Ten Years Ago in ‘Spy’
Reliving one’s formative years of logrolling, short-fingered vulgarians and Separations at Birth

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October 1991

We are well into SPY’s large-print phase, where every vestige of eight-point Metro or Garamond is banished in favour of the same type held under a Nazi jeweler’s monocle. The presence of Jay Leno on the cover of this “Superfabulous 5th Anniversary Issue” (unfunnily pointing to his other hand brandishing five fingers) augurs ill.

I was not, however, disappointed.

David Geffen, “and admitted bisexual” [Who’s the Biggest Man in Hollywood?” by Fred Goodman, April]. An admitted bisexual? One does not admit one’s nonheterosexuality as one admits to a felony or a mistake. “Geffen, openly bisexual” would have avoided the negative connotation. Great gains could be made if all homosexuals were honest about their sexuality.

Name withheld
Los Angeles, California

Your point is well taken; we should have said something like “openly bisexual.” But about your last sentence: What’s so honest about withholding your name?

By the way, the absence of quotation mark after the bracket in the letter above is sic SPY, the second typographic error actually encountered.

Naked City

The tedium of transcontinental flight rankles the best of us – even musky, supersuave love man Billy Dee Williams! Not long ago the vainglorious malt-liquor spokesman was flying in style, MGM Grand Air, between New York and Los Angeles. Spotting a sometime Broadway performer, Williams, accompanied by the standard entourage, waved hello. The performer, unwilling to play the all-celebrities-are-pals game, glanced back noncommittally. This infuriated Williams, who was... punchy. He bounded over to the performer’s seat and ranted, You’re on Broadway, so you think you’re too good for me? Don’t try to pretend you don’t know me, man! You know me! Williams returned to his seat, but not for long. For the duration of the flight he periodically got up to harangue the performer along the same lines, growing more shrill with each tirade.

The Fine Print

“No, Reginald, I Believe the Proper Phrase is Here Come de Judge

Poor Republicans. As much as they might want to acknowledge that nonwhite people are full-fledged Americans, some mental block keeps interfering. Consider the difficulty Orrin Hatch, the Republican senator from Utah, encountered while trying to put whites and minorities on an equal footing on the broadcast of This Week with David Brinkley that aired the Sunday before President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court:

The good Senator proceeds to flub an Hispanic judge’s name and to blank completely on two black judges’ names.

A fascinating full-page table – “Kill Ted Bundy! But Save the Cows!” – asks “pro–family rights,” “pro-disarmament,” “anti-abortion,” “pro–capital punishment,” and a few other activist groups on the other end of the spectrum seven questions: “Would you kill: A human fetus? A death-row inmate? A brain-dead person? A soldier in conventional warfare? Innocent civilians in a nuclear war? A cow for food? A cat for a lab experiment?”

Only one group was absolutely consistent in its responses either way: The American Vegan Society. The National Coalition Against the Death Penalty did, however, refuse to answer every question save for the second.

October Datebook

6 – Last day of the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.... “With a fulltime staff of some 45 employees and an annual operating budget of several million, Founder, and President, Phyllis Patterson is leading [her staff] into a future built on the permanent re-creation of the past.” And, it seems, a permanent re-creation of medieval punctuation.

I was rather stunned to re-encounter a feature article I may never have read in the original and in any event had forgotten altogether: “Little Miss Dangerous” by John Lombardi (now managing editor of the Miami New Times), a superb profile – part memoir, part direct reportage, part verbatim transcript, even – of Lisa Lyon, the first Miss Olympia, a brainiac, a partner in vice of Schwarzenegger and Mapplethorpe, and a drug addict.

A transitional figure, then, something like Warhol – a Concorde ride between the immediate past, when culture still required content, and the elctronic present, where images are real. Placed in the position of defending her women’s bodybuilding championship, she refused, outraged a little that people failed to see the redundancy....


Our intrepid reporter, Jonathan Napack, infiltrates a venerable but scandal-ridden auction house (New York office).

When People Come to See ’Em

A Visit to Wildenstein & Co.

Finally he says, “Let’s go upstairs. I have some $10 million paintings I want to show you.” He is jesting. One of the visitors, in a similar vein, taps his jacket breast and says, “Well, I brought my che[que]book!” (He has brought his che[que]book.) The salesman becomes serious. “You should never, never do that,” he says. They take a wood-paneled elevator with a ten-foot ceiling to... the Third Floor.

The viewing room is among the strangest places the visitors have ever seen. It is dark and large; the floor is covered in dark-red wall-to-wall carpet, dark-red curtains hang before the windows, and the walls are completely covered in dark-red velvet. Four Louis Quatorze chairs, covered in the same velvet, face two stands that have been placed against a wall illuminated by small spotlights. The stands are completeley covered in dark-red velvet, too. The room is like an enormous red cuff-link box. The salesman takes the names and addresses of his visitors, saying the gallery will keep a record of everything they see (such meticulousness seems so very... Germanic). Stock boys in suits bring in paintings and drawings and rest them on the velvet stands. A little, astonishingly beautiful oil study by Rousseau is $250,000. “It’s very lovely,” the salesman says, “but I wouldn’t sell it to you. You don’t marry a girl on the first date.” He offers to show them a Corot priced at $3.5 million. “Who knows, in ten years I’ll be gone, but you may want to buy it from us.” He runs out several times in response to the beeper on his belt.

After the long presentation, the salesman asks, astonishingly, “Do you have time? I’d like to show you the fourth and fifth floors. He leads the visitors through elegant rooms hung with Miller drawings, a drawing by Fragonard, old-master drawings, a tiny Pissarro. On the fifth floor, where there are offices, the salesman takes them into a small, mirrored room whose shelves are filled with eighteenth-century terracotta figures.

One apperceives a new and sudden realization on the part of the visitors that art actually transcends.

You are here: fawny.orgTen Years Ago in SPYArchives → September 1989

Updated: 2001.11.11

See also: Interview with Alex Isley, former SPY art director