Hubert Givenchy had Audrey Hepburn. For Yves Saint Laurent, it was Catherine Deneuve. Today, it’s Tilda Swinton for Raf Simons, Kirsten Dunst for the Rodarte sisters. Beautiful actresses are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, but when a designer unearths a muse, the result is kismet.
Bette Davis was a wild cat. She lived her life with all the brazen spitfire of her most celebrated role, the mercurial, shrewd and brilliant Margo in All About Eve. So it is not surprising that it took her eighty years to accept the role of fashion muse. In Patrick Kelly, she met her match. The designer dealt in the a similar currency of theatricality, commanding his models backstage before a show, “Paint those red lips! I want you to look like you just got rid of your third husband!” Finally, a man who could match her spirited pizzazz and joie de vivre.
The doyenne with the polished pronunciation was tickled pink by the skateboarding, graffiti-can wielding Kelly. And he was equally as flummoxed by her. While scouring flea markets to complete his collection of black memorabilia, he eagerly procured any Bette Davis souvenir he came across. For her part, the legendary star shamelessly promoted him at every turn, including two stints on David Letterman where his lively creations served as props in her bits; glittering question marks and lacquered lips proposition the funnyman, reminding the audience that the sweet old dame was no shrinking violent. In the hands of Kelly’s vibrant, playful and suggestive designs, the feisty octogenarian felt comfortable in her own skin.
Kelly openly declared his devotion to his muse in the program notes of his F/W 1988-89 collection. Instead of the customary program notes, the audience was presented with the designer’s “Love List” (written below), where Davis is prominently featured along with Spare Ribs, “I Love Lucy”, and, of course, Buttons. Privately, Kelly had just been dealt a monumental blow, a deadly diagnosis of the HIV virus. In light of his devastating prognosis, the joy and celebration of his list is particularly moving.
Over the next two years, his devotion to Davis would only grow. Perhaps they shared a united, cheerful front in the face of their own mortality. Bette Davis passed in October 1989, and two short months later, Patrick Kelly followed.
Families, especially Grandmothers and Mothers
Nice People, Work Vacations
Fried Chicken and “Foie Gras” and “Fauchon” Croissants
Buttons and Bows
Pearls and Popcorn
(L) Patrick Kelly with his grandmother Ethel Rainey. (R) Madame Grès.
Pretty Girls and Valentine Candy Boxes and Fried Catfish
All Women (Fat, Skinny and Between....)
Lycra Dresses and Spare-Ribs
Ethel Rainey, Bette Davis, Martin Luther King
Josephine Baker and Pat Cleveland
(L) Bette Davis wearing Patrick Kelly. (R) Martin Luther King.
(L) Josephine Baker. (R) Pat Cleveland (as Josephine Baker), Photo by Alan Kaplan, Italian Vogue, 1970s.
“I Love Lucy”
I love Lucy Cast.
Music: Gospel, Loud, Classical, Rap, Jazz, Soul, Luther Vandross
Birthdays and Christmas
Paris in the Springtime, in the Fall, in the Winter, BUT ESPECIALLY IN MISSISSIPPI
Buttons, Buttons, Buttons