Sunday, November 21, 2004


Ok, Anita, you asked for it: the blow-by-blow account of the nutty fashion show Thursday night. This is wicked long --- sorry.

As I’d mentioned earlier, this thing was completely chaotic. I didn’t find out until Monday afternoon when the rehearsals were (one Monday night, another Wednesday night), and it wasn’t until Thursday morning that my outfit was finalized.

So, I show up Thursday night the warehouse where the benefit was held. It’s on the waterfront, above a ship repair facility --- very grungy and hip. I climb rickety wooden stairs in the dark and walk into the large room where we models are supposed to gather to get our hair and makeup done. We’ve been told to be there between 5 and 5:30. It’s 5:15, and I am the second model in the place. I get a quick splash of makeup painted across my face --- deep red lipstick, smeary blue eyeliner and some sort of foundation --- then I’m sent over to the hair stations.

One of the women in charge of the whole hair-and-makeup effort strides over to where I’m seated, gives me a fixed stare and says to the stylist, “Ok, I’m seeing some long curls here in the front and around the edges. Don’t worry about the back --- no one will see it.” And she strides off to her next victim.

This is all well and good for fashion purposes, but what this woman fails to recognize is that the fashion show isn’t until 9. The benefit starts at 6, and we’re all “allowed” to go mingle and schmooze until 8:30 or so. So I will be walking around the benefit in my own clothes, plus wild eye makeup and hair that is only styled in the front. Right.

So that’s what I do. The copious amounts of champagne in the dressing room certainly help. With the addition of more women, it has become a slightly scary place. Most of the models are women in their 40s, a combination of society types (such as exist in Maine) and business women. I only know one or two by sight. And the stylists are having lots of fun, twisting wacky hair extensions in with their hair, creating huge bouffants and purposely trashy makeup. J., who is one of two people there I actually feel comfortable talking to, ends up with purple extensions and red bows in her hair --- to go with the pink tutu, blazer and army boots one of the boutiques has dressed her in.

After a few bouts of the bubbly with J. and the one male model --- both of whom are entertainingly snarky --- I wander out and find Darren. I’d enticed him into wearing the suit he wore for our wedding with a bolo tie from our New Mexico days. I was in this sexy little halter top I bought at Marshall’s this summer for no apparent reason, fitted black pants and cute little heels. And the overbearing makeup.

[Insert aimless wandering, gulping of food at the hot trays, random schmoozing here.]

I’ve apparently had enough champagne to introduce myself to a couple people I recognize but have never met, including a neighbor from a few blocks away who’s apparently had enough to drink that she invites us over to her backyard anytime for a fire and some drinks. (I’m still unclear whether she has a fire pit or she’s some sort of amateur arsonist.)

The music is thumping, people are all dressed up --- a rare, rare occurrence for Portland --- and there’s a funky, bohemian, almost lawless feel to the night. The bellydancers probably don’t hurt; they are sensuous and very groovy. The drinks are flowing --- though non-models have to pay for theirs --- and by 8 p.m. several people are already unsteady on their feet. A few couples sequestered in dark corners --- and one couple right out in the open --- are making out.

Eventually, I head back to the dressing room, where the fashion show coordinator is yelling at everyone about taking your time down the runway. We make our final preparations; I put on the poncho and, finally, the hat, which has become incredibly back-heavy, since the artist added what she called “a shitload of hair” to it. It now has ribbons and texturey fibers and yarn draping down the back, all the way to the floor. It’s been decided that I will “interact” with it by sort of draping the longest pieces over my arms (to keep them from tripping me, a distinct possibility that’s exacerbated by the fact that I’m wearing lime-green boots that are a few sizes too big) and then, at the end of the runway, twirling them around dramatically as I lift my arms out fully.

Oh, and did I mention the midshipmen? Yep. As we get to the stage --- my partner, the artist’s daughter, and I are the first two to go in the second half of the show --- we each pick up a cadet from the maritime academy, who escorts us up the stairs. I sorta hear the emcees --- local TV personalities --- announce our names and start blathering about the clothing, but after that it’s a bit of a blur. I pull the hat down over my eyes and make my way down the runway, twirling the hair as I go. I see Darren off to the side, and I’m pretty sure I point ostentatiously at him, making model-y faces as I do so.

We execute a simple, but under the circumstances sort of miraculous, crossover and make our way back the opposite side of the stage, pick up our midshipmen and head down the stairs. I think there was some hooting and hollering --- I’d asked everyone I talked to that night to be sure to yell for me --- but again, it’s something of a blur.

I vaguely recall getting undressed and back into my own clothes. (I swear I didn’t drink that much champagne, but apparently I did.) The artist came back and told us how much we fucking rock, and how thrilled she was with our performance. I was surprised to realize that I actually cared what she thought. Her brusque, no-bullshit attitude ended up being totally endearing. I think it didn’t hurt that I spent part of the evening hanging out with her 21-year-old daughter, who clearly loves her mom but also felt free to roll her eyes every now and then.

I actually watch the end of the fashion show, then tool around with Darren a few more times. We drink another cup of champagne and munch a bunch of chips and salsa. Then he guides me, wobbly on these heels I’ve been standing in for hours, down the rickety stairs, across a few parking lots and into the car. We’re in bed by 11, and the next morning I feel as though I’ve been run over by a truck. All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening.