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Authors: Plum Sykes

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BOOK: Bergdorf Blondes
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Lexington Kinnicut is not Manhattan’s king of the Rose Jungle for nothing. That night he transformed Muffy’s dining room into a bower of pink roses and orchids that smelled so delicious it was like being inside a bottle of Fracas. The pink cotton tablecloths matched the flowers so exactly it was as though they’d been grown in the hothouse together. Somehow Lexington had even managed to find pink mother-of-pearl dishes to put on the tables, which were overflowing with fresh strawberries. No wonder everyone says he’s a genius: I mean, as far as I knew until tonight, there was no such thing as pink mother-of-pearl.

Something must have happened since we got back from LA, because that night at the party Zach was beyond adorable. Smiling, kissing me affectionately as though we’d been to Brazil yesterday or something, holding my hand all night—he was a different person. Thank god! It was just as I thought: Zach was a total doll, with mood swings like everyone else I knew in New York. Just as everyone was arriving, he swept me off alone into a bedroom and gave me the most beautiful necklace of pink amethysts that he’d had specially made because he knew pink is my favorite color. What a relief I hadn’t asked for a mini-delay after all.

Julie was the most radiant heiress at the party. She flirted with Charlie all night. He asked her out for dinner within minutes of meeting her. They left the
party together. My fiancé and I left the party separately. Zach was leaving for a work trip to Philadelphia early the next morning and said he didn’t want to be kept up late by me. I guess I was pretty upset, but I couldn’t complain, after he’d been so sweet all night and given me the necklace and everything. But it was certainly confusing, having him do his vanishing act on me on that particular night. Still, I guess that was the point about Zach. You never knew what to expect.

 

A few days later it was Zach’s birthday, which was when he started acting strange again. He always said he hated his birthday because his mom never remembered it when he was a kid. (The upside was that this was very good for his work because it made him depressed. All the amazingly pretty receptionists at Zach’s agent’s office used to tell him it was important to be as depressed as possible if he was going to take good pictures.) I’d told him I would take him for lunch at Harry’s Bar as a treat. I’d even asked Cipriani to bake a cake covered in Zach’s favorite candies. I called him that morning to figure out what time to pick him up from his studio the East Village for lunch.

“Not comin. I told you I fuckin’ hate birthdays. Stop harassin’ me.”

“But this is so you don’t hate your birthday anymore. So you’re un-upset by it,” I said, shocked.

“Don’t you get it? I fuckin’ like being upset. That’s how I function. How would I make my work if I was fuckin’ happy all the time?”

He slammed the phone down on me. I tried calling back a few times, but the line was constantly engaged. I had to get out of the apartment. Desperate to distract myself, I took a cab uptown and met Julie at the Bergdorf salon where she was installed in a huge leather armchair in the private room getting a French manicure. It takes hours—it’s the fingernail equivalent of painting the
Mona Lisa
.

“Eew! I’m so like totally beyond excited!” she cried when I walked in. “Charlie is
so cute
. He sends me these totally brainy intellectual e-mails every day that I don’t understand. Isn’t that adorable! He’s taking me on vacation to Italy. He says he’s going to send me flowers every day when he’s back in LA, where he knows, like, everyone. I mean, I think he might know Brad Pitt and you know how much I want to get Jennifer shopping at Bergdorf’s. This relationship is very good for my career…Okay, so the kissing wasn’t exactly
9½ Weeks
but you can’t have everything in a perfect relationship, can you?” said Julie.

Then she asked me why I wasn’t at the birthday lunch with Zach and I didn’t really get time to explain because my face was drowning in tears before I could open my mouth.

Desperate to cheer me up, Julie asked me to come out with her and Charlie that night. She said Charlie was so well informed she never knew what he was talking about, and maybe I could lighten things up a bit. I said I wouldn’t dream of crashing a romantic dinner. Hopefully I would be able to see Zach later. I hadn’t seen him since Muffy’s party. I was sure his moodiness would have evaporated by then.

 

That evening, Zach didn’t call. Whenever I tried to reach him, voice mail picked up. After I’d left my third “Happy Birthday please call me” message, I collapsed into a tearful depression in front of the TV. Even
Access Hollywood
couldn’t lift my mood. As the tears rained down, the lovely smoky eye makeup I’d done specially for Zach’s birthday lunch started to streak down my cheeks. I was just on the point of not caring how much Bobbi Brown Black Ink Gel Eyeliner I’d wasted (it’s the best for smoky eyes, I totally recommend it) when Charlie called. Would I meet him for dinner, with Julie?

“I’ve got eye-makeup issues,” I replied, wiping my eyes. “And if I come out they might get worse.”

I regarded myself in the mirror. The kohl was now down by my mouth. It had formed two shad-
crevasse. Not a good look, even on a really pretty girl like me.

“You sound terrible. I’m coming to pick you up. Julie’s not ready. She’ll meet us there.”

The second we walked into Da Silvano on Sixth Avenue, I cheered up. There’s something about the place that makes you feel comfortable, whatever nastiness has happened that day. You feel like you’re in a local trattoria, except if you look around you always see someone insanely interesting like Patti Smith or Joan Didion or Calvin Klein just hanging as though they’re in their own kitchens. Julie was already installed at the best corner table when we arrived. She was “way traumatized” and was waiting for a very important phone call from Mooki, her personal shopper at Bergdorf’s. Would we mind if she took it at the table? Seriously, Julie has the worst manners of anyone I know. Luckily, Charlie thinks this is a hilarious character trait. Would Charlie mind, I then asked, if I touched up my smoky eyes over my langoustine? I mean, I looked like one of the corpses on
Six Feet Under
.

“Girls, I’d be honored.” He laughed.

“Oh, hon-eeeey, I adore you. You’re so easy,” replied Julie, kissing him. “I totally get my own way with him all the time.”

“Do I have a choice?” he said with a smile.

“Cute! God, you are such a gentleman! It’s beyond.
You know Charlie is secretly half-British, too, that’s where the manners come from—”

Julie’s phone rang. She leapt up and grabbed it, crying, “OH MY GOD! Mooki, is there some kind of sicko plot in operation to excommunicate me from the New York social scene? Or am I just paranoid…you cannot imagine the shame of walking into Lara’s party last week in the Alice & Olivia bootcut pants
you
sold me…and finding that bootcuts are
over
…everyone’s wearing Allegra Hicks’s kaftans now…”

Julie went silent as Mooki tried to console her. Meanwhile I chatted with Charlie.

He seemed about as British as the White House. He explained that although he was born in England and his second name—Dunlain—has Scottish roots, he didn’t consider himself a Brit. His English father had moved to the West Coast when Charlie was about six years old, fed up with British snobbery, British gossip, and the terrible British weather.

“I’ve spent my whole life here,” said Charlie. “I barely remember England. Even my dad doesn’t talk about it too much—he’s pretty eccentric and secretive. Anyway, why did you leave England?”

“Well, my mom’s American anyway and I just always wanted to be here. Plus Mom became totally obsessed with me marrying a blue-blooded Englishman. Ugh! I hate toffs!”

“They’re pretty bad, aren’t they?”

“Ghastly. I live in perpetual fear of ending up in some freezing castle married to an Earl.”

“Doesn’t sound so painful. But I can see why you’d prefer New York.”

Meanwhile, Julie was turning the color of her NARS rose lip gloss.

“It was totally icky! I thought I was going to vom! I was so humiliated…” she cried. “I got even more nauseated when I saw the Vandonbilt twins’ new crinkled hair.
No one
in this town gets new hair before me, Mooki, no one!”

“Sounds real nasty,” said Charlie. “You girls have a tough life.”

“You cannot imagine the trauma of being as glamorous as Julie,” I said.

“Ah, but I can,” replied Charlie with a half smile. “You see I had the pleasure tonight of witnessing one particular trauma concerning choosing the right pair of jeans for this restaurant. Julie assured me it was a task of a magnitude that could be compared, say, to climbing Kilimanjaro. Naturally I agreed, because if I hadn’t it would have taken her
two
hours to leave her place instead of one.”

“You understand women so well,” I told him. Honestly, this man was a catch. Julie was a lucky girl.

“I wish. The only thing I understand about women is that if you agree with them about everything, then you ‘understand’ them. I remember once when I didn’t understand a girlfriend who thought boyfriends were
there to be used as human credit cards on Rodeo Drive; she dropped me.”

I was shocked. To know that there are
still
women on the loose like this in LA did not warm my heart. I thought they went out with
Dynasty
.

I was having eye-makeup issues now for all the best reasons. I’d gotten the giggles. It was such a relief after the last few days. Meanwhile Julie was pacing around the table like an angry lioness.

“And then I got out my cell and everyone looked at me like I was an
alien!
The Vandy twins communicate with satellite pagers, they think phones are, like, totally
out
.”

Charlie looked at Julie fondly and murmured, “The somehow irresistible joys of dating a shopaholic!”

Charlie treated Julie with a mixture of awe and amusement. I think you could say he was rather taken by her unique personality, even if he’d had issues with shopping-addicted girlfriends in the past. Then I did something a little bit sneaky. I decided to pry into his mysterious family life—purely for Julie’s sake of course—and asked him about his mother. He sighed, “Aah…she’s rather a flighty one. She was known as The Bolter. She ran off with a friend of my father’s and lives in Switzerland now.”

“I’m sorry,” I said.

See, you should never pry like this. You always bring up something too sad for words and then you can’t go back.

“Anyway, I’m not really in touch with her. I call her now and then to say hi, but my dad remarried and he’s happy now.”

“And you see him in LA? He lives there, right?”

“He’s got a place in Santa Monica. I see him sometimes. He’s a bit of an eccentric, my dad, always disappearing off. We’re all a bit rootless…” He trailed off, looking troubled.

Why do I pry? Why? I made a vow to myself not to pry so much with strangers in the future. And Charlie seemed so nice. I hoped Julie appreciated him.

Julie finally got off her little camouflage Nokia—which I still thought was very in, even if the Vandonbilt girls didn’t—grabbed her bag and jacket as if to leave, and said, “I gotta go collect something. Can you guys just carry on without me?” and swirled out the door.

I wasn’t surprised at all. As I’ve already said, Julie has beyond bad manners and I’m always filling in for her. I explained to Charlie that she abandons dinner dates all the time for late-night shopping trips and that he shouldn’t be offended. Charlie shrugged and tucked into a plate of tagliatelle with truffles. Luckily, he didn’t take Julie’s exit personally. He looked at me in a warm, fraternal sort of way. With Julie gone, the atmosphere changed and I felt relaxed for the first time in weeks.

“You know about my parents,” he said, “now let’s
talk about something else. Tell me how you and Julie met…”

 

The next morning I met Julie at Portofino on West Broadway for a fake bake. She thinks tanning cures her depression, so she goes almost every week. She must have been giddy with love that day because I noticed she was only using SPF 8 while we were lying there. (They have these great private rooms there where you can tan with a friend.) She was wearing a red satin eye mask with the words DRAMA QUEEN embroidered on it in pink silk.

“Charlie is
really
cute,” said Julie from underneath her mask. “My boyfriend thinks he’s really good for me.”

“Your boyfriend? He
is
your boyfriend, Julie,” I said, rubbing SPF 30 onto my legs.

“He’s
one
of my boyfriends. I hate to break this to you, darling, but a lot of women have a husband and several boyfriends, too. You can’t put all your diamonds in one safe.”

I wondered how Charlie would feel if he knew he was one of several diamonds in Julie’s safe. A lot of New York girls date two or three guys simultaneously in case one doesn’t work out. Julie had told Charlie she couldn’t be “exclusive” with him, but she hadn’t admitted she had two other boyfriends, which seemed
hopelessly unromantic for a hopeless romantic like Julie. I guess I felt bad for Charlie, almost protective. We almost had a row about it.

“So, is he unexclusive with you, too?” I asked.

“God no! I said he could only date me if it was exclusive,” replied Julie, astonished.

“Julie, you can’t sleep with three men at once. It’s unhygienic.”

“Why should I deny myself while he’s in LA? You can hardly talk, Miss I’ve-only-slept-with-three-men-ever-but-I’m-obviously-lying-so-you-think-I’m-more-virginal-than-I-am.”

“Julie! I have slept with only three men.”

This was not strictly true but since I’d always maintained it was true, I could hardly change my mind now.

The truth is I am all for being a complete slut, but in private, I thought as I lay there tanning my skin to the perfect shade—light latte. (There’s nothing tackier than a too-tan face in the city.) When it comes to sexual politics, my view is that the liberated modern girl is better off acting like a virgin so that she can do all sorts of pornographic things with no fear of getting a reputation. Even if someone were unkind enough to spread nasty pornographic rumors about her, it wouldn’t matter because no one would believe them anyway. So the moral is look like a virgin, behave however you like, and that way you will always get what you want.

BOOK: Bergdorf Blondes
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