Thursday, December 10, 2009

The social scene

Here are some of the characters around the social scene. Names and incidents have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty, so no one will be able to say: "That's me! She must be writing about me!"

But feel free to add your own comments and characters ....

The Brakky-ass ends every sentence with the word "Bru" (or "chaaana"). Even if the person he is speaking to is a girl. Brakkys are called this because: "I'm from Brakpan, bru!" or somewhere similar. Brakky are described as "salt of the earth" because what else can you say about someone who is ugly and their mother dresses them funny? Brakky-asses show off more butt-crack than a regiment of plumbers. They are always pulling their pants up because of this. Their hair looks like the rats have attacked it in the middle of the night, and it is usually dirty blonde. They look like they don't bath because they are a muddy colour. They are addicted to physical violence and believe that it solves everything. "I'm going to moer you stukkend!" is a favourite phrase. They are a bit genetically challenged and have weird looking families. Was the family dog involved? They have dead cars in their back yard and "lappies" in the flowerbeds. Brakky-ass women have hoarse voices and are always pulling on a cigarette (which they bummed off someone). Their children also have hoarse voices, maybe because Mom drank and smoked a lot during her pregnancy. Brakkys like to play loud house music and throw bottles out of cars. They should move to Australia because they would fit in, but the Australians don't want them.

Some of these are Tsotsis in a dress. The pink rand rules, baby. The Moffioso control the social scene, and the gay scene. Lesser Moffia are known as "moffalinas", who are hoping to move up in the ranks to be Moffioso kingpins one day. The moffalinas need to find a rich patron to do this, but often they have moffalina divorces which are meltdowns of note and the neighbours have to call the police. There is no dignity in love or the death of it. Many of the Moffioso are in event management, fashion or party planning but they can be found in every sphere, even business and sport (but this is kept very quiet). They have extremely influential clients, make obscene amounts of money and are highly successful in whatever profession they are in .They have superlatively great taste if they are true Moffioso. Their houses are always in the decor magazines. You want them to take over your life, tell you how to dress and how to do up your house. It's good to have the Moffioso on your side because when they like you they are like purring pussycats. Otherwise you are dead meat. The Moffioso are very big in Cape Town. They get involved in all the doings of the Mother City, but you will find them everywhere, even in places you might consider quite homophobic.

The Botox Queen looks like he/she has been bitten by a poisonous Amazonian tree frog. He/she is swollen, puffy and shiny to an alarming degree but boasts triumphantly about how much Botox he/she has has injected. One day they are going to exhume Botox Queens (BQs) from the early 21st century and wonder about what human beings are prepared to do to their own bodies, like the Elizabethans putting lead on their faces or Victorian women wearing corsets that broke their ribs, caused them to faint and distorted their shape. Botox Queens are complete plastic surgery junkies and love to have "work" done. The trouble is, none of this makes them look better. They in fact look hideous and scary, due to being pumped full of tetanus infection poison. The pain is always worth the gain, though, as the BQs try out the new third-degree burn treatment that is guaranteed to make them so much younger and more beautiful. Although I am sure that Botox is not biodegradable. So the BQs may look better than Tutankhamun after 2000 years.

The BEE-atch is easy to spot. She's literally covered in bling, from sunglasses to handbag to fake nails and drives an obscenely expensive car (like a BEE-MW convertible). She loves to lunch and calls her girlfriends "darling" and everything is "stunning". She singlehandedly keeps Sandton City in business and tells everyone how much things cost and how she bought it in Paris or Milan. The trouble is with all this newfound money is that the BEE-atch is not a very nice chick. She ignores poor people and beggars at robots and never gives the car guard any change. She bosses her staff and bullies them relentlessly before going off to lunch (again). She's rude to her household staff too and doesn't pay them. She has a packet of Simba chips on both shoulders which should make her well-balanced but it just makes her rude and arrogant. She loves putting people down, as they haven't "arrived" like she has. She disses other African countries because they don't have money. The BEE-atch loves to tell everyone about her roots but doesn't ever want to go back there. She was a Mbeki-ite when he was president but now she just loves President Jacob Zuma to bits.

The PWS (Publicity Whores) throw themselves in front of every passing camera. You know them by the way they Facebook themselves (check out their profile pictures, there are now about 14 367, not counting their blogs and personal websites). They Twitter, they tweet, they Youtube themselves. They love being in Heat magazine. They love being the subject of tabloids scandals as it pushes up theur profile. The PWS are always voor op die wa (pushy and first in queue). They love being photographed with Famous People. They have a collection of Famous People they have been photographed with. There are more Famous People they are salivating to get their picture taken with and they will not rest until this happens. Journalists, as a rule, do not enjoy the PWs much because their editors impose a ban on the PWS after a while and it can get a bit sickening, all this me me me. PWs are always so transparently hungry for more. Pictures, editorial, column space, even a fake obituary column would do. And when can we meet Oprah?

The GFPs live in Sandhurst or the northern suburbs, never in the East, West or South (quelle horreur). They always look like they have had expensive dentistry done as it hurts to smile, or maybe they just have razorblades up their ass. They have little soirees where there is no food. Just red wine and Lots of Cupcakes. The cupcake is the GFP contribution to worldwide cuisine. They are more English than the English and their daughters and sons marry money. Lots of them live in Cape Town. Their friends are MDs or CEOs, never ever middle management. The women dress like Squirrel Nutkin, all gingham and baskets(although they do love their Chinese jackets for the evening and an artistic splash of colour with ethnic beads). When they are older they always have coiffed white hair, wear pink linen jackets and have "good bones". They love doing up their houses and talk about "dek-aw", not "day-cor" like rest of us plebs. The GFP have more money than God but they always look unhappy like they have sucked on a lemon. They are most polite when they are at their most mean. They never talk about their problems. What problems? It must be someone else's problem, never theirs. They are perfect. Even if they do need to be defrosted.

We all know the Barker Haineses of this world. Everyone knows their name, they are the most powerful captains of industry in the world, if not the universe. They use their clout to buy, borrow or steal impeccable credentials. Their net worth is splashed across the financial pages. They are charming, they love the ladies, particularly the beauty queens, models and trophy wives. But do not cross them. These guys are more ruthless than Lady Macbeth if you get in their way. They are deeply, deeply scary. They can send thugs to your door at the drop of a hat. Never inquire how they made their money or question their authority. They will destroy you. No one can stand up to them, they have too much money and power. They are at all the parties ... the A list events all over the world... even if they are oh so dodgy. They always make the social pages. From Vanity Fair to Tatler to you name it. It's enough to make the PWs green. The Tsotsi in a suit always makes sure that the suit he wears is the best money can buy, it's usually Italian tailoring and a perfect fit. If you have to work with the devil you have to keep up with his sartorial style.

*PS: If Zapiro is feeling generous, perhaps he would like to offer to illustrate some of these characters for me. But no showerheads, please!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Learning the art of sabrage

It was time for a Christmas lunch this week before everyone goes off to their respective holidays (or "staycations" for the recession-hit!) and publicist Jill Grogor whisked myself and a fellow journo off for a beautiful lunch at Signature, which is run by Felicia's nephew Desmond Mabuza (okay, I have to explain all this before I get to the sabrage bit). Now Desmond and I go way back to his Back O' The Moon Days. He is one of the hardest working people that I know; he's at the restaurant every morning at 9am and only leaves at 2.30am. He is now in partnership with the Moloko Group, who also own AtholPlace, the beautiful new Strathavon Boutique Hotel and Constantia Manor. Last week a group of media and celebs had a "pamper lunch" at AtholPlace and we then went off to Signature afterwards for a drink.

Jill promised that we would return for lunch and so we did ... just in time for a sabrage lesson. Sabrage, by the way, is the art of getting a bottle to take its own top off and then drinking the yummy champers inside. It's the best party trick in town. It doesn't have to done with a sword, as those are not actually knocking around one's house. I've even seen it done with a teaspoon by Pascal Asin from Moet & Chandon while Gatriles was still around and was profoundly impressed.

Now Signature is a fine dining experience, a rarity in this fickle town where places spring up like mushrooms overnight and then disappear just as fast when the style crowd moves on to the Next Best Thing. The menu encompasses things like oysters tempura, which certainly got my attention. I've heard of Oysters Rockefeller but never oysters dipped in batter, Japanese style! You could have them the normal way but this was unusual. It was a tough choice for starters but as I am a bit of a salmon addict I had the salmon roses. Our companion, in a hat, sploshed her sashimi into soy sauce vigorously, a wonderfully incongrous sight. Jill stuck with salad for mains but the rest of the menu covered wonderful fish dishes, fillet, Thai style curries, and a cute chicken pot pie. And nice puds too, although I woul like to see restaurants offering a plate of fresh, sliced seasonal fruit as our fruit is so phenomenal. One of the nice things about the restaurant was the curvilinear banquette-style seating for those who like to settle in for the afternoon.

One of them was Marilyn Cooper from the Cape Wine Academy, who helped put together the very successful Soweto Wine Festival together with Mnikelo Mangciphu. She was sitting with the restaurant's sommelier but came over for a quick chat. I told her about the Hyde Park Southern Sun opening and how sommelier Miguel Chan performed sabrage. What a ritual it seems, we said, that only a few holy of holies can ever understand. So Marilyn in her inimitable way called for a bottle of champagne. Initially they brought some Louis Roederer (yum!); but what she really meant was an empty bottle so we could do a "simulation". So we got an empty of Moet Rose to practise on.

Now sabrage is something that has always fascinated me; how does someone open a bottle of champers so dramatically without it exploding? Do you need to be very drunk to do this? I always like to watch people do it but thought it came with the instruction "Do Not Try This At Home" like the WWE wrestling. Marilyn completely demystified the art of sabrage for us. Let's see if I can remember what she told me, in sequence.

1. Remove the foil from the top and neck of the bottle, while keeping your finger on the cork (important to remember this), with the bottle tilting away from you (hold its bottom in one hand). The foil needs to be completely removed. Then unscrew the wire cage over the cork and remove the wire, still keeping your thumb on the cork.
2. Then feel along the neck of the bottle with your thumb horizontal to it, to see if you can feel the tiny line that runs down the side of the bottle. When you have located the seam in the bottle,
3. Take your sword/kitchen knife and stroke it, blunt side down and FLAT, down the the bottle along the seam right to the top of the neck, once, twice, FIRMLY, then for a third time quickly, this needs to be almost like a tennis stroke. You could also use a teaspoon but it has more impact on onlookers or party guests if it's something that looks spectacular.
4. WHOP! The cork shoots off, along with the extreme top of the bottle, going who knows where.

You have now performed sabrage. Don't worry, says Marilyn, there's no chance of you getting glass in your champagne as the pressure inside a champagne bottle is about 6bars, nearly 3 times more than your tyres, and everything goes out of the neck. But you do need to point the bottle away from yourself, your eyes and your loved ones. It's all about physics and pressure. You need to follow these instructions to the T, though. There are a lot of dumb people out there who would try to bash the bottle in half and kill themselves.

You've heard about the element of surprise ... well, this was the element of sabrage. Jill was most impressed and vowed to try this at her next party. But we thought we should go and get bottles of JC le Roux and practise on them first!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A mad hatters tea party

Apparently the students from the Spero Villioti Elite Design Academy were inspired by my blog on hats being the new "thing"", and decided to put on an Avant Garde Hat Show in Hyde Park on, of all days, Friday the 13th of November. They certainly turned some heads!

The tea party was held in celebration of the 2nd year students’ dedication, creativity and hard work during the year in their millinery class.

Students were briefed to be as creative as possible and they did not disappoint. The hats were absolute pure fantasy and over the top! Viva, hatwear, viva!

From orgasmic breakfasts to heavenly lunches

Visuals at the Durex breakfast

This last section of the year is always the busiest for everyone and the parties are back-to-back. You name it, I have covered it over the past six weeks, from wine and food to fashion to horses.

One of my most anticipated events was a breakfast put on by Durex to launch their new orgasmic gel for women, Play O. This is a vaso-dilator that increases female sexual pleasure intensely. I met a sexologist with the very unlikely name of Dr Elna McIntosh at the breakfast. Elna was a complete scream, if you will excuse the pun. Who would have thought that a sexologist's husband would run off, with of all things, a poppie from Kuruman? But he did. She has recovered, and found herself a seven-foot tall Nigerian underwear model called Yusef. She said she asked the universe for him and he arrived. She was an inspiration to us all. I am too bashful to report much on the gel on the blog and can say only this ... um ... it works ...

Then there was a heavenly lunch at the newly refurbished Cypriot Club near Eastgate. Nicolas Nicolau and his family bought the club and have turned it into a plush upmarket venue for the Cypriot/Hellenic community. There are crystal chandeliers, gorgeous wallpaper, three resident chefs, a huge landscaped garden, a bar with big screen TV for the men, a lovely ballroom area, a lamb on the spit area and a separate space for the children with cupcakes, toys, nannies, and the full catastrophe. No more plastic chairs!

The whole place was packed for the opening lunch and I sat with Nicolas's family inside. It was one of the best meals I have had all year. Cypriot specialities like pasticcio, chunks of tender lamb, green salads of finely chopped spinach and herbs, okra, crusty, crusty bread, taramasalata, fabulous herby potato chunks, roasted vegetables ... my goodness, it just went on and on. It was hard to restrain myself even if I was eating mostly vegs and fish! The dessert tables were mobbed before they were finished being decorated and we were swatted away like flies by a rather annoyed Nicolas. There was wonderful things in rosewater and glittery cupcakes with Father Christmas's face on them. Bowls of cherries, chunks of watermelon, mousses, lemon cheesecake, champagne jellies, things in shooter glasses on mirrors. Why, o why, don't "God's frozen people" (WASPs) eat like this?

Then there was Winex followed by the pantomime, Janice Honeyman's superb production of Pinocchio which was world-class. I attended the launch of 312, a high end couture store in Sandton City's new Legacy Corner

The window displays as part of the "reveal" at 12 Couture

Posey posse ... Danielle Franco, Jen Su and Carolyn Steyn at the 312 launch

and went to the opening of the new Hyde Park Southern Sun with its fantastic view over Joburg and great Italian food (remember Bice, owned worldwide by the delicious, sadly married Raffaele Ruggeri? Now everyone knows about it!).

The famous Raffaele with Suzanne Weil at Hyde Park Southern Sun

I went to the Mr Gay South Africa at the State Theatre (now, that was fun) and I hung out with friend Simon Rademan who composes the Worst and Best Dressed List in South Africa, the Christmas tree lighting in Hyde Park where all the shops stayed open till 9pm and we ate Haagen-Daz and had hand massages at Jo Malone. Then it was off to the Summer Cup at Turffontein where we sat out on the deck at the Furious Room and saw the gee-gees and the jockeys in their colourful silks up close. Why do all jockeys look like Benjamin Button (and not like Raffaele Ruggeri)? They seem to be born looking old and stuffed-looking, must be because they have zero body fat.

Then it was off to the Blubird food market where friend Robyn Higgins told me about the new Food Hall opening in Rivonia at the Codfather. All the marketers under one roof, kind of like the David Jones Food Emporium in Australia! Blubird did very well at the recent Good Food and Wine show and lemon lady Peta Hunter walked off with an award plus a mention in Eat In. Robyn was keen to place an ad for the market on my blog but I said she would have to wait for The Website to launch. I learnt a lot more about blogging after seeing great new movie Julie and Julia (wasnt Meryl Streep fantastic? A cross between Dame Edna Everage and Joan Plowright), and discovered that this blog is getting lots of hits!! Keep reading it folks! Lots more to come!

The Les Must-have collection

Awwwww, cute ... Cartier the leopard cub at his photo shoot.

The cuff links were inspired by the Tank watch cabuchon

Tortoise shapes are a big motif in the new collection

Unless they are quirky, big labels are not usually something I am too crazy about but there are a few top brands that I do admire, respect and aspire to: Vogue, Chanel and Cartier. I have been lucky enough to have some exposure to the latter, thanks to the South African connection with the Richemond Group (one South African journalist gets a chance a year to go to Paris, including Gary Cotterell from Wanted and Kate Wilson from marie claire mag and last year, it was my chance to see the 2008 Biennale collection and then go on to the Cartier Polo in London) and found that everything to do with this brand is classic, classy, understated and infused with a quiet civility.

So I jumped at the chance to go and view their new Collection les must at the two year old Sandton boutique. Even more so because I have been enjoying the new Les Must ad campaign with the little leopard cub, being an avid lover of cats both great and small. In each picture he is more cute than the next as he munches on the expensive leatherwear (ouch!) or watches it fall out of with the sky with big Tom Kitten-round eyes. Apparently this effect is achieved by the animal trainers distracting him with fascinating objects on sticks. Although the cub's private circumstances is kept as hush-hush as 007's whereabouts his actual name is Cartier and he is the mascot for the campaign. Cartier the cub reportedly eats two chickens a day, although I am sure by now he is up to six or so! Apparently he had a great rapport with the photographer and at the end of the campaign shoot the two stared at one another with huge interest.

One of the lovely things about Cartier the brand is the recurrences of themes; the cub being a perfect example, as he fits into the "Panthere" history. Even the perfume bottles tops echo the shapes of the archetypal Cartier watches, the cabuchon swivel, for example, being echoed as the lid. So the new Les Must collection contains all the echoes of the past, with some sexy new twists. Such as the Cartier tank watch camouflaged with leopardprint which I spotted in the latest Vogue. Another echo of Cartier the cub... and something that should be a bestseller in South Africa, practically the home of leopardprint.

The original Les Must de Cartier was part of the 1970s and 80s when luxury objects became much more accessible to more people and included things like luxury lighters, perfume, leather goods, watches, pens and sunglasses. It made some aghast to see a disappearing age of fabulous bespoke pieces which only a wealthy few could afford, but the trend was in line with what was happening in the world and these lines have continued to this day without Cartier losing one ounce of its reputation. A tribute to their superb marketing skills.

The 2009 collection is aimed at the young and funky market and the goatskin and snakeskin purses, notebooks and cardholders veer away from the usual monochrome, coming in shades of fuschia, indigo, bright green and caramel. They are also within the realm of affordability; even an impoverished journalist could save up for one to raise her style quota! Cufflinks are in the shape of gaming tokens such as clubs or dice or tortoise-shaped. The animal motifs pop up again in the shape of mother of pearl or white tortoises (tortue) on filigree chains, or stylised scarabs. There is silver and gold - rose-gold, yellow gold or white gold, all of which is matched up to the stones. Delicate necklaces can be worn alone or as a threesome, enhancing a woman's neck. There are Entrelace silver and gold rings which you turn in circles like pasta before you pop them onto your finger. And Entrelace bracelets and necklaces. More animals ... a cute cocker spaniel is introduced with the barrettes, and if you like you can keep his ears in order by pinning them back gently. It's witty, quirky and wearable even by someone older.

As we look at the collection I am served a glass of champagne (for breakfast!), the Cartier Cuvee placed on a saucer which is also customised. Even the perfume papers carry the logo. As usual whenever I come into contact with anything Cartier-esque I feel like a million dollars and swank off through Sandton with my beautifully presented press kit. Even the carrier bags are fabulous .... and heads turn.

My parents were friends with an eccentric billionaire golf-course designer who once told my mother: "Every woman should have something by Cartier in her wardrobe." Never was a truer word spoken.

A classic ... the iconic Tank watch.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The inside story

Hell, it all looks so glamorous but nothing is as it seems

After a fabulous year last year, this year has been one of extreme drought as far as financial renumeration has been concerned. I struggled to pitch stories as a lot of the magazines were doing them inhouse. Thank God for press releases and the work that did come my way. So I started up this blog, just to keep my name out there. Blogs are about what you personally feel about stuff, not necessarily just toeing the official line. So here's the inside story about what it's REALLY like to be a social columnist. Never mind the stuff on the profile, everyone has to work an angle on themselves these days and get onto Facebook/Twitter/YouTube/whatever just to get out there.

Was being a social columnist what I really wanted to do with my life? It has almost been a sideline to what I really wanted to do - which is write. When I first pitched the idea of a social column to the then editor of The Citizen Tim du Plessis over nine years ago, I made a promise to myself. Two promises, actually. Firstly, I grandiosely said: "I want to put out the best damn social column in this town!" and secondly I promised myself that this was not who I was, it was what I did. This was an important distinction. I had to be true to myself in a complicated way.

Weirdly enough social journalism, in fact journalism, was not what I wanted to do with my life at all. Sies, seen through my student eyes journalists were those unwashed types who were always getting arrested and smoking pot. They were scaly, dodgy lowlifes that I wouldn't be seen dead with, and what was worse they always had some sort of agenda or other (I still feel like this about some of them!). Some people know from a very early age exactly what they are going to do with their lives. Not me. My career desires changed like a weathercock from month to month, from year to year, from one stage of my life to another and it all seemed like a natural progression. Twenty years ago I wanted to be a horticulturalist, and studied every botanical name of every plant. I knew them all, in my vast enthusiasm. I still know them, it was a very useful exercise, and my green fingers are still active. Then I wanted to work in publishing but my politics weren't far left enough for Wits, too middle of the road. I kind of "fell into" the social journalism thing. I took to it like a duck to water, and built up contacts and relationships like a pro. I could relate to people, and loved writing social stuff (after all, my Barbies had a social magazine back when I was ten). Nice pictures appealed to me, thanks to an art background, so the layout part was easy. I had always had a sharp tongue and found it was an asset to the job, as was an understanding of people.

I know where they are coming from. People are weirdly insecure and because of that seem determined to make me as a social columnist into what they want, not what I want to be. Some of them live to see their picture in the paper, just for some sort of validation. Is this why they are nice to me? I feel bad sometimes for the things I write, but hope they can see it as tongue-in-cheek, not a desire to be cruel. Of course the corrupt, the rude, the nasty get exactly what they deserve. Some high profile folk live in a world of wealth that is closed off from reality; they have no clue what the man in the street is experiencing nor do they want to know.

It's peculiar how they behave towards me. When I am camera-shy they literally push me into pictures and how I hate it (and untag myself from Facebook pictures! I look like a slug, twice the size I used to be!). Old friends of twenty years introduce me, saying: "Be careful what you say to her". They desperately want to make me into a celebrity, a big frog in this tiny little Jozi pond. They schmooze me and kiss me and tell me I look FABULOUS. God knows what they say behind my back!! Some give me the evil eye, which is very honest of them, to their credit. Some pay compliments which are in fact insults, but more power to them. Of course I love aspects of the job, it would be hypocritical not to admit that. Good lord, I get to meet famous people as a matter of course. I get to be interviewed on TV/radio. I get gorgeous goody bags from time to time. Designers dress me. People mention my name left, right and centre. My picture is in the paper every week! How hard would it be not to get a swollen head?

But knowing that I cant be too egotistical is part of a necessary survival kit. It's the publication that has the power, not me. Look what happened to Jani Allan, look at what happened to Gwen Gill, their publications just dumped them. I know perfectly well what will happen should I stop writing a column. It's happened to me before, after all, so I know. I am a writer, first and foremost, not freaking Hedda Hopper. So knowing who you really are and your own personal power in life is the most important thing. Everything in life is fleeting and momentary, only that knowledge remains for me at the end of the day. When I'm 80 I don't want to sigh sadly and say "those were the days". I want to say: "Today's the day!"

Dealing with my colleagues is progressively more trying. For the past eight years I was left alone to do my job but over the past two years the professional jealousy I have had to deal with at work has been noticeable (isn't it always like that in every workplace? The jealousy just follows you around). I daily hear the hisses: "Who does she think she is? Does she think she's a celebrity?" They make a lot of noise so I can't concentrate on creating my masterpieces and try to create a negative energy force around me. I always call it the "crabs in the bucket syndrome" and think it's quite funny. People don't understand that the more they try to drag other people down for being successful, the more they drag themselves down. Praising other people for their hard work and being inspired by their success is my philosophy. I wish our society would stop hating success and embrace it, on every level. Think of what we could achieve! The dark side is a reflection of the light side, it wants to pull it into itself and vice versa.

The really, really great thing about this job is the people you meet that you would not have a chance to meet as a civilian. I meet amazing people who are an inspiration to me (Arctic explorer Lewis Gordon Pugh, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Blade Runner Oscar Pistorius, Advocate George Bizos, Sir Salman Rushdie, Bettany Hughes, the former Mrs Sarkozy Cecilia Attias, Nelson Mandela, the list from the past nine years goes on and on). These are the kind of people whose energy I want to encounter, whose positivity and success are an inspiration. Everything else just falls away, all the petty jealousies and other people's insecurities are eclipsed and I feel re-energised and raring to go. Nothing is impossible.

It means I can go back to my little desk in my messy home (oh, the mess! and the papers! I would rather go out than deal with it) and try to get the thoughts which have been playing in my head into some sort of coherent form, my iPod playing something soothing in my ears. Next year and the year after that will improve, the work will come back, the money will improve and hopefully I will have another year to do the things I love.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hallo, Most Stylish Kitty

IT girl Lady Kitty Spencer is now the Most Stylish Person in South Africa

Lady Kitty goes up to claim her prize

It might have been the sheer glamour of her lineage but the judges for the 13th South African Style Awards were also bewitched by 18-year-old Kitty Spencer's friendliness and peaches-and-cream complexion last Saturday when winners and judges alike met for tea at the Hyatt Regency. We liked her gladiator stilettos and her open-book manners. None of the "hubris of the high born", as a British newspaper put it. Because she is Princess Di's eldest niece, and first cousin to the young Princes Harry and William, Kitty is actually a countess and her father likes her to be known as "Lady Kitty Spencer". Apparently the Spencers are far higher on the food chain than the reigning monarchy and always have been. A magazine editor told me though that Kitty was "minor royalty" and unless she invented something like Velcro or did something spectacular the mag wasn't interested in an interview. Maybe I should try again? It's hard for South Africans to address a friendly teenager as "Lady Whatever", so we called her Kitty instead, which she did not seem to mind.

Strike a pose ... Photographer Xander Ferreira knows how to grab attention in his gold takkies while an amused Yair Shimanky from Shimansky Jewellers looks on

Who were the winners and the judges? Former Miss Universe Michele McLean won Style Icon, The Smarteez Most Innovative Style, Most Stylish Performing Artist was Xander Ferreira whose photo shoot took place in the window of the Gucci store in Sandton, Most Stylish Media Personality was Glamour editor Pnina Fenster, Metro Fm's Unathi Nkayi and Thomas Msengana were Most Stylish Couple.

Unathi with her prize from Shimansky Jewellers, one of the sponsors

Most Stylish Designer was Gavin Rajah (this caused some controversy which I refused to be drawn into).

Actress Nina Milner looking all 20s. You know her from the Appletiser ad!

Actress Nina Milner walked off with Most Stylish Performing Artist in Film, and Bafana Bafana's popular Matthew Booth was Most Stylish Business Personality.

Protective custody ... Matthew Booth

Unshakeable confidence .... Michele McLean in a plunging red Malcolm Kluk gown with Henri Slier who presents the naughty Sex in the City style programme, 'Man'

Doing her push ups ... Actress Lee-Anne Summers in red Louboutins

The red carpet champagne reception itself was ultra-pretentious and not for those who fear Ellis Park-like stampedes. Those bravehearts in the centre were squashed like sardines and yelled at each other over the general hubbub. There was so much airkissing going on and chameleon-like eyeings over shoulders that frankly a lot of people came across as insecure and unstylish. An unshakeable confidence is one of the most stylish attributes to possess, no matter what the outfit. Something we South Africans have yet to learn.

The Hamilton-Russell wines were as stylish as Anthony's dinner jacket

Winemaker Anthony Hamilton-Russell was one of the self-confident few. He was beaming because he could still fit into his dinner jacket which he had made when he was at Oxford.

Wild style ... the Smarteez burnt up the stage

The Smarteez, our own Soweto-inspired fashion invention, were also divinely confident. One Smartee even got onto the drums with the band and rocked to his own rhythms with his eyes closed. He had his hair made into the shape of Africa with coloured beads. I liked the men who arrived in dinner jackets, so rare these days.

Pushing up daisies ... the rather pretty floral arrangements!

Make me famous ... Lutho Somdyala, the presenter from's The Style Report

It was a tough call to find a winner this year in among the other strong contenders (such as former Miss Universe, the omni-elegant Michele McLean and the Smarteez), but it was a democratic vote taken round a table in the Ndau Lounge. All the judges (Thoko Qoboza from Sun International, Jill Grogor, Alan Ford, Rosie Motene, Viwe, myself, David Gilson from Carlton Hair, Louw Kotze, last year's winner Mandla Sibeko, Annaleigh Vallie from Wanted magazine, and Leanne Liebenberg) all wrote a name on a piece of paper and submitted it to the "chief judge", Alan Ford. Can't say I have ever come across a chief judge before, maybe a chief justice. I can't reveal much more about the judging process as I was one of the judges (cool!) and was interviewed by Glitterati.

As for young Kitty, she's a Cape Town girl born and bred, so I say hands off to the British press. She's OURS. I remember earlier this year, when I was invited to join the Lady Kitty and her sister Amelia (very Jane Austen names!) as well as a few other stylish folk on an ABSOLUT Vodka yacht trip around Cape Town harbour. The pictures landed up on the front page of the Daily News, obviously sold to the paper by a local photographer for cash. The press have been interested in the story of her mother's latest divorce, and young Kitty is no stranger to her family hitting the headlines on a regular basis (though she did tell me that her mother had gone off for the weekend with her boyfriend, obviously a new boyfriend). Her father completely loathes the press and who can forget his famous remark about the press being at the opposite end of the moral spectrum to Princess Diana? Who was, ironically, an arch manipulator of the fourth estate. Something she should have passed on to her niece.

One can't help feeling that she has been sheltered and does not know what lies ahead. "She's very young, what has she done so far?" was one of the concerns brought up by the judges. Well, now she's won this award it means a story in Hello magazine and much more publicity and public appearances locally, as that is one of the functions of a SA Style Award winner. She's a huge IT girl in Britain and recently attended a debutantes ball in Paris with all the other beautiful children of the beautiful people. Red carpets seem to be her second home these days. It might be a good idea, for her to get a little more media-savvy, and maybe have a press person around her who knows how to fend off the press who are showing an ever-growing interest in her after a Tatler cover story and an Italian Vanity Fair interview this year. Kitty greeted me with a kiss on each cheek at the Hyatt tea, but she needs to be aware that the press are not always her friend. She's the story and they've got a job to do.

But on to more arcane matters. What was she wearing? She seems to like minis a great deal (short dresses were a key theme this year, no more long) and told me that she picked up her short white dress about a hour before the awards. This despite my being told that Donatella Versace had phoned her to offer an outfit.

More about the SA Style Awards with lots more pictures in this Saturday's pages of the Citizen

Saturday, November 14, 2009

SPASTA OLA - break everything!

A bellydancer with the very un-Greek name of Tarryn Rego!

People always ask me why I like the Greeks so much. Maybe I should qualify that, as the only ones I have had major contact with so far are the South African Greeks who combine their unique warmth and hospitality with South African friendliness. I come from Irish stock and my mother always told me that "the Irish are the Greeks of the West" (they really are, I think). Dinner table conversations jocularly consisted of: "While my people were keeping the light of learning alive in Europe, YOUR people were running around painted in woad." This to my British father with an Irish name, who generally retaliated in similar vein about German U-boats in Irish harbours.

But I digress. Both the Irish and Greek cultures have such a zest for life and enjoyment that it is impossible to resist them. Everything is extreme, they either love you or they hate you, nothing in between. I totally get this ..

Opa! The Greek zest for life exhibits itself in their dancing and Derek Bester (Peermont Development Manager) and Julie Scafidas join in

My love of the Greeks also stemmed from my Classics professor at Rhodes, Warren Snowball, who instilled in me a huge love of classical civilisation when he took a group of friends and students on a trip to Greece many years ago. I just loved it and tried very hard to make baklava when I got home. Without much success.

I have since made staunch friends (who call me an Hellenophile) and love their food, which is very hard to find outside a Greek home. So when an invite to a new Greek restaurant at Emperors Palace dropped into my inbox I jumped at the chance.

Platia, which means "town square" in Greek, is run by Chris Malamas and his brother and boasts the kind of food that their yaya used to make. It took Platia four days to perfect the bread alone, which is crusty and rustic. It's made with olive oil and totally moreish. It was a media night and we were treated to four courses, a little taste of what was on the menu. Although most of us had not eaten much during the day, and brought along our appetites, by the fourth course we were beginning to flag a little because the Greeks can EAT. First course was the meze with the fab bread, then followed a fish course with squid heads, calamari, haloumi cheese (cooked to perfection), then the meats (souvlaki, lamb chops,and prawns), then baklava and Galaktobouriko, the pronunciation of which I always struggle with. I can say the name Antigone to perfection the Greek way, but don't let me try saying Galaktobouriko. It sounds like one of those ancient battles fought against the Persians where the Spartans were decimated but nevertheless won.

In between all this wonderful food was of course the bellydancing (more Turkish, of course) and Greek dancing. They had a great dance duo called Spasta Ola, which means "break everything". At one stage they poured whisky on the floor, set it alight and danced in among the flames, another tradition of Greek dancing. They say Greece is the biggest consumer of Chivas Regal in the world, and now I can see why!

Kung fu style ... Cyprus Radio presenter Stelios Leoni broke a whole stack of plates,then broke the last one over his head. Why? I inquired and was told, because he's Greek. In this case, Cypriot

The tradition of breaking plates during the dancing is really an expression of happiness and exuberance, but was banned for a while in Greece itself as it sometimes led to injuries. Someone once saw someone's leg being impaled by a plate. Careful chucking of the plates is required although the impulse is to throw them wildly like a frisbee. The dancing was frenzied and designed for a less Greek audience as the dance group said they did not want to do "the more traditional, boring dances" which non-Greeks might not understand.

African style ... Fihliwe Nkomo (Peermont Chief HR Executive), Hellenic News SA
Editor Taki Constantopoulos and friend

One of the dancers had a dishcloth hanging out of his back pocket with which he polished his shoes as part of the dance. The music and rhythm built up to a frenzy of clapping and bouzouki accompaniment while the dancers leapt in the air or onto each others' shoulders. It was all part of the kefi, or Greek spiritual mojo which is part of their culture. The cleaning-up operation was mammoth as the broken plaster bits were heaped high.

I will definitely be back, preferably on a Friday or Saturday night, for a bit of plate breaking (very addictive) and some wild Greek dancing!

Irene Athanasias of Hellenescene magazine gets some tips in bellydancing from MC Petro Magos, who was wearing an "island style" Panama hat and a flowered shirt.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Purple reign - an ode to the jacarandas

Slice of heaven ... a jacaranda vista with the brick-pink Westcliff in the background

I always thought growing up in sub-Saharan Africa that jacaranda trees, with their light blue-purple, bell-shaped petals, were quintessentially African, a welcome sign of spring and early summer. Maybe the visual intensity when viewed en masse against a fierce, hot, blue African sky or against a rain-soaked, thundercloud-lit summer afternoon is homegrown, but not the flowering trees themselves. These beautiful, albeit fragrance-free, beauties originate in places like southern America, Brazil and Mexico and the Caribbean. If I thought they made stunning canopies over the sweltering suburban streets of cities like Harare, Bulawayo, Pretoria or Joburg (where more than 70 000 trees come out in blossom every year around mid-October, a tribute to our "greatest man-made forest" status), I should go to Mexico City in jacaranda season. The entire city is so vividly purple it puts anything I have witnessed up till now to shame. They grow in India and California, too, and parts of Australia which are not too far south like Brisbane and New South Wales. You get a great many varieties of jacarandas and you even get white jacarandas, but they are wallflowers compared to the floral displays put on by their blue-tressed sisters (Jacaranda mimosifolia)!

What is it about the purple colour of the jacarandas that have such a profound effect on the spirit? Maybe it's that magical colour, so impossible to capture in a photograph, which has lent itself to a name on the colour palette - jacaranda. After all, purple is supposed to be a deeply spiritual colour which feeds the eye and soul and looks good in every light and from every angle. Or maybe it's the feeling that you are attending some gorgeous giant wedding, as the petals fall oh-so-silently in purple carpets below like confetti. To be married under an avenue of jacaranda trees which reflects off the bride's white dress! What could be prettier? Maybe the colour combinations of the red bougainvilleas and scarlet coral trees which also bloom this time of the year.

Whatever the reasons, jacaranda season is one of my favourites in this town of mine (I always seem to miss the jacarandas in Pretoria, probably because they flower earlier) and I love to drive around and find the best spot to view them. Joburg truly has "pretty power" in jacaranda season. The northern suburbs of Joburg boast the highest concentration of trees and while it's lovely to drive around and let your eyes drink them in on ground level, in the streets of Rosebank or Melville, sometimes you need that extra bit of elevation to appreciate how they make the city "pop", like Mac eyeshadow.

Now despite rumours to the contrary Joburg is not a flat place like Bloemfontein. It is, in fact, as Hugh Grant once said of Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, very hilly. One of the nicest spots to stop and look at the reign of purple is the street which goes behind the Joburg Gen Hospital, which has now been closed off. The security guards don't think I am mad, but let me drive through for a good gawk. They must get this all the time.

The Westcliff on the other side draws me too, perhaps because of their aptly named Jacaranda Hill section. PR Gaby Palmer is just leaving but tells me to pop up to the pool area at the Belle Terrasse for the best view. She's says I'm not the first journo to come there for a story; it's a popular destination at this time of the year and a honeymooning couple takes full advantage, interrupting my purple reveries with their tonsil-gobbling smooches (very annoying to an outsider). But I ignore them and look at Forest Town, Wescliff, Rosebank and Parktown forming a giant botanical garden below like an urban Amazon forest in among the honking car horns and the quaint late 19th century architecture. Even the grim, crematorium-like features of the Joburg Gen are softened by the already fading purple sea of blooms. The jacarandas are not so good this year, I muse. Gaby tells me that Moneyweb's David Bullard aptly described this year's crop as "straggly". Must have been all that hail we had recently.

It's the saddest thing when the purple fades and the green leaves start peeping through, making the trees disappear back into the urban forest again. So this is my ode to the passing of the Joburg jacarandas, before they spring back into life again next year. In tribute I have changed the colour of my blog headings to make them as jacaranda-coloured as possible!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

"A gold couture triumph"!

The photo-comic story featuring the winning 18 carat gold and perspex bubble armpiece by Kristin Malan, which was designed by Andreas Salver's team. Also, below, Kristen Malan's winning cellphone pouch

Eduard Claassen's Extreme Street accessory, Nose Job, an 18 carat yellow gold nose clip
Eduard also won second place for his Pollinator, an 18 carat yellow gold and red perspex hand shield with concealed memory stick.

Kyle Visser's cuff links

Lincoln Mokoena won third place for his Bond Jabulani Bond 'Deco and Wine Cellar Fellow' cufflinks, which he says he would like to see Tumisho Masha dressing up in for a spot on Top Billing and ...

... Lincoln's Hip Hop Home Boy Mag Rim Ring, which spun when he twirled it!
Pictures courtesy of AngloGold Ashanti

The AngloGold Ashanti AuDITIONS Urban Tribes Gold Design for 2009/2010 took place at the Turbine Hall at a Theatre Noir event in downtown Joburg recently and produced some spectacular pieces. The event had major mojo, helped out by the great spaces within the venue where guests could mingle, gather and disappear again, some fabulous jewellery and a hot sax band. Four celebs were involved in the design aspect this year, working with some of the top jewellery designers in the country, and presenting their gold pieces at the event. However, their designs were not eligible for judging. The finalist designers who did contribute alongside the winners and celebs were Tshepo Ditshego, Sid Forman, Trevor Lewis, Desmond Mapedi, Tiffany Marx, Zenre Rabe, Oriana Todesco and Kyle Visser.

Dion Chang came up with the concept of the Urban Tribes and they consisted of The Futurist, Extreme Street, Bond Jabulani Bond, Hip Hop Homeboy, The Black Gold Prince, The Gold Digger, Old Money Honey and the Pampered Princess who were played by various models interacting with one another on the runway.

Andreas Salver was thrilled when his team from Andreas Salver Manufacturing Jewellers took home the technical award: "It took over 500 people to help create the piece, it was very difficult to make," he told me. "I am also thrilled that we won the De Beers Shining Lights Awards this year as well!"

The judges liked winner Kristen Malan's 18 carat gold and perspex bubble arm piece Molecular Truth and gold sickle weave cell phone cage, Hands Off, so much that it inspired a photo-comic story in which the members of the various Urban Tribes conspire and even try to kill each other for the arm piece. Judges called the event a "gold couture triumph". The Urban Tribes collection will be exhibited across South Africa in 2010.

Check out my page covering the AngloGold Ashanti event in The Citizen this Saturday!

Monday, November 2, 2009

The new Jotspots (Jozi hotspots)

As every Joburger knows, you wake up in this city every morning with every hair on your head on end, glad to be alive with every cell in your body. The city has a survival code akin to the African bush, as the animals greet every morning as a respite from the predators and bloodletting which accompany each unholy night. But with its electric energy that reflects the summer thunderstorms Joburg is a gritty, exciting city that is intoxicating and addictive. Its origins as a dusty, gold-digging town with no pretensions of the Old World makes it brimful of soul, rhythm, life and colour and strangely generous and unquestioning towards those who come here with a will to survive and to thrive.

The inner city has been deteriorating since the early 1990s but R2,1 billion of the taxpayers' money has been set aside this year alone to improve the CBD. Finally, Joburgers are starting to claim their city back, inch by inch, and reinventing its history. One of the new developments is Arts on Main, on the corner of Fox and Berea Sts. To get there you have to drive through the inner city down the intestines of Market Street, past the beautiful old buildings of the city's early beginnings, some of which are in a state of sickening disrepair and some of which are being restored and re-interpreted. Tiny tailors' shops abound and the buzz is palpable. Looking around, one can imagine the entire city refurbished, cosmopolitan and full of restaurants, shops and urban prosperity. It's not as strange as it sounds ... the winds of change are sweeping through the city, cleansing its streets and blowing in fresh hope and energy. A year ago this was not to be felt, but now places further up Fox Street, like the old financial section of Marshalltown, are booming and attracting tourists and locals alike to the Darkie Cafe and the Mapungubwe Hotel.

Arts on Main is easy to find. A sign greets you as Market Street feeds into Commissioner, and you follow the fluttering banners to the DF Corlette Building which houses the space. The distressed exterior is deliberate and in keeping with the gritty downtown feel. The floors are bare concrete, and the bricks exposed. One is reminded of New York and its own reclamation of downtown, formerly unromantic warehouses. A narrow pathway, with a disused track for trolleys, leads into an Alice Through the Looking Glass space, full of checkerboard-like grass squares and olive trees. An old car is parked on the roof and turned into an installation. The resident restaurant Canteen was recommended to me by publicist and global traveller Jill Grogor who speaks of a meal from heaven. Cape Town designer Malcolm Kluk also loves Arts on Main. "I went for a meal at the restaurant and to see a play in the upstairs section the other day. The play was called 'Mouse', and was very weird, full of schizophrenia and nudity. But I loved the space!"

Today is not a good day, however. The suppliers have not provided their coffee beans and it is very quiet. Obviously it would be better to come back at a weekend or for a function. The finale of the Spring Arts Tour took place here with a party sponsored by Grolsch beer, and the place hops when it's full. Looking around at the adjacent spaces, I discover the David Krut bookshop which stocks an extensive range of South African art books and settle down for a good read.

A gallery next door has an exhibition of powerful black and white photographs of gritty cityscapes and political turmoil reflecting South Africa's uneasy history until 1994. Clearly one could lose oneself in this place alone for a few hours.

Besides all the arty spaces the offices are down another corridor and I see a sign for Black Coffee, where the designers have placed a pop-up store. Ad agencies would do their nut for this space, I think, it's so designy and trendy while maintaining its industrial strength. Suddenly the jacaranda-wreathed 'burbs completely lose their allure and the city holds out its hand again, waiting to be reborn.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blue Blood, hanky panky and polka dots

Tag Heuer watches were one of the sponsors

Gurrh-urrghh, urrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh...

Is that MY head that I can't raise off the pillow? It must be the result of the Chivas and apple juice so copiously consumed at the GQ Best Dressed Man Awards the night before. Not a bad tipple, but when you mix it with champagne and a glass or two of white wine, maybe it was not such a good idea. I love GQ, I confess, especially the writing (love the interesting, techo-savvy articles in the new edition, all about fembots, Herschelle Gibbs and gossipy titbits about Soweto band Blk Jks, who are the "talk of the town in New York").

The trouble was that the party only began after the announcement of the winner, Jon-Paul Bolus from very funky Cape Town clothing store Loading Bay which has aligned with Dutch luxury denim and fashion house Blue Blood which has its standalone store in an old Dutch Reformed church in CT. Jon-Paul wore the GQ must-have item for the summer, a polka-dot scarf twisted around his neck - verrrry Cary Grant!).

Tamo van Armim, Jon-Paul Bolus, Jill Grogor (Zebra Square, who organises the SAStyle Awards), Henri Du Blaise, Alan Ford

Last year there was no food and everyone's feet ached like hell because we all stood for hours in a soupy-hot ballroom at The Westcliff. This year we were greeted by a cool breeze and the ubiquitous Lindt hostesses who were handing out the healthy 70 percent variety by the handbag-full (the red ones were saved for later) and the food flowed with a vigour previously unknown. Rather appealingly there was less pretension this year, too, maybe because there were fewer guests, and the men (little peacocks that they are) had raised the style bar.

The peacocks were flaunting their feathers!

When I wasn't introducing people to their dates ("Hallo Brenda Khambule, this is Khaya Dludla from DRAFTFCB House." "Yes, I know," she said, "I came with him." Aaaagh, too much Chivas and apple juice!) I kept asking people like Jomo Cosmos footballer Larry Cohen (looking cute with his granny's ring set in diamonds on his pinky finger) or arch networker Simphiwe Majola (in a sharp dark blue Carducci suit, with shiny winklepickers) if they were finalists.

Jen Su, Simphiwe Majola and Uyanda Mbuli in front of a gleaming Audi

Only to be told "no". Why on earth not? Paul Diamond (back together again with model/actress/temptress redhead Jena Dover, although she was LYING to everyone about it!), Felipe Mazubuko, Matthew Booth (one of the SA Style Awards winners this year) and Thulane Hadebe were all among the list of South African men who had raised the bar in personal style, so why not Larry or Simphiwe?

And who were the lucky top ten besides Jon-Paul (whose mum told me he loves the whole 50s era, especially the music? Sandile Msimango from MTN's mergers and acquisitions section was one of them, and simply oozed smooth with his little coloured breast "hanky-panky" (another GQ-approved item). He was joined by Ole Ledimo from the House of Ole; Yfm DJ Sizwe Dhlomo; funky streetwear lover Mark de Mendez, the drummer for The Dirty Skirts; Thabang Skwambane from HIV consultancy Kaelo Consulting; Tshepo Molale from SoftAudit; the co-owner of Paul Smith store in Parkhurst Anthony Keyworth (whose girlfriend Sera Passaportis is Greek); last year's SA Style Awards winner Mandla Sibeko (who wore the hanky-panky long before the other GQ boys even thought of it); and Devon Brough from Curious Pictures, who has that typical South African oke physique which is hard to dress.

Editor of GQ Craig Tyson with the winners

The girls deserved a little acknowledgment I thought. Local designer Sanche Frolich (back from New York) and Katja Kellhofer from must-visit Gloss florists who wore gorgeous long black lace, were looking too elegant for words ("we dont do cheap", they said, with a meaningful look at the hostesses in their ultra short lycra dresses. Even if it does mean you don't even get a nibble or a phone number at Taboo).

Sanche Frolich ... doesn't do cheap.

Leanne Liebenberg was a trifle sad, I thought, after "nog 'n break-up", but she brought along friends Alan Ford and the ever-delightful and beautiful Henri de Blaise who was playful in a red shirt and braces.

I was so glad there were NO shorts this year, nothing more stupid that a grown man with knobbly knees wearing a pair of shorts that look like they desperately need a belt. The guys wore everything from dress shirts to leathers to suits to streetwear. Only David Tlale spoilt it all for me. Can GQ please do a story on people who wear sunglasses to evening events? Only acceptable if you also possess a guide-dog.

Coffin chic? David Tlale