By all accounts Wednesday night's launch of the Richie Rich label A*Muse at New York Fashion Week did not go down without a hitch, with guests complaining of having to wait an hour and a half for the show to start. Rich's muse Pamela Anderson was late - reportedly because she wanted Rich to personally pick her up from her hotel. Frockwriter has no difficulty whatsoever in picturing the pandemonium, having personally witnessed the line's global launch at New Zealand Fashion Week in September. And what a treat that was. Due to work commitments which commenced the minute we landed back in Sydney, our account of that show remained in draft form, including several videos. So voilà.
For anyone wondering why on earth A*Muse was unveiled in New Zealand, as far as frockwriter could ascertain, there were two reasons. Well three, if you count rumours organisers paid Anderson five figures to do so.
Brian Long, the label’s LA-based publicist, is a longtime friend of the New Zealand event, having attended for several years. Anderson also reports that her Malibu neighbours hail from Auckland's Waiheke Island and she had always wanted to visit (which she managed to do on the second day of her two-day visit).
Given that ANZFW is an annual winter event, the line's bikinis and board shorts were ludicrously out of context. But in spite of kvetching that the Anderson circus was a blight on NZ's fashion credibility, it should be noted that the event doesn't normally wind up on Perez Hilton's radar, which it did this time around thanks to Anderson's involvement. Also, Richie Rich is a veteran of New York Fashion Week, where his ultra trashy Heatherette shows were among the event's biggest drawcards.
Anderson reportedly arrived in Auckland on the morning of Thursday 24th September.
At 4pm that afternoon, a press conference was staged for the NZ media at the ANZFW venue: the old America's Cup sheds down on Viaduct Harbour.
I attempted to live stream the whole thing however later discovered that the wifi connection had died halfway through. Here it is for anyone who is interested, all 12 minutes of it. And yes, Anderson did the entire presser dressed in a pink scarf.
The show was due to be staged at 5pm the following day.
At 4pm that afternoon, I was backstage at Anderson’s venue, waiting for the collection to be wheeled in. It was the hottest ticket of the week, at least in hype terms, and it involved an international celebrity. Anticipating a certain level of backstage angst, my strategy was to get there early.
The minute the collection was brought in and the covers were unwrapped I managed to grab a couple of BlackBerry shots of two pairs of novelty mens swim briefs, one decorated with a pair of fluoro pink scissors and the other, with a skull. I TwitPic’d the pair with the scissors:
As dressers began to pile in and stand by their racks, with production assistants flapping around, you could feel the angst crank up a notch. One producer walked past and called out, to noone in particular: “Get your game faces on”.
At one point, the canvas awning at one end of the backstage area was peeled back to reveal a small white Winnebago parked immediately adjacent to the tent: Anderson’s personal backstage trailer. Straining over the shoulder of one security guy and Anderson's US manager, I managed to take another, albeit dark, BB shot of Anderson checking her bouffant do in the trailer's mirror. Not a peep out of anyone.
The manager then called out, in a loud voice and standing right next to me: “I want all media out. No exceptions”.
The minders did not appear to twig that I was media. Having survived previous backstage media purges on the big show circuit, I figured there was a chance I might survive this one.
I should point out that while security personnel were almost invisible at the event all week, save only for a front rego desk accreditation check, this show was crawling with them. According to ANZFW, Anderson paid for them. They had a job to do: protect their celebrity client. From what, it wasn’t entirely clear. Hordes of paparazzi? They appeared nonexistent. Mobs of fans? Couldn't see any of those either outside the venue or the Westin Hotel, where most attendees were staying.
I also had a job to do: continue documenting the event, notably from backstage. And there were several reasons why I felt welcome there.
Firstly, I had been invited to the event as a guest of the organisers.
Secondly, I had been accorded full backstage access for each day of the week (to shoot this photodiary).
Thirdly, I had canvassed my concerns about access to this specific show with the organisers that morning – and had been assured by the event's head PR that there would be no problem. Noone communicated anything about any backstage exclusives that had been organised. Sadly the head PR was not backstage. Nor were any of the organisers who, it should be noted, had employed everyone in the room bar Anderson's entourage and security.
Pamela Anderson’s backstage area had however by this stage seceded from Air New Zealand Fashion Week and become a celebrity sovereign state policed by security goons.
After eventually being dobbed in by an ANZFW production assistant (who claimed she was Australian - or had lived in Australia, from memory there was some Australian connection), a large, intimidating bouncer shuffled over to issue a threat to evict.
I did a double take, contemplating the absurdity of the prospect of being physically removed from an event that I had been flown over to cover, before calmly walking to the exit - his hands on me for the duration.
Outside the tent, I found myself standing next to the terribly amusing TVNZ Breakfast host Paul Henry. He too had been booted out. I flicked on the Qik and recorded the following which, once again, failed to fire live.
I wound up watching the show seated next to Henry, who thoughtfully provided the following post-show analysis at the end of the final walkthrough (you can't see his face because there were no lights):
Venturing backstage after the show had wrapped to get a closer look at the clothes, with the Anderson entourage - and indeed the collection - nowhere to be seen, I managed to be evicted a second time by a separate security goon.
Shortly afterwards I made my way to the Westin, where a number of media reps had been invited to have a drink with Anderson and Rich.
Once again, no photos were allowed. We were each given three minutes with Anderson. I was somewhat dumbfounded to learn that I would be able to record the interview as a video. Within seconds of flicking the on switch however, Richie Rich leaned over to put his hand over the camera lens:
Somehow I managed to record a second take. It is difficult to hear because there were so many people in the room and the light quality is poor, but there you have it:
I’m still not sure why such a fuss was made of the photography. Celebrities far bigger than Anderson are a dime a dozen at New York Fashion Week and while security is often tight at NY shows, it is extremely discreet.
Anderson departed Auckland the following morning at 1am by private jet. It seemed a little excessive, particularly in light of persistant reports of her financial problems.
Then I read in the NZ Herald that Anderson had flown straight to Brunei to attend a party thrown by Prince Azim. The penny dropped: that’s whose jet she hitched a ride on.
If you are wondering just how incongruous the flesh-flashing former Baywatch star would prove in the conservative Muslim state, where modest dress is the norm for women, it’s worth remembering that Prince Azim's profile as a decadent party-throwing playboy appears to be rivalling that of his uncle Prince Jefri, who once had a yacht called Tits.