Vivien Lash explains why writing your own ending never hurt anyone’s career
Aunt Irene the Slut was my first dead glamorous role model. She ran away to New York to lead a Valley of the Dolls existence, coming home occasionally to detox, whispering seductively as she mixed an extra dry martini for breakfast, ‘If you want to keep your looks drink vodka.’
She walked the tightrope between a good death and a bad end when a garbage truck reversed into her as she was stuck in a jam between Fifth and Madison just after posting a birthday card to me with this message in Schiaparelli pink ink: You can drink and take drugs but not at the same time.
Deaths are easier to remember than birthdays, and a bad end is sexier than dying in your sleep. Suicide is a blind date with a dark stranger, a way of shouting Cut! when you’re still young, thin or fabulous.
Sylvia Plath’s poetry is good but her death was better than her Platinum Summer, ‘a kind of pornography, at once exciting and unreal’ to quote Al Alvarez, the last man to whiff Plath’s hair as she ascended the stairs ahead of him a few days before she died with her head in a greasy English oven.
A good death never hurt anyone’s career as Marilyn Monroe could testify if dead saints could talk. MM died ‘in the nude’ as Elton John, fairy godfather to the fat and famous, sings. Naked except for a squirt of Chanel No 5 in a free product placement Karl Lagerfeld could never dream of achieving again.
Suicide is not the only form of self-destruction. It was only a matter of time before Princess Diana, the third member of the unholy trinity, died in a car crash. She self-improved with bulimia and self-harmed with her car crash of a hairdo before becoming the unfortunate face of a billion tacky souvenir tea towels.
Death and glamour go together like sluts and STDs. It would be nice to have one without the other. Or would it? Is duality and danger maybe an essential part of dead glam sex appeal?
Is that all there is? More! More! John Galliano could be singing in his career suicide note on a Parisienne pavement instead of a rant about Hitler. It’s hard to believe that a man with Gallo’s post-punk talent and taste could fall for the little dude with the funny tache.
But an Anarchy shirt isn’t going to upset anyone these days. Sex and drugs aren’t shocking even in the schoolyard. In an increasingly pc world ideological anarchy could be the only way left to be disturbingly decadent.
When I pass the genius grandson of punk Alexander McQueen’s old apartment in Mayfair, where he died in his closet of all places, I always walk faster; and hold my breath in case depression is contagious when I look in the window of the empty apartment in Eton Square where McQueen’s strikingly ugly friend Izzy Blow lived before she swallowed weed killer, a violent method of self-murder which seems to indicate self-loathing.
Death is in the details and there’s a romantic attraction to leaving before the party ends instead of hanging around long enough to grow too many chins for even a cosmetic surgeon to trim, like poor Elizabeth Taylor.
Happiness writes white whereas perfect silent Rothko red is the shade of suicide. After death the glamour lives on with a greed for fame like an X-Factor contestant without a song. And sometimes emptiness is attractive, waiting to be filled by the reflection of your own fantasies. At the end of the day a dead glamorous obsession beats talking about the weather.