Dick Page is known for his deftness with brushes and pencils, his hilarious quotes, and his modeling debut with boyfriend James Gibbs for a Marc Jacobs campaign. Tomorrow, the make-up artist extraordinaire will reveal a new skill as he reads the letters of Madge Garland at Dixon Place theater in New York. A high-camp figure, albeit a forgotten one in fashion history, Garland edited British Vogue during the interwar period.
The reading was masterminded by Lisa Cohen, the author of All We Know, a biography of Garland as well as two other sapphic society ladies, Ester Murphy and Mercedes de Acosta, whose letters will be read by actresses.
Dick Page reading the part of a high-camp lesbian editor? We had to know more…
How did you get the gig come about?
My friend, the actress Moe Angelos, who is reading Esther Murphy, asked me to do it.
How was the training?
No training, ha! I’ve just starting reading through the script with the author Lisa Cohen and the other performers, Moe and Carmelita Tropicana.
What did you know about Madge Garland?
I knew that she’d originated from the Fashion School at the Royal College of Art, but other than that I wasn’t familiar with her work.
I heard she had quite a difficult childhood because of her ailing health.
Lisa, who adapted her book All We Know for this reading, describes Madge as having a curvature of the spine, grave trouble with her feet and ankles, and suffering from numerous allergies.
Apparently she wasn’t very good-looking either…
She was tall, thin, and slightly bucktoothed, with eyes that were a little too close together.
How were her parents?
Her mother was kind, but remote, whilst her father was a bit of a tyrant.
How influential was she as editor of British Vogue?
Madge was made fashion editor and, along with Dody Todd, the editor, she was instrumental in combining art, literature, architecture, design and fashion in one magazine.
She was also very campy. Can you share a quip?
My favorite quote expresses her feelings about athletic activity. “Sport is absolutely—ca n’existe pas. Ca n’existe pas,” she said. “If you want the damn ball, keep it, don’t throw it away.”
And she was married to a gay man…
Yes, although her life was complicated and her friendships and relationships even more so.
How come she is not well-known in the fashion world?
Many and varied reasons, chiefly that people have such short memories! Also, English Vogue was without a masthead for many years and much of Madge’s strength was her talent for bringing together various artists, writers, photographers, designers and so forth, which is hard to quantify.
Which current editor-in-chief would you liken to Madge Garland?
I don’t know if there is a contemporary version of Madge. Hamish Bowles might best fit the bill.
All We Know, $10-15, September 5, Dixon Place, 161A Chrystie Street, NYC