My stylist, or at least the design school dropout who calls himself my stylist, has tried vainly in recent months to get me to affect the mien of a 1970’s rock promoter. “That’s your look,” he assures. “Mildly dissipated with an artful sense of showmanship but vaguely villainous.”
Most days it’s a near miss, but then I never bother with the spangled accoutrements that Chauchat (he borrowed his name from the World War I-era French machine gun) says would make my get-up au courant. Make that “Oh, currant!” which is what they put in a Kir Royale, the champagne cocktail that a 19-year-old girlfriend of mine would order to seem sufficiently sophisticated not to card. In point of fact, the main component of a Kir Royale is blackcurrant liquor or crème de cassis, which my wardrobe also resembles because the stuff stains worse than Lady MacBeth’s conscience and I’m a sloppy drunk. Also compounding my fashion woes of late is the fact that when I forget to shave for a few days and I’m in the action-figure outfit (rumpled blazer, jeans, un-pressed fitted shirt and unkempt hair) I tend to look like the kind of sleaze that cruises hotel bars for divorcées and cigarettes. Be assured those days are long behind me. Since I quit smoking again, I only go to hotel bars for breakfast and confession.
Last week, the Contessa pointed out to her unbridled horror that I hadn’t shaved prior to a black-tie American Heart Association shindig she and Jean Arnold Sessions (and a raft of other very capable people) had helped organize at the Ritz Carlton. In a pinch, I bummed a shaving kit off a porter at the Sir Francis Drake where we were staying, tipped him $20 and did a quick clean up in the mezzanine men’s room (our room was on the 11th floor and I wasn’t yet boozy enough to overcome my vertigo). I very nearly looked like a 1970s rock promoter were it not for the fact that, in my haste, I missed several spots while shaving and consequently had an archipelago of mange dotting the underside of my jowl. This I discovered while adjusting my collar while en route in the cab and feeling the grit of a three-day beard shamefully sanding my knuckles.
Unlike the Sir Francis Drake, the vastly more chichi Ritz has a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy about toiletries. I didn’t even have to ask – the kid at the front desk simply handed me a razor when I crossed the lobby – so obvious was my predicament. Shaving in my second mezzanine men’s room of the evening was a pure delight. I even made some quick edits to my sideburns just for the pure thrill of shaving with an actual blade rather than that sharpened spoon rusting away at home in the medicine cabinet. A guy in a better jacket than mine even handed me a warm towel afterward as another dressed my wounds.
The Contessa, meanwhile, was tied up working the floor so I sauntered off to the hotel bar to kill time before the gala officially kickoff. I rediscovered that champagne cocktails are the eighth through 10th wonders of the world. Their enjoyment was only slightly marred by the divorcées offering me cigarettes and commenting on my aura of mild dissipation. Damn you, Chauchat! I said to myself as I slugged the last drops of my Kir Royale. Make that the last second to last drops. The final splash, of course, found its way to the front of my un-pressed shirt. Thank God, I wasn’t wearing a tie.