In Which We Thank the Turkish LiveStreamers
My picks for best-dressed at the 2016 Oscars, from left to right:, starting with the ubiquitous Charlize Theron in red; Chrissy Teigen, doing for pregnancy what Lupita N'yongo did for pearls at last year's Oscars; Elka Wardega, winner for Best Makeup and Hairstyling for "Mad Max: Fury Road" and, rocking the best David Bowie tribute look of the night, Sandy Powell (three-time award winning costume designer, nominated this year for "Carol"); Olivia Munn in the only orange dress of the night, and Lady Gaga in a sculptural white gown that morphed into a smoking-hot pants suit for her performance of her nominated song later in the evening.
Since there was no VOKRA-sponsored Oscars event this year, we enjoyed the broadcast in the traditional manner... at home, searching in vain for a reliable online source for the first hour, then watching a stream from India with an aspect-ratio that made everyone look about seven feet tall (better than the other way around, I guess). They ran ads for "Taken 3" every single commercial break. That stream was cut off after half an hour, but then we found a surprisingly high def broadcast on what I'm guessing was Turkey's answer to "E!" (although, it was more like "E" with a period or maybe an ellipses versus an exclamation point)... And, no, I don't know from Turkish. I had to google-translate that shit and so would you. I defy anyone who isn't from there to distinguish the Turkish "E" from any one of their European counterparts. They broadcast in perfect HD right through the end of the show, though.
The only thing I found a little funny was that every commercial break was book-ended by segments with their three correspondents in semi-formal Oscars attire, commenting on the show, as you do, and regardless of what was happening before each break—be it campus rape victims, Star Wars droids chatting up the oversized Oscar statue, or the always-awkward spectacle of a comedian in a weird hat trying to upstage some poor starlet's cleavage—the commentary from the Turkish "E" panel was delivered in exactly the same tone of somber, like every segment was In Memoriam or something. So that was a little weird... It was like, you know you don't really have to watch this, you know? Anyway, I would like to thank the Turkish LiveStreamers, without whom my Oscar night would have been a somber affair indeed.
Despite the fact that Hollywood is leftier on average than the rest of the USA, the Oscars have always had an uneasy relationship with activism (the unscripted kind, anyway) and last night's were no exception. The acceptance speeches offered some of the winners a chance to express (brief) sentiments of solidarity, but overall the impact of those awkward bits with Tracey Morgan, Whoopi Goldberg and Angela Basset, and the conspicuous parade of black presenters clearly intended to offset the phalanx of white in the front row, turned the whole evening into a vaguely embarrassing exercise—like a three-plus hour Hollywood Roast with Institutional Racism as the guest of honor.
The best presenter of the night had to be Louis CK, who turned the relatively thankless announcement of best documentary short of the year into a moment of hilarious empathy.
"This is my favorite category, because it's an award that can change the lives of the winners. You cannot make a dime on this; these people will never be rich as long as they live. All they do is tell important stories; you do too, but you all get rich. These people will never be rich as long as they live, so this Oscar means something... This Oscar is going home in a Honda Civic. This is going to be the nicest thing they'll ever own in their life. It's gonna give them anxiety keeping it in their crappy apartment." —Louis CK, introducing the Best Documentary Short.
10 Sartorial Successes and Three Fails
[Photo: Jeune Fille sur L'Herbe avec Saint Bernard, 1978]
I always loved dressing up. I had strong opinions about clothes from a very early age and was dressing myself—often in an eccentric manner—by the time I started school at age five. This photo was my idea of "going outside to play in the yard" that summer, dressed in a ruffley white dress, matching shoes and shawl, and Princess Leia hair. I was five... Had I even seen Star Wars yet? Either way, I knew it was the hairstyle of the moment! My prom date was George, and that dog truly was a saint, putting up with all my shit like a perfect gentleman.
1. Lavender flower girl dress (1977) Worn on the occasion of my parents' wedding and relinquished more than two years later over adamant protestations that I didn't care if it fit me anymore. I don't remember my mother's exact strategy, but she eventually talked me into letting it go. It must have been clear to her that if the dress remained in the house, I would be wearing that thing until it was little more than a lace-trimmed rag hanging around my neck.
2. Red clogs (1979) A beloved extension of my newly-forming personality, I wore these until they had to be forcibly removed from my feet—like a tiny shoe intervention, or the opposite of the fairy tale about the Red Shoes. It was just before I entered first grade, probably coinciding with back to school shopping and the emergence of my morning ritual of haggling with my mother over whether certain outfits were appropriate for being seen in public or just for inside the house. Most things were okay, but my mother drew an admittedly wavy line at any combination of: a) more than one skirt at a time; b) more than, say, three mismatched prints at a time; or c) any outfit finished off with a pair of worn-to-the-wood, two-sizes-too-small clogs that my heels overhung by more than an inch. I can still remember crying as I watched them disappear into the Goodwill bag. (It's okay, mother, I forgive you.)
3. Power Outfit #1 (1980) Consisting of blue jeans, a red turtleneck and a pale yellow sleeveless tunic with an embroidered floral pattern in a two-inch border around the deep v-neckline, this was my first full-on "power outfit." I wore it throughout first grade and it never failed to make me feel like a secret superhero, a benevolent alien intelligence enrolled for the appearance of normality in the Seattle public school system. I was merely playing along with the charade of human childhood because revealing my secret identity to the world would endanger everyone around me. I was telepathically linked to my alien partner in universal-law enforcement, who for some reason was named Jesse—kind of the "Al" to my "Sam" for anyone who remembers Quantum Leap.
4. Fake-fur-trimmed coat with muff (1982) Does every little girl go through a phase where she decides the one thing she must have is a winter coat with a fur muff? If not for my grandmother's vividly remembered tale of the coat she spied in the department store window at age eight, and campaigned desperately until she finally wore her mother down and it was purchased for her, I might have thought the phenomenon was just another product of '80s fashion excess. Back in my grandmother's day, muff envy could have been seeded by Gone with the Wind or photos of the beautiful Romanov czarinas in their matching winter coats and hats. For my mother, if "Miracle on 34th Street" didn't get her in childhood, then "Doctor Zhivago" is the likeliest culprit. (I happen to know she saw it multiple times at a very young and impressionable age when she was working as an usherette at the Orpheum theater when it premiered in San Francisco in 1966.) For me, it could've been one of the long-running nighttime soaps of the era; Dallas, Dynasty, Knots Landing, Hotel... wherein muffs were as common as grown women slapping each other across the face. Good thing we didn't have the internet back then, or I might have stumbled across the fox-face muff, which could have turned me off of them forever. Holy fuck, that's disgusting.
5. Power Outfit #2 (1987) Shortly after the first time I dyed my hair red (which was sort of by accident—or, rather it was done to counteract the accidental "greening" of my hair when I attempted to "wash-in/wash-out" black dye over blonde to go as Cleopatra for Halloween), I realized that a different hair color calls for a different wardrobe. My favorite outfit to emerge from that experimental phase involved jeans, knee-high tan boots with 1970s stacked heels, a forest green cowl-neck sweater-dress (which was very Jennifer Marlowe) and an asymmetrical belt studded with small heart shaped cut-outs. Topping off this epic expression of middle school maladjustment was my proudest creation to date, fashioned from two thrift store bargain bin fake fur coats, a knee-length brown one which was a little boring but in pristine shape; and one black fake rabbit fur with missing buttons and a shredded lining. The latter, I painstakingly cut up and hand-sewed into the other, creating bat wing inserts, elongated cuffs and a more distinctive collar. This Franken-Faux Fur was my first (successful) experiment in crafting a new-ish garment out of pieces from other garments. I mapped out the entire project on paper, measured everything and executed it more or less exactly according to plan. The end result was everything I'd hoped for and more—it was even warm enough to last me all winter. Best of all, it was constructed with enough care that it didn't give people the impression I was a slightly more-resourceful-than-average adolescent runaway living on my own in an abandoned textile warehouse.
6. Shredded, bleached-out jeans with holes and graffiti (1988) More than just a fashion statement, these jeans were an art project, a chemistry experiment and an almost proto-attempt in online dating, all rolled into one. Okay, not exactly, but something like that. I was using one of our apartment building's two washing machines to bleach the living hell out of a pair of old jeans one hot summer day. I came down to the laundry room to find my washing machine occupied by another tenant's clothes and I was just about to get annoyed when I noticed a sheet of lined paper taped to the top of the machine with a note saying something to the effect of, "Sorry, I moved your clothes—they're in dryer number two," which I was surprised to find was already running! I smiled and ran back up to our apartment to grab a pen, ran back down to the laundry room and added my response underneath their note in swoopy, girly red handwriting. (Ugh, I know, right? 14-year olds...) Anyway, I said something like, "Thanks! I really appreciate it!!" With three exclamation marks.
When I came back upstairs out of breath, my mother looked at me funny and asked what was going on. I told her what had happened and she said something like, "Well, that was nice. I wonder who it was." We had just moved in a month or so ago and we didn't know anyone in the building yet, but I wanted to return the favor—and maybe find out who it was. Now so did she. We briefly considered leaving three quarters along with the note on top of the washing machine, but that would've been rather careless and, of course, then we would never have found out who it was. So we collected all the laundry we had in the apartment and we both went back down and pretended not to be waiting. When their washing machine stopped a few minutes later, it became obvious what we had to do. I can't remember which of us removed their clothes while the other stood guard by the door giggling, but we split the duties fairly and deposited 75 cents to start the dryer with their stuff in it. Then we put our second load in the washer, waited for another minute, and then got nervous and ran back upstairs.
An hour later, I went back down to get my stuff out of the dryer and was stunned to find my jeans along with the white sheets and pillowcases I'd washed with them all stacked on top of the dryer neatly (and with what seemed to me like great affection, or at the very least, flirtation). A new note was taped next to them that said, "Thank you! From apartment #3." I was grinning from ear to ear, and probably blushing across same, as I dashed back upstairs to update my mother while pacing around the living room breathlessly. She read the note as I set the pile of folded laundry next to her, smiling and pointing in silent exclamation marks. "Have you ever seen the people in #3?" I asked, unable to contain my excitement. I had conjured up quite the mental picture already. (Young, cute, single, dark-haired—and then there was his roommate...)
"The two guys in #3?" My step-father joined the conversation just then. I nodded enthusiastically, "You've met them??" He pretended not to notice that I was following him around the room as he confirmed that my mental image was eerily on the nose... But the failure of my young imagination is probably already obvious to anyone reading this. "Yeah, they're a nice, young couple of gay guys." (Okay, obviously, but the fantasy I'd been spinning all afternoon wasn't going down that easy.) "What do you mean?" I demanded. "Are you sure? How do you know??" He had met several of our neighbors that weekend since he'd been working on our car in the parking garage, and the gold 1968 Mustang was a reliable conversation starter. Besides, as a Scorpio and former New Yorker, he tended to be freakishly accurate in his observations about people. I figured he probably knew what he was talking about, but I was still holding the sheet of paper out to him as if to say, See? From my future husband... He scanned the note and my neat little pile of clothes with a brief glance before repeating with exaggerated enunciation, "Yeah... Gay."
7. Black leather biker jacket (1988) I wasn't sure whether to include this in the triumphs or the fails, but it was definitely a triumph at the time. It was a parting birthday gift from my best friend just before I moved across the country. At my new school, it told people things about my personality that I was too shy (and culture shocked) to tell them myself. A few years later, It was camouflage at art school and armor at art school parties. Besides, black leather goes with everything, right?
8. Corporate uniform #1 (1994) My first office job was at an employment agency where I had gone for an interview after answering a generic ad for a receptionist. It turned out they were also hiring for their own office and skimming the best candidates off the top of the pool of respondents to their weekly postings. I clicked immediately with the hiring manager, who had offered me the job by the end of the interview, but unfortunately she was gone within a week of my starting the job. She was the first of three managers I had over the course of nine months. I was promoted to Administrative Assistant and put in charge of hiring and supervising a series of receptionists, but none of them lasted very long. The bad ones would either be fired or quit, usually by failing to show up for work, and the good ones would usually be poached by the associates in the back of the office—the recruiters—who provided a fascinating crash course for me in office politics, especially since I missed out on the "mean girls" culture by going to a private high school. There were four teams of recruiters, seven women and one gay guy, plus two "executive recruiters," who kept to themselves and rarely received incoming calls. They were all in their late 20s to early 30s, except one woman who was in her 50s. She and her partner handled the higher-salary placements (e.g., they were once requested by name to hire an Executive Assistant for Paul Allen). Her partner looked like Joan Jett in a tight wool pants suit, and if the office had ever progressed from the merely metaphorical to a literal "Lord of the Flies" situation, she would have been our Jack, no question. They put the fear of god into the front desk staff; barking at them on the phone, scolding them in front of job applicants who were waiting in the lobby and storming around the halls like they would fuck up anyone who got in their way. It was a very strange, tense, competitive, but strangely empowering environment—until it was my turn to wind up on someone's shit list, which was totally unjustified but utterly unavoidable when it finally came to a head. They were nice enough to find me a temporary assignment for the month I had left before moving to Vancouver. My favorite outfit was a black single-breasted jacket and pants with pleats down the front. It was right around the time that Chanel's Vamp nail polish was a best seller, so I was always trying out new colors (my favorite was a pale, chalky Robin's egg blue)... a great, and safe, conversation starter in an office full of aggressively stylish, competitive women with whom you would never dream of talking politics, music, partying or the meaning of life.
9. Corporate uniform #2 (1997) A variation—actually an upgrade—on the above, this was the perfect suit for job interviews. I can't remember one that I wore it to where I didn't get the job... Pinstripes on a charcoal black background (not navy blue... never navy blue!). I could wax nostalgic about job interviews past... said nobody, ever. 'Nuff said.
10. TBD... I've been working from home for five years now, which means, thankfully, no corporate uniforms but, sadly, no power outfits... Unless you want to count—yeah, okay, fine... I guess my current power outfit is a bathrobe.
1. Black and gold lamé shirt with gold sequins (1984) Unfortunately, my decision to wear this to school (well, that's FAIL number one) was compounded by bad timing because apparently reminded some of my fellow students at school of Michael Jackson's Victory Tour. Unintended, to say the least. The only good thing about this episode is that I chose NOT to wear the gold lamé pants that came with the shirt to school.
2. Neon (1985) Neon shirt, neon socks, neon earrings, neon bracelets, neon nail polish... Neon as a trend was just a bad idea all around. It was obnoxious and punishing to the eyes, and you'll notice no one has ever attempted to resurrect this trend, probably because it's absolutely impossible to wear neon ironically.
3. Camouflage pants (1989) Living in Virginia is no excuse. I can see that now.