By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
By Roy Edroso
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
By Zachary D. Roberts
Picture a stage that looks like a giant clam shell, and fill it out with presenter Pat Field arriving on a barge dotted with hot slave boys and Katy Perry entering on a mutant seahorse to sing two songs, as models and mermaids flap around the runway while paparazzi of many nations click away.
No, you haven't been slipped a mickey. It's all very much "for reals" and is happening at the LIFEball, the May 16 AIDS benefit in Vienna, which will open with the above-described show, courtesy of rising New York designers Phillipe and David Blond, a/k/a the Blonds, i.e., the sort of nouveau Heatherette.
Those two are ornately interesting works unto themselves. Phillipe Rollano was born in Puerto Rico, where his father noticed he had a flair for dressing his Barbies, so he encouraged him to pursue fashion design. (Is Dad gay? "No," Phillipe told me, "but he was a hippie.") The style-savvy Puerto Rican boy ended up going to FIT, doing illustrations, and hooking up with David Trujillo, who shared his obsession with all things blond and sparkly (like, eventually, each other). David happens to be from Key West, where his mother didn't notice they were living in a gay mecca, but he certainly did, going on to design department store windows en route to his mission of bringing '80s high glamour back to the future. (The Blonds' high god is Thierry Mugler, and David feels he'd have to be hosed down if he ever got to meet him. Probably with sparkles.)
Together, the Blonds create eye-popping clothes dotted with stars, chains, and sequins for the likes of Rihanna, Madonna, Shakira, Fergie, Britney, and even some people with two names. Over Moroccan tea the other week, they treated me to a whole other bunch of blond observations and revelations.
MM: Let's start with the clichéd question about how you kids met. PB: It was on my prom night over nine years ago. I ditched my prom to go to the Roxy. I was with my best friend, whom I had dressed for the night. I put her in hoochie vinyl pants and hooker shoes. DB: Phillipe was in a sheer top with crystals all over it. I was a little tipsy, so all I remember is a sparkly fairy in the corner.
MM: Happy anniversary. But I hear you have some vicious fights, no? PB: Yeah! It's very healthy. Anytime you're doing something creative together, living together, and spending all your time together, you fight. It never bothers me, but it bothers him all the time. Just as long as I have time to get ready. DB: As long as he can do his hair. MM: Do you get off on the fights in a way? DB: You mean, sexually? PB: Well, the best part is when he pulls my hair. (Pause.) No, we never fight like that. Only on Tuesdays.
MM: Phillipe, when I first started seeing you around, you were so gorgeous I assumed you lived as a woman. DB: This is his year before he makes the transition (joking). PB: It's fun to express yourself as your vision. It's just me. I have an obsession with shoes, and I love my clothes and love wearing them. DB: He keeps his name, and he doesn't even wear drag tits. MM: But you must get hit on like crazy by married men with manboobs. DB: I notice him getting hit on a lot, and Lord knows I'm not getting hit on very much. PB: 'Cause you're usually hitting on people. But, yeah, there are always all these men from Connecticut on Facebook who like me. I read the e-mails all day and laugh.
MM: Do you boys open up your relationship via Manhunt? PB: No, we don't. Not on Manhunt anyway. (Awkward pause.) No, we usually don't discuss that. But back to the LIFEball! MM: Um, OK. Do your celebrity customers pay you for the sparkly pieces you supply? PB: Some of them pay, but sometimes it's for free. DB: Don't say that! You have to be clear. When we've already made something and they'd like to borrow it, we lend it for the publicity. But when someone wants something custom-made, they pay. Don't say, "Some people get it free because we like them." That'll start trouble. PB: Shut the fuck up. DB: Be careful when you talk about shit like that! (Pause.)
MM: Back to the LIFEball? No, wait. What do you guys think of Michelle Obama? PB: I think she's so beautiful. I'm glad she's so fashion-forward. DB: Everyone keeps calling her a black Jackie, but she's her own person. PB: She's glamorous. Trying to be. DB: Don't say that! PB: What? She's doing it! DB: If he was in charge, she'd have an 18-inch waist with a corset!
And on and on, with every topic ending with me laughing and ducking for cover. But don't be disturbed by the cross-talk. For the Blonds, it's obviously become a productive way to communicate and collaborate.
We wrapped up with a discussion of '60s starlet Julie Newmar, who told the guys she ritualistically strokes the leaves of the roses in her garden. "I love people that live in the pink-lens world," said David, misting over. I joked that I stroke my roaches, which led to yet another Blonds tussle—this time about whether they have roaches. David agreed with me that Phillipe probably sees them as sequins: "Little pailettes running across the floor . . ."