone Hotel for two weeks. Didn’t answer the phone, didn’t use the phone. The Hamptons have been major.

What’s it like to be a grandma?
I never thought I’d see the day. The happiest times of my body, mind, my everything is when I’m with the kids. I do like having babysitters around, though!

What do your granddaughters, Ella and Layla, call you?
Grandma! I’ve read some of those “Glamma” articles, but I like good ol’ Grandma.

You have a super tight family.
Really tight. Lulu’s father and I split a couple months after she was born. She and I are wonderfully close.

You’re quite a character. Would you ever do a reality show?
The idea has come up here and there, but I don’t like the immediate invasion. My boyfriend Bobby and I go out to dinner or I go out to dinner alone and watch old movies.

How’s it going with Steve Madden?
He bought the licensing part of my business, not the retail part of me. I’ve known Steve for years. I think he’s a smart, kickass mover of a guy. Totally upfront. That guy calls a spade a spade. I’d run into him now and then over the years, and he always loved my work and my stories. I’m in my retail world and he’s doing the licensing thing and it’s working out great. I’m very happy with the collaboration. I am not happy that my own company had to blow it. We couldn’t survive the recession, we just couldn’t. I made severe mistakes with a couple of designers that I had, but I think I’m OK now. I did the fashion show two falls ago and I was literally out of business. I was begging Steve to please keep me in business. I couldn’t fathom that I’d go out of business. I can’t fathom it to this day! The good side is that we’re in business. The down side is that the money of the business is gone.

That sucks.
Yes! That sucks! After all these years... But I am here!

On a scale from 1 to 10... 
I love “on a scale of 1 to 10!” That’s how I communicate with my daughter!

…how would you rate your happiness?
Oh, 10!

Because of all of it! You are either a 10 or zero; life is great or it’s horrible. I’m very lucky. Most people have a life of, eh, a life. I’m very spoiled. I am extremely happy. I’m not happy about turning 69 this summer, but it’s fine. At least it’s a funny number. 

2011 December 22

Vintage Karl: Touchy

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That's our guy! That's our guy!
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Some of our readers might not have been born (this way) when this shot was taken in January 1983 in Paris at Chanel's Spring/Summer show—but Karl Lagerfeld has evidently had a longtime affection for sunglasses, and being the coolest cat on the Champs-Elysées. He was born that way. The man fixing the coiffure is Greta Garbo's longtime hairdresser, Alexandre De Paris, who died at the age of 85 in 2008. 

2011 December 22

Chic Shot?

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Thanks, guys! Thanks, guys!
Not a photo from BFA for a change.
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Where would we be without Billy Farrell Agency documenting your shenanigans all year long? Today, the boys sent Chic one of the most dangerous gifts we've gotten this holiday season...Yup, a bottle of Jack Daniels. The boys who take the shots sending the shots! Clever! Thanks, guys!  

2011 December 22

Wishing You...

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See you in 2012! See you in 2012!
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2011 December 22

Memories: Dishing with Liz Smith!

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Liz Smith Liz Smith
Giorgio Niro
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 Anna! Halston! DvF! Calvin! Liz Smith can sling about them all. And she did, with The Daily, over margaritas at one of her favorite spots, El Rio Grande (it’s in her ’hood!). Listen and learn, chéris. As we look back on our fave stories of 2011, let's let Liz shine one more time...

New York isn’t the same without your column in the
New York Post. It ran there for 14 years. Do you miss it?
Oh, yeah, it was a terrible blow to me to find out that I was dispensable to them. It never occurred to me that after 40 years of a byline in New York  I would be fired. 

So, did they take you out to lunch to tell you? 
No, [Post editor-in-chief] Col Allan wrote me a nice letter telling me that they were dispensing of my services. So I went over their heads to Rupert Murdoch, which they didn’t like. And Rupert said that he couldn’t interfere with his editors’ decision. So what was there for me to do? Have a tantrum? Stomp out? I just said, “I think you’re making a mistake. I think the readers will really miss me.” But they didn’t care. I wish he’d reconsider. I personally like Rupert very much. He’s married to a beautiful, charming woman and has great children. I don’t think he’s as ideologically to the right as people think he is. 

And where do you think newspapers and magazines will be in 10 or 20 years?
I guess there won’t be any. Maybe we’ll just receive everything subliminally. We can’t predict changes. Who ever would have thought of the internet? Star Trek did introduce people in the ’70s to all kinds of technological things that have come true. But we still aren’t able to transport people from one place to another. 

Do you read Page Six? You must.
I read it, but I’ve never heard of any of the people. That’s because there are no real stars anymore. In fashion, there’s only Anna Wintour. I don’t care what anybody else is doing. She’s the only one who’s a big enough character to write gossip about. I mean, Glenda Bailey is a wonderful woman and does a wonderful job with Bazaar, but she’s not a character in the city’s lexicon of characters. That applies across the board. There are no big stars anymore.

Let’s talk more about Anna Wintour!
If Anna Wintour didn’t exist, we would have had to invent her. A shy, very private woman whose ambitions we haven’t even fathomed yet. She’s seriously mysterious. We don’t know what she feels or what her enthusiasms are other than being left alone. 

Let’s discuss some of the legends in fashion that you’ve known and covered over the years. I’ll throw some names out. Halston. 
He was a friend. I went to his parties.

What was a Halston party really like?
Drugs. It was about drugs. And if you weren’t into drugs, and I wasn’t… It wasn’t much of an experience. Lots of things happened, you just didn’t want to write about them in a family newspaper.  

Diane von Furstenberg.
You know, Wonder Woman is her inspiration. She’s never changed in all the years I’ve known her. She still looks the same. She’s a nice individual, and so is Barry Diller. I’ve known everybody too long. I’ve known Calvin since before Brooke Shields.

He’s always been a great story. It was too bad that he sold himself away, but all of them do it. Halston did it. The gossip press like to pretend they are broad-minded, but Calvin’s gotten a lot of flak.

Because he’s gay?
Yeah. And he dares to have a 21-year-old boyfriend. How different is that from Wall Street, where every old geezer has mistresses? They wouldn’t write that about the head of Goldman Sachs. That’s why I’ve backed off the whole gossip idea. It’s passing too much judgment on people.

That’s pretty huge: Liz Smith is off the idea of gossip? 
I don’t think I was ever a very good gossip columnist. I was just a reporter with a sensibility. I’m increasingly uninterested in scandal. Everybody makes a scandal out of nothing now. In Calvin’s case, they’re really beating a dead dog. He doesn’t care anymore. He can do whatever he likes. I love him.

Do you have a real love of your life?
No. I’ve resigned. Old age has forced me to. I can’t believe your readers would be interested in an old gossip columnist....

I think you’re wrong!
Listen, can I call you sometime and we’ll go to the theatre? Are you married? 

2011 December 22

Memories: Richard to the Rescue!

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Richard Simmons Richard Simmons
Michele Matz
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We chatted with the one and only Richard Simmons in September for The Daily during fashion week. Let's stroll down memory lane... 

Hi Richard! 
Hi there! [Bursting into song] Do wah do wah. Poop poop diddy. Talk about the guy from New York City. 

You’re always making people laugh!
Being silly is a wonderful thing to do if it works for you. God knows it’s worked for me for all these years!

We understand that you went to fashion school?
I’m an illustrator. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid in New Orleans. I started hanging around Jackson Square and learning different techniques. When I went to college in Florence, Italy and spent a little time in Palermo, Sicily, I took up fashion illustration, graphic design and I worked on a couple of children’s books. Then I got jobs doing fashion illustrations, but there was something missing. I was alone in the room with a dress, and it wasn’t for me—I needed to be around people! 

How did Richard Simmons become Richard Simmons?
In New Orleans, we work out by putting things in deep fryers. If I saw someone running in the streets, I called the cops, because I thought they were stealing! When I moved to L.A., I was a waiter at night, and I went to all the exercise studios during the day. I saved my tip money and 38 years ago, I opened up Slimmons, my studio in Beverly Hills. I’m still teaching there! I dress up in class—I’ll do anything for people to not take exercise so seriously. Last week, I wore a wedding dress as a tribute to Kim Kardashian. I work with Leslie Wilshire, who has designed my tank tops for 61 DVDs. My entire outfit for tonight’s class is made of plastic forks.

Do you ever get cold?
I really don’t. Being ashamed of what you look like and covering up your body isn’t a good message. I hop around in the snow in tank tops and shorts, because if I can’t be cute and sparkle, I won’t leave my home. 

Describe your personal style.
It’s built around my insecurities. I’m 133 pounds. I wear lots of tank tops and Dolfin shorts, as you know. I’m the only person other than the Harlem Globetrotters who wears that outfit. I put sparkles on it to make people smile and laugh. I live a pretty reclusive life and travel a whole lot. When I take my housekeeper out for dinner, I wear Bijan and Ralph Lauren, but no one recognizes me in a sport coat and tie.I’ve never really felt comfortable in those clothes. At the house, I only wear white. 

Read on for more Richard Simmons dish!

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