Wandering Hands. January 2018.

Dear Rowley,

As Dame Maggie Smith replied to a gauche journalist who greeted her with ‘you look great’, ‘Well dear I’ve looked greater’. Having had blonde highlights to cheer myself up in the dread dark nights of January, I have been frequenting the Admiral Drunkard drag bar on Old Compton Street and am pleased to report that drag is alive and well.

I find by far the most talented London drag queen – who is a comedienne, singer and raconteur – is Bag ‘O Chips. No, kidding. I think the real heir to Regina Fong and Dusty O is Miss Cookie Mon-Star. Cookie was the first male forces sweetheart and has entertained British troops all over the world. We have never met but have been introduced by a mutual friend so will hopefully meet soon.

Rather disturbing to see that Bruce Weber and Mario Testino have joined Terry Richardson on the Vogue blacklist having been accused of sexual harassment by various male models over the years.  Now, here’s the thing. Weber, Testino and Richardson have always had a yen for the homoerotic if not pornographic in their work and the fashion industry loved it.

Weber is the maestro of all-American beefcake black and white photographs of ripped nude boys. His work is characterised by California sun, water, beach balls and labrador puppies. It all looks wholesome because the boys appear so happy and healthy. None of them looks particularly uncomfortable frolicking in mountain cricks with their dicks out for a photographer who most resembles Father Christmas.

Testino is a bit more subversive stroke perverse. I recall a series of images he took of male models called the Magic Finger. The finger was Testino’s who pulled swimming shorts on Copacabana beach  off at the elastic waist to photograph the tackle beneath.

Testino is famed as the British Royal family’s favourite photographer. I personally find it creepy that he could take those beautiful portraits of Diana, Princess of Wales towards the end of her life then shoot Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall a short time later. It was an open secret that any male model who wanted the honour of being shot by Testino had to attend a nude shoot at the Chateau Marmot as a sweetener.

The models accusing Testino said he would dismiss his battalions of assistants and molest the naked guys making crude suggestions. Now, using the same logic as Weinstein, if it was an open secret that Testino’s nude shoots at the Chateau had a happy finish what but blind ambition would make a male model attend the shoot or his booker allow it?

The hypocrisy in the fashion industry is breathtaking’ almost as bad as the ordure surrounding Hollywood and the #MeToo campaign. Anna Wintour has released a disingenuous statement about her ‘friends’ Weber and Testino. Despite neither of them having been prosecuted, the editorial director of Condé Nast has blackballed two of the most prolific Vogue photographers of the last thirty-years.

There is something to be said for the theory about hiding in plain sight. Everyone in fashion lapped-up Weber’s dreamy male nudes thinking them saucy rather than queazy. Testino’s nudes are closer in aesthetic to the vile Terry Richardson who not only photographed naked but posed in pornographic images with his famous sitters. But did any of the fashion editors so much as register surprise let alone censure? No.

I rather lost respect for Testino’s work after the hubris of the National Portrait Gallery show in which he blew-up images of Madonna, Diana and all those other ‘no surname necessary’ superstars intended for CD covers and magazine pages to mammoth scale.

Testino lost further kudos in The September Issue all about US Vogue. In his briefing with Wintour in a stateroom at The Ritz London (why?), he spouted some bullshit that strongly suggested he’d been far too busy chasing Sven from Sweden round a suite at the Chateau to bother storyboarding a Sienna Miller cover story in Rome.

Once in Rome, Testino couldn’t get Miller’s hair right so wasted a day having a wig cut in. Despite armies of assistants, he couldn’t make the Coliseum ‘work’ as a backdrop. At the eleventh hour, he returned about six images to Wintour back in New York who had to completely airbrush the best of the bad job for the cover.

Testino came across as petulant, preening and the kind of fop who drapes a tailored jacket over his shoulders like a mink stole. That he had become powerful enough in the fashion industry to have his pick of the buff boys is not Anna Wintour’s compliment really, is it?

Having been on the fringes of fashion magazines since my late teens, I have always believed that their power and self-importance is disproportionate to reality. Now that social media has by and large cut the glossies down to size they still behave as if their affairs are of international importance not realising the parade has passed by long ago.

Anna Wintour has been smart on the same level as Suzy Menkes to use Vogue’s resources to engage social media. The September Issue made Wintour a star with a whole new generation as did The Devil Wears Prada. Her leverage with the annual Met Gala is inestimably useful for a woman who needs to leverage celebrity to stay relevant and alive.

In other news, while not on dry January I am on a major clean food kick at the moment and thoroughly enjoying minimal cooking such as cherry tomatoes and basil fried in balsamic or a hunk of goat’s cheese with sourdough bread. I have lost weight, feel better and now can’t even look at a ready meal without feeling nauseous. And on that note, until next time…