‘Vice’ Guys Play Ig’nant

Uproar in Hipsterland! They get attention for their liberal use of expletives, full-frontal nudity (female and male), and confrontational discourse. But did Vice magazine go too far when they casually threw around words like “nigger” and “fag” in an interview published in the archly conservative pages of the New York Press last week?

James Dixon, a 33-year-old IT technician, certainly thinks so. Dixon fired off an e-mail missive to hipster media outlets like The Fader, Paper, and, yes, the Voice, urging them to boycott the magazine’s advertisers. He included a list of phone numbers for such companies as Etnies, Ben Sherman, and Triple Five Soul, and encouraged recipients to call them. “Don’t just sit there and say to yourself, ‘Those Vice guys are crazy,’ ” wrote Dixon. “Do something.”

What was all the fuss about? Responding to a question posed by the Press‘s Adam Heimlich regarding Williamsburg’s popularity with trendy transplants, Vice co-founder Gavin McInnes responded: “At least they’re not fucking niggers or Puerto Ricans. At least they’re fucking white.”

McInnes, as well as Vice publisher Shane Smith and co-founder Suroosh Alvi, insist that his comments were made with a deep tone of sarcasm. “Being gays, blacks, and East Indians ourselves, we tend to use the vernacular with reckless abandon. We’ve always felt that PC attitudes always hurt the people they’re trying to help. We believe words like ‘African American’ and ‘East Indian’ are just excuses for white, middle class, academic liberals to patronize the working classes (of all races) and tell them how to speak,” they explained in a formal response issued hours after Dixon’s mass e-mail.

Dixon, a black man who has read Vice since it was Montreal’s version of the Voice, is not convinced. “What gives Gavin McInnes the license to be the self-appointed white hero of African Americans in this country?” he told Fly Life. “That it is his duty to save these poor niggers from being afraid of this bad, bad word?”

Alvi invited Dixon to respond in an upcoming issue of Vice, offering him the mag’s entire Letters section. “Race is such a huge issue in America, and there are so many rules about what you can and cannot say,” said Alvi. “I think people have the right to be sensitive to it. We’re just not giving these words the credence that everyone else is.”

Dixon declined Alvi’s offer. “I assure you they would not walk into a restaurant in my neighborhood and call the cook ‘nigger,’ then try to explain to him that they ‘were only trying to disarm the word.’ ”

Don’t let the outré blond wig fool you. Janice Combs is actually quite soft-spoken and gracious. Sipping on white wine with a girlfriend at Entertainment Weekly‘s party for their third annual photography issue at Soho’s Apple Concept Store, Mrs. Combs sported those notorious tresses and Versace leggings. She was actually one of the brighter stars at the rather lackluster affair, which saw a smattering of B-listers like actresses Natasha Lyonne and Maria Bello and Brit heartthrob Ben Chaplin. (Hey, it wasn’t anybody’s fault. The superstars are all in Europe—no doubt holding up the Paris spring fashion shows with self-consciously late arrivals.) Would Mrs. Combs be popping over to Paris or Milan as her son has? “Well, Milan is really cold right now,” she said curtly. “But I’ll be there soon, I’m sure.” Girrl, no doubt swapping hair tips with Donatella on Lake Como.

Speaking of blonds, what would you do if you got a call from Cameron Diaz? A Fly Life source was shopping at Target when it happened to her. The girl had once dated Diaz’s man, actor Jared Leto, and was questioned by the ditzy screen queen to ascertain the former My So Called Life heartthrob’s fidelity. Diaz is apparently so nervous that her guy is fooling around that she got a private detective to track down every woman he had been with in the last two years. “I just really love that boy and I just want to know if he’s messing around on me,” she told our freaked-out source. Even more baffling, Diaz recommended that she pick up a CD by Leto’s dubious band, 30 Seconds to Mars. Apparently he needed the plug: Our source noted that the album was on the sale rack.


Runway Rundown

Never mind that our president is throwing us into war. It’s ridiculous again in fashion land, and everybody’s really happy about it. The reigning color on the runways is an aggressively feminine Pepto-Bismol-ish shade of pink, and the reigning mood carries the same bubblegum frivolity. Of course, all this Fashion Week mayhem warrants a short report card.

PROPS to Imitation of Christ’s retrospective at the midtown Maurice Villency store. The chaotic spectacle featured Chloë Sevigny posing in a rainbow-sequined number like some bizarre android, and mouthy femme-C Peaches playing dominatrix to a bunch of topless Eastern European models slavishly vacuuming in an alcove. “Suck that shit up!” she commanded while tugging on their cords. A parade of stars checked out the ruckus, including actress Natasha Richardson, model Omayra, Le Tigre’s Johanna Fateman, comedian Jimmy Fallon, and Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black frontwoman Kembra Pfahler.

MAD PROPS to Bonnie Fuller for publishing a daily broadsheet edition of Us Weekly (our favorite publication—outside of the Voice!) for the tents. Interestingly, the first issue featured a fawning bio on Anna Wintour, the woman who got Fuller canned from her Condé Nast gig at Glamour. Ms. Bonnie, you might wanna wipe off that nose.

NO PROPS to the crowd-control dramas at Baby Phat’s show and Trace magazine’s party at 2 Desbrosses Street, where bouncers rudely redirected the crowds by cussing and pushing them. At the Trace fiasco, even Tiffany Limos, Larry Clark‘s main squeeze and the magazine’s fall cover girl, was refused entry. Meanwhile, over at Bryant Park, Honey editor in chief Amy DuBois Barnett had to race to the photographers’ entrance to beg for admittance into Kimora Lee Simmons‘s dangerously overbooked roll-out.

PROPS to the music at Sportmax’s party in way west Chelsea, where DJ Nicholas Matar supplied a bangin’ set of lush, melodious deep house. Matar, a former marketing director for Pasha in Ibiza, is set to open up Cielo, a mega-lounge for high-fashion househeads in the meatpacking district.

PROPS to Francis Hendy‘s command of prints and color. The show got delayed while staff sat two VIPs in the front row, none other than Ms. Angela Bassett and super-publicist Marvet Britto. The seating, with ushers handpicking spots for guests, was a little weird, but the cavalcade of lushly hued, hand-painted ultra-suede, denim, and leather pieces more than made up for it.

PROPS to Dominican honey Omayra and her phat new highlights. She got applause for her dead-on impersonation of Michael Jackson at Michael & Hushi‘s madcap (but fabulous) show at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

NO PROPS to the fisticuffs that ensued at Marc Jacobs‘s party. As if the mayhem at the tents weren’t enough, two attendees fought over the last of the admittedly generous gift bags (everyone got a full-sized bottle of Jacobs’s new men’s scent).

MAD PROPS to Cedella Marley‘s Catch a Fire show, full of beautiful, flirty rude gals in richly colored separates walking to reggae tunes, and topped off by performances from Ghetto Youth and Wyclef Jean. Plus, the best gift bag ever: Bob Marley incense and rolling papers.

PROPS to James Murphy’s “Losing My Edge,” which was Fashion Week’s unofficial anthem—the bass-driven track was played at Michael & Hushi, Jeremy Scott, and John Bartlett‘s shows.

SPOTTED: Models Natalia Vodianova, Amy Wesson, and Bridget Hall, plus The View’s Lisa Ling and (eww!) David Copperfield at Sportmax’s affair . . . Kevin Aviance, in shocking red pumps, waltzing into the Heatherette party at Elmo Lounge . . . Candace Bushnell, in fur and Manolos, riding down Fifth Avenue to the Marc Jacobs show in the back of a pedi-cab . . . Diesel’s iconoclastic head Renzo Russo visiting Johan Lindeberg at his Paper-sponsored Soho show . . . stylist Misa Hylton-Brim, one of the jilted Baby Phat VIPs, calmly watching the show on a monitor outside . . . Bono in the stands at Jeremy Scott . . . legendary music mogul Chris Blackwell at Cedella Marley . . . electro hottie Casey Spooner at Yoko Devereaux and Helena Fredriksson‘s show at Angel Orensanz . . . campy “lifestyle guru” Brini Maxwell with fashion plates Patrick MacDonald and Richie Rich at Patricia Field‘s party at Elmo.


Frocks That Rock

Tracee Ellis Ross just don’t believe the hype about her status as a style maven. “People are like, ‘Oh, you’re so graceful,’ which I laugh at,” she told Fly Life.

Last month, WWD placed the actress-comedienne on its Top 10 list of the most stylish women on TV. But the star of Girlfriends—UPN’s popular comedy about a quartet of idiosyncratic black L.A. women that starts its new season on Monday—actually places more importance on her ability to be a goofball, or what she calls her “quirky, casual side.”

Ross’s gangly, gosling gestures and goofy faces bring Girlfriends‘ bourgie crackpot Joan Clayton to life, but in reality her style’s about big-statement glamour mixed with that quirky edge. She pairs her wads of curls with jumbo-sized jewelry and clashes designer pieces with vintage finds for an effortlessly opulent brand of funky casual.

“That’s one of the reasons it was fun to move out to L.A.,” says Ross. “I got away from that ‘bag of the season’ culture that everyone follows in New York.”

We might all live for the high-concept DIY looks rocked by Karen O (yes. This is her fifth mention in the column. Sorry, dudes! She’s fierce!), but Christiane Hultquist, the woman behind the Yeah Yeah Yeah vocalist’s tattersall frocks, wouldn’t be caught dead in them. “I’d feel like a queerball!” she says.

Her line, Christian Joy, is currently a couture-level business (Ms. O is her prime client), but Hultquist is branching out. Two weeks ago at Spa, she showed a collection of 10 looks under the name “Brat Style”—with pieces that were considerably more finished than some of the brilliantly haggard ensembles she’s literally whipped up for the neo-punk diva out of newspaper and masking tape. Hultquist’s relationship with O started two years ago, when she worked at Daryl K’s 6th Street store. “She was like, ‘If I ever become a famous rock star, will you make my clothes?’ ” The rest, of course, is recent history.

Originally a photographer, Hultquist, 28, got into designing after being challenged by a friend to make a T-shirt. Her arch-punk fashion jokes often go way over the top. A bodice worn by O was hand-painted with slogans like “Baptist Joy,” and even “Methodist Joy.” Hultquist’s mother, the born-again Christian editor of the Happy Housewifery newsletter back in her hometown of Marion, Iowa, doesn’t get the punchline. “I get in big trouble,” says Hultquist.

The Spa show was full of smart, cheeky looks for everyday rock stars. Brat Style includes everything from black-and-white striped “mod-o-kini” shorts and halter (inspired by an old photo of Siouxsie Sioux) to a suit with a “Brat” signature print (“Eat Shit” is discreetly scribed into the pattern). How is Brat different from the ’90s-era riot grrrl? “Brats do not give a shit at all!”

Hultquist admits it’ll be a while before Brats everywhere can get a hold of Christian Joy. Even though her boyfriend designed the CJ suit Gideon Yago wore to the VMAs, and other rockers like Lovelife’s Katrina Ford have worn her clothes, none of the current pieces are going to stores. The goal for her next show—based on suicide—is to produce a collection that’s ready for retail.

Another purveyor of Brat Style, Patricia Field, is closing up shop, at least in the West Village. The designer is shutting the doors of her 8th Street flagship at the end of the month. The building’s owners, land-piggish New York University, have chosen not to renew the Sex and the City costumer’s lease. Last May, her alma mater booted her from her second-floor apartment in the same building to make way for graduate-student dorms.

“In a way, I feel bad that I’m leaving,” says Field, who will move everything to her Hotel Venus space in Soho. “But I’m just relieved. It hasn’t been joyful for the last seven years.” Beyond the rising rents and increasingly impersonal tone of her landlords, Field says that nightly police barricading has turned the once buzzing freakzone into one of downtown’s quaintest stretches of pavement. “To me, the Village has turned into this transient college area. It’s not a neighborhood anymore.”

While Field certainly isn’t destitute (peep the palace on the Bowery where she now parks her Pacer), it sucks to see a fashion institution lost to the throes of the New York real estate market. Calls to the university’s public relations office went unreturned at press time. For Field, it’s definitely a case of que sera, sera. “Along comes the pimple, and you have to pop it.” Er, yes.


‘Don’t You Know Who I Am?’

Leave it to Patrick McMullan to take photos at his own birthday party. The PrintINK bash, held last Wednesday in the Regency Ballroom, jump-started several nights of massive fetes before this week’s somber cloud of 9-11 memorial events.

“Talk about a busman’s holiday,” said the exuberant celeb photographer. “I need another party like I need a hole in my head.” The event featured a silent auction of photos and paintings, with proceeds going to God’s Love We Deliver. Besides the predictable WTC-themed pieces, there were works by Kenny Scharf, Marie Havens, and Andres Serrano.

Men wearing nothing but well-positioned bits of cloth danced around on platforms as bawdy drag performer Lady Bunny served up numbers like “If You Could Read My Behind.” Moby and pal Damian Loeb turned up superstar style (in mirrored shades), shooting some quick video of the dancing boys before rolling out with a phalanx of leggy ladies.

Speaking of leggy ladies, ever wondered what happened to Irina Pantaeva? (We’re gonna tell you anyway.) Fly Life caught the Russian Eskimo princess at Adidas’s opening for their Wooster Street Originals shop last Wednesday (where we also spied artist Lee Quiñones and tennis legend/shoe namesake Rod Laver). Look out for her new book, Siberian Dreams, along with a film based on it that she’s co-producing.

Alexander McQueen‘s friends are a protective lot. Save for Marie Claire fashion director Lucy Sykes (a willing deer in the paparazzo headlights), they shunned the press at the designer’s official opening party for his sleek new boutique on West 14th Street. The block’s most high-profile tenant has paved the way for Gucci Group colleague Stella McCartney‘s shop two doors down, and the corporate brass obviously wanted everyone to know it.

Models Karen Elson and Tatiana, Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha, Alicia Keys (in that wacky linebacker getup she wore at the earlier Times Square NFL concert), actress Lisa Marie, photographer Craig McDean, and the “Dark Sykes,” Plum and sister Alice, came out to support their pal “Lee.”

Even Naomi Campbell, trying to maintain a D.L. presence in sunglasses and a Kangol, popped over from London. “I just came to see Lee,” she said, before pushing her arms through the crowd à la Moses and the Red Sea. Some guests were not into it. “She’s a fucking cunt,” said one displeased partyer.

There is a God: They finally stopped serving Bud at an Alife party. The opening for the store’s new “Suitman‘s Travel” exhibit featured lukewarm bottles of Brooklyn Pilsner—moving up in the world, boys!—paper dioramas of old-school block rockers like Public Enemy, plus Polaroids of a stoic model in shell-toes and yellow shades, blankly posing at places like Rio’s Cristo Salvador and Munich’s Oktoberfest.

While the model from the photos played dead in the front display window, photographer Cheryl Dunn and a mob of baby fashion chicks and skater boys kept spilling onto the street. An ambulance rushed to the store and EMS techs flung the model onto a stretcher, only to return 10 minutes later to replace him with a giant cardboard replica of himself.

Suitman’s alter ego, Young Kim, a commercial director for companies like Nike and ESPN, has been pulling such stunts for the past decade. “I don’t really consider this art,” said Kim. “It’s more my personal diary.”

Eventually, even Suitman’s antics were upstaged. Cops arrived around 10 o’clock to disperse the crowd. “People thought the police were part of the show!” explained Kim.

SPOTTED: Actress-artist Anh Duong, as dressed down as she gets in a camel cashmere sweatsuit and a Dior Street Chic bag, brunching at Pastis . . . Hedwig star John Cameron Mitchell at a sex party in Soho (Fly Life’s source could not confirm whether he was watching or participating) . . . Jackass Johnny Knoxville, Sex and the City‘s Willie Garson, and Tobey Maguire (grabbing Kirsten Dunst‘s ass—we take it they’re back together) at John Street Bar’s Drunk Love party over Labor Day weekend. Our source got into a shoving match with Dunst after the actress tried to shove her way through the throng. “She was like, ‘Don’t you know who I am? I was in Spider-Man.’ We were like, ‘Well, good luck with that!’ ”


Celebs Take Manhattan

If you thought Pink was too drunk at the VMAs, you should have seen Puffy. Wobbling on the red carpet pre-show, the dapper media mogul made no pretenses about having started the party early. Fly Life was crunched in at the press gates, checking out the star styles—which ran from original and hot (MTV2 VJ Abby Gennet in a gown made of old metal-concert tees and rhinestones) to the generic (Melissa Joan Hart lamely pulling off a YSL shirt). Let’s compare notes.

Dopest Look (Men’s): Drey of OutKast’s lavender Philip Treacy fedora, red Asics wrestling boots, and red-and-blue plaid knickerbockers. Dopest Look (Women’s): Kirsten Dunst in Princess Leia buns and a Marc Jacobs jacket. Most Opulent Coat: MTV2 VJ Quddus, in a floor-length Nehru duster with embroidered details. Most Understated: Big N.E.R.D. Pharrell Williams, in an Independent Wheels skate tee and trucker cap. (On his influence in merging hip-hop and skate fashions: “I can’t take credit for it. I’m just doing what I came up in.”) Bravest Choice: Actor David Alan Grier in a lime-green suit. Best Use of Leather: Nappy Roots’ Big V in YSL shields and a butter-brown sleeveless mechanic suit. Best Outfit for Quickie Potty Breaks: Jennifer Love Hewitt’s crotch-grazingly short off-the-shoulder number. Best T-Shirt: Johnny Knoxville’s vintage Farrah Fawcett iron-on. (“Lots of naked men, lots of holes!” he divulged of the upcoming Jackass movie.) Best Cher Impersonation: Britney Spears in black-leather biker drag. Most Creative (or Maybe Not) Use of Electrical Tape: X’s marked the spot on David LaChapelle muse Amanda Lepore‘s basketball-scale ta-tas. Cutest Old People: Well-preserved fashion freak Candy Pratts Price rocking a fur vest with pal Calvin Klein. Rear-End Queen: J.Lo‘s chocolate leather McQueen suit with grommets running down the ass crack came close, but rapper Charli Baltimore takes the prize for rocking a Dior nameplate belt across her tail. The Judy Garland Achievement Award for Maintaining: Brittany Murphy, who freaked out journalists with her disturbingly pale skin and shock of yellow hair. “Oh! Why izz my tongue bloo?” she sputtered. “Izz Listereen! The sheets of mintz!” Oh, never mind . . .

Happy birthday ISA! The boutique just celebrated one year hawking high-end fashion at 88 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, where it has built a reputation by reflecting Williamsburg’s lo-fi style. There’s probably no other designer retailer in America that has a rack devoted to hoodies—from Anna Sui on down.

The sleek, toothpaste-white space—decorated with natty thriftshop furniture—screams Billyburg. Still, the store’s presence in a ‘hood where most people’s idea of fashion comes from the Salvation Army does beg the question of whether anyone actually buys the $100-plus pieces here. Owner Isa Saalabi, 25, maintains that nothing—save for a Margiela coat ($395)—crosses the $200 line.

“Everything here is something that I could see myself wearing,” says Saalabi, the former manager of Marc Jacobs‘s West Village men’s store. He also points out the large array of lower-end items—$25 Defend Brooklyn tees, $55 customized army pants, and $35 Chuck Taylors—that sit alongside the $168 Marc shirts and $130 G-Star jeans.

The shop has set up everything from exhibits by conceptual designers Kime Buzzelli, Seth Shapiro, and ORFI to a dancehall party and a Soviet concert. Next week, ISA will hang works by Fort Greene artists Rostarr and Ease. Even with the first-year milestone behind him, Saalabi admits he’s still learning as he goes along. “I’m about to take some retailing classes at FIT,” he says. “I just know that at the end of the month, it works out that we’re able to pay the rent and our suppliers.”

SPOTTED: A cosmorama of celebs ambushing APT’s weekly iPod open-turntable party after the VMA pre-show at Chelsea Piers on August 27. Wonder twins Andrew Andrew host the night, where you can try your hand at mixing. Big faces included MTV princess Kelly Osbourne, actresses Jennifer Esposito and Natalie Portman, superstar DJs Moby and John Digweed, one-hit wonders Dirty Vegas, and artist Damian Loeb, who spurred teeth-sucking during his turn when he whipped out his own iPod. Thank God his set turned out to be really bangin’! . . . All of the above, plus actress Shauna Sossamon, hipster goddess Karen O, OutKast’s Drey, all of the Hives, singer Lisa Shaw, comedian David Cross (never seen without a Foster’s), a heavily intoxicated Pink, and N’Dea Davenport pogoing to the Strokes‘ performance (in which Julian Casablancas puffed a joint passed to him from the audience) at the monster post-VMA Lowlife ball at Chelsea’s Milk Studios . . . Aimless Kids alum Leo Fitzpatrick almost sideswiped by a van while riding his bike during a downpour in the East Village.

MY BAD! Last week, this Fly Life reporter commented on the recent drama over teenybopper r&b trio 3LW. I wrote that recently ousted member Naturi Naughton was Latina. As some readers pointed out, the African American Naughton was rumored to have been dropped in part for her dark skin tone. By the time you’re reading this, the remaining members will have responded to the allegations on Monday night’s 106th & Park on BET. “They can say whatever they want,” Naturi told Fly Life at the VMAs. “The truth will prevail.”

Tricia Romano is vacationing and will return next week.


DJ Culture Meets Garage

While big companies are finally paying attention to superstar DJs, New York scenesters are moving on to more do-it-yourself-style dance parties. We’ve been training our sights on the buzz around Girls and Boys at Filter 14 in the meatpacking district, a quirky melding of the remnants of DJ culture and the new garage rock craze that the fashion crowd and its dogs have been lapping at. Liv Tyler dropped by Girls and Boys during its first week, when Morning Wood performed. Although it attracts the same crowd of moss-haired, tie-wearing rocker kids as similar parties that have started up at Rififi and Don Hill’s, they still play dance music here. The DJs casually switch between Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” and Royksopp’s “Epie” along with classic records from the Clash, Kinks, and Joy Division. Even more alarming, they take requests! We came in just as synth-pop group Carol Masters were finishing their set. Even though they were terrible, it is refreshing that live performance is returning to more clubs. Filter 14 owner Tommy Frayne says that the club’s live music component is more popular than a lot of its dance nights. “We built this sound system around house music,” he says of the club that once called Satoshi Tomiie a permanent resident. “We’re even thinking about putting in a separate system for the bands.”

Girls and Boys brainchildren Alex Malfunction and Alex English were former dance promoters who were handed the reigns on Wednesdays after their bosses’ frustrating goes at importing expensive DJs resulted in threadbare attendance. Alex and Alex moved in with the idea of reopening the back room’s stage for bands. The night has been doing steadily well since it started. Spa felt so threatened by the buzz from the party that they hired out PR powerhouse Nadine Johnson to aggressively promote their Wednesdays.

“We were saddened by the closing of Brownies,” said English. “There’s all these amazing bands that have to play places like CB’s Lounge—great venues, just very small.” The end result is half live-rock party and half college ’80s night—with a heaping dose of DIY-style preening. Despite the heavy array of Strokes look-alikes in the club, English swears that the point is to have a good time here, not to sulk and pout while straining to look cool. “We’re all about the music. We’re not trying to push an image.” Tell that to the kids at the party. “There’s nothing wrong with having a look!” balked Anna, a girl in pseudo-goth drag, clutching a skateboard. “I just come for the people I know. It’s not one of those stupid techno clubs, where everyone is on Ecstasy. Better music, better people, better fashion sense.”

Richie Rich felt a little weird reliving actual scenes from his past when he starred as himself in the upcoming Party Monster. “I felt like I was going to need therapy after shooting some of the scenes in that movie!” he says of the experience. The Pan-like club kid-cum-designer of Heatherette was present at everything from Michael Alig‘s birthday party to the filming of the infamous Geraldo episode. “I kind of removed myself from that whole scene when the death happened,” he told Fly Life.

In the present, Rich and Heatherette design partner Traver Rains are preparing for their fall show with the aid of two corporate supporters. First, Rich told Fly Life that Sanrio has commissioned the duo to produce a line of Hello Kitty couture. This had the eternally youthful Richie beaming. “I’ve just loved Hello Kitty since my club kid days!” Dasani water, the sponsor of the label’s show, is putting out the cash for a contest in which one lucky Parsons design student will win a $1500 shopping spree of Heatherette merchandise and a day spent following the pair around backstage at their upcoming fall fashion show. They just have to design a shirt with “water” as the theme, the best of which will be selected by Richie and Traver. Hey, whatever pays the bills!

WE FEEL YOUR PAIN: Bradley Gumbel, son of television anchor Bryant. Are things back to “normal” in this town if even he can get stopped by the cops? . . . Naturi Naughton, the Latina member of teenybopper group 3LW, for being kicked out of the group, rather unceremoniously, and at a KFC, no less, as she told Wendy Williams on her radio show last week. In a statement issued by their label Epic on their official Web site, Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams deny that Naturi was subject to any physical abuse at the time that she got the boot. Naturi, cheer up, girl! Maybe the Fantanas will need a new flavor or something.


Blige: Queen of Street Couture

It’s official: Mary J. Blige is hip-hop’s greatest style icon. Vibe magazine editor Emil Wilbekin crowned the singer with the urban style bible’s second annual Quincy Jones Achievement Award at a gala dinner celebration at the Supper Club last Wednesday night. “She’s proven that urban music and urban fashion drive couture, as well as what average women really want to wear,” said Wilbekin.

Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley, Jaguar Wright, and Musiq Soulchild sang in tribute to the hip-hop soul queen. Junior diva Beyoncé Knowles, urban music (and now style) mogul Puffy Combs, and stylist Misa Hylton-Brim were present to see their friend get her props.

“I think she’s changed fashion,” said Hylton-Brim, Blige’s longtime friend and stylist, who’s also devised looks for Lil’ Kim and Eve. “Her realness makes her.”

That’s an understatement. Blige was the first to forthrightly proclaim her couture-to-street style as “ghetto fabulous,” consistently appearing in full makeup and outrageous hairstyles that mirrored the looks of inner-city girls.

Despite her new secure demeanor, Blige remains true to her fierce, flamboyant image. Her sleek cropped hair—back to its signature sunny blond—was set off by a short wide-knit caftan and knee-high stiletto boots. Shouting out Beyoncé, she underscored the more sordid side of her reign. “For 10 years I have been what everybody else wanted me to be,” said Blige. “Now I’m finally being what I want to be.”

Miguel Adrover is back. Despite a highly publicized parting of ways with could-have-been-fashion-conglomerate the Pegasus Apparel Group, the Majorcan-born women’s-wear designer is pouring his savings into a September 21 show for fall fashion week. According to Jennifer Hoffmann, a spokesperson from his studio, the cash-strapped label is unsure if it will actually be able to produce what’s shown. “Who knows what will happen?” said Hoffmann. “We’re just moving ahead.”

Lauded as a genius when he debuted two years ago, Adrover’s last two collections were not big hits. The heavy use of Islamic patterns in a collection that showed just before 9-11 was quietly swept under the carpet by the press. A previous collection that referenced such “empowering” Arabic garments as chadors and veils scored even less points. “Just like the fun outfits the women of Afghanistan, who aren’t allowed to hold jobs or go to school, get to wear,” wrote Voice fashion editor Lynn Yaeger.

“People pay more attention to the theme than to the clothes,” said Adrover, who says he was inspired by his travels in Egypt. With his new show—to be dedicated to the city of New York—scheduled less than two weeks after the anniversary of the WTC tragedy, will Adrover return to the center of controversy? “I try to reflect the world and the society that we live in, and a lot of it is controversial, isn’t it?”

Formerly the domain of Channel 13-pledging housewives, old-school tote bags have not only been spotted on the arms of Williamsburg emo rockers but also on the shoulders of DJs like Spencer Product and Ulysses, who sport the staple versions handed out at the Strand bookstore. Predictably, Chelsea queens have caught wind of the trend, rocking upmarket versions hawked at Union and Barneys Co-op.

“You can just pile stuff into them and lug them around,” said Stephen Ellwood, designer of the Brooklyn-based T-shirt label This Is Not a Love Song.

The totes are so basic and practical they might buck the nellyness formerly associated with men who carry bags. Let’s face it: What else is going to hold urban essentials like the Palm, the cellie, and the iPod in one easy-to-access place?

SPOTTED: Soul singer Maxwell jogging on the sun-kissed West Side Highway in sweats and sunglasses, “clearly trying to burn off some fat,” Fly Life’s source reports . . . Sean “P-Diddy” Combs taking in a weekend movie at the ever busy Union Square UA Cinema, you know, just trying to keep it on the d.l. . . . Freaky-deaky designer Claude Sabbah, climbing into a cab and flashing a gold-toothed smile to the legions that were locked out of his party at the old Factory space in Murray Hill . . . Beck, in town for his Lincoln Center gig, at the Apollo Theater checking out Mary J. Blige . . . Party monster Macaulay Culkin, sporting an ironic vintage tee, leaving the Strokes‘ post-gig party at Lit. Oh, how he’s grown into a proper downtown hipster!


Electro to NY: We’re Not Tired!

W.I.T.’s Melissa Burns flanks the pages of Billboard and Interview. Casey Spooner and Soviet get even bigger acclaim with spreads in Spin and The Face. But is the trendy electro scene, that Brooklyn-based movement hinged on heavy referencing of ’80s Euro-pop, over?

Fly Life considered this at the Hole last Thursday, where a live show was being staged by—performance artist? musician? we’re not sure—Phiiliip. While the party was cool—Spencer Sweeney, in Kiss makeup, spinning ’80s funk and r&b; plenty of cute, arty boys—we were horrified to witness Phiiliip screaming epithets over a looped breakbeat track. The poor boy could not carry a tune.

“It’s becoming like a clown circus,” said an electro insider who wished to remain anonymous.

Granted, in the DIY concept-driven ethos of the electroclash scene, winking artifice is much more important than staying in key, or even actual singing—the W.I.T. girls have no qualms about lip-synching onstage. And while we get the coy dis of pop moppets like Britney and Christina, how much better are W.I.T.’s Melissa, Danielle, and Christine if them bitches can’t sing either?

“It won’t go very far if there’s nothing to back it up,” said photographer Ryan McGinley, who documents the electro scene. Still, he endorses artists like W.I.T. “They’re awesome.”

According to scene queen Sofia Lamar, criticism is inevitable in a town where people are frantic to declare a trend’s expiration date. “Some people are like, ‘Electroclash is horrible, but the Strokes are wonderful!’ Gimme a break. I think they sound OK, but everybody likes the Strokes because they’re cute.”

For Spencer Product, business partner of electroclash ringmaster Larry Tee and co-promoter of the electro night Berliniamsburg, the genre is serious about creating a new homegrown culture in NYC. “Personally, if people have a bad taste in their mouth, then so be it. We’re doing something we all love,” said Product. “I feel like, ‘OK, then show me something different.’ ”

Lamar, by the way, just appeared as an extra (playing herself—10 years ago) in the recently wrapped Party Monster, the star-packed retelling of the days of Disco 2000 and its infamous promoter, Michael Alig.

She reports that the club-kid costuming was startlingly accurate. “It was scary. When I saw Macaulay [Culkin] as Michael, he looked just like him. I received a letter from Michael this week. He said, ‘I’m glad that you were in the movie. I thought they were gonna use fake club kids.’ ”

Lamar enjoyed working on the set—younger stars like funnyman Seth Green, who plays Disco Bloodbath author and estranged Alig confidant James St. James, would hang out with the old-school club kids playing themselves in the film. “Seth was really nice,” recounts Lamar. “He insisted on hanging out and learning about what those days were like.”

Did the beauteous nightlife fixture have fond memories of back in the day?

“Actually, ‘back in the day’ was kind of gross,” said Lamar. “People were on so many drugs, they were like zombies.”

Somewhere in Red Hook, the cops were threatening to stand in the way of art—as well as the scenesters drinking on the street. It was the high-profile opening of photographer-documentarian Jamel Shabazz‘s “New York Underground” exhibit at the Secret Gallery, which focuses exclusively on his subway portraiture, and hip-hop art heads were clamoring for autographs from the author of Back in the Day, his recent collection of stylish teen portraits from the nascent era of Bronx hip-hop.

Fab 5 Freddy was among the onlookers. How did the former Yo! MTV Raps host feel about hip-hop’s rejiggering of society? “I was happy to have been a part of it,” said Freddy, who’s been busy writing screenplays and contributing articles to magazines like Vibe.

Although his work has become a source for idea-hungry stylists, Shabazz’s subject matter was anything but glamorous. “I saw a troubling world,” said Shabazz of his photos of black and Latino New Yorkers riding the subway. “I felt the need to go out and talk to these people.”

SPOTTED: Queen Latifah chilling with an entourage of girlfriends, including singer Blu Cantrell—hit ’em up style, girl!—at Lovergirl, the popular black and Latina dyke party . . . Sex and the City‘s Cynthia Nixon walking on Seventh Avenue in shades and a bandanna top with a pal—she looked better dressed down in real life than on this season’s dismal round of episodes!


Slags and Hags Invade NYC!

Best way to pimp a book to the young’uns? Pile a bunch of hot British babes—including newly svelte designer Alexander McQueen—into the dusty old National Arts Club for Mick Rock‘s fete for his David Bowie photo tome Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust. Among the stateside scenesters: party promoter-Blahnik addict Patrick Duffy; couture quartet As Four; silicone valley girl Amanda Lepore; transy Interview fashion director Joanna Jacovini with Heatherette designers Richie Rich and Traver Rains; ever-dandy dandy Patrick McDonald; upstart designers Liz Collins and Gary Graham; electro bandwagon chaser turned L’Uomo-Vogue model Phiiliip; and Chloë Sevigny, decked out in an interesting choice of lederhosen, giggling with comedian Jimmy Fallon.

Sashaying past the literary hall’s chiding signs (“Do not lean against the walls!” and “Smokers, please use ashtrays”) were models Shalom Harlow and Sophie Dahl. While not nearly as mutated as the sepulchral Christina Ricci, the faster, sleeker Dahl has gotten her share of attention from her new bod, and she’s sick of it.

The British tabs practically use Dahl for toilet paper—the 3AM girls refer to the doll-faced mannequin as a “slag,” ” ‘super’ model,” and “loser.” “It’s gotten to a stage where it’s really tiresome,” said Dahl. “I was 18 when I started modeling. [My body] was going to change.”

The granddaughter of Willy Wonka creator Roald Dahl just wrote a book, The Man With the Dancing Eyes.

“It’s not a Barbara Cartland novel,” said Dahl, referring to the sappy British romance queen who makes Danielle Steele look like Jane Austen. A relief. But for her sake it better be a halfway decent read or they’ll start calling her The Little Pretender.

Notorious for not performing in the U.S., West London broken-beat impresario and 4HERO frontman Dego played for a relatively small crowd of future-soul heads at Shine on July 24, including Triple 5 Soul founder Camella Ehlke and fellow dance producer King Britt.

The man behind the Winter Music Conference hit “Hold It Down” is a close contemporary of the Philly-based cabal of neo-soul artists. His name can be found in the album liner notes of everyone from Jill Scott to the Roots to Ursula Rucker. Although he’s still an underground dance music phenomenon, Dego doesn’t seem to be bothered that major labels and critics can’t get their heads around broken beat.

“It’s disappointing and to be expected,” he told Fly Life. “I mean, Americans often think the world starts in New York and ends in L.A. It’s them that are missing out, or just waiting for Timbaland to sample it!”

All these British celebs bring me back to the life of early-’90s London r&b posse Soul II Soul, and its bevy of erstwhile street divas—but damn, how hard some of them fell! Caron Wheeler, Victoria Wilson-James, and Kym Mazelle have all faded in and out of the music scene, and Doreen Waddell was tragically killed in a car accident this past March while running away from security guards who caught her shoplifting from a West End supermarket.

Lamya is vowing not to go the route of her less fortunate Soul II Soul sisters. Ever since the Omani-descended singer’s Learning From Falling dropped, she’s been securing her popularity with all of New York fagdom, first by performing at Victor Calderone‘s Masquerade party over Gay Pride weekend, and most recently at Trace magazine’s July 30 party for their fall issue—stylist Patti Wilson gave the songstress a Donna Summer-esque look for the cover.

Will the critics hold the S2S curse against her? “I’m sure they’ll all hate me next year,” she lamented. “I’ll have fun while it lasts!”

SPOTTED: Loony photog Dah Len hanging with model Selita Ebanks at the Trace party at Angel Orensanz Foundation . . . singer N’dea Davenport, appearing incog-negro in a bowler hat at the one-year anniversary party for Sistahs Harlem NY designers Carmen Webber and Shawna McBean at Negril . . . Nicky Hilton noshing on a burger while reading Toby Young‘s How to Lose Friends and Alienate People at the Union Square Cosí . . . and—more Brits!—Vivienne Westwood at the after-party for the final performance of Alan Cumming‘s ELLE at the Hudson Library Bar, along with Bazaar editor Glenda Bailey, writer Brian Keith Jackson, designers John Bartlett and Cynthia Rowley, and Monica Lewinsky (looking good!).


Got to Be Startin’ Somethin’

He’s the international symbol of conflicting values and a walking testament to the perils of plastic surgery, but people still love them some Michael Jackson.

I discovered this fact at the rally outside the Sony Building on Madison and 59th Street, where the Michael Jackson Fan Club had organized a protest. “We believe that Sony Music is purposely sabotaging Invincible,” they wrote in a statement, outlining how the label was limiting distribution and cutting off promotion of the aging pop dowager’s latest release.

A pack of mostly teens and middle-aged black mothers screamed from a corral as a fan club official spit out slogans from a megaphone for them to chant in chorus. “Down with Tommy Mottola!” he yelled. “Say it loud for when Mr. Jackson comes up the street in that bus!” Jackson was going to roll by in a double-decker to show his support; tons of passersby were waiting for a chance to see him.

“I think there’s going to be a revolution in how artists are treated,” said Deanna, a girl holding a “Sony Sucks” sign. “The labels don’t give them any respect.”

“It’s terrible,” said Marie, a woman who had come with her sisters and children. “He’s worked so hard for them for so many years and now they’re sweeping the carpet out from under him.”

A bus drove up the block with Jackson standing and waving from the upper level, bangs and sunglasses obscuring his sepulchral, china-white face. The crowd stampeded toward him, screaming. Jackson reached down to grab a sign that read, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” holding it up and pointing to a fang-toothed photo of Tommy Mottola.

It was a startling break from the constant distance he’s maintained with his fans. He even showed up at the Webster Hall after-party held by the fan club, where local black youth dance troupes and Michael Jackson impersonators praised the Gloved One with onstage performances of his past hits.

E’Casanova, an impersonator who’s appeared on VH1, crooned a wrenchingly melodramatic devotional ballad before segueing into a rap poem: “He surpassed their heroes, and they’re jealous/They never thought a black man could beat Elvis!” The King of Pop pumped his fist and blew kisses to him in approval.

As the crowd shouted “Sony Sucks!” Michael came onstage accompanied by a phalanx of bodyguards to accept an award from the fan club. “I don’t have much more to say about [Sony],” he said, as he held up a sign telling Mottola to go back to hell. “This says it all.”

Some freaks don’t have to be the unfortunate victims of bad nose jobs and melanin deficiencies to get love. At the Black & White on July 10, Moby surprised a roomful of people when he splashed a drink in the face of a loudmouthed girl. The looks of horror dissipated when partygoers realized that the culprit was, after all, Señor Moby, and they laughed it off as if it had been part of some good-natured prank. Must be nice to have carte blanche to dispense with all class and have people applaud you for it.

Nothing—not even premature labor—can stop Kimora Lee Simmons from scoring a magazine cover. The Baby Phat top cat has been laid up in the maternity ward, her second daughter on her way a full two months early, but she practically jumped out of her hospital bed to shoot the cover of Fit Pregnancy magazine.

At 450 Studios on July 2, she pondered meditation while a stylist jerked up a zipper on her dress. “Is it ‘still the breath and mind the body’?” she called to husband Russell Simmons.

“It’s ‘still the body and watch the breath,’ ” he corrected.

“I have to call my guru to make sure.”

“I really wanted to do [the shoot] so I brought my nurse with me,” said Kimora, caressing her ever sloping girth. “There’s a baby bag packed in the car should it pop, but we’re hoping it won’t come until October.”

The July 11 Women’s Wear Daily reports that the new Baby Phat campaign shot by photographer Terry Richardson will be out this Friday, with Devon Aoki rocking the line’s new Asian-inspired fall collection; WWD also mentions the impending opening of a Baby Phat shop once Simmons gives birth.

Apparently the pains of labor for an urban fashion queen don’t preclude high heels. Simmons had brought six pairs of four-inch Manolo Blahnik stilettos to wear for the shoot, traipsing around in them like they were tennis shoes. “I’ll deliver in my Manolos,” she said.