The complex dilemmas of combining power and pretty girls: ALEXANDRA SHULMAN says Harvey Weinstein’s table at Vogue dinners would always include beautiful women
As Harvey Weinstein began life as a convicted sex offender last week, with a cell at notorious Rikers Island beckoning, I thought back to all the Vogue dinners I hosted that he and other powerful men would attend.
Dinners such as the one we regularly gave on the weekend of the Baftas, where many of the film folk in town would join fashion designers, models, newspaper editors, gallery owners and social lounge lizards for a glittering evening.
In the run-up to the big night, there would always be a lot of feverish chat about whether ‘Harvey’ was coming – he was always ‘Harvey’, whether you knew him or not.
On the occasions Harvey did join us, we made sure his table was filled with people he might find entertaining and that would always include a number of strikingly pretty girls.
As Harvey Weinstein began life as a convicted sex offender last week, with a cell at notorious Rikers Island beckoning, I thought back to all the Vogue dinners I hosted that he and other powerful men would attend
We did the same with just about every powerful and famous man at a dinner of this kind. And so, I might add, did every other party organiser in town if they were hosting similar events.
Does this sound shocking in 2020? Perhaps. But it’s the truth.
Of course, we didn’t intend any kind of physical relationship to emerge between these guys and their dinner companions but there was undeniably a complicit acknowledgment that youthful beauty was its own currency. One as potent as that of wealth, power and fame.
I haven’t put together a big dinner like that for some years and, truthfully, I don’t know whether I would feel the same way now about who I seated with whom.
Back then, of course, I had no idea about Weinstein’s predatory behaviour, although, as we now learn, others clearly did.
Nor had I heard the harrowing stories of his victims and the impassioned outpourings of other #MeToo activists.
Incidentally, at one of those Vogue parties Harvey brought with him the much-lusted-after Leonardo DiCaprio. Much to the chagrin of many of the gorgeous girls present, Leonardo closeted himself at the far end of the room and insisted on spending the entire night sitting next to his mum
Today, I would be much more wary of any potential accusations of objectifying the less powerful but more beautiful guests.
But I also know that, for both parties, to meet around a dinner table can be enjoyable and sometimes beneficial in a perfectly straightforward and harmless way.
I won’t be so cravenly woke as to pretend that attractive youth isn’t still admired in our society and that its currency doesn’t still exist.
You have only to look at the daily media feed of pictures of good-looking young men and women at parties, openings and premieres to see that.
The practice of bringing in younger and physically attractive guests (of both sexes) to sprinkle around at big social events is not unusual.
At large fashion show dinners, there would often be an influx of models dressed in the designer’s clothes after the main course. Was their entrance so timed because they didn’t want to eat?
The designer didn’t want to feed them? Or because the girls didn’t want to have to spend too long in the company of the generally older dinner guests? Who knows.
For decades, centuries even, social hostesses have invited bright young things to their parties to jolly things along – and often introduce them to men they wanted to entertain. But in today’s light, these practices raise all kinds of questions I don’t claim to know the answers to.
I wonder now, for example, why we don’t usually feel that a powerful older woman would find it just as riveting to sit with a beautiful young man? What’s the difference? Perhaps they would. Is that wrong?
Many moons ago when I was a young woman, on the odd occasion I was sitting next to a powerful older man at such an event, or indeed was invited to dinner at all, I definitely considered it a compliment. An achievement even.
I might have been terrified about whether I would know what to say – but I also knew that I hadn’t really been invited for the breadth of my illuminating conversation. I was there to add a sprinkling of the gold dust of youth.
Which was fine by me. I got to meet really interesting people, some of whom helped me in various ways as time went by, some of whom made an entertaining anecdote to tell my friends the next day.
Back then, of course, I had no idea about Weinstein’s predatory behaviour, although, as we now learn, others clearly did. Nor had I heard the harrowing stories of his victims and the impassioned outpourings of other #MeToo activists. The Silence Breakers are pictured above
And I knew many other girls like me who felt the same. And several who actively flirted wildly with an older man in a position to help them.
We always felt perfectly capable of legging it if we encountered an unwanted approach – what might kindly be called ‘a misunderstanding’ at the end of the evening.
But I am sure that there were other young women and young men who may have been more fragile, less robust and who found themselves in situations they felt they couldn’t control.
And others still who found themselves in appalling situations like the victims of Weinstein’s behaviour, which no one should have to suffer, let alone as the result of a seating plan at dinner.
Incidentally, at one of those Vogue parties Harvey brought with him the much-lusted-after Leonardo DiCaprio.
Much to the chagrin of many of the gorgeous girls present, Leonardo closeted himself at the far end of the room and insisted on spending the entire night sitting next to his mum.
Farewell Ana, my first Brexit casualty
We’ve suffered our first post-Brexit loss. Ana, our wonderful housekeeper, is going home to Romania.
Although she could have remained indefinitely, her husband, who had joined her in London a few months after her arrival and who had less stable employment, was told he could only be sure of five years more here.
Rightly, he thought, why hang around if they couldn’t be certain of being welcome in this country where they’ve worked and paid their dues for nearly a decade?
Our loss. Romania’s gain.
The Americans are masters of panic
The coronavirus is causing pandemonium in the fashion industry, now nearing the end of a month of catwalk shows that are always fertile ground for feverish talk of catastrophe.
The Chinese aren’t able to travel while many of the Americans, who can, have made their excuses and stayed away.
Americans aren’t the most stoic of nations in a crisis. It reminds me of how, immediately post-9/11, the Americans who travelled to Europe were all terrified of an anthrax attack.
They spent the whole of the Milanese shows getting their Italian drivers to ferry them round the pharmacies on a hunt for Cipro, the vaccine that had instantly sold out in the States.
The Chinese aren’t able to travel while many of the Americans, who can, have made their excuses and stayed away
Source: Read Full Article