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Culture

Real-time vanity modeling damage

Everyone's a critic, especially around the DuBaud household.

    Everyone's a critic, especially around the DuBaud household. Dinnertime conversation often resembles some nightmarish cross between Firing Line and Media Grok, and boy did I catch hell over last week's Alexscape column.

    "Dad, what's this about not seeing the connection between Hollywood and the New York Times?" demanded my media-savvy 12-year-old son, Vermel. "Are you getting soft in the head?"

    "News is entertainment," chimed in Vermel's precocious gay friend, Jai Pegue. "Entertainment is news. Anybody who doesn't know that by now must be living under a rock."

    Vermel's girlfriend, Ammonia Blossom, patted my knee consolingly and asked me to pass the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

    Duly humbled, I was hesitant to participate in the after-dinner discussion, in which my three young companions circled around the latest issue of the New York Times fall fashion pull-out. The center of this postprandial feeding frenzy featured Java pioneer and Marimba CEO Kim Polese in an Anne Klein photo spread, with fellow moonlighting models Reba McEntire and Lisa Leslie. The caption: "Anne Klein celebrates significant women."

    "It's a breakthrough for geeks," pronounced Vermel. "It has definitively shattered the stereotype of the sexless but sex-crazed male nerd with acne and flab."

    I elected not to take this comment personally, and kept my peace.

    "It's a disgrace to feminism," countered Ammonia. "Why doesn't she work on taking her company instead of her face public?"

    "She is flawless!" opined Jai, who then modified his statement to note that she was wearing just a shade too much blush.

    Vermel turned to Ammonia and inquired what her problem was. Ammonia answered that Polese was trivializing the status she'd achieved by stooping to a traditionally passive, female role as a sex object and clothes hanger.

    Well, at least she got paid, I was tempted to interject. Polese received a $1,000 honorarium for the job, which she donated to an unspecified charity. She kept the $1,000 Anne Klein gift certificate, however, and bought herself a scarf.

    "And besides, she's just not that pretty," Ammonia added, a trifle snottily.

    "Ammonia!" I protested, unable to contain myself any longer. "What kind of thing is that for a feminist to say?"

    "I wouldn't say that about a CEO," retorted Ammonia. "But I would say it about a model."

    "I think you guys are missing the point," I suggested, pouring myself another Laphroaig. "The caption here says 'Anne Klein celebrates significant women.' Why shouldn't Polese stand up and be counted as a significant woman?"

    "By a clothing designer?" replied Ammonia. "Does Hugo Boss celebrate significant men? No, he celebrates beautiful blockheads. That's what fashion models are supposed to be, and why Polese wants to dabble in that line of work is completely beyond me."

    From there I let the youngsters continue to rip the magazine to shreds, literally and figuratively, until all that was left of the significant women was a significant pile of confetti.

    I thought Ammonia was a little hard on Anne, Kim, and the rest. After all, the valley has survived worse displays of techno-executive vanity, one of which our friends at Upside lampooned to great effect before they started emulating it.

    And the valley faces even worse trials ahead, now that we have to contend with the prospect of Breakfast Club star Anthony Michael Hall portraying Bill Gates on TV.

    I don't know quite what to make of this convergence of info and tainment, geeks and glamor. I mean, what's in it for me? I've lost a few pounds since I complained in these pages about my chronic "InterButt"--but for some reason I still don't think Hugo Boss is going to come calling, and not just because I'm not moronic enough. Judging by the tenor of the DuBaud household these days, I think that, by keeping my face out of the papers, I can avoid some significant headaches.

    If you're Hugo Boss, make me an offer and I'll think it over. If you're not, send me a rumor!