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 Trite Lights, Big City

 Trite Lights, Big City


Sandra Bernhard is the guest judge this week. She likes Terri. That's because Sandra Bernhard knows everything that's right and true.

I can't believe those jerks voted Tillman, the skateboarding bulldog, off of The Greatest American Dog. I just took that damn show out of my TiVo because of it. Seriously, what's the point of watching all those other boring dogs now? Are they as good-looking as Tillman is? No, they are not. And what do they do besides the occasional obedience trick? Ooh, they can jump in the air or look regal or fake dog-smile for the camera. So what? DO THEY SKATEBOARD?

Congratulations, dumb show, you ditched your only true star.

OK, now let's talk about Project Runway, even if no one this season is as awesome or magical or attractive as Tillman. Even if I have to fake enthusiasm, as I was instructed to do via e-mail from model pal Elyse (verbatim: "Fake it, Jerk!") And, OK, yes, Heidi is as compelling as Tillman. But no designer is. I just reread one of my recaps from early last season and at that point I was already waving the flag for Christian Siriano and I already disliked Ricky. But so far this season, I have practically no feelings for anyone, save for Stella, who's really just my favorite kook. Only Terri's designs (she was the one who made a top out of mopheads) have sparked my interest. I'm annoyed, show. Entertain me more, starting now. Go.

Well, it's trying. The opening shots feature the exact same cover of Elle that we were treated to last week, the one with Mary-Kate Olsen on the cover. So she's become some kind of totem, I guess. Will that issue appear in the background of key scenes in later episodes? Will she be a guest judge like Natalie Portman? Maybe she'll hide behind rolls of fabric at Mood and sort of leap out from behind them and shout, "I AM THE CUTE ONE!" or "BROTHER FOR SALE! FIFTY CENTS!" or "SPAGETT!" to confuse and disorient the designers. It would be kind of cool if this happened. It'd liven shit up, I know that.

Cut to Daniel the messy-haired Brooklyn boy, rolling out of bed. He's bummed that Wesley's gone "because I felt that we were connecting well."

"Anally," mumbles Xtreem Aaron from the couch.

And now it's over to the women's quarters of Atlas, as the ladies primp and brush and whatnot, while Stella stays put in bed. Terri does a little dance to make Stella get up. Then they're all out the door and off to Parsons, where Heidi takes the runway in tight jeans and a white blouse, holding that model-picking bag with the red buttons inside. First they bring out the winning and the losing models from last challenge. And she says it like this: "Let's bring out the winning -- and the LOSING -- designers' models." She digs it in and twists it around. No fake kindness from her. She's down for the entertaining heartbreak of deflated hopes. And it's yet another reason to love her. "I want to be shrunk down to the size of an infant and then I want Heidi to cart me around in one of those snuggly papoose-like front-packs that everyone has," I say to Xtreem Aaron.

"Like a Wayans in Little Man?" he asks.

"Yes," I say. "Just like a Wayans." The husband/partner/whatever is off at some movie or he'd have already jumped in to piss on this Heidi lovefest. He's indifferent, able to withstand her overwhelming Teutonic charms. His heart is three sizes too small, is why. Anyway, Heidi allows Suede, last week's challenge winner, to stick with Tia, his model from that challenge, or to pick another model. I want him to take whichever model Jerell had just to piss him off. Also, I want Jerell and Blayne to fight to the death. Also, I want Suede to cannibalize the remains of the loser. Also, I want Suede to then fight to the death with the one who lived and wasn't eaten by Suede. Also, I want the winner of that snuff moment to be ejected for breaking whatever the show's no murder/no cannibalism rules happen to be. There must be some in the contract they signed. After that I'd be free of all three of them and, most importantly, free of the following sentence that comes from the mouth of... well... you'll guess:

"Suede loves Tia. He could never change. Suede's gonna keep Tia."

And I will no longer be discussing this. It stands on its own two stupid feet from this point forward, requiring no commentary from me or you or anyone else. The entire planet, even populations on other planets, all know that this guy is a chump with a fake name that he's compelled to utter at least four times in each sentence. And now he's not going to let it go. Ever. And only three weeks in, every blog and every commenter on every blog and every single late-night talk-show host and every Best Week Ever regular and my stroke-patient mother who lives in a nursing home and doesn't even watch this gay-ass show all know that this joke is already stale. It's done. And worse, it's a sad commentary on this season when it's the wackiest thing anyone can talk about. Where are the basket hats and Jubilee Jumbles and crying while cutting and Red Lobster with Andrae and Wendy Pepper's daughter with a mustache and shit-faced ramblings about Johnny Cash walking the line and MRSAs and smuggled design books and gay arms and motherfucking grosgrain-covered seam allowances? Where? Yeah, I'm impatient.

At least Heidi hasn't forgotten how to make things good. "Are you ready for your next challenge?" she asks. "You know what, I think you guys worked pretty hard so far. So go back to Atlas. Tim is gonna meet you there. And he will take you out... for a night... on the town."

Naturally, she says this like Lucy lining up the football. Inside it's all, "HA! You think you vill rest! But no! You vill be vorking for me all night long!"

Cut to Atlas, men's quarters. Tim Gunn rings the doorbell. "Hi, Tim-licious!" spurts Blayne (see above rant re: Suede). Cut to Atlas ladies' quarters. Same Tim Gunn wearing the same raincoat. They're clearly going to follow him outside somewhere. And nearly every single one of them with an opinion for the camera wants to head out to some shitty nightclub. Blayne in particular is somewhat petulant about his wish to "get all dolled up" and "go out dancing."

How is it that I've been hanging around gays of all ages, from 18 to 80, for almost 20 years now, and I've never once heard a single one talk about "getting all dolled up?" I thought I was spanning the gay demographic, honestly. I really did. In fact, the last person I heard use that expression was an 85-year-old woman on the Ken Burns World War II documentary. But whatever. They're all going outside in the rain. In plastic hooded ponchos and rubber rain boots. In fact, as a unit, they look like a group home on a field trip to the children's museum in Jerry Tam's first episode murder outfits. Then they get to a double-decker, open-roofed tourist bus on which they will be driven around the city while their asses get soaked in rain-pooled seats. Stella, for her part, doesn't seem to care. The rock-'n'-roll people are used to sitting in puddles of all sorts. My favorite person in a poncho is Korto, whose head appears to be squeezing itself through the too-tight skull-hole in the hood and who looks like a very grumpy baby trying to be born face-first.

So their job is to take pictures of things that inspire them. Then they make an outfit for a "night out on the town" based on the photograph. And here's where we start learning things about Keith, the butch gay, which means that he's either going to win this challenge or fuck it up beyond comprehension.

We already know that he's from Salt Lake City, that he likes to call men "buddy," that he's fond of wife-beaters that show off his muscular arms that are somewhat different than those of Robert Gay Arms from season 3 or Jack's gay arms from season 4 or even heterosexual Kevin's gay arms from season 4. Keith's biceps are less aggressively groomed somehow, like he got them from carrying around sacks of ready-mix concrete on a construction site. And this isn't me lusting after him, because I don't. That cruddy little rat tail on the back of his head nipped that in the pants-bud.

What we learn, though, about Keith is that it's hard to be a homosexual in Salt Lake City. It would seem that most Mormons don't enjoy a good gay in their life, no matter how unsmiling, unobtrusive, and unflamboyant that gay has strived to become. Mormons, is this accurate? I'm looking for some corroboration here, so all you gay-hating Mormons who happen to be reading this, please give me some correct information, if you will. Then we also learn, in addition to the way he's always keeping it real with the Crip-blue bandanna wrapped around his masculine forehead, a look that barks its determination to refrain from games, jokes, laughter and lightheartedness, that Keith is out for Keith. He's so out for Keith that he will barge right in front of other designers who are trying to take pictures so that he can get his own shots. When they bitch to each other about this, he tells the camera that they have "negative energy" and that -- get your reality show bingo cards ready -- "I'm not here to become their friends."

Moments later, back at Atlas, Jerell will chime in with "I'm in it to win it" after putting on a scary greenish-white face mask that he wears while he sleeps. Something about keeping his skin smooth. So there you go. You only need the N-G-O to claim your prize.

The next morning they all select their photos. Everyone has taken super-zoom-in abstract pics that they'll use to match fabric with at Mood. Except Joe. Joe took pictures of hot chicks with big tits bending over on the street to pick up a twenty that he tied to a piece of invisible thread. Keith has selected a picture of a magazine page in the gutter. Awesome. That'll make a sexy outfit. "I want to be top 3," he announces. "I want to be the winner." And I want to be the barber that snips off that rat-tail in your sleep while you dream of Jerell's scary moisturizing mask.

They all go to Mood. It's boring. Except for the part where Xtreem Aaron and I talk about our growing admiration for Terri. "She's like the DJ lady in The Warriors," he says. He's talking about the late Lynne Thigpen.

"She was also The Chief on Where in The World is Carmen Sandiego?" I add. I don't know how I knew that. Sometimes you just have facts that float around in your brain and then one day they attach themselves to something you're talking about and you go, "Where did that come from?" and you have no good answer for yourself.

Anyway, Terri reminds us of a cool dead actress.

Back in the workroom Tim Gunn walks in and announces that he has good news: They'll all get to work until 1 a.m. How this is good news for anyone but a self-immolator is lost on me. I don't even like to work until 1 .pm. And I can barely think clearly after 6. And I go to sleep around 9 or 10. Night owls baffle me. I'm on an agrarian body-clock timetable. My Cro-Magnon monkey brain thinks that once the sorghum crop is harvested and I've whittled a little on my latest corncob pipe and left the bread dough to rise overnight and I've popped an Ambien and downed it with a glass of fancy wine that it's time to say goodnight moon. It ain't like I'm going up the block to Hyde to watch from the sidewalk as they deny access to Tara Reid. Again. But enough about me for a second. Let's hear what Suede has to say:

"Suede is here to rock it. Suede's decided on working with a shirtdress silhouette. Suede's giving little flecks of color which goes back to my inspirational photo. It's not a lot of it, but it's small touches that are really gonna drive that business."

See? No comment. I'm just leaving it there in the rain for you to watch it turn to mushy pulp. Then the camera cuts to Joe, who talks a little shit about Kenley's choice of fabric, which is, I have to say, a clown-pants-level of bold teal BOI-OI-OI-OI-OING. I like it, but I'm a fag. Joe, however, would not find attractive a young woman who was wearing Kenley's dress. I get that. I would not find attractive a man in the same type of thing. Because that man would be Graham Norton.

Back to Terri, who's taken a moment from her work to hug Leanne and encourage her. Leanne, accepting the hug, worries aloud about "being too creative again." And that is a concern when you're a leannimal: your burning core of creative energy can be too white-hot to touch. People lose their eyesight just witnessing your genius. But, to be fair, Leanne does seem to have it more together for this challenge. She's making a pretty excellent flap-and-fold-intensive black skirt. Even Kelli walks up to the half-finished thing and whispers, "Oh, I love it!" Which may be a psych-out move, but she says it convincingly all the same.

Cut to Blayne, not working. Instead he's bug-eye-staring at Kenley, intentionally trying to freak her shit. "I'm gonna eat you!" he growls in a monsterish voice. He just wants camera time. He watched Christian comedy it up last season and he's studied those moments. He probably even took that extension class they offer now about how to be on a reality show. Oh, yes, that's a real thing, by the way. They offer a class now (and when I say "they" I don't know who I'm talking about, but I read about this a while back) where you can learn how to get on a reality show. Eventually everyone will find themselves, voluntarily or involuntarily, on one. I already did: season 1 of My Life on The D-list. Yep, really. The husband/partner/whatever and I went to K-Griff's Xmas party --long story -- and tried to avoid the cameras. But they were everywhere. And then we ended up in the episode. Every time Bravo reruns that shit, someone new e-mails me and says, "I SAW YOU ON TV!" It's weird. Even weirder is that the husband/partner/whatever's nephew got cast on Spain's Big Brother, called, appropriately enough, Gran Hermano. And now he's somewhat famous in Spain. His mother is mortified.

On interview-cam Kenley says, "I think Blayne is a total weirdo," echoing the sentiments of what has to be the show's entire viewing audience. Next on interview-cam is Stella, who talks shit about Keith's fluttery, magazine-pages-stuck-to-a-wet-sidewalk dress. "Who wears that?" she asks as she hammers grommets into leather. Translation: "There's not even one fuckin' skull on that thing!" Best part here is that Stella's put on a full face of makeup for this interview-cam moment and looks like an entirely different person. She's also wearing a spiked vest she stole back in the day when she groupied her way backstage at the King Diamond show. If she leans her head even one inch to the left or right she's going to accidentally stab herself in the neck.

Commercial Time: Some Italian beer I've never heard of called Peroni Nastro Azzurro or something like that. The ad is done up like a 1960s Mediterranean model shoot, half black-and-white, half grainy Super 8 washed-out film stock. The models have big hair and serious Egyptian eyeliner and Dusty Springfield is singing "Am I ehe Same Girl" and NOTHING ON THIS SEASON OF PROJECT RUNWAY HAS BEEN ONE TENTH AS GLAMOROUS AS THIS 30-SECOND AD. That's the fuckin' next beer I buy.

Back in the workroom, Tim Gunn enters to check in. He starts with Jennifer, who's making a really dull dress that's supposed to look like... a clock? Tim Gunn says, "You know what you're doing?"

"Yes," I fantasize her responding. "I'm being totally boring."

Tim Gunn is concerned that Keith's dress lacks shape. Tim Gunn is concerned that Kenley's is going to be costumey. And we finally see Terri's backless half-dress over pants thing taking shape. She says it's hip-hop. It looks kind of jacked up on the form. But I trust her. On interview-cam she talks about her "diversity of creativity."

Except that that comment makes no sense. You might as well say "My headband of girdle" or "My coconut of banana" or "My epicenter of confusionality." But still, I trust her. I have good feelings about Terri. And next, Tim Gunn seeks to save Emily from herself. She's working on a black asymmetrical sheath dress with a huge ruffle that starts on the cans and dives straight down to the crotch. Tim Gunn warns her but... get the bingo cards ready... SHE IGNORES HIM. Finally, we get more Blayne as he tries to explain "Holla atcha boy" and fails. This is the moment when Tim Gunn utters the expression for the first and, I hope, the last time. Heidi would never indulge in that sort of thing. But then Heidi probably doesn't know where that workroom even fucking is.

The husband/partner/whatever walks in the front door, finally home from his movie. Keith is on screen talking about how it's his "duty to create an ambitious design" and now we're laughing about the word "duty." Because we're immature. The husband/partner/whatever says, "Ooh, it's hot Keith."

"Shut up about hot Keith," I say."Yes," adds Xtreem Aaron. "We don't like Keith now. All pro-Keith comments have to be kept on the hush. We like Terri. That's how it is in this living room now."

Then we point out the rat tail and bring the husband/partner/whatever over to our side. It gets easier when, as Elimination Day rolls around, that Keith is now calling Suede "Sueder." I think "Hey You" would be cooler, like if they all ganged up and refused to say the word "Suede." But they don't, and that's because they're busy doing stuff instead of just watching people do stuff like me. Anyway, everyone's freaking out and not finished. Joe says of his not-even-close-to-being-done garment, "It's gonna be interesting to see how many pincushions end up going down that runway today." Translation: "I like a dress that falls off a lady, if you know what I mean."

Models enter. Hairs and make-ups are applicationed. Dresses are glued, taped, stapled, and melted together with lighters. And then it's runway time.

Heidi walks out on the runway in a fuck-me-now black cocktail dress and Christian Louboutins that are two millimeters shy of fetish gear. She introduces Kors and Nina and this week's guest judge, Sandra Bernhard. And I have to say one thing here about The Great Lady SB. I've been getting a lot of e-mails and IMs from people who have the nerve to mock her for the Botox or Restalyn or whatever it is that she's got going on with her face. But I don't know what's happening there and I don't care. I trust Ms. Bernhard to do whatever is right for her and her face. And that's because she is the President of Me. You can say I'm indulging in the tired gay-guy practice of diva worship if you like, but in my economy this woman doesn't do anything wrong. Also Kim Gordon. But that's another episode. I hope.

The clothes of note [I've decide that if it's too boring to talk about, then I'm not going to]:

Keith: Wrong color of fluttery fabric bits all over. Too happy and light when it should be grimier and more streetish. And it's too big for the model. It looks like a paper tent on her.

Emily: Droopy ruffles represent!

Leanne: Architectural and black yet still hot and short. Like a chic, doomed HEPA filter.

Jennifer: Dowdy clock-inspired mom-dress that makes me think about going to bed even earlier than I already do. It's for an indie-rock librarian going to a birthday party for a political prisoner.

Jerell: For House of Xtravaganza. It's got a long train. Seriously. It's some realness.

Kelli: Black, fringey, stripey, hard, and post-human, based on a black fire hydrant she photographed. More rock 'n' roll than Stella's been the entire time.

Kenley: Hot-ass, tight, circus-peanut-and-blue-Slurpee-barf dress with purple tulle poking out one side of the skirt to make a wacky bubble/hump. Chloe-Sevigny-having-an-'80s-moment. It's pretty awesome.

Terri: Actually does look like someone tagged it with several cans of spray paint. It looked like a mess on the form but it gets crazy sold by her model. Could kick Kenley's ass if the judges decide to lean that way.

Bottom 3:

Keith, Emily, Jennifer

Top 3:

Kenley, Terri, Leanne

Nina loves Kenley's reboot of '80s Lacroix and Ungaro. Sandra B says Kenley's dress looks like a goiter on one side, but she loves Terri's tough, cut-you aesthetic. Heidi loves it too. Everyone hates Emily's ruffles and tells Keith his dress looks formless. Sandra calls Leanne's "cool" and Heidi says it's "impeccable... I'd wear it in a heartbeat."

Everyone thinks Jennifer's attempts at surrealism (her words) are boring instead of Bunuel. Because they are. Also? No eyeballs being sliced.

Judges chat: Nina has "no comment" on Emily. Heidi loves this and laughs out loud. Congratulations, Nina, you have made Mistress Klum smile. Then Heidi lays it down about Jennifer: "I'm not really interested to see more."


In: Keith, Terri, Jennifer, Leanne

Winner: Kenley

Out: Emily. This proves that boring and frumpy is preferable to a tacky, cliched cha-cha dress. But Jennifer, spared for now, better go get a little clearer appreciation of what "surreal" means and quickly. Not from me, of course. Like I said, I'm done with all that. Emily, of course, remains convinced that her dress was amazing and that everyone else is blind.

So... yeah... whatever. I'll keep faking it.

Oh, and P.S. I don't have to fake my enthusiasm for pal Elyse's latest YouTube commercial for herself. She took a little video camera on a couple of jobs and made a short little film about being effervescent and having really long legs. Check it out.

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Dave White