June 17, 2009

HOME VISIT WITH SIMON DOONAN

FROM THE NEW YORKER BY ARIEL LEVY:

JONATHON ADLER AND SIMON DOONAN



"Palatial gay fantasia" is how Simon Doonan described his apartment in Greenwich Village the other night, as he swept past two garden gnomes crouching under a bright-orange lacquered console in the foyer. "Glamorous romper room," he continued, heading toward a paisley-patterned Ping-Pong table in the living room.

"Because Johnny and I are very infantile." Nesting on bookshelves and tabletops were scores of ceramic animals designed by Doonan's spouse, the homeware baron Jonathan Adler. ("I'm just a simple potter!" Adler insisted.) A burlap bust of Napoleon was tucked into the fireplace, and about a fifth of the room was taken up by a huge black statue of a foot. "This is the antithesis of the two-room flat where I grew up," Doonan said.

Doonan's picaresque journey from ration books in Reading, England, to palatial gay fantasia is the subject of the British television show "Beautiful People," which was about to make its American d├ębut, on the Logo network. The show is adapted from Doonan's memoir "Nasty: My Family and Other Glamorous Varmints." "When the book was optioned, everyone thought I'd start flying to work in a mink-lined helicopter," Doonan said. In reality, his compensation was a bit more modest; he wouldn't say how much he was paid, but allowed that it was "better than a poke in the eye with a dirty stick."

Fortunately for Doonan, he has never depended on the material rewards of writing. Since 1985, he has had a day job as the creative director of Barneys, an arrangement that he defends passionately. "If Virginia Woolf had had two days a week at the ham counter at Harrods, she mightn't have offed herself," he said. Doonan offered his visitor a drink from a recessed bar in the wall, lined with glasses bearing skull-and-crossbones decals and labelled "Arsenic," "Strychnine," "Cyanide," and "Wood Alcohol." "We don't drink at all," Doonan said, "but we have this faux masculine-"

"It's mantique-y," Adler said, indicating the bar and a large leather hippopotamus nearby. "You are the ultimate mantique," Adler told Doonan, who, at fifty-six, is fourteen years his senior.

"Cinquante-six," Doonan said. "Ever since I passed fifty, I'm aging in French. It's more glamorous."

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