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Nightclub fixture and how-to writer Dianne Brill says she has been mistaken for a blond bimbo. But deep down inside she’s . . . : A Feminist Babe

TIMES SOCIETY WRITER

As book signings go, this one is a bit unorthodox.

“If a woman says no to sleeping with you after three dates,” the author asks, “you know, TDR--the Third Date Rule--do you see her for a fourth date, or are you hesitant? How do you react as a man? . . . Why do you think guys like lingerie? It’s fun for me, I think it gives me this kind of battle gear thing. . . . Does anybody know how to cha-cha? Can you show me how?”

Definitely not your typical book signing, but par for the course for Dianne Brill. The fashion designer and New York nightclub denizen-cum-author is pushing her new book, appropriately titled “Boobs, Boys and High Heels, or How to Get Dressed in Just Under Six Hours.”

Topics in the book include “The Art of Walking in High Heels,” “A Crash Course in Corsets,” and tips on how to meet a “GG” (great guy) at the dry cleaners.

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And, of course, breasts.

“Can we talk about boobs?” Brill throws the subject out. Will you ask me a question?”

“Are your boobs real?” a man asks.

“Yeah, my boobs are real.”

If anyone looks qualified to talk about breasts, men, and dangerously tall footwear, it’s Brill. Standing in front of some 30 people at Big & Tall Books, the Los Angeles bookstore and coffeehouse popular with the espresso and Gauloise crowd, she is every inch the authority: hair the color of Malibu Barbie’s; curvaceous, bordering on cartoonish figure encased in a low-cut black leather jacket and miniskirt, and lace-up stiletto-heel platform boots that were meant for something other than walking.

To a group that is part fans, part friends and part people who are downing espressos when Brill shows up, she demonstrates flirting techniques, such as the “camera trick” (take a guy’s picture, walk over to him and say, “I just took this incredible picture of you and I’d like to send it to you. Can I have your name and address?”) and the “Danilo Wink"--named after a hairstylist--(the eye winks while mouth does a combination kiss-pout), both to the delight of the crowd.

Brill sidesteps a question about her age, saying, “You know the thing about that? I find that about age, I get prejudiced. When I hear someone is 19 or 32, I judge them differently in my head. I don’t like to do it, but I do it. So I find it’s better for me not to say.”

But after a while it becomes apparent that there are two Dianne Brills: The woman who looks like the inspiration for voluptuous ‘toon Jessica Rabbit and the woman who wrote a book that is not so much a guide to man-trapping as a kind of manifesto for feminist femme fatales.

“Why did I want to write a book?” she says as a cappuccino machine whirs in the background. “You know what it is? I think that everybody never quite gets what I’m really about. I mean, you know that I’m well known, but am I, like, one of those famous-for-being-famous people? And do I really have something to say? What I’m saying is that as a woman you don’t have to walk like a man or smell like a man to be equal to a man. You can be a woman, you can be a babe, you can have fun with your sexiness, but you absolutely deal with a man face to face, straight on. And I think we’ve come to a point in our lives as women that we can share our sexiness and be happy about being ourselves. And that’s why I wrote this book.”

But she’s right--not everyone gets what she’s about. Outside of Manhattan, Brill’s recognition factor drops considerably. Some are dimly aware of her years as a designer, outfitting rock ‘n’ rollers like Rod Stewart and members of the E Street Band, of her exploits as a fixture on the New York nightclub circuit, or her occasional appearance slithering down a fashion designer’s runway.

So on this tour she spends about as much time justifying herself as her book. She preaches “the power of babedom as a flirting tool, something that feeds your sexuality, but not being a victim of babedom,” at the same time she must convince people she’s not the poster child for blond bimbos.

The next day, over lunch at Le Mondrian, the image issue comes up again.

“I met with this one reporter,” Brill recalls, “and she was trying to get me to answer her questions like a bimbo. She’d ask me the same questions and I’d answer them the same way every time. Finally I said, ‘I’m not what you thought I’d be when you looked at the cover of the book.’

“I’m embracing a cliche,” she says emphatically, “but I’m laughing with it. I think that my different take on blond and sexy is that it’s funny and fun and I’m holding the reins on it. I’m breaking a stereotype. I hope in this book I do. I hope that women who might embrace a cliche not be victims of that cliche, but own it. When you feel that you can’t have your self-respect because you don’t have your mascara on, then you’ve got to take off your mascara completely and spend some time with yourself, loving yourself.”

At a distance Brill’s costume-y persona can be threatening: the sexy goddess always surrounded by a bevy of men. But up close she is all girlfriend, fuming at the very idea of feminine hygiene spray, the idiocy of beauty pageants--all the while gossiping about the cute waiter.

But just when the reigning queen of babedom convinces one that a woman can be overtly sexy and know her away around the stock page, she throws another curve: Brill is the mother of a 6-month-old son, Keenan. The father, Peter Voelkle, a German film producer, is her “permanent love god.” The two are not married yet and split their time between Europe and the United States. (Brill is waiting for her divorce from New York nightclub entrepreneur Rudolf Piper to be final. The two were married about nine years ago and have been separated for 7 1/2 years. Brill says they remain friends.)

Not even she could predict the reality of motherhood.

“All of us growing up in this time were taught our success is equated by the way we look and our business acumen. Before, a family meant success, but it also meant the toast is burning and your hair’s a mess and you’re at the end of your rope, and that’s the wrong image for a family.

“You think this means I’ll have to totally change my life and I won’t have a good figure anymore and I’ll have to look like what a wife and mother is supposed to look like, which is a tired, old cliche. I was so terrified of that. I’m living proof that that’s not what you have to do. You don’t have to worry about the toast. Let it burn.”

The fatigue of the one-night-stand book tour is starting to get to Brill, as she slumps down on the banquette. “I have to be at the Polo Lounge for another interview,” she says, checking herself in the mirror. “And I have to redo the do. You have to look like the cover of the book.”

At 5:30 the same day she arrives at the studios of E! Entertainment, where she’ll tape a segment of “Inside Word.” In the green room she asks if she can do a retake if she flubs the interview and the producers tell her no, the show is taped too close to air time for that.

But during the show she does make a mistake and asks for a retake. Michael Castner gives her the Stare of Death and half-jokingly says, “You’re lucky they hid the gun.” The show must be done again from the top.

Even so, the producer thanks her afterward and gives her a T-shirt and luggage tag. “Not everyone gets the luggage tag,” he says.

“Oh, great!” Brill enthuses. “I love these things!”

Then it’s on to the studio of photographer Greg Gorman, who is shooting her for an ad for L.A. Eyeworks sunglasses. After a round of gossip with Gorman and a quick hair and makeup touch-up, she goes before the camera.

In an instant she turns on her fabulous Brill-ness, head cocked back, lips parted in a dreamy half-smile, chest thrust forward.

“That’s great, that’s great!” Gorman says as an assistant carefully combs strands of perfectly straight platinum hair into place.

In less than an hour she’s done, and rushes to get the bobby pins out of her hair so she can make her dinner reservation on time and finally see her son, who is in the care of Voelkle’s mother, who is traveling with her.

“You know,” she says, “I was thinking about the book signing last night. I thought, ‘Wow, this is L.A. I’m moving here. I love it.’ There are two kinds of L.A., one where they let down and they’re totally, like, really real. They were really real last night. Nurturing, and really real. I just thought there wasn’t any fake fan crap. It was so refreshing, and I just didn’t want it to end.”


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