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seam allowances!

seam allowances!


Laura gets all Murder She Wrote on Jeffrey on the first part of Project Runway's finale.

Oprah's talking about the war with Frank Rich, but I just interrupted her to write this recap. I realized as I switched from one TiVo choice to another that I've read more about the war and seen more creative response to it in the pages of fashion magazines than I've seen on Oprah's show to date. So for all you people who think that fashion is shallow, I would just like to point out to you the latest Dolce & Gabbana ad campaign, the one with models dressed in militaresque luxury items and getting their 1,000-yard-stare bored faces on as bombs explode around them. Those models are posing for peace. Don't you forget it.

Now we begin the first of a two-part finale--one containing a miniwar of its own and one that will leave us with nothing to think about afterward but the horror of the world. No fashions to console us, no petty dramas to divert our attention. Until Christmas shopping season begins anyway. And then, after that, American Idol comes back for another season. So not too much world horror if you plan it properly.

Heidi kicks off the episode by walking out onto the runway in jeans and a little sparkly top. The first words out of her mouth are "Ha-ha!" But it's a different kind of "Ha-ha" than the one from the commercials for the show, the one I've become addicted to--the high-pitched, ebullient, maniacal honk. This one is more alto and sinister, and I believe it's her way of reminding the remaining four designers that their lives are going to get much more difficult starting right now.

The four designers have to execute 12 separate looks for Olympus Fashion Week at Bryant Park. They have $8,000 and two months to pull it all together. After she gives them this challenge she says, "And now I have a special guest." All four of them cringe and shrink and flinch. That's what happens when a tall blond German woman is constantly poking and prodding you and making you create dresses out of recycled plastic and forcing you to hang out with Vincent and Angela, just when you think you've finally gotten rid of them for good. But the special guest just turns out to be Tim Gunn. Everyone's relieved, but check it, Heidi, Tim Gunn doesn't count as a special guest. A special guest would be the ghost of Halston hovering into the room, warning them about the perils that lie ahead and to stay away from Liza Minnelli. Or a video conference call from Yves Saint Laurent's hospital bed. That's a special guest: someone who's not already a contract player.

They head back to Atlas to pack. Laura places all her belongings just so in her big boxy Louis Vuitton suitcase. Then you see her carrying it herself, in heels, pregnant. She walks home to her Manhattan apartment that way. When I see her do things like this I am reminded that I'm a failure at life. The other three get in taxis and fly home.

One month later: Tim Gunn heads down to the ATL to meet Michael. When he arrives a red Saturn is waiting to take him around. It's a different one than the one he uses to drive to the Cloisters. Because he's in the Dirty South he's got Dead Prez and Trina in the CD player. He's eating chicken and waffles while he drives, which is totally not safe to do. But Tim Gunn lives on that edge.

He gets to Michael's house. I put the TiVo on slow motion to scan the place for signs of Gay. But either he's the most boring gay ever when it comes to home interiors or he just uses all his creativity on the making of pretty clothes for ladies. This is cause for pausing the TiVo in my house, while the assembled homosexual viewers discuss the options. Maybe he "straightened up" and hid all those E. Lynn Harris novels. Maybe he only "gays" when he's out of town (then we all compare notes on how many states and countries we've each "gayed" in), or when the cameras aren't on. Or he's not gay. But that last one can't really be an option, right?

Michael tells Tim his collection is called Street Safari. That sounds classy. And Jubilee Jumbles was already taken. His sketches have giant Farrah weaves, and all the ladies appear to be tarted up in silk voile versions of clothes Banana Republic used to carry back in the late 1980s, back when they always had a big jeep parked in the middle of the place and all that shit had epaulets. He shows Tim Gunn a white dress with a drawstring lace-up neckline and flappy boob pockets. In other words, he's designing for Ciara's next safari. And wow, look at that gross white lamp in the background and the matchy white furniture. That's some JC Penney shit right there. Tim Gunn is concerned about the collection. He says it's not cohesive yet. Michael has work to do (and an interior designer to call).

Then they go to Michael's cousin's house for dinner. We meet his mother again--why isn't she wearing the outfit from the Mom Challenge?--and his father. Then it's snapshot time. Michael as a little boy, Michael in ski pajamas, Michael as Kid and Play, Michael as Lenny Kravitz, Michael as Usher. While the snapshots roll Michael talks about how supportive and loving his family has been. His father, talking to Tim Gunn, says, "I said, 'He's going to be a beautician.' We saw the way he was going to go."

OK, so yes: gay.

They hold hands and pray over the meal, one we're not allowed to witness other than to see the assembled seven guests sitting around two different small round tables under a 4,000 watt overhead light fixture. Everyone squints blindly, looking guilty and cracking under the pressure of the relentless questioning.

"Next stop," says Tim Gunn, after stopping by the Ying Yang Twins' house for some Crunk Juice, "is Laura Bennett." She greets him in a dress she could have designed: empire waist, knocked-up belly poking out, black. She says that the baby is her fifth boy in a row and shows Tim Gunn the gigantic apartment she lives in with her rich architect husband and privileged spawn, strewn with video games and basketballs. She's dying for the day, 18 years in the future, when she can finally have some furniture that's not a bean bag or a swinging chair that hangs from the ceiling. There are no kids around, and you can bet your Ritalin that they've been on lots of outings with the nanny for the past month. More snapshots: Laura as a little girl, Laura as Danny Bonaduce, Laura holding what she must have believed would be her first and only child.

She shows Tim a chartreuse dressing gown, ruffled out the ass, something "Joan Crawford might have worn in Torch Song," says my husband. He's only 39 and he makes references like this every time he opens his mouth. It's kind of weird, but I've gotten used to it and even enjoy it, though much of the time I have no idea what he's talking about. I say, "Yeah, what's that?" a lot. Then he finds whatever old Hollywood diva movie he's referencing on TCM and forces me to watch it. I'm grateful for this, really.

Then the kids come in with the rich architect husband, Albert Einstein. You know what you never see in Los Angeles outside of my house? People with gray hair. I just realized that. But whatever, here's her David Cronenberg brood. The littlest one has a big lump of turtle poop in his hand that he offers to Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn backs away quickly from the monster child. Thirty minutes later Tim Gunn can't wait to leave. "I'm exhausted," he says. And just in the nick of time too because Laura's Bryant Park anxiety is about to mind-control those kids into a feral frenzy, and they're all going to start gnawing on Tim Gunn's neck.

Off to Miami to visit Fraulein Uli. More Saturning. Tim Gunn knocks on her door and that thing I hate happens: The cameras are already inside waiting for him to come in. It throws me every time. The cameras should come inside with Tim Gunn. How else am I supposed to believe that this is reality television? Uli lives in an apartment building that I believe is actually floating on the ocean. Her balcony view is nothing but water. "That's the dream of America," she says. Can you imagine her growing up in East Germany, under gray skies all the time, pouting, "I hate it here. Bring me to ze beach for fabulous pah-ties and ze bikini shopping."

She shows Tim Gunn her collection. Hers is also safari-themed. What gives with all the safari-ing? It's patterny--big surprise. They go to ze beach and sit on a table. Tim Gunn shows his bare feet. Uli talks about watching Miami Vice as a kid and dreaming of Florida. We see old black-und-vite photos of the East German kinder-prison she escaped from in search of mojitos with Phillip Michael Thomas. It's like that old Saturday Night Live sketch with Woody Harrelson as the post-Wall collapse German filmmaker wearing a Spuds Mackenzie T-shirt and one of those beer-bong baseball caps, shouting, "Whoo! Pah-tee!"

Finally, Tim Gunn Saturns to Los Angeles. I can't wait to see Jeffrey's controversial collection. You've heard about this already, right? Apparently Laura accused him of outsourcing his work because she didn't believe he could have finished in time. It's been all over the news. Well, the calorie-free entertainment news, anyway. But I'm getting ahead of myself. More Saturning.

The cameras are waiting for Tim Gunn again, as Jeffrey and his Mohawked girlfriend and their punk-rock baby stand inside their door waiting for him. Kisses all around and then coffee on a table featuring a breast-cancer-pink Dualit toaster and mugs that say "slut" on them. Tim Gunn drinking coffee from the slut cup. How awesome is Tim Gunn? He's just going with the flow wherever he is. That's the worldly, open-hearted way that Saturn owners live life. It's the car for citizens of the Global Village. Behind Tim Gunn's head, though, is one of those cruddy album picture frames. I hate those. It appears to contain an autographed copy of the Who's Tommy LP. And sure, whatever, that's great and all. But I still hate those damn things.

Jeffrey talks about getting sober. We see snapshots of him as a baby, first happy, then crying as he talks about how his father left him as a child and how scary a man his father was. "A lot of rage," says Jeffrey. Hence Jeffrey using drugs early and often. He did all the drugs and then tried to hang himself. That was the bottom. Now he has a neck tattoo to remind him not to do that sort of thing anymore.

Jeffrey takes Tim Gunn to his huge work space and shows him what appears from far away to be a simple striped dress---and is in fact a bizarrely zippered roller coaster of seams and curves. Was it Kors who called his stuff ugly-beautiful once? I forget. But I like it. Then he says Japanese ghost and demon stories were his inspiration. So if you try on one of his outfits, you die seven days later. Then he talks about everything being a "gift" and how he's "eternally grateful" for everything he has. Recovering addicts--and dopey actors--always say shit like this, but you believe it coming from the recovering addicts because at least they have cool stories of prostituting themselves for crack at 4 a.m. in a skid row alley somewhere and not just peevish tales of cater-waitering and blow jobs in some producer's hot tub.

It's two weeks later: Everyone's back. Not at Atlas; now they're at Flatotel. Everyone arrives. The show has been on the air now since July and has caught up to their actual real lives, so when Jeffrey comes in Uli asks him if people throw eggs at him when they see him. Is that the show's perception of Jeffrey? I mean, yeah, he can be a dick and unnecessarily harsh and a dry drunk sometimes, but he's nowhere near as ugly-acting as an Omorosa. By my reckoning there's been no clear-cut villain this season. Laura says bitchy things, Vincent was repellent and a nut job, Angela was whiny and a pain, and Jeffrey's inherited some of his Dad's rage, but no one person has had to shoulder the story team's need for a singularly hated monster. Ooh, I just had a great reality TV show concept pop into my head: It's called The New Improved Night Stalker--because there used to be an occulty crime show in the 1970s that was already called Night Stalker, FYI, and then a remake of that show a season or two back that only lasted like two episodes but that didn't have the awesome idea to call itself The New Improved Night Stalker, so the name is still my invention--and anyway, you put 12 people in a creaky old spooky house and one of them is a serial killer. Then as contestants are brutally murdered one by one, the others have to band together to find out which one of them is doing it. It'll be like The Mole. The winner gets a Saturn.

Now begins the controversy:

1. Laura comments that it appears that Jeffrey has a lot of pieces finished. Guilty! Guilty guilty guilty!

2. Tim Gunn checks on progress.

3. As Tim Gunn checks Jeffrey, we get cuts back and forth to Laura and Uli casting odd glances in someone's direction. It could be that Michael just passed gas or that the pizza just arrived an hour late, but the edits make you assume they're throwing disapproving glances at Jeffrey.

4. Neither Uli nor Laura nor Michael are completely finished yet. Jeffrey is.

5. Michael shows Tim the most hideous blouse I've seen in a long time--a white lace-up thing with not just flappy boob pockets but sequined flappy boob pockets. And more sequined pockets beneath them.

6. Tim collects receipts. Jeffrey hands his in last, all criminalish. More cuts to concerned faces. How dare Jeffrey be last? Foul play!

7. Models are fitted. Laura can't believe that Jeffrey has no alterations to do. "Every hook, every seam," she says. It's time to stir that turtle poop.

8. Then Laura, in interview, drops her bomb. She doesn't believe Jeffrey sewed his collection himself. She gains support from Michael and Uli, enumerating Jeffrey's cheating evidence. " incredible finishing inside the garments. Grosgrain-covered seam allowances." What? Grosgrain-covered seam allowances? OK, I'm convinced. Burn the monster!

9. Laura tattles to Tim Gunn.

10. Tim Gunn promises to take it to the producers and investigate.

11. Laura tells Jeffrey that she told Tim Gunn her belief in his cheaterliness. Prove that you don't beat your children!

12. Tim Gunn talks to Jeffrey about his alleged whatever. Apparently it's OK to have a little help because Jeffrey tells Tim Gunn he sent out a pair of shorts to be pleated and Tim Gunn acts like this is no big whoop.

And finally, in interview, Jeffrey asserts his innocence and then says he's still scared that he won't show in Bryant Park. But he did show because the pictures are up online all over the place. So if he is guilty of some sartorial skullduggery, then they still let him show. I have no idea what's going on. But in the heavily manipulated quick-cut edits of scenes from next week's show, they make it look like he's being kicked off. I'm betting not. Why would he fuck himself over like that? It doesn't make sense. His sponsor would kick his ass.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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