Only Joan Rivers could rival Barneys' creative ambassador-at-large Simon Doonan's wit and I got to experience it firsthand at a breakfast he hosted for his new book, Gay Men Don't Get Fat (a play on Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat).
Over a breakfast of coffee and fruit salad, Doonan read from his book and answered questions decked-out in a "$2 tie" he picked up in Brighton. "It's the only thing I'm wearing," he told me, "that's not from Barneys. I'm a messy eater and this is easy to wash!" I just read a feature on him in the New York Times in which the writer, Jeff Gordinier, wonders whether the restaurant Doonan picked for the interview (Knickerbocker Bar and Grill) had more to do with the fact that Doonan lives across the street or whether it was due to, as he claimed, Knickerbocker's balance of "gay" and "straight" food. Naturally, I asked Doonan what he thought of the writer's remark: "It's funny that he picked up on that! It was a bit of both honestly. I love that place because it has that 70s New York feel, kind of like Joe Allen."
Here are some other things I learned about Doonan and about what he calls "the most demented book I've ever written":
– One of Doonan's favorite chapters in his new book is the one in which he cautions the reader about hooking in order to afford designer clothing. "You know," he said, "I was looking at the prices of designer clothes and they're crazy! Not at Barneys, no, here the prices are perfectly reasonable, but at other places, so I decided to write a chapter about how hard it is to be a hooker."
– This is a humor book above all else, but Doonan has a message for his readers, in particular women. He told us that he feels like there are so many pressures put on women these days: "You're supposed to look like Gisele, have a career like Sumner Redstone, and then be the old woman who lives in a shoe and pop out children! I'm old so I've seen the expectations pile on. If I were a woman, I'd always have a velvet entourage around me."
– "I don't have the scientific data to prove it, but laughter burns calories."
– On the significant relationships he's had with straight women: "I'm always attracted to really strange women."
– "I don't have the helpful gene like those guys from Queer Eye; If I saw a guy with a mullet, I wouldn't cut it, I'd say, 'OK, let's make it longer and glossier!'" Doonan then added that he always reads US Weekly's 'What Were They Thinking' page and loves all the looks, adding that he wishes "people would be more reckless."
– Doonan told us that he "loves stereotypes and all things that are un-PC." "When you play around with stereotypes," he said, "you help diffuse them."
– When writing the book, Doonan surprised himself. He didn't think he would be disciplined enough to write 60,000 words in six months.
– "I can't believe people always thought there were four food groups when there are obviously only two: gay and straight. I advocate a balance of both; if you're going to have a big meatloaf have a really little salad with it."
-The gayest food? Macaroons says Doonan, "If you lived on macaroons, you'd explode in a nuclear cloud of gay-ness."
– When it comes to food, Doonan says he's "very much a lesbian. I love everything healthy and wholesome like greens and brown rice."
– Recounting a dinner with both French and American women, he said the French "all ordered steak frites, while the Americans were all drinking this green bile" (a cleanse juice). Juice cleanses, he later told us, fall into the category of being masochistic in his opinion, adding that there are things in between a Big Mac and green juice.
– Doonan is "very sporty spice; I'm very into working out."
– He doesn't expect that there will be any backlash towards his book from the French because they're "too busy sitting at home eating macaroons, smoking Gitanes, and admiring themselves, but I still won't be walking by the French embassy anytime soon."
– For the upcoming awards show season, Doonan is most looking forward to seeing what Tilda Swinton and what Rooney Mara will be wearing.
– Doonan likes his book cover because he "looks 35."
– Among the new designers he favors is Alexander Wang who Doonan calls "groovy."
– "It's always fun to go into Alaia's boutique and turn the dresses inside out because the level of design is amazing."
– Among his favorite designers of all times, Doonan listed Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood, Rei Kawakubo, Paul Poiret, and Romeo Gilley. (Surprisingly, no mention of some of his "signature brands" which include Goyard, Liberty of London, and Paul Smith at any point in the conversation).
– "Self-expression is the key to everything." Doonan went to great lengths to say that he's not about saying one style is bad and another one is good. "It's all a landscape. Alaia gets to do his thing because Armani gets to do his. I love it all." He added that you can't disregard the Jersey Shores or Abercrombies of the world because they put other fashions in context.
– If this book does well, which it seems like it will, Doonan already has an idea for another one. Stay tuned…