... AND SALLY KELLERMAN AS ... ME?

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There hasn't been such excitement in the fashion biz since they hired the transvestite to show the Balenciaga collection, under the impression this was a smashing new long-legged blonde and not a French paratrooper.

Or since Gerry Dryansky (now Conde Nast Traveler's European editor) wrote a nasty review in Women's Wear Daily and Pierre Cardin sent pageboys out into the Faubourg Ste. Honore seeking gendarmes to arrest Gerry and his photographer Reg.

Or since Ivy Nicholson, maybe the first of the "supermodels," checked the baby with the coat room attendant at Regine's. Or this hot new London fashion genius, Mr. Galliano, who wears skirts?

Down at old WWD these days they must be running 120-page papers just to accommodate the thrills, with John Fairchild rubbing his hands and skipping about. Consider these items:

In Paris Yves Saint Laurent is suing Ralph Lauren for allegedly knocking off a YSL tuxedo dress and Ralph is suing right back for $174,000 for "insults" in WWD and for "defamation of character." The French judge, a woman, doesn't seem to be a paragon for impartiality, incidentally, being quoted in the New York Post as saying, "The Saint Laurent dress has wider lapels and I must say is more beautiful ..."

Then Calvin Klein had to go on the Larry King show to defend himself against this vicious new book called "Obsession," by Sharon Churcher and Steven Gaines, alleging Calvin is into all variety of sex. Calvin? Our Calvin? The guy who used to work at WWD as a copyboy? Surely, they jest!

Next Page Six of the Post, edited by Richard Johnson, took a whack at WWD's Michael Coady. In a story about why Spy went bust and folded, according to Mr. Johnson, "After Spy ran a wickedly funny hatchet job on Fairchild President Michael Coady, Coady's friends at Guess Inc., then Spy's biggest advertiser, yanked its $200,000-a-year account."

On a more personal note, just what is Robert Altman pulling over there in Paris where he's filming this movie "Pret-a-Porter," all about French ready-to-wear? He's got Sally Kellerman playing ... me!

Now we all love Sally and you couldn't have a better "Hot Lips" Houlihan. But to have Sally declaring, "I play the editor of Harper's Bazaar ... " well, now, let's review the casting here.

In 1971 Hearst hired me as publisher and editor of Harper's Bazaar. Old Dick Berlin was running Hearst Corp. back then and was headed swiftly round the bend. So he used to have me come over to HQ on Eighth Avenue to talk about the magazine and then he'd dip into the drawer and fetch out letters President Nixon wrote him and he'd read me the letters and I'm wondering, what the hell does this have to do with getting eight pages from Revlon or can I put a black guy (Billy Taylor) on the cover with Lauren Hutton?

Soon afterward, Watergate's at full boil and Mr. Berlin's reading me letters from Nixon and showing me the American flag in his own lapel so I understand his patriotism and I think any moment we're both going to be singing "Oh, beautiful for spacious skies and amber waves of grain ..."

The mandate was, I was to bring Harper's Bazaar into the 20th century. So by the time they canned me in the fall of '72 I think we were up to about 1915. Then they named Tom Losee the publisher and a fellow named Tony Mazzola the editor and that was going to fix things. Tom did his part, I guess, and old Tony put his more talented blood relations on the payroll and he remained editor of Bazaar for the next 20 years or so. By which time I believe the magazine had reverted to about nineteen ought eight. And was a staple in Kervorkian's waiting room.

So they found this terrific Liz Tilberis and she's been just grand. But she's only been there a year and a half and Mr. Mazzola was there 20 years and I was there before that and where does Robert Altman get off casting us with Sally Kellerman? Stephen Rea is in the movie and so is Marcello Mastroianni and I would go along with either of them playing Brady.

I can't speak for Mr. Mazzola or his relatives.

I know that Bob Altman also has Julia Roberts in there and Betty Bacall and lots of other smashing folks. But who's going to play Sydney Gittler, "the coat king" at Ohrbach's? Irene Satz died the other day (she was the dress buyer) and in The New York Times, Bernadine Morris described the late Mr. Gittler as Irene's "associate." This is "the coat king," for God's sake! Sydney wasn't an associate of anyone. He was unique. And you can ask John Fairchild down at WWD if you don't believe me because Sydney was godfather to one of the Fairchild children. And a good one, too.

Anyway, one night I got Coco Chanel to have Mr. Gittler up for cocktails. He was spending a fortune of Nathan Ohrbach's money to buy Chanel clothes and he's never met the old girl and then at the last minute, Irene Satz said we had to take her along, that she'd never be able to face Seventh Avenue again if she was snubbed by Coco Chanel.

So we all got up to her apartment over the store and Chanel pours the old scotch and she takes me aside and says, who is this Monsieur Gittler? and I explain he's "the coat king" and he's spending millions on her damned clothes and then she says, is this woman his wife? And I explain Mr. Gittler is a noted celibate and Irene is the dress buyer.

Then Coco, who is always inventing a new perfume, brings out what would become Number 19 and was just being tested and she sprays it all around and then we have some more scotch and Irene is growing faint and fanning herself on the couch and blaming the perfume and we all leave. Next day I have lunch with Coco.

"That woman, Mrs. Gittler, " Chanel begins.

I explained Irene grew faint from being sprayed but Coco said, no, "elle a bu trop de scotch ... she drank too much scotch!"

Is Altman going to have all this stuff in there? About the fashion designer who hired gypsy boys to be whipped? Or how fashion editor Carmel Snow had a young editor sent to the Crillon in Paris with her twice a year just to iron Mrs. Snow's underwear? Or the Italian madwoman at the collections who wears medieval costumes and cries "Basta!" I tell you, Altman gets all that in there, he's got a winner.

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