After a Fashion

Stephen talks about quitting smoking. Then quits smoking? Did we read right?

Larissa Ness performs her hit Get to It while wearing Rachelle Briton's Queen of Hearts dress.
Larissa Ness performs her hit "Get to It" while wearing Rachelle Briton's Queen of Hearts dress. (Courtesy of Lustre Maravilloso)

HABITUAL My friend Stephen Rice quit smoking cigarettes last month, and I'm furious about it. I honestly don't know how he managed it; he could keep up with me cigarette-for-cigarette any time of the day or night. We smoked like damaged chimneys for better or worse, in sickness and in health, 'til death do us part. We spent many winter nights on Stephen's deck bundled up in sleeping bags, blankets, and coats, looking like baskets of burning laundry, just so we could assuage our pitiful addiction. Like slaves, we obeyed the cigarettes' orders when they whispered, "Light me up, baby; it's time." In summer, we sweltered in the heat and humidity just so we could indulge our silly habit. When I was 11, I remember asking my father how he could smoke in the middle of summer when it was so hot. "Dunno," he responded. A couple of summers later, I asked myself the same question and had the same answer he did: dunno. Addicted, I guess. Pathetically, I've been smoking for more than 40 years. My parents smoked on and off as we grew up, especially my dad, who, by the time he committed suicide in 1974, was smoking four packs a day. I don't know why he didn't just eat the cigarettes; he could have ingested more of them at a faster rate. Ah, but it's the ritual of smoking that is so very seductive. Peeling off the cellophane strip that seals the pack is like slowly pulling down the zipper of your lover's pants – sometimes gently and deliberately, sometimes roughly and hurried. Removing the foil protection begins to reveal the object of lust ... and without going any further on that tangent, we'll just say that it's all part of smoking's charm. So now Stephen's been off the cigarettes for more than a month. I've had a deep yearning to join him in quitting, but I can't quit because ... because, omigod, that big fashion show is in two days, and I have to smoke for that ... or this next benefit is at a nightclub where I'll be surrounded by cigarettes. Well, you know. It's always something. Four days ago, I did put the cigarettes out of my life but hardly out of my mind. Sometimes to ease the distress, I chew broken glass or gouge my hand with a dinner fork. Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I pray that I'll fall right back asleep for another dozen hours. It's not a pretty situation. But then again, neither is smoking.

HEALTHY WOMEN Years ago I stopped trying to attend every little Podunk event that calls itself a fashion show, concentrating on those that promise something newer and more original. But the invitation from Connie Bakonyi said not only that they would love to have me attend the second annual Healthy Woman Anniversary Celebration's fashion show, but that if I'd agree, they'd send a driver to pick me up and take me home. How could I resist such a kind offer, even if the event was in Cedar Park? I agreed to go, and found out the next day that my friends Neil Diaz and Larissa Ness would be there as well. I dressed to thrill, knowing that Cedar Park has been suffering through a style drought for the last century. Right on time, my driver showed up – a big ol' handsome cowboy from Fort Worth with courtly manners and an accent to make me swoon. He had the biggest pickup truck I've ever seen (the kind you practically need an elevator to get into), and we drove from Manchaca Road to Cedar Park – a trip so long that Southwest Airlines ought to consider adding a new flight. He dropped me at the entrance to one of the tents, where I was met by a server bearing a chilled beverage. I was given a police escort to my table (believe me, the last time I was escorted anywhere by the police, it was not to dinner) and took my place while graciously accepting the introductions and well-wishing from the assembled crowd. I felt a bit like Princess Diana before the accident. Larissa Ness played and sang and was marvelous, with talent to burn. The keynote speaker, Kathryn Childers, was a real delight – one of the very first female Secret Service agents, she had been assigned to Caroline and John Kennedy Jr. This woman's stories could melt an iceberg. Designer Rachelle Briton showed her collection; relocated from L.A., she had a stint styling on MTV, etc. The clothes were all over the map – not a great thing for a collection, but some of the pieces were absolutely stunning, especially her evening confections that could burn up any red carpet. Ana Reign's fabulously lavish diamond and pearl jewelry complemented Briton's clothes – the ropes of pearls were as extravagant as those in an Erte drawing. The Healthy Woman Anniversary Celebration included one tent jammed to the rafters with vendors, specialists, and other purveyors of healthy living.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Austin style, quitting smoking, cigarette, damaged chimneys, Connie Bakonyi, Larissa Ness, Kathryn Childers, Rachelle Briton, Ana Reign, Erte

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