i lived vicariously through my friend t.s. (hi, sweetie, ❤ u!) a model of incomparable beauty (truly), but one year
the carol ware fur salon (at bonwit teller or i. magnin? i can’t remember, but it overlooked the watertower on michigan avenue and was the ne plus ultra of fur salons in the city at the time–197_) put on a runway show in the wicker room of arnie’s restaurant where i was working. so i’m standing there minding my own business, when ms. ware comes up to me and says, “you, what’s your name?” “bobpatrick,” i replied. “come with me,” she said taking me by the hand and into the hall where she promptly pulled a man’s fur coat off the rack and handed it to me, “you’ll wear this,” she purred as she helped me into a nutria-lined trenchcoat, pushing me into the room to walk the makeshift runway that ran between the tables where much of chicago’s beau monde was seated.
so i walked, bitches. i tied the trench’s belt, i untied it and opened the coat to show off the nutria lining, i walked to the end of the runway and stopped and stared off into space with a look of “let them eat cake” disdain gracing my 20-something mustachioed face…and turned and repeated ‘the walk’ back through the tables.
ms. ware gave me another coat to wear and later, after the event was over, asked me if i wanted to do it again at her shop. which i did and while there, when i thought i knew it all, i suggested to her “what if i put a belt with this mink coat,” she stopped cold, turned her steely gray eyes to me, half-glasses perched at the end of her nose and said, “do not gild a lily.” a lesson i’ve tried to remember throughout the intervening years (unless, of course, i’m in a particularly rococo mood, then everything gets gilded.)