Meryl, we need to talk. Please give me a buzz. My number is at the end of this story. You have lost your way and I am reaching out to you. Give me a call because I want to help.
That was my first thought when I read in Women’s Wear Daily last week that Meryl Streep had ordered a custom-made dress from Chanel to wear to the Oscars Sunday night and then canceled it when another designer allegedly offered to pay her to wear his design to the event.
I understand there is almost zero-percent chance that you find this story as compelling as I do, but please bear with me. It speaks to a larger issue.
It has galled me for a long time that rich people expect to get things for free when they are the best-equipped among us to pay for the stuff they want. And it’s getting worse.
The petty thievery of the upper classes was much simpler when I first came into contact with them. Rich folks would do things like requesting for the clothing they purchased to be shipped to their winter home in Florida instead of delivered to their New York apartment and thus avoid paying any sales tax. Then the maid at the house in Florida would slap another shipping label over the first one and send the whole shootin’ match back to New York, and the city would be out a few hundred bucks.
Which the city would make up in some other way. Like raising the subway fare, for instance. Guess who’s more likely to be on the subway: the people toiling to make that overpriced swag or the person sporting it in the drawing rooms of the Upper East Side.
But the fascination of the rich and famous with ripping off the tax man is an old story, and back then, they at least paid for the actual merchandise that warranted the tax bill. Even celebrities. Long before Meryl Streep had 20 Oscar nominations under her belt, way back when it was more like one or two, she paid for her own dress, just like a regular person. I can not speak to her early policy on tax avoidance.
For one of the early Oscar ceremonies in which she was nominated, she wore a dress from a designer for whom I worked and he didn’t give out freebies to anybody. We never even saw her in the showroom. She went to Bendel’s and bought it herself. Probably even paid full price. And I would be surprised if she had a stylist. It was a different time.
I also don’t know if she paid sales tax. I would imagine that she did since she was new enough to the privileges of money and celebrity that she didn’t yet realize its full capabilities.
But according to designer Karl Lagerfeld, she understands it now. Or at least someone in her employ does.
As the story of Streep’s alleged greed developed, she denied the whole thing. Lagerfeld went into full Kaiser Karl mode and issued a non-apology which Streep rebutted in a statement dripping with privilege and self-absorption in which she did not come off well. For those of us interested in this sort of thing, it was more fun than a long-lost trans-Atlantic episode of Dynasty, with better acting and costumes.
This kerfluffle of ruffles was made infinitely more interesting by Streep’s very political statement at the Golden Globes a few weeks before which drew her directly into the crosshairs of the presidential Twitter feed and made her a national hero to 40% of the country and a pariah to another 40%.
Unlike the Tweeter-in-Chief who now finds Ms. Streep “overrated,” Lagerfeld still says Streep is a genius actress but that fact is overshadowed by her cheapness. He has recanted part of his initial rant, or not, depending on how you read it. Basically, we’re left here with a “he said, she said” and most likely who you believe will totally depend on which 40% group you find yourself in.
Which is, in itself, kind of funny. A bunch of anti-elitist populists finding themselves taking the side of a man so imperious he speaks into a lace fan (as I personally witnessed on the one occasion I met him) and who quite possibly believes himself to be the reincarnation of one of the Bourbon kings of France living his life at the court of Versailles is delicious in the extreme.
Despite the fact that Karl Lagerfeld could probably buy and sell Meryl Streep before his morning demitasse, in this case he is a tradesman who has been wronged by a wealthy client, though he would probably die rather than phrase it like that.
The dress he started for her, made to her measure, is useless now that it has been canceled. It’s not like Chanel can finish it and put it out on the rack. Couture doesn’t work that way. So, whether she got paid to wear that blue Elie Saab to the Oscars or not — and I hope she did because it was butt ugly, as pants with a train always are — by canceling Karl’s gray silk Chanel design after work was begun, she has stiffed someone doing work for her.
Exactly like a certain real estate developer she has criticized often does. If La Streep is going to behave like him, she should take a lesson from him and make everyone she deals with sign non-disclosure statements.
Not that it would have helped with Karl Lagerfeld. Tick off that grand old geezer and duct tape across the mouth wouldn’t shut him up. Which also makes me think of a certain ruler of the free world.
Bill Colvard is lifestyles writer for Mount Airy News and can be reached at 336-415-4699.