The Simon Doonan Interview

June 8, 2012

Today I chat with a wonderfully clever and irreverent man who entertains and delights as a fashion commentator, Slate columnist and creative ambassador for Barneys New York. He’s also the author of several books, most recently Gay Men Dont Get Fat. You can find out so much more about him here.

You and your husband make a formidable duo when it comes to style. What’s one element of your lives together that your fans would be surprised (and maybe pleased) to learn that you half-ass or are relatively lazy about?
We are both very feral. People expect us to be fussy and foncy. When they come over we are eating pizza, playing ping-pong or watching Cops.

Aside from Barneys, which stores do you think do window-dressing right?
I love to look at thrift store windows. When the employees dress the windows they are always more interesting. Andy Warhol said amateurs were always better than pros because they were never phony. He was right.

Which celebrities have you gotten confused for by fans on the street?
A couple of times people have mistaken me for Beverly Leslie from Will and Grace. Oy veh!

You’ve mentioned in other interviews how you plan to grow old ungraciously. Who are some of your role models when it comes to doing this?
Phyllis Diller. Siegfried and Roy. Sammy Davis, Jr. I guess I am obsessed with show-biz folk.

I love that you named your dog Liberace. Do you remember what other names you had considered for him, or what you would name another dog?
I think Del Monte would be a great dog name. And then there's Courvoisier.

My husband am going on a vacation, where we’re the guests of a friend who has invited us to stay with her and her husband at her parents’ house in Anguilla. Since I’ve never seen the house before and I haven’t technically been invited by the owner of the house, I’m not presuming to bring anything as a hostess gift. After the trip what would you suggest I send as a thank-you gift?
A scented candle from Barneys.com–Cire Trudon is fabulous!–or from Jonathanadler.com. Try the "tomato" candle.

You're hosting a dinner for friends on a night when you want to entertain graciously but are with old friends with whom you feel comfortable and don’t need to pull out all the stops. What would you serve?
I am appalled by the idea of "gracious" entertaining. There is nothing worse than a sea of stem-ware. I love a Mexican Fiesta.

If you go to someone else’s house for a dinner party, what do you like to be served?
I like simple, uncreative cooking. No foam. No improbable combos of ingredients. Creativity is the enemy of good food. Simple fresh discreet ingredients. I worship at the temple of Alice Waters.

You have the type of public persona that makes your fans feel like they know you and hope for your approval. Are there any elements of your personality your fans and readers often get wrong about you?
People tend to think I am judgmental or bitchy about style. I am the complete opposite. I believe style is about self-expression rather than conformity and that there are no rules. I like style-anarchy. I hate it when women are self-critical or masochistic. As far as I am concerned being overly self-conscious or self-critical is the only real faux-pas. I wrote two books on the subject: Wacky Chicks and Eccentric Glamour.

What TV shows do you watch regularly?
I love Girls. Lena Dunham has managed to get rid of all the cliched ideas about women. I think it is a very feminist show. Bravo Lena!

Who is a celebrity you haven’t met but would love to have a frank discussion with over a cocktail?
Roman Polanski is a creative genius. He has lived through the Holocaust and the Manson horror and more. I would love to shoot the sh*t with him and talk about all his movies. This will, of course, necessitate a trip to Paris.

Some people missed the humor in the premise of Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, as weight can be a touchy subject with many. When it comes to possibly offending sensibilities, do you try to write so as to make it clear when you’re joking, or do you take more of an “F them if they can’t take a joke” attitude?
I hate the idea of offending anyone. But today people seem to actively seek out and manufacture opportunities to take offence. Taking offence is some kind of new addiction. I myself have worked hard to remain unoffendable. If somebody calls me a "fag" on the street I don't take offence, I just assume that person is a moron. Being unoffendable is a great place to be. I highly recommend it.

I’ve noticed that there are several famous men of a certain age who seem to take special care to manage a wiry frame (especially musicians). Who are some skinny older men who you think could stand to eat a hamburger or two?
Skinny guys don't worry me. I am much more concerned by the hordes of sedentary, young, internet-addicted kids who are packing on the pounds and may well pre-decease their parents.

What topics are you considering for your next book?
I am working on a book called Fashion Asylum–a riff on the double entendre of the word asylum. It can be both a refuge AND a nut-house. Et voila! The world of fashion.

What’s your favorite cheap place to shop?
The
Barneys Warehouse Sale! Bonjour!!!!

How does it feel to be the 316th person interviewed for Zulkey.com/WBEZ?
I am deeply honored. That cracking noise is coming from my knees as I drop a deep curtsey!

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