When I was five I stood in the rain waiting for Queen Elizabeth. I was expecting Liz Taylor dripping in diamonds when a middle-aged lady wearing a hat like a window cleaner’s bucket drove past. She wasn’t even in a Rolls Royce. "Wave at the Queen!" Mummy said. And I did, though my wave was more international salute than royal flutter.
Fast forward to me as a crazy teen, running away from home for the first time. My cousin, gay as a summer’s day, smuggled me into Balmoral Castle, where he was working as one of QEII’s servants, serving stodgy food six times a day.
It’s not hard to see why camp-as-a-cracker Diana became anorexic in this atmosphere. Flabby folk crawling around the tartan rugs with corgis had me reaching for the puke bucket, and I'm not a bulimic—I lack the commitment for it.
I made up my mind there and then that when I could afford servants they would be deaf-mute eunuchs. Gossip about the royal family, usually from people paid to wipe their brown bits, reminds you why it’s best to go to the toilet without a reliable witness.
The nuns warned me I’d never have a "real" job if I couldn’t make it to the end of class, but those crucifixion chicks were confusing me with somebody who wants to get up in the morning for bores and chores. A job, real or imaginary, wouldn’t leave me time for my secret vice.
It’s best done in private but can be done in public. It’s not illegal—yet—but provokes hostility in people who don’t share the addiction. In England, the birthplace of literature, reading is treated like doing a jobbie—ugly but necessary when your auntie gives you a book token or a colonics voucher.
My dad agreed with Chairman Mao when he said, "Reading ruins you, really ruins you." But the Chinese midget stayed in bed all day reading, occasionally interrupting his book to order an execution or a hot chick. Meanwhile, Mom couldn’t stand dust, so books were banned in our house, apart from the shelf of fake leather ones with hollow insides. It’s creepy enough that your parents fucked to make you without having to live with their totally tragic taste as well.
It was always dark when I escaped to the library, eyes peeled for Pete the Pedo. The library smelled sexy but I was normally asked to leave by the librarian, who had a man at her nose but no sign of one anywhere else. I had to hide under a big plant when I wanted to read something from the adult section.
Characters seduce me more than plot. I would fantasize about being one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heroines, like Jordan Baker, who cheats at golf, and I’d prefer her to play poker. I got a dark-angel bob after reading Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks, who said, "If I ever bore you it will be with a knife."
The Olympics follow me like a stalker poo that won’t flush, and now everyone’s trying to sell me a bum, even though I have one already.
First you starve your ass off, then have a surgeon add some fat to look less Manga cartoon and more Italian movie star on speed. The budget version is a blow-up bum from Chinatown and it sounds like a dying trumpet when you sit on it. Best not worn with the fake chest, as my model friend, crazy Keiko, discovered when she slithered off the Experimental Cocktail Club’s bar stool and her safer-than-Silicone plastic jugs jumped out.
It’s a shame big handbags aren’t in, or she could have discreetly stashed her chest until closing time. I could say she’s out of control after two martinis, but the truth is she’s mad as my mom’s wig even when she’s on the dandelion tea. Modeling is so brain-damagingly boring that it’s an asset to be shallow and stupid. Crazy Keiko doesn’t have to be the smartest banana in the bunch to figure out how to throw up her calories in a toilet—or not bother eating in the first place.
The first time my suitcase was stolen I was in a love triangle with Johnny Rotten and David Bowie. Despite my Ziggy Stardust haircut, it had been over with David since my 8th birthday. Rotten Red was a similar but more exciting shade of scarlet, or so it seemed that day as we came out of the airport in Spain and I saw an old guy with osteoporosis escaping with my suitcase.
Immediately I started fantasizing that if my clean knickers went missing I’d be sent home and wouldn’t have to suffer another family holiday. A mini-break with Gang of Four—Mummy, Daddy, and their two drunk doppelgangers—was just what I didn’t need. But it was illegal to leave me home alone and Mummy couldn’t risk being arrested again. Honor your father and mother unless they are total cunts wearing embarrassing loungewear.
As my suitcase was disappearing into the backside of the hunchback’s car, I remembered my faux Vivienne Westwood trash-bag swimsuit was inside and screamed "Stop, thief!" like they do in Oliver Twist. Mummy lunged at him with the sharp end of her Manolos while my dad took a bite out of his hairy ear.
Imagine the embarrassment when it turned out he was our driver and none too pleased about being beaten and eaten. Mummy doesn’t need the Spanish police after her as well, and Daddy has an obsessive fear of being gang-raped in prison. You couldn’t make that creepy couple up. If they were characters in a novel I’d be accused of exaggerating for grotesque comic effect.
Aunt Irene the Slut was my first dead glamorous role model. She ran away to New York to lead a Valley of the Dolls existence, occasionally coming home to London for a bit of detox. Mixing an extra dry martini for breakfast, she'd whisper seductively, "If you want to keep your looks, Vivs, drink vodka."
Irene walked the tightrope between a good death and a bad end when a garbage truck reversed into her while stuck in a traffic jam between Fifth and Madison. She had just posted a birthday card to me with this message in Schiaparelli pink ink: "You can drink and take drugs, but not at the same time."
Happiness writes white, whereas silent Rothko red is the shade of suicide. Besides, deaths are easier to remember than birthdays, and a bad end is sexier than dying in your sleep. Suicide is a blind date with a dark stranger, a way of shouting Cut! when you’re still young, thin or fabulous.
Sylvia Plath’s poetry is good, but her dark demise said more than her platinum summer. Her death was "a kind of pornography, at once exciting and unreal," to quote Al Alvarez. He was the last man to whiff Plath’s hair as she ascended the stairs ahead of him a few days before she put her head in a greasy English oven.
My love affair with China began before the Middle Kingdom was the most fashionable place on the planet, when I begged my mother to bandage my feet. Mummy didn’t want me having the biggest boats in Louboutin boots so she wrapped them in tight bandages at bedtime. If only she had mummified my entire body; I would have stayed size zero.
So I grew up with Cinderella feet, married a spy, went to live in Beijing, and got poked in my 32E chest with chopsticks by a man who wanted me to star in a porn movie about a very white lady and a wooden bed.
Every time I go to Beijing it’s different. In Paris or Venice, the city stays the same; it’s me who changes. But Beijing transforms in the time it takes to make a restaurant reservation and down a plate of deep-fried donkey cock. I’m a tourist, not a traveler. I want glamour and luxury, not an authentic experience with a cockroach on a third-class train. And the Northern Capital is material-girl heaven full of designer stores at third-world prices.
Never has there been as fat a lie as the one about beauty being on the inside. Unless it’s the one about fashion magazines making their readers anorexic. Glossies don’t start trends, they follow them. And someone at Conde Nast has a sense of humor, judging by the funny-lookin’ ladies they’ve been hiring since last century. Diana Vreeland offset her unconventional appearance by playing up her eccentricity, while Anna Wintour's crash-helmet bob is more iconic than a Disney character. And what of her addiction to Chanel, which makes everyone look like a frosted cupcake? Tina Brown was allowed to keep her nose, but she’s intelligent and from England, where nobody cares what they look like.
Everyone knows that fashion magazines are about the pictures, but every now and then they get intellectual and fall flat on their liposuctioned asses. The dialogue they're aiming for is not so much with the reader as with each other. No sooner had US Vogue profiled the bland, blonde wife of Syrian President Assad, the tyrant going after the Devil of the Desert trophy once reserved for Muammar Gaddafi, than UK Vogue hitched a ride on the camel with a piece about Libya that’s about as interesting as a plate of undercooked falafel. Libyan women wore make-up while civil war raged in Tripoli? You don't say.
Fashion victims will try anything twice, but dressing up as the fat fool with the sleigh needs to be stopped. As we like to say, it isn’t sexy enough for Soho, where, incidentally, a gang of Santas ran amok on Saturday night, scaring the Chinese pimps and their skinny ho's.
Icons are people you want to be or want to fuck. But while Iggy Pop proves you can survive a lifetime of bad-hair days and still be considered cool, the white wig just isn’t working for creepy Claus, the least fashionable guy on the planet.
There have been attempts to make Santa Baby sexy, but they haven’t worked. Love the song, but don’t get me started on the red suit, which could walk around by itself, considering the number of times it’s been rented.
There are millions of things that I want. The diamond-encrusted, gold-hardware Hermès Birkin bag that sold for $203,150 this week—the highest price ever paid for a handbag at public auction (in Dallas, where else?)—is not one of them.
Diamonds are a bit last century. A flat stomach and property portfolio are a girl’s new BFs. And carting an Hermès around really old-ladies up a look. Since I'm not an old bag, I can be separated from my anti-aging serum when it doesn’t fit in my pocket.
It’s hard to get excited about designer handbags when my mother was the original Kelly junkie, back when Victoria Beckham was still chunky. My head bobbed at just the right height to get conked by her alligator Birkin when I was five and couldn’t fight back. Mummy looked more Tippi Hedren than Grace Kelly, though nobody knew who Tip was at the time because Sienna Miller hadn’t yet been signed to play her in the Hitchcock stalker drama.
Muggers in sexy Soho pick on people who look like they deserve it, so the no-handbag thing works for me. Mr. Lash is my cash-carrying, to-live-for accessory. And when Mummy goes, and I hope that won’t be much longer, we will throw her in the grave with Granny and eBay all her old bags.