Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Will Blog for Jools

Dear Everybody,
Went to the Ellen Barkin auction last night at Christie's, and wrote the following piece, which in case The New Yorker doesn't accept it, I thought you might enjoy.
Local color that isn't emeralds and sapphires: walked Mimi this morning in a darkening Central Park(the bright, warm days appear to be over.) I ran into a homeless woman and having been deeply moved by last night's Boston Legal, a truly great show, I asked her what she would do in winter. "Don't worry about me," she said, through only occasional teeth, "I'm a survivor. I lived in an unheated log cabin in Montana when I was a little girl."
She was very far from being a little girl, and, still touched by that teleplay, I gave her two dollars, which she was reluctant to accept. So she let me choose from a variety of postcards and I picked the one with Times Square blazing, that I will send to some little friends in Paris who, childlike as they are entitled to be, being children, imagine this city to be one continuous treat. Not complaining, you understand, just observing. I can't go too far into the park in the dark as there are rafts of Homeless, and one can't be sure they are all in the benign mode of this woman. James Spader, one of the lead actors in that amazing series asked in the course of his closing argument why we have a million homeless in this country. More importantly, why aren't some of them Congressmen?
Here, the piece on the auction.

A few minutes into the Christie’s Auction of the jewels Ron Perelman had given Ellen Barkin, I heard her voice saying, like Marley’s Ghost, “I wear the chains I forged in marriage.” Several of the chains were of diamonds, long loops of them connected like crystals, hanging low on the model’s spare breast, some ropes of huge pearls, strands of cabochon rubies, that looked to the untrained eye (mine) like beads, but went for small and not so small fortunes to those who knew better. One cord of emeralds the size of immies in a long- ago children’s marble tournament was sold for $480,000. The woman behind me, one of the few visibly chic bidders—I kept looking for the Beautiful People, but if there are still any above ground they were someplace else—told me that most of the prices were “justified.” But there were bidders on the phone connected to Hong Kong who were clearly there for the celebrity value, paying $7000 for a Cartier lipstick holder (was the lipstick radioactive? Did it still have the imprint of her lips?)
The lips themselves were captured in a black and white photo portrait that hung in the front of the room, with Ms. Barkin’s interesting and unsmiling face, the eyes double-lashed, top and bottom, with fake lashes, framed in a neat side-sweep of hair, and dangling diamond earrings, the only item that did not seem to appear in the sale, four rows on either side down to her sharp collarbone and bare right shoulder, over which she peered challengingly. A sweater hugged the top of her arm. There appeared to be jewels edging the sweater, too, but perhaps that was just the glitter attached to such a fascinating not-quite beauty. The portrait captured her unique combination of insolence and vulnerability, which I suppose must have been called heavily into play when Mr. Perelman dumped her.
As with hearing her voice, my imagination leapt to the possibility that perhaps the earrings in the portrait had been kept by Ms. Barkin in an unfettered burst of sentimentality. There were any number of other dangling diamond earrings, the prettiest of them, like chandeliers, bought by the stylish woman behind me, others with huge stones hanging at sort-of discreet intervals all the way down to the throat of the model who sported them. The model’s own comportment was well worth observing, as she began her low-cut, black-gowned, tiny-framed saunter around the stage fairly shyly, but by the evening’s end, apparently fortified by the jewels she had worn, appeared absolutely brazen, casting a self-assured, puckishly arrogant eye into the audience as though searching out Mr. Perelman to give him What For, and show that she, like Miss Barkin herself, was undiminished by his caddishness.
The courtship and marriage of this couple has of course captured much print, though none to match the furor over the divorce. Mr. Perelman, the well-known bald billionaire(I wondered if while wearing one of the many rings she ran her fingers through his scalp) has a penchant for noisy, much publicized divorces, so much so that the poem ‘Ithaca’ is called to mind, in which the poet explains it is not the destination that is important, but the journey to get there. One has the feeling it is not the marriage that so intoxicates him as the prospect of the press explosion when it ends.
In the course of this one, though, one would hope he loved her, sexy woman that she seems from her films, reputedly good mother, talented and clever actress. Certainly there is evidence that he was enchanted, from the mounds of jewelry that he heaped on her, some of it, like diamond wrist cuffs, seeming to have been duplicated, so either he has A.D.D. or didn’t remember he’d already given her a pair of those. But everything was sold for astonishing prices, tallying twenty million by evening’s end, including her Bulgari wedding band, which the auctioneer, tres discreet up to that moment, being French and a master of his game, took Gallic pains to announce was, indeed, “Miss Barkin’s actual wedding ring.” That set off a flurry of phone bids from Hong Kong, where they love movies.