An invitation to a Vanity Fair dinner is not a bad one to have, though the very thought of having to communicate with famous and fabulous people makes me twitchy. Hollywood types really only like powerful people, and few of them are capable of polite conversation with individuals they don’t know. The conversation usually goes something like this: “Hello, I’m Mandolyna…” At this point the star usually produces an awkward smile, and walks away. But this night was going to be different, I said to myself. I was going to inquire and flatter the stars into a little dialogue. After all, I had been included in this intimate affair, I must have something to offer.
The dinner at Harry’s Bar was in honor of, Tom Ford, after the London premiere of his film, A Single Man. I was seated between Carlos Souza, a charming Brazilian jeweler part of Valentino’s entourage, and Jon Kortajarena, one of the film’s sexy actors on Madonna’s to-do list, ranked by Forbes as the world’s eighth most successful male model. I asked him about his career, his other interests, and even spoke to him in his native Spanish, but he had no interest in me, or in feigning interest, opting instead to chain-smoke Marlboros elsewhere.
This lackluster seduction was just a small obstacle on my climb to success with the glitterati, but no twenty-four year old model was going to ruin my plan. I made my way over to Graydon Carter’s table to check on my walker for the evening, the esteemed writer William Shawcross. I had much more success with this lot, but then, most of them were not actors, and people over forty are much easier to talk to than many of my peers. From my new perch at Graydon’s table I chatted with William, and my new besty, Liz Elliot, from House & Garden, while peering into the lives of people like Thandie Newton, Brian Ferry, Guy Ritchie, Elle MacPherson, Mario Testino, and Kate Moss.
Toward the end of the evening I found myself speaking to the film’s star, Colin Firth, and his enchanting wife, Livia. Success at last. An actor, and a gent, and an apparently normal person capable of a brief exchange. I nervously babbled on about how I had seen his colleagues revere him to excess for his charitable work on some English award show. He didn’t walk away. Then I thought, more flattery, maybe that wasn’t enough. I said he was infinitely watchable. He turned to his wife and asked her if she found him infinitely watchable. That lead absolutely nowhere, so I congratulated him on the film, and he thanked me for coming. This time, I walked away.
But just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, Tom Ford took my hand in both of his, and looked me in the eyes as if I were the only woman in the world he wanted to go to bed with. My persistence was really paying off now. This was the first time I have ever been fully acknowledged by a famous person. More nervous chatter flew out of my mouth, something about how my dinner companions had all seen the movie multiple times, and how I would go see it again and again. He smiled, all the while looking deeply into my eyes. Like heroin, one sniff, and I was hooked…The fuss over Ford is definitely merited. He must be a zen master. His grace and beauty alone make him a megastar. But the list goes on of course, and Ford has many accomplishments, and talents to his credit, including A Single Man.
Ford wrote, directed, and financed the film. Based on a Christopher Isherwood story, A Single Man is, as one might imagine, an aesthete’s dream, reminiscent of the 1967 hit, The Graduate. Ford’s interpretation of 1960s Los Angeles is thoroughly glamorous. For anyone who doesn’t know the city well, one is transported. The air, the light, and the loneliness of L.A. comes right off the screen. Ford’s measured personal nature is a powerful force in the movie’s rhythm, and he uses slow-motion to help the audience feel the weight a depressed person bears navigating daily life. The beat picks up with a deliciously humorous and macabre scene where Firth’s character, George, attempts to take his own life. This is interrupted by a telephone call from Julianne Moore’s, Charley, who lives an equally sad yet stylish life. She plays his best-friend and former lover impeccably. But Moore’s English accent is off. It is only slightly improved since her previous attempt in The End of the Affair, distracting from an otherwise captivating experience.
The number of homo-erotic scenes throughout the film may be off-putting for some, though the story speaks more to the isolation within us all, than to the life. That night at Harry’s Bar Nicky Haslam bemoaned homosexuality. “Being gay is so common, I can’t stand it,” he said. Haslam is right, and anything but an ordinary gay. So too, Ford, who is irrefutably unique. Along with his debut film, and my brief encounters with cordial superstars, it was an exceptional evening indeed.
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