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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

From dusk till dawn

Yesterday was a day jam-packed full of experiences, different people and stories. It started with a lunch at The Monarch in Rosebank, which was a belated birthday bash put on by Zenani Mandela and Carolyn Steyn. I had to do a radio interview halfway through with Tom London who was syndicating it to the community radio stations. Tom is a fantastic interviewer and the thing was being pre-recorded so I felt very relaxed about it all, unusual for me because whenever I go on radio I get very nervous. The lunch was wonderful in the beautifully decorated dining room and we all had a nice glass of wine to relax us. Zenani had sent a basket of flowers to wish me well, which I picked up at Hyde Park as Carolyn had invited me to Alan Knott-Craig's book launch, Second is Nothing, taking place at Exclusive Books. The book was co-written with Eunice Afonso, who told us her name was pronounced UNEES, as in Unisa. We had a quick coffee beforehand with Aaron Stanger and his wife Gwen. Aaron was working on a great idea for a chain of theatres at various shopping centres, with accessible parking and add-ons such as restaurants to go to afterwards.

Debora Patta flew by, en route to Woolies not to the book launch, but not before she told me that she was off to Zimbabwe for a much-hoped for interview with Robert Mugabe. She has been trying for ten years she said, but has been banned from entering Zim for the last 5 years.

The (excellent) speeches by Alec Hogg and Ravi Naidoo as well as Alan himself, took a long time and we all died in the stuffy heat. Shopping centres insist on turning off their air-con at 6pm and we all, men included, had the most appalling hot flushes. "What is wrong with me?" inquired Tom London, who was there with his long term girlfriend Claudia.

A good Vodacom contingent was there to show support for a book which told about how "the father of cellular" in South Africa turned the company into a multi-million conglomerate worth R150-billion. Among those he thanked were former president Nelson Mandela who inspired him. A glowing Dot Field, back from a lovely cruise around the Mediterranean, had helped organise the evening together with Pan Macmillan and Joan Joffe was there to show the flag.

Alan's first wife Janet was nowhere to be seen and neither her nor her children were featured in the book. But wife no 2 Surina was very much in evidence, with an enormous cleavage. I decided later that her boobs should both have been given life sentences and locked up with no hope of parole. Talk about bad plastic surgery!

We then bumped into fellow "Patrizio lunchers", Hanli, Sean and Michael, with whom we drank a a few glasses of Moet which was chilling in the ice bucket and mostly ignored by the book launch party guests. After such a long day it was time to relax so we all went to the Hyde Park Southern Sun's new Italian restaurant Bice, named after Beatrice of Milan I was told. They have restaurants all over the world but this was the first one in Africa. There we had some sushi at the sushi bar (ran by ex-Sandton Sun's Japanese restaurant Daruma), told some more uproarious jokes and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. A perfect end to a busy day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Hooray for the pink flamingoes!

Friends have been threatening to take me to the Troyeville Hotel ever since I arrived in Joburg. "You don't go for the decor," they said, telling of the pink plastic flamingoes, the unglamorous tablecloths and old Portuguese gents whose watering hole it is. It's the FOOD that is the drawcard (especially the prawns from Maputo). How glad I am that some of the landmarks of Joburg remain, especially those kind of places where you go for the experience and sometimes the proprietor keeps a baseball bat under the counter. At last, I was taken to the Troyeville for lunch by friend Estelle Cooper who had been to a Spring Art tour talk at Boekehuis earlier in the day. We were joined by her friend Nikki.

The drive through to the hotel was pretty hairy, as the shabby gentility of Kensington with its beautiful colonial buildings and old glass windows led into Commissioner Street, which seems to be in a downward spiral of crime and grime. Talk about burnt-out ends of smoky days ... some of the shops which were looted and burnt in last year's xenophobic attacks had been left as empty shells and teenage whores prowled the pavements outside places like the Oribi Hotel.

I did NOT want to get lost in this neighbourhood but finally found the hotel and parked around the back. Estelle and Nikki were sitting in the glassed-in verandah section of the restaurant, which is now owned by an Aussie called Lawrence Jones (usual story, he met a South African girl, or a series of them, and settled down here). Lawrence liked the pink flamingoes so much that he had them stitched onto his staff's T-shirts, so the flamingoes are now part of the brand. Lawrence has also kept the menu, as is.

After ordering some of the famous LM prawns Estelle and Nikki nipped outside for a cig and I inspected the skyline behind the hotel where Ellis Park Stadium has seen a revamp (this is where Clint Eastwood shot some of the scenes for his movie Invictus earlier in the year). We got chatted up by a shirtless 20-something and his sleepy eyed friend from Mozambique but this freaked the married girls out somewhat and Nikki said quickly: "Let's go and eat!", even though our food hadn't arrived yet. We were popular as the bar was stuffed full of large sweaty men watching the Currie Cup and as Estelle said, "We didn't look at the bar, the bar looked at us!" The bar was a real old fashioned South African bar, with dark furniture, TV screens everywhere, beer ring stains and a billiards table dominating the room. You don't get them anymore these days, as everything is so trendy and done out by the hottest new interior designer, so all the flavour is lost..

Estelle had done a recce of one of the rooms which are a form of permanent residence for some of the old gents and said that it was like being in a time warp. Here was this old guy in his tartan slippers, she told us, and it was so sad. "How could it be sad?" we asked her. "He lives above a pub with beer and prawns on tap". "Oh, I am being such a girl, I didn't see it from that point of view," she confessed.

The Troyeville clientele is a mixed bag of every strata of Joburg society and Laurence was having a Spring Art Tour special, so the old Porra gents downing bottomless glasses of beer to accompany their huge plates of prawns were side by side by the 94.7 cyclists and Sandton types sipping their napkin wrapped Pinot Noir which was chilling in ice buckets.

It's the kind of place where you will always bump into someone that you know, Estelle told me, as she goes there with marketing mogul John Farquhar on many an occasion. "It brings out the inner peasant in me," John confesses. True as bob, who did we bump into but Matthew Crouser from the Mail & Guardian who was having a business meeting outside, side by side with the sleepy 20 somethings. After about ten minutes Matthew shot past again, waving as he went. The quickest business meeting ever!

We dived into our prawns and starters (chicken livers, surprisingly mild, calamari, a Portuguese salad with olives everywhere) and of course the ubiquitous chips and rice and loads of garlic butter for the prawns. My Greek friends would have demanded more lemon as that was a bit scarce. But this was Food with a capital F. And there was loads of crusty bread and butter. I enjoyed every morsel and relished the fact that no one was telling me, ooh no, you can't eat this and you can't eat that and you have to go to gym afterwards. I sucked my shells and tossed them onto a plate feeling happy as a lark.

Afterwards Estelle and Nikki went onto the new and very trendy Arts on Main in downtown Joburg which was holding a "rather sexy party" for the finale of the Spring Art Tour Grolsch party. This year's art tour consisted of specially curated gallery exhibitions, design shows and special menus created by a number of restaurants, including the Troyeville. The tour took in the city's major art galleries: Everard Read, Goodman Gallery, Brodie Stevenson, Gallery MOMO, David Krut Projects, Gallery AOP, Brodie Stevenson, Rooke Gallery, CO-OP, Afronova, and GoetheOnMain.

Another cool experience in downtown Joburg...

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lots and lots of pushy WIWs

Remember, I was talking about hats the other day? The annual O magazine tea party would have made Oprah proud (she's coming out for a reader's breakfast at the end of the year and I hope to see her again. Last time was in about 2004/6 at the Sandton Convention Centre where the orgy of Oprah adulation saw 4000 women dancing up and down hysterically, with the result that the place nearly fell down).

Everyone wore a hat of some sorts, even if some of the white floppy ones obviously came from Woolies and had done a great deal of service. My FAVOURITE hat of the day belonged to Miss South Africa Tatum Keshwar, who "got changed in the car". She wore a little head-hugging, 30s cocktail hat made of downy little orange-speckled pheasant feathers with a bit of bling keeping it all together in the middle. Feathers are terribly flattering to a woman's face, especially if they frame it softly. I know I have been slagging David Tlale off a lot recently as I just think he has become so impossible and his designs just weren't up to scratch, but this outfit completely redeemed him. Tatum, being a model, knows how to wear her clothes too, and her champagne-coloured, satin ballooon skirt worn with super high heels suited her to perfection. We do have some beautiful women in this country, don't we?

My spirit of sisterliness was shattered a bit when I arrived, I must confess. The parking at Avianto was full so we were being directed around the back. Just as I was about to pull into a space a white Mini Cooper shot around me and took that exact space. It was a lady in white who did the deed but as the whole place was pullulating with WIWs (Women in White) it was hard to track her down inside and poke her eyes out with a tea fork.

She was not alone in her pushiness. Some of the O magazine readers have mistaken Oprah's advice to be assertive for downright aggression. The pushing and shoving in the queues for neck mssages had to be seen to be believed. I was too afraid to go for my tea and sandwiches but the wildebeest hordes seemed to have calmed down by then. Perhaps all the gifts and goody bags had calmed them down.

But it is a peculiar thing about human beings, how situations like this seems to bring out the worst in them, isn't it? Some of the functions I go to, where the people are very well-off, sees displays of pushing and shoving in the food lines as though the whole of Sandton is in the middle of a Stalinburg-like siege and that really is the last sandwich in town that clawlike fingers are stabbing at each other over.

Though I can talk, can't I? All that talk of tea forks!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Sarah wants champagne ..."

What a very busy weekend, it's taken me three days to recover (no kidding). It kicked off with the pre-party for the Pepsi/Lays ICC semi-final cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand. This was held at the Hyatt (by the way, did you know that there will soon be another Hyatt, this time a Golf Estate and Spa, in sleepy old George, soon?) and the area was cordoned off for the morning. Everyone arrived ultra-casual, in flats and jeans, ready for the cricket. I have had cricket explained to me on occasions too numerous to remember, usually by 20 something boys who tried to take me off to the Wimpy later. It all goes in one ear and out of the other (this is the cricket I am talking about, you understand) as I really am not a Wimpy kind of gal. I understand the absolute rudiments of cricket but it is such a complicated game and it takes so long for anything to happen that an immense weariness overtakes me. Try explaining that to the fans at Wanderers though, some of whom looked like they wandered in off the Pride parade which was cantering past the Hyatt before lunch and disrupting the traffic. "I'm stuck in the fag parade," wailed a friend who couldn't get through and landed up in Jellicoe Avenue waiting for the millions of Pride supporters to pass, and some tourists who justtagged along for the fun of it.

The afternoon started with a braai lunch for which we were all very grateful as breakfast either didn;t happen or was too long ago to rememeber. A heated debate started up over lunch on the subject of Paris Hilton and whether she was a useless piece of fluff or not. Who knew there was a case for the world's biggest oxygen thief, but the debate grew so interesting that a decision was taken to start up a proper debating society in Joburg, with a chair and all.

The cricket went on until 9pm that night but for some strange reason most of the celebs who were invited took one look at the cricket and said: "That's it, we;re off on the next bus." Some hardy souls braved a prego roll after the match back at the Hyatt but most went on to the Cleo Bachelors Bash (not rated very well by many of them)

The following morning was the Avis Derby at Kyalami Equestrian Park where all sorts of pretty horses jumped, trotted, pirouetted and showed off their form. It was a weekend of pungent horse pooh as the horses at the cricket were quite busy too. I was alarmed when someone asked me what I wanted to drink and someone else suggested champagne. The cry went up ... "Sarah wants champagne!" This made me sound like the biggest brat in Christendom but it did not stop there. Later on, round about pudding time, I idly admired the icecream stand. "Sarah wants icecream!" was duly shouted out. It was time to make a joke of it with friends: "SARAH WANTS ..." became the refrain of the day. But I did quite like "Sarah wants champagne", must remember that for future reference!

After all the champagne and icecream I headed off to Montecasino to see the first night of Cats. Never having seen it before I was fascinated by Carte Blanche producer George Mazarakis telling me how he saw a performance in London in 1982 with Elaine Page. It was theatre in the round with a difference he said, the stage revolved around the performers so it was an iMax experience before its time!