The Austin Chronicle

After a Fashion

By Stephen MacMillan Moser, June 4, 2004, Columns

LOVE LETTERS It was about 15 years ago, and her name was Pepper. She was a drag queen obsessed with Chanel. Fancying herself a supermodel, she would appear on the street and at events draped in chains and pearls over some smart homemade "Chanel" suit. She looked very chic in her own way, whipping out her cayenne-colored lipstick from Chanel (probably the only Chanel she could afford) and applying it in a brilliant slash across her face. She could never leave a ladies room without inscribing the famous interlocking C's somewhere in it. It was a pretty funny routine, actually – very Eighties and very stylish – but Pepper had a bitter and bitchy demeanor without a bit of humor. She'd come into the club where I was DJ-ing, throwing shade (as it was called in the lexicon of the time), slamming drinks, and leaving in a wake of Chanel No. 5. She briefly wrote a column in a gay newspaper; it contained gossip, info, and personal insights ... not unlike "After a Fashion." But as I said, she was all attitude and no humor. My friends and I would read the stories she wrote and say, "Omigod, this queen must be on drugs." Once, after reading something she wrote that set us all off (and of which I can recall no details), I wrote a scathing letter to the editor denouncing Pepper's writing as the incoherent ramblings of someone who would be better off sharing her views with a therapist. But I used many more words than that, of course. Then very late one night, I was awakened by the telephone ringing. I answered it, and to my dismay, a very drunken voice slurred, "You are shpeaking to Pepper." "Yeeesss?" I replied, sitting up and removing the satin sleep mask from my eyes. "Do I know you?" she shrilly demanded. "I don't think so," said I, lighting a cigarette. She sputtered for a moment like an engine running out of gas. "Well, fuck you!" she shrieked. "If you don't like what I write, turn the fucking page!" and slammed down the phone. I sat there stunned, staring at the telephone receiver in my hand and wondering what had just occurred. It was a very Frances Farmer-ish sort of outburst, betraying Pepper's insecurities and proving that she would do better to adhere to the maxim that if one is going to dish it out, one has to be able to take it. Now, seemingly a million years later, I find myself in a very similar position to Pepper's – dishing it out and getting it right back. But I have a much more circumspect approach than Pepper. After all, we're talking gossip, not world peace, here, people. While I totally can relate to Pepper's TTFP vitriol, fundamentally, she and I are cut from radically different bolts of chenille. Piss Pepper off, and you'd get a tongue lashing. If I've pissed you off, I figure I've done my job. My response? Simply to coo in your lovely little ear: "Please turn the fucking page. Thank you." Who knew that Pepper could have taught me such a valuable lesson?

ON THE DESIGN SIDE If you haven't been out to the Design Center of Austin yet, here is an excellent opportunity. UrbanScapes showroom at the Design Center invites you to a Pradura product launch party, June 10, 5-8:30pm in the beautiful UrbanScapes courtyard (3601 S. Congress at Penn Field, Bldg. C). Pradura produces stylish and contemporary indoor and outdoor planters, trellises, etc., and products include a 12-gauge steel planter called the Tile Box, which allows you interchange standard 12-by-12-inch tiles into the sides or cover with fabric to match your interior. Other products include the Zen Box Planter and the Geo Trellis (an angular trellis to be used singularly or in multiples). For further info, call Steve Hunt at 293-1264 or write to

WILKOMEN, BIENVENUE, WELCOME It is my honor to co-host, with my good friend Bettie Naylor, Zach Scott's Wilde Party for their new production of Cabaret. With a cast of Austin's best and brightest, the show is an absolute knockout, and this special party is an opportunity to munch and mingle with other gay and lesbian Zach Scott fans while supporting and creating community. The party is at 6:30pm, Thursday, June 10, with showtime at 8pm. Tickets are available at 476-0541 x1.

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