Fashion's Arbiter Mr. Blackwell Deals in Threads, Keeps Audience in Stitches

Times Staff Writer

The punch line went: "I didn't mind another doctor , but he called in an architect ."

Almost everyone laughed.

"Today everything is in jest," Mr. Blackwell said, waltzing across the stage. "If I tell you that you look terrible . . . it's in jest. If I tell you that you look wonderful . . . it's in jest."

Mr. Blackwell gestured toward a woman in the front row.

"You have sensational legs and tremendous bosoms."

Accountants and attorneys giggled. So did bankers and their secretaries. This was the lunch-time crowd at Warner Center and Richard Blackwell, known to the fashion world as Mr. Blackwell, had them wrapped around his little finger, just like the enormous pinkie ring he wears. He moved as an ebullient caricature of fashion among stiff blue blazers and restrained wool skirts.

They wanted to hear about Mr. Blackwell's 10 Worst-Dressed Women list. They wanted to know: Who was the worst-dressed woman in the White House? And what about Elizabeth Taylor's hair?

Catty Fashion Talk

More than 100 office workers had come to this large room with gray carpeting and a single, potted shrub in the corner. Brown-bag lunches were provided--a sandwich, potato salad and a soft drink--to accompany an hour of catty fashion talk.

Although he offers a clothing line in a limited number of shops on both coasts, Mr. Blackwell has forged a Hollywood-style fame from his critique of the rich and female rather than his talent for design.

"I dressed pretty conservative today because if I dressed outrageous he might pick on me," said Jenine DiConti, a receptionist who attended the show.

Steve Lange, a certified public accountant, said: "I'd like to hear about what is stylish."

Mr. Blackwell did not disappoint. He talked fashion. He talked dirt. Then he sang. The song sounded like "The Lady is a Tramp," but with different words.

I like the free, fresh styles of today

Bras are OK

She's flat and that's that

. . .that's why the designer is a tramp.

Tower of Sequins

Mr. Blackwell's accompanist played piano. A towering woman named Dallas modeled clothes. She wore black and silver. She wore this sort of see-through number. She wore sequins and feather boas.

"The feathers, which I adore," Mr. Blackwell said. "This is the kind of look that I think is sensational."

Some of the women wanted to know if the dresses would look good on them, because they looked nothing like Dallas. Don't worry, Mr. Blackwell said. Those women whose breasts are too small just have to live with it, he said. And those women who are large shouldn't worry either because, according to Mr. Blackwell, there is more of you to look beautiful.

"I'm very good friends with Elizabeth Taylor and someone asked me, 'Doesn't she look better now that she's smaller?' " Mr. Blackwell said. "There's just less of her to look awful. That spiked hair! She looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket and exploded."

Outfit Shimmers

Dallas appeared in a shimmering, ruffled gold outfit with matching jewelry and shoes. Women in the audience sighed out loud.

"I like the drama," Mr. Blackwell said. "I love it with a cape. Isn't it a knockout?"

But there was unrest in the audience. They still wanted to know who was the all-time bow-wow of the White House? Simple, Mr. Blackwell said, Mary Todd Lincoln. No one liked that answer because they couldn't remember what she wore. What about the English aristocracy, one woman asked. Chronic bad taste, Mr. Blackwell stated. And, he said, he was opposed to Charles' and Diana's marriage.

"That was my last chance to be queen."

Amid more laughter, Mr. Blackwell closed with a song.

Your smiling faces . . . your grand applause

You're the most wonderful crowd I've ever seen

. . . you liked me.

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