I am in the inner sanctum of life style--the photography screening room of New York magazine. On the boards are several sexy poses of a veal roast. Standing over them is my childhood friend Jordan Schaps, photography director of the magazine. In a town where everyone is an armchair interior decorator, Jordan is a Master of the Taste Universe.
“This is to die for,” says Jordan, selecting the exact view of veal that will be New York’s Playmate of the Month. Around him, several assistants--all young, all gorgeous, all sporting very blunt haircuts, very black clothes and very silver jewelry--bring in more potential centerfolds. One holds up a photo of waffles with a jalapeno souffle, which is, according to Jordan, “to drop dead for.”
Whether he is showcasing food, fashion or political figures, Jordan is totally aware of the power of his decisions. After a special issue on interiors, a man reported that several customers came to his antique shop, held up photos from New York magazine and said, “I want this.” An interior decorator told him about the blank check he received from a newly rich couple who said, “Just give us an apartment like in New York magazine.”
Once upon a whim, Jordan decided to photograph penguin statuettes for an issue on Christmas gift ideas. Two weeks later, the New York Folk Art Museum phoned to say they had sold 600 sets of folk art penguins to devotees of New York style.
In a cruel twist of one-ins-man-ship, New York’s restaurant critic, Gael Greene, did a piece on “Scenes,” places so “in” you have to know somebody or actually be somebody just to walk in the door. The piece concluded with a description of a club called “Drex,” described as another “triumph” of club master Peppo Urbanowitz.
Wrote Greene: “The phone is unlisted. No one knows the actual address. Just watch for a blindfolded doorman behind a teal-blue rope somewhere on West Street. He is flanked by two mute mutants. Once you establish your credentials, you are blindfolded too. . . .” Inside Drex, the critic warned, “Don’t trip over Bianca” and “Don’t miss the fruit-salad pizza.”
Of course, Jordan, like others on the magazine’s staff, got calls from people begging for help to get into Drex.
Perhaps Jordan’s biggest photography “scoop,” the life-style junkies’ equivalent of entering King Tut’s tomb or Al Capone’s vault, was when Jordan photographed the bedroom of New Yorker editor Bob Gottlieb. Unlike Geraldo, he didn’t come out with nothing but his mike in his hand. Jordan was the man who discovered that Gottlieb had his bedroom walls lined with bookshelves filled with the world’s largest collection of plastic handbags.
As I write about Jordan, it is not hard for me to believe he has succeeded, but I am awed that he has surmounted the Straight Face Obstacle. When I think back to our time running together as teen-agers, I remember him as someone so outrageous, so funny, that it was impossible to take anything seriously when you were with him. It is even hard for me to say his name, since I spent my adolescence calling him by a nickname closer to Stinky or Butch.
Especially, I remember Jordan at the gathering after my father’s funeral, greeting guests at the door like a Catskills emcee. When a particularly stuffy aunt showed up, he said, “May I take your mink?” Then he proceeded to walk over to the windows and begin scrubbing them with her full-length black Balenciaga.
Although Jordan says he hates to go out in Manhattan on weekends because the streets are crowded with OB’s (people from the Outer Boroughs), he took me to one of those incredibly “in” new restaurants, Rakel’s--that’s R-A-K-E-L.
Like a fool, I listened to him when he said it was a casual place. Everyone in the joint except us was dressed to the nines. But because Jordan Schaps is Mr. Life Style, the chef kept sending us more plates of food to die for. Raw salmon shaped like Madame Butterfly. A tiny pancake contoured exactly like the moon. A lobster taken from its shell and reshaped so that to me it resembled the statue of Napoleon in the Place Vendome. Crab cakes floating in colored sauces patterned after the chef’s favorite Mondrian.
But we were acting obnoxious. We were giggling like teen-agers. We were back in Woolworth’s eating banana splits. And when the elegant, anorexic fashion model at the next table shot us a drop-dead look, I fully expected Jordan to start wiping the floors with her faux-leopard coat.
When dessert came, I thought we’d died and gone to life-style heaven. We had our gateau and ate it too.