Thursday, January 17, 2013

Betsey Does Betsey

When Fern Mallis told us at the beginning of the night that we were about to see a “roller coaster of a conversation”, she was NOT kidding! In fact, describing the conversation she was about to have with the “trailblazing” Betsey Johnson as a “rollercoaster” was putting it quite tamely.

The moment Betsey took the stage at the 92Y in upper Manhattan, it was clear this was going to be HER show. Emerged from the wings one big “Bubble-Yum” of a figure: pink tutu, pink high-tops, and pink checkered hat; carrying a bouquet of almost radioactively enhanced pink roses. “It’s $5,000 a shot to look this cheap,” Betsey explained (in true Leo form) of her lionesque appearance.

Betsey didn’t even give it a second thought before she performed her infamous cartwheel into a full-blown split. Erupting in applause was the only thing we could do in response. Wow.

From that moment forward, the evening did not pause. After reviewing my practically illegible notes, I had difficulty coming up with a consistent thread from the evening. Then I thought to myself, “What am I doing?? Why on earth would I even try to make sense of the circus I just saw??” So I decided to take a page from the “consistently inconsistent” and just share my favorite highlights and the brilliant zingers (there were many) that could only come from the erratic mind of Betsey Johnson.

Fern Mallis sat down with outrageous designer Betsey Johnson as part of her "Fashion Icons" series at the 92Y on Wednesday, January 16th 2013. Photo Credit: 92Y


Dancing Queen

“What about dance appealed to you?” Mallis asked Betsy about her childhood. “The escape” she responded. “[My dance teacher] gave me escape, fantasy, and makeup!”

There were many instances throughout the night where the dancer in her (and at times toddler behavior) took over, causing Betsey to jump right out of her chair. During the very first questions, Betsey began a mini strip tease in which she began peeling off portions of her ensemble and piling them in a heap on the floor next to her chair. “I’m afraid to see what comes off next!” Mallis joked.

Halfway through the next set of questions, Betsey stood straight up and began what looked to be an aerobics routine. “Anybody gotta get up and stretch?” she excitedly asked the audience. A quick “No. Sit down for a minute” from Mallis got her back on track. Well, for at least another minute or two.

Collaboration Place For Nutcases

Betsey’s eclectic taste and individualistic attitude first started to blossom when she visited London while working for Mademoiselle Magazine. There she was exposed to the fashion that was taking form at that time. “I connected to that kind of fashion. It was primitive, basic, flat pattern, primal, kindergarten clothing...” “It was then that I realized that the fashion world was what I wanted to get into.” And get into the fashion world she did. She made many notorious and eccentric new friends, from Andy Warhol and Edie Cedric to Lou Reid, who said she could “cut a really good crotch.”

Photo Credit: Dustin Enrique Larsen

Future’s Looking Bright

“In the future everybody will be world famous for fifteen minutes.” When Andy Warhol spoke those words, he must have known that his good friend would help it come to pass by joining the ranks of reality TV.

Betsey and daughter Lulu met with multiple networks about creating their own show and ended up getting bids from five of them. “I can’t cook and I can’t be a housewife, so that cut out Food Network. I really hoped it would be Style Network.” Luckily for her, that wish came true. The Betsey & Lulu Show, which will premiere on the Style Network in March or April, will be the next chapter in Betsey’s life.  It will be a glimpse into the crazy lives of her and her daughter. “I think it’s a comedy…” she joked.

I Have All The Initials. ADD, XYZ…

The evening wrapped up with a Q&A session, but since this was Betsey Johnson, it COULDN’T be just a NORMAL Q&A. Mid-question, a woman stood up with a video camera and yelled “I just wanted to let you all know the Topless Shock Syndrome is coming…Thank you…” She then panned the room, revealing that she was in fact topless. Amid the confused murmurs, Betsey applauded the woman and exclaimed “I thought you were topless over there! Good for you!”

Continuing the role of ringmaster, Mallis brought the circus back to order. “What advice do you have for new, or old, designers that are out there tonight?” Mallis asked as one of  the final questions. “Kick Ass!” she exclaimed as she stood up and Tae Bo’d the air. “Just keep on kicking!”

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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