We believe in abroad (part 1)

To London and Back Home in Fashion

Boys and girls – London is calling. This May, the city is set to host The Bingham Cup, an international gay, lesbian and bisexual amateur rugby tournament named in memory of 9/11 hero and rugby enthusiast Mark Kendall. The organizers hope it will “help break down the barriers of prejudice and discrimination found in present day sports.” Thousands of international players and spectators are expected – do we hear gay pubs crawling with athletic hotties? Pack your balls, your bags, and let the games begin.

We recently skipped across the pond and thanked God for upgrades to Virgin Atlantic’s super hip Upper Class. Before take off, Phillip Seymour Hoffman sauntered into the lounge, stroller in hand. He later impressed us with his nonplussed attitude during turbulence – while we grasped onto our seats and drinks with white knuckles at the onboard bar, he was casually spreading cream cheese on a bagel. When not smooching his baby, he was tucked into his sleeper pod watching “Spellbound.” We kept watch from our beds, yes, beds, while luxuriating on four course meals, on-demand movies and massage. We quickly pocketed the hot water bottle, European skin care products, and other items from our gift bags on an airplane better than most parties we’ e attended. When we flashed our Casio Exilim, an adorable cabin purser offered to hop into our bed for a photo, adding “but then we’ll never get out.” That’s service. We love you, Richard Branson.

You’ll love the incredible array of London food hotspots. All clothes horses gallop to Momo at Selfridges Department Store for savory chicken cous cous and savory lovely boys manning the Gucci, Burberry, Dolce &Gabana and McCartney outposts. Bridget Jone’s Diary fans head to Bermondsey St. in the heart of her hood and drop by Zandra Rhodes’s new Fashion and Textile Museum. Don’t leave without stopping at next door’s The Garrison Public House, one of the city’s best gastropubs (think local pub with amazing gourmet food). Make sure to order the sticky toffee pudding and ask the hot owner about his antiques expertise. Hugh Grant lovers, catch a tour of Notting Hill, grab a cupcake at Tarek Malouf’s Hummingbird Bakery on Portobello Rd., and drop into Tom Conran’s The Cow for delish crabcakes, prawns and a pint.

Imbibe some culture at the Saatchi Gallery, where you’ll find Sarah Lucas’s “Chair, Vest, Pants, Meat.” Imagine – chair dressed in wife beater, briefs, and a generous protruding package. The curators refer to it as “unladylike sexual innuendo used to confront sexual stereotypes.” Sorry to stereotype, but we know quite a few unladylike “ladies” who’d like to sit on this work of art.

If your tastes are posh and ladylike, and your wallet allows, visit Nahm at the very chic Halkin Hotel, for an unforgettable multi-course Thai experience. Also, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s lovely new comfort food spot The Boxwood at The Berkeley. There’s The Wolseley, with it’s lux combo of Viennese café and brasserie – fitting, as the rude waiters had us feeling as if we were in Paris. Be prepared to pay a £2 cover charge for use of the linen tablecloths and flatware they remove before you’ve had a chance to finish.

If trendy is more your style, book yourself into the new Malmaison in Clerkenwell and hangout with international DJs staying over for gigs at local clubs Heaven and Turnmills. Find yourself missing the East Village? Tube over to Brick Lane, home to artists Tracey Emins, Gilbert & George, and the city’s Bengali community (a curry queen’s dream). We stopped for tea and almond sticks at Café 1001 with actress Ann Magnuson. She thought it resembled NYU hangout Dojo, joking that Marilyn Manson had interviewed her there in his geek fanzine reporter days.

We had to take in the wildly acclaimed “Jerry Springer-The Opera,” soon to hit Broadway. You’ll be pleased to know that in Springer’s heaven, angels are she-males. But the mostly tourist rear orchestra section wasn’t laughing too heartily at the trailer trash anti-American jokes. When the tap dancing finale arrived, we were squirming in our seats, and Magnuson remarked, “The only difference between the opera and the TV show is that you can’t change the channel.” We left London saying thanks to the Metropolitan Hotel and the Upper Class upgrades on our return VA flight.

No such love from Jamison Ernest, who launched his Yellow Fever clothing collection on closing night of Fashion Week in Tribeca. The show began with a video presentation assembled by Vito Schnabel, which had VA’s Branson getting a pie in the face. Perhaps inspired by “Jackass”’s Johnny Knoxville, who was part of an audience including Jason Lewis, Bridget Hall, Terry Richardson, Vincent Gallo, Elizabeth Jagger, Francesca Versace (Gianni’s niece, flown in from London to style the show), and front row goombas right out of “The Sopranos.”

As for the clothes, think Canal jeans in the 80s, splattered with paint. The show managed to score Fashion Week’s gayest moment when two male models came to blows on the runway and proceeded to engage in a full-out bump and grind make out session. Up at the Bryant Park tents we cornered Andre Leon Talley. He requested “let me rest,” adding “you need to pace yourself” as he took a few private minutes before reassembling his accoutrement — a huge broadtail coat on his 7 foot frame and a sable shawl probably twice as long, before waddling back out into the fashion frenzy. He was uncharacteristically quiet all week, taking seats in the back rows and dodging interviews.

We spotted publicist Peggy Siegel purposefully posing in an attempt to catch NY Times style photographer Bill Cunningham’s eye — alas, he was more interested in the almost nude models getting full body paint by MAC makeup artists. Carson Kressly attended the Badgley Mishka show, our favorite of the week. Excited, he announced, “I’m your best neighbor” to Nikki Hilton as he took a seat, sandwiched between her and socialite Cornelia Guest. He was permitted to remain for the duration of a photo op. Matt Dillon, Taye Diggs, Jimmy Fallon, Troy Garrity and Cargo’s Ariel Foxman graced the front row at John Varvatos.

At Oscar de la Renta, a publicist was caught like a deer in the headlights on the runway and nearly sat on Donald Trump’s lap as the lights rose, 70s music blared and photographers shouted complaints. Patricia Fields arrived late and stood on the aisle as the model Tiiu took a face-first dive. Imagine our surprise when stylists, editors, and socialites lifted their butts (ever so slightly) off their seats and asked if she needed assistance. The fur trim-heavy collection had Robert Verdi waxing poetic, “When able, get some sable,” like the fur-trimmed $13,000 Zang Toi leather coat he was sporting – “a generous donation to the Robert Verdi Fashion Fund.”

Security was fierce, with canine units and gun-toting police due to First Lady Laura Bush’s presence. She stopped by to promote heart disease awareness for women (which we’re sure “troubles” Georgie-pie) and a photo-op with Oscar. We cracked up when we heard Verdi joke to an officer, “all this fuss over a Bush! Nobody fusses over my bush.”

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