I recently finished Simon Doonan’s latest tome, The Asylum, Simon’s homage to the insane people that dictate what we wear. The Asylum manages to poke fun at the fashion industry through Simon’s behind-the-scenes stories and name dropping left and right while at the same time being poignant, as he reflects on fashion critics of yore, the effect of the AIDS epidemic on fashion, and how much the industry has changed. While the book does contain a lot of fashion references, Simon’s smart, David Sedaris-esque writing will capture a wide audience of reader. That, and he drops more than one Valley of the Dolls reference. #youhadmeathello
Fortunately I was able to actually say hello to Mr. Doonan himself, as he was having a book signing at Barney’s right here in Chicago.
I headed there after work, rushing to get there on time as I anticipated a line out the door. Much to my surprise, I waltzed right in, took a glass of champagne off of the silver tray, and waited in line behind three people to get my book signed. As I waited, I looked around the store, everyone was dressed in black, and I stood out like a sore thumb in my Pucci knockoff dress from Filene’s (RIP) I had specifically worn because I knew Simon’s fondness for florals and the 70’s. I guzzled the champagne that no one else was drinking and felt horribly out of place. As I contemplated sidling out the back door, it was my turn, and Simon was sitting at the table, smiling at me.
I introduced myself timidly and handed Simon my book. He looked up at me, smiled and said “that’s a groovy dress you’ve got on, Betsy”. I thanked him and took the book he signed, telling him how much I enjoyed his Slate column that day. His face lit up and he thanked me profusely, telling me how much that means to him. As I started walking away, he asked me what I did, continuing the conversation, and we chatted for a few minutes about this and that. Our conversation wasn’t particularly deep or memorable, but I will always remember the nice connection I felt with Simon, who is not only unapologetically true to himself, but is constantly imploring others to be the same. As I left Barney’s with my signed copy of the book and my head held high, I felt a little bad for Simon, the lone flower in the sea of all black.