Flash back if you will to a distant time, an era in which the "independent" prefix in music and film wasn't a chic signifier but simply an admission that you were broke and your work of little interest to a mass audience; army/navy and thrift store duds were actually purchased at bona fide army/navy and thrift stores, instead of brightly lit boutiques selling designer versions of said items. Let's call that bygone period the mid-Eighties, a now-hazy spell before Madison Avenue decreed everyone hip and the tinge of suburban weirdness was still grounds for a good ass-kicking courtesy of the Camaro-driving set. Kim Hastreiter, co-publisher and co-editor of New York's style-chronicling Papermagazine, certainly remembers those halcyon days.
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"Keith Haring was just starting out, Basquiatwas drawing in the subways, New York was a hotbed of crisscrossing culture," she warmly recalls. And now? "That moment has been gentrified out of existence.... I was just in Milan, and the catwalk there was punk. Dolce & Gabbana and John Bartlett didpunk, but it was punk made out of cashmere." Hastreiter laughs and adds, "The older you get, you just laugh about it -- and look for new subversive things. Culture eats itself and then moves on."
That societal munching is detailed in From AbFab to Zen, a coffee-table tome for the downtown crowd assembled by Hastreiter and fellow Paper head David Hershkovits. The book's glossy pages begin their story in 1984 (the year of Paper's birth) and travel to the present, pitting dramatic fashion photography against pithy encyclopedic references dissecting the past two decades of pop culture. It's a breezy tour with some excellent one-liners ("celebutots": children of the rich and famous whose media spotlight is due solely to their parental genetic code), some inadvertently disturbing juxtapositions (the black feminist theorist bell hooks, Pee-wee Herman, and heroin chic all appear on the same page -- youconnect the dots), and the end realization that shock, that hallmark trait of '80s underground culture, just isn't that shocking anymore. Indeed what does it mean that in 1998, filmmaker John Waters (once a boho patron saint) produced Pecker, a "naif-artist-in-the-big-bad-city tale" worthy of Frank Capra, while There s Something About Mary mined Water's own gross-out territory and emerged as one of that year's top box-office successes? You can pester Hastreiter and Hershkovits (not a law firm) yourself, when the duo appears in the flesh Friday, October 22, at 8:00 p.m. at Books & Books on Lincoln Road, reading from and signing copies of From AbFab to Zen. Be sure to ask why Muammar Qaddafi made the cut to appear in the book, but not Saddam Hussein. Was it the mustache?