David Bowie Is, V&A Museum

Shallow Not Stupid

David Bowie was always a reflection of his times, but the mirror he used looked into the future, giving us what we didn’t yet know we wanted. Clever, but not too clever. Now Bowie’s back, reflected as the grandfather of rock in a new spaceship, in the best-selling exhibition "David Bowie Is" at London’s V&A Museum. Apparently 70,000 tickets were sold in advance of opening.

In 1973, David Bowie walked into our lives and out of our dreams singing Starman on Top of the Pops, one of those iconic memories that’s equally memorable to people who didn’t witness it. It’s easy to imagine the young Kate Moss locking herself in the bathroom with scarlet hair dye, having just seen the future — except she wasn’t born yet.

Still, Kate's never looked better than when photographed as a lady David in French Vogue last year. And John Lydon was never cooler than when he had Bowie-red hair and took on the moniker of Johnny Rotten. Is the Bowie Juice Bar and pile of oranges at the entrance to the show an homage to Ziggy Stardust? Should it be a bunch of carrots? A good haircut can change your life and Bowie’s never looked back since becoming a phallic carrot top, even though he’s since returned to his unnatural blond.

The oddly pale and almost pastel Starman onesie isn’t quite able, in real life, to live up to its vibrant myth. But there it is, trapped in a glass display case, the costume that launched a billion bisexual fantasies. Bowie was always more than just a pop star. The first asexual supermodel is an artist whose appeal lies somewhere between scaring your mother and seducing your brother.

We tell ourselves stories in order to live, punctuating eternity with obsession and fantasy. David Bowie, like all the best actors, is good at creating a character. "I wanted to be free…from David Bowie or the Thin White Duke or whoever I was at the time," Bowie said on a mid-80s talk show, with a throaty laugh reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich, whom he starred with in Just a Gigolo.

"David Bowie Is" has most of his alter egos, thematically arranged—Major Tom, Ziggy, Aladdin Sane, Thin White Duke—with Bowie’s voice in your headphones the whole time, being funny and fabulous, laughing and throwing in the occasional song. No sign of the Laughing Gnome, or any pictures of him overweight and faltering onstage in New York in his first public appearance after his heart attack—a painful sight of the man who inspired a million diets. If the coolest skeletor on the planet can gain weight, anyone can!

The golden years around Hunky Dory and Scary Monsters couldn’t last forever. In Uncle David’s middle years there were ugly rumors that he’d traded his talent for stardom and—shock, horror—wanted to make millions. Does one prefer not to be paid for his work? At the end of the affair, he killed off his evil twins with the sexy lack of conscience of a lad insane and moved to another town. From London to Berlin to, um, Geneva, and finally New York, a city that must have been made just for him. Though in the 21st century, perhaps it’s time to pack a bag and move on—maybe to Mars.

If Bowie were just a pop star, we could measure out our lives with his songs. Youth never dies, it’s just hiding in your heart. But Bowie is a Svengali of the collective imagination. And so, as we exit the show, a picture taken on his 66th birthday watches from the wall looking like a cross between Tommy Newton, the alien he plays in The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the aging vampire he plays in The Hunger. One gets the sense David Bowie’s still in there jamming good with Weird and Gilly, the Spiders from Mars.

Follow Vivien Lash, or read more about her in her evil twin Carole Morin’s novel Spying on Strange Men.

David Bowie Is, V&A Museum, through August 11, 2013, in partnership with Gucci.

Apr 01, 2013 14:22:00

Shallow Not Stupid

Normally I have an insult ready for every occasion. May your child be born without a butt-hole is my favorite. But the accusation of being a porker yesterday left me speechless. Imagine my horror when I registered with a new quack and his cheery Chinese male nurse said to me, "You are clinically obese."

Ok, I’m not size zero, or even size two, like I pretend when signing my name V Lash Size 2 Eats. But a size four—with the help of a coat hanger and the manservant to pull up my zip—is hardly obese, even in Beijing, where the skinny little bitches have been chomping too many pork buns lately and have grown asses the size of America.

Of course I sent Mr. Lash around to interrogate the nurse, who, not exactly the male Kate Moss himself, claims he said, "Clearly very sweet." Which is not an appropriate comment to someone who has just handed you a urine sample. I will admit I’ve been deaf in one ear since catching pneumonia on the night flight back from Havana—and it was a relief to hear the bores only on my right—but sometimes it leads to problems.

The last time I misheard something was when I met Mr. Lash's mother for the first time. Mrs. Lash Senior said, "You’re gorgeous." I slapped her hard on the face. I thought she’d said, "Your nose is enormous." Red faces all around when Mr. Lash translated her remark, her face quite a bit redder than mine.

I would have taken her to the emergency room for stitches but I’ve always been allergic to hospitals. In my experience, doctors are perverse. My evil twin was briefly a student at Harvard Medical School and has told me stories about trainee surgeons simulating sex with skeletons. Then there’s the TUBE—totally unnecessary breast examination—which all women with their own hair and teeth under 90 are subjected to. Then there are the docs who suggest an internal exam when you ask for hay fever tabs.

At least the new quack didn’t try to touch me. "You have not shrunk," he said, staring at my notes. "You are the same height as it says on your chart." Well that’s good to know. Now I don’t mind at all that I was called obese! I do shrink when I take off my Louboutins, but since I sleep in them nobody needs to worry about that.

Now I’ve had enough of the world and everybody in it. I’m staying in bed watching Freaks until the winter’s over.

Follow Vivien Lash

Mar 13, 2013 16:10:00

Shallow Not Stupid

More people commit suicide on weekends and holidays, or at 3 am, when everyone else is trying to sleep. It’s only $50 an hour to have a moan-on-the-phone at rentafriend.com.

But Crazy Keiko calls me every night with an update on her lack of a date for Valentine’s Day. She can’t get a man and she’s not even fat. What hope is there for chubsters who use any excuse, including St. Valentine, to chow into chocolate? Despite taking Mr. Lash’s advice not to wear her blow-up ass with her plastic jugs, Crazy Keiko has stalked men who have either died, left town, or threatened her with prison. She’s even considering Sneaky Pete from work, who robbed her last time they had sex. Or her creepy neighbor Cheesy Walter, whose socks I can smell from here. He’s a hard man to avoid but it’s well worth the effort.

Her best bet is to fake a date. Have a hot bikini wax on the big day, whisper into the phone to someone who isn’t there, and send herself more flowers than usual. Chocolate hearts are out of the question because she hasn’t eaten since 2003. "It’s not fair," she wails. "Bad Viv married Mr. Lash and I’m still flying solo." She’s not flying at all. She’s on her back in a vodka coma. But nobody said it was fair, as Joan Crawford told her kids before locking them in the cellar.

The Western world has a number of weird rituals, increasingly adopted by other cultures, designed to cause calorie addiction. There’s creepy Claus who sneaks into children's bedrooms leaving behind chocolate images of himself. Then Easter, when a hairy dude’s crucifixion is celebrated by the mass consumption of chocolate eggs. And Thanksgiving, when the President gets to talk to a turkey slathered in sweet stuff.

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Feb 09, 2013 13:58:00

Shallow Not Stupid

Normally it starts with a kiss, but my marriage to Mr. Lash started with a tubercular toe. He saw it immediately, which wasn’t hard. I was wearing a Louboutin on one foot and a bandage on the other, while wielding Grandfather Money’s silver walking stick like the chib used by the Nazi nightclub owner in Gilda. "You’re the immaculate consumptive," Mr. Lash said.

The tuberculosis had bypassed my lung, leaving no shadow, and gone straight to my toe. I’m the only person in England since records began who’s ever had this type of osteo-tuberculosis. "Someday the shadow on your lung may appear," doctors have warned me, and they haven’t stopped looking since—any excuse to take my blood, or an X-ray, or to amputate the toe "just in case." But I’d need the one on the other foot done, too, to be symmetrical. And how would that look when the man-servant gives me a pedi?

This illness was payback for years of hypochondria. I’d always wanted to be pale, frail and dangerous to kiss, like Emily Bronte and the actress I’m named after, Vivien Leigh. Eating ice cream for breakfast and staying size zero is a diet Kate Moss would spit blood for.

Fortunately for me, consumption is Mr. Lash’s fantasy illness too. Susan Sontag makes a good case in Illness as Metaphor for there being no such thing as romantic bacteria, but there's no denying that coughing blood the color of MAC Viva Glam is just sexier than cancer. And now that there’s a cure for TB, you don’t have to die for your glamour, just lose a few kilos.

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Jan 15, 2013 20:11:00
Diana Vreeland by David Bailey

Shallow Not Stupid

Who can fail to admire a woman who called her scarlet sitting room a garden in hell? Who, when sacked at 70, instead of retiring into her closet with her shoes, said to the man who terminated her golden age as editor of Vogue, "I've known white Russians and Reds, but you’re the first yellow Russian."

If Diana Vreeland is sitting on a crimson cloud looking down on the fashion world, she would have been disappointed by the audience of not so thin bland bitches in LBDs who came to the world premiere of the film about her life, The Eye Has to Travel, in London. I could almost hear her say, in her faux-European voice, "Lack of artifice is bloody boring."

Hosted by Manolo Blahnik, one of those men who mysteriously always has more hair this year than he did last year, and Penelope Tree, whose round face looks less like an old oak and more like a dehydrated shrub, the evening rightly focused a gimlet eye on the real star, Ms. Vreeland.

"Water is God’s tranquillizer," she says to George Plimpton, apropos of nothing. On Planet Lash, God’s trank is vodka, but swap the black hair dye for peroxide and DV could be my Aunt Irene the Slut, staying in bed till noon, having at least four fittings for her silk underwear, whispering the same advice to me that DV gave to her sons: "If you can’t be top of the class, make sure you are bottom." Heaven forbid the mediocrity in the middle. That would be like shitting on Chanel’s grave.

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Sep 26, 2012 14:55:00

Shallow Not Stupid

Mr. Lash and I escaped from Beijing without getting lung cancer. I miss my servants, obvsies, but not the smog, crackdown against foreigners, and new restrictions on buying drugs over the counter. I couldn’t get my usual stash of Zopis to bring home in the diplomatic bag, so now I’m on the jetlag express and sleepless in London.

Staying up late watching old movies isn’t sending me to slumber. The dead glam heroines from the upper and downer years of Hollywood keep me awake analyzing them. Clever casting uses an actor’s biography. Men go to bed with Gilda and wake up with self-destructive Rita Hayworth. That's good casting. Bad casting has Gwyneth Paltrow as Sylvia Plath when nobody believes Gwynnie would gas herself over a man. She’d be more likely to bake a cupcake.

You’re supposed to drink camomile tea for insomnia, but the last time I drank camomile it made me dress like a plant. I even considered eating a tofu burger. I don’t want to be lobotomized, just catch up on my beauty sleep. There’s only so much Touch Eclat can do for dark circles.

I had no choice but to visit a witch (like the other Vivien Lash in my evil twin's new book, Spying on Strange Men). She had a bad-tempered cat and nostrils big enough to move in a family of five. She was formerly a groupie to Nick Cave, though I’m not sure if he knows that. She studied witch therapy with the person who taught the person who taught someone I’ve never heard of—not Harry Potter.

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Sep 03, 2012 10:05:00

Shallow Not Stupid

The Olympics follow me like a stalker poo that won’t flush. My size-two bum is still sore from sitting through the opening ceremony in Beijing, where I wanted to kill smug Bird’s Nest artist Ai Weiwei, or at least pelt him with dumplings from his overpriced restaurant. He took the Chinese government’s silver to help design their stadium, then whined when he was accused of playing dim sum with his taxes.

Now I'm home in London and the Olympics are here too. I really wish Danny Boyle had made a new movie instead of squandering his talent on the government’s massive mugging of taxpayers and tourists. It’s embarrassing to watch the sports minister Tessa Jowlie salivating over Olympic Ambassador David Beckham, who isn't competing but could get gold for putting up with Queen Victoria. And David Cameron, who’s face has started to look like a bum since he became Prime Minister, sits on his ass doing mental arithmetic, wondering if this expensive fiasco will cost him his job.

Okay, I’m sounding like my Ranty Auntie, but I’ve suffered at the hands of sport since the last century, when I was forced to train every day during my American childhood, just in case I’d be picked for the Olympic team. Which was unlikely since they don’t give medals for being six and a half stone and sleeping late. As if having to do track with a psychotic cat following me, impersonating the way I run, and break my fingernails swinging from the trees behind the school (in an undignified display somewhere between Tarzan and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) wasn’t bad enough, the sadistic canoeing teacher always picked me to demonstrate being capsized.

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Aug 05, 2012 12:33:00
Tony Leung in In the Mood for Love

Shallow Not Stupid

If being friends with Crazy Keiko has taught me anything, it’s to always search your house when you get home. When her boyfriend caught her asleep in his wardrobe, with a machete in one hand and an iPhone in the other, he decided it was the end of the affair. But he owns a girly bar in Soho and would rather lose a testicle than have anyone think he’s vanilla.

In those innocent times before location apps, Crazy Keiko may have found a new hobby. But now being a stalker is so easy it’s embarrassing not to have one—especially if you're famous, like most of the men on Crazy’s list.

Mr. Lash and I were invited to dinner at the home of one of them, a Chinese movie star. When we arrived, Mr. Lash made the mistake of ringing the doorbell. "Tell that crazy flasher bitch behind the tree I’ve called the police," the movie star’s wife said.

"He really cares about me," Crazy Keiko mooned as we dragged her naked body away, "or he wouldn’t have come out in the rain to speak to me." "What did he say?" we asked. "He say, 'Fuck off, you crazy bitch.’" At least she has the sheet he covered her with as a memento of their non-existent affair and can wipe her tears with the restraining order she's sure his wife forced him to file.

If there’s one thing worse than being stalked by a fan, it’s being under the evil eye of the strange woman who’s your mother. Andy Murray’s mom calls it support; I call it stalking. His dad sits there with moobs, while his girlfriend has exactly two looks: plant and petrified plant. And who can blame her when Andy's mom, who can’t keep her tongue in her mouth when Nadal’s on the court, could soon be her mother-in-law? Maybe she should take a cue from Mel Gibson’s stepmum and get a restraining order.

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Jul 09, 2012 18:24:00
Queen Elizabeth and her corgis

Shallow Not Stupid

When I was five I stood in the rain waiting for Queen Elizabeth. I was expecting Liz Taylor dripping in diamonds when a middle-aged lady wearing a hat like a window cleaner’s bucket drove past. She wasn’t even in a Rolls Royce. "Wave at the Queen!" Mummy said. And I did, though my wave was more international salute than royal flutter.

Fast forward to me as a crazy teen, running away from home for the first time. My cousin, gay as a summer’s day, smuggled me into Balmoral Castle, where he was working as one of QEII’s servants, serving stodgy food six times a day.

It’s not hard to see why camp-as-a-cracker Diana became anorexic in this atmosphere. Flabby folk crawling around the tartan rugs with corgis had me reaching for the puke bucket, and I'm not a bulimic—I lack the commitment for it.

I made up my mind there and then that when I could afford servants they would be deaf-mute eunuchs. Gossip about the royal family, usually from people paid to wipe their brown bits, reminds you why it’s best to go to the toilet without a reliable witness.

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May 15, 2012 10:15:00

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