Once upon a time, many, many, many years ago—back when I subscribed to Interview Magazine and wow that was back when Andy Warhol was the editor and I thought I was going to move to New York and marry my first love and work in an art gallery and I hadn’t even started therapy or moved from highlights into all over hair colour and didn’t use eye cream or sunblock—I fell in love with someone and I didn’t even know his name.
It was his work that got me. I saw his paintings with humorous prose and witty one-liners written to describe the doings of distinctively painted models with elongated forms and minimalist faces. I had never before seen anything like it when flipping through my five pounds of Vogue ads. The perfume scented ads usually featured beautiful airbrushed and anorexic models in preposterous poses and ludicrous locations.
The very first one I saw I immediately tore from the magazine and tacked onto my bedroom wall with a push pin that had once held up a Parker Stevenson poster. At the time I had no idea who did these unusual ads but I didn’t care and as I didn’t have the internet to Google to find out who was responsible for this wonderful work I enjoyed the authorless illustrations. Yes, I did have an Apple IIe computer a dot matrix printer and a slot for 5 1/2 inch floppy disks—but I did not have the fancy internet that everyone was talking about. It would be years before I dared to subscribe to AOL and hear those three magic words,”You’ve got mail.”
I started to collect these ads for their wicked wit and enormous whimsy—each one had a punch line as powerful as the picture. I imagined that one day I would have a penthouse on Park Avenue and some overpriced decorator would indulge my desire to have a wall filled with Barneys New York ads matted with linen from Milan and gold frames made for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The art found in $5 magazines with thousand dollar frames would hang on the hallway that led to my enormous walk in closet. This, please remember, was the era of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and thanks to Robin Leach I knew a little about Champagne wishes and caviar dreams.
After a few moves into a series of non-Park Avenue and non-penthousey apartments I somehow lost the folder full of ads. I was sadder than if I had lost the Robert Doisneau framed prints of puckering paramours in Paris that I had bought at Z Gallery. I was so desperate to replace my beloved ads that I called Barneys New York and asked them if they could tell me who did the illustrations and whether or not there was a book of all these ads or a way for me to get copies of them. A cliche’ of a New York sales associate took my message with as much disdain as she could muster. Barneys did not call me back. I called again and left another message and suffered yet another sales associate and yet again there was no call. Exacerbated, I wrote to Barney’s and I waited for them to write me back and they never did.
It was that very comment to the Storialist that got me to Googling for the Barneys New York ads that I have long loved. In just moments I found the ads and the name of their creator, Jean-Phillipe Delhomme. It was not a big surprise to learn that Delhomme was French and born in Paris. Mais, bien sûr!
I might have to buy two copies of each of Delhomme’s books;
I will get one for the coffee table and one to take the pictures from his book, frame with pine frames bought at Ikea and hang them on my one- bedroom condo’s white and empty walls. But, I will not get two copies of Delhomme’s novel, “Memoirs of a Pit Bull” even though one reviewer said of the book: “un roman drôle, qui laisse réfélchir sur la vie dans les banlieux, ainsi que tous ces “faux méchants.” Ecrit avec beaucoup d’humour.” I do enjoy un roman drôle.
Oh, and there is also a Delhomme candle available at Collette and developed by Les Nez de Givaudan so my home can smell chic, witty, whimsical and French.
I am not sure if any of Delhomme’s books contain the ads from the Barneys New York ad campaign—but I really hope so. As much as I love Jean-Phillipes’ images on their own, the ones I really love are the images with the text. And, it turns out that it was Glenn O’Brien, then one of the creative directors at Barney’s New York and now the author of GQ’s “Style Guy” column, and not Delhomme, that was responsible for the witty words on the illustrations. According to Delhomme’s website, O’Brien’s humorous words were intended to describe the goings on of Barneys’ self-conscious customer. Oh, and the title from todays post comes from one of my favorite Barneys ads, “She had multiple identities and each one of them had a credit card.” I think I like it so much as one of my identities has an American Express Centurion Card and the other one is more of a Costco card kind of gal.