You talk like Marlene Dietrich. And you dance like Zizi Jeanmaire
Your clothes are all made by Balmain. And there′s diamonds and pearls in your hair
Peter Sarstedt “Where Do You Go To My Lovely?”
April 12, 1997
His funeral was fairly well attended, for two reasons. The first being that he was a fashion icon, the wealthiest women in the World wore his clothes and the middle class lived in his knock-offs. The royalty of Seventh Avenue were required to attend, though they had little to complain about as the tidal wave of models rather allowed them to surf the paparazzi on the sidewalk and score some very good publicity. The second reason was that he was a recluse, hadn’t been photographed since the seventies and this drew, for some eldritch reason, a crowd of curiosity seekers. Two men stood just outside the back door of the funeral home to grab a smoke. One was an older man, with the graying temples of the upper class. The other was considerably younger and his deep tan and blond hair seemed to indicate that he belonged on a California beach rather than in a Manhattan alleyway.
“How well did you know my uncle?” asked the younger man.
“Quite well,” answered the older man in a cosmopolitan accent that whispered just a bit of Italian around the edges. “We were together for a good many years.”
“You’re Giancarlo, we’ve talked on the phone a few times. I’m Joe Myers from California.”
“I recall,” said the recently discovered Giancarlo. “His sister’s son. Is she here?”
“Unfortunately, no. She has cancer and is really too sick to make the trip. I am the only family member here. His father died last year and Grandmom has Alzheimer’s.”
“Not the best set of circumstances for you, I’m sorry.”
“I get by alright. My Dad’s fine and he takes care of Mom. I recently started running the family restaurant, not that I haven’t been trained for that since I was in the crib.”
“Among other things, Dad forced me to get a business degree.
“My uncle looks a great deal older than he should, was he ill for a long time.”
“That is a question. I actually think he looks rather well for a man who died twenty years ago.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“You don’t know the story do you?
“Well the whole World will soon enough. Though I suppose that you should have a preview. His biography was written two years ago, mostly his own memories through a professional writer, with the proviso that it would not be released until he died.” Giancarlo reached inside his pocket and pulled out a card case, he took a card out and handed to Joe.
“That is the address of the brownstone. I have an advance copy of it there. If you will drop by tomorrow morning you can spent the day reading it in the study. I know you’ve talked with Marie as well, she would probably like to meet you. She was with your uncle as long as I was.”
Joe had met his uncle a few times growing up. He visited at odd times and avoided family holidays and events, as if they occasioned memories he didn’t need. Twice they had even gone surfing together when he was in high school. He found him to be very quiet, barely talking. And he never seemed to sleep. If he woke up in the middle of the night, his uncle would be sitting in the living room staring at the wall. When Joe started getting interested in cooking, his uncle had paid for Le Cordon Bleu as well as gotten him an apartment in Paris. He felt he owed a great deal to a man he barely knew. Perhaps. The next day he would finally meet his uncle.
The woman who opened the door to the brownstone literally took his breath away. An older woman; but one who had almost an ethereal quality, living, breathing women never look quite as good as she did.
“Hello Joe,” she said, “after all the years of talking on the phone it’s a pleasure to see you. Please come in, Giancarlo is waiting for us.”
He followed her into the back of the brownstone into a room that overlooked a garden. Giancarlo met him as he entered.
“Have you had breakfast?” he asked.
“At the hotel.”
“Then please sit here,” Giancarlo indicated an overstuffed chair beneath an antique floor reading lamp.
When Joe was seated, Giancarlo moved over an ottoman and handed him a paperback book with a slug on the front cover that said: ‘Advance Reading Copy’.
“The facilities are the door before this one. Marie will call you for lunch. Should you need anything pull the rope behind you. We will leave you in privacy.” Giancarlo then left and closed the door.
He settled back and prepared himself to be introduced to a legend.