Leave it to a bunch of unwitting sports nuts to crash a Web site run by two gay men who make a living telling celebrities, “Girl, that’s not your dress.”
But that’s what happened to Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez, creators of TomandLorenzo.com, a fashion and pop culture blog that offers smart, sharply written, but never mean, criticism of celebrity style. TLo, as the duo is known to devotees, wrote a post in August 2012 about tennis star Serena Williams, who’d worn a red form-fitting Victoria Beckham dress for a “Late Show” appearance. The post was linked by a bunch of bigger sports sites, and TomandLorenzo.com was overrun with so much traffic, their site crashed.
To this day, it’s their most popular post.
But it’s the site’s second most-viewed post — a 6,000-word “Mad Men” essay — that helps to explain the 9 million page views per month chalked up by TLo and distinguishes the duo in a field of culture bloggers.
“They’re the perfect combination of snark, sass & style. And I learn stuff too!,” tweeted Mary Beth Mosley, one of TLo’s “bitter kittens” (aka, dedicated fans).
“Being a gay man in a semi-rural area, Tom & Lorenzo are the gay grandfathers I have been looking for my entire life,” Jake Bowen wrote in an e-mail.
“Mad Men” is one of the most heavily analyzed television shows on the Internet despite its relatively small audience (the sixth season finale in June had a series-high 2.7 million viewers). But Fitzgerald and Marquez found a niche.
In addition to offering show recaps, whenever new episodes are airing they publish the Wednesday feature “Mad Style,” which interprets the choices of costume designer Janie Bryant.
“Tom and Lorenzo’s ability to follow a character’s development through the costume design of ‘Mad Men’ continues to amaze me and leaves me with a feeling of awe,” Bryant wrote in an e-mail. “After reading their analysis, I am always impressed with their acute attention to detail.”
There’s this tidbit, from a “Mad Style” post this summer: “Jim Cutler’s grey suits and silver ties are downright eerie. It’s his signature look. He floats through the office like a ghost.” And this: “Roger is working a red, white and blue theme, which came up a couple times this episode. It tends to signal establishment power, as it does here, but it’s also historically accurate. Red, white, and blue became a persistent motif in fashion and design starting right around this time and lasting all the way through the seventies.”
But the post that catapulted them into an even bigger spotlight was an essay about Bob Benson, a mysterious new character introduced in Season 6. Fitzgerald and Marquez pinged him as gay long before it was revealed.
“My goal, when writing ‘Mad Style,’ especially that Bob Benson post, is to explain to people that all of this stuff is deliberate,” Fitzgerald said. “The story, the lighting, the dialogue, the set. None of this happens accidentally.”
“Mad Style” is now required reading for a “Mad Men” class at Whitman College. The duo has also increased its profile through appearances as guest advisers on Sundance Channel’s “All On The Line with Joe Zee,” which is hosted by Elle’s creative director; they’ve been featured in the New York Times, which credited them with early recognition of “12 Years A Slave” actress Lupita Nyong’o as a red carpet standout.
You couldn’t find someone better suited to talk about “Mad Men” than Fitzgerald. His mother is named Peggy, and in 1960, she was “a good Catholic girl” who worked as a secretary in New York — just like Peggy Olson, one of the show’s principal characters. Fitzgerald’s father drew freelance art for ad agencies in 1950s — “like Sal Romano, except not gay,” Fitzgerald said.
After finishing film school at Temple University, Fitzgerald moved to Los Angeles, worked on a few projects and hated it. He returned to Pennsylvania to work as a production assistant on the Tom Hanks movie “Philadelphia,” and stayed when he realized he didn’t like the nomadic life that film required. Eventually, he became a copywriter for an ad agency. His constant analyzing of movies and TV shows used to drive Marquez nuts, but now, it’s a boon to their site.
Fitzgerald calls the Web site a representation of his and Marquez’s 17-year relationship, which culminated in their marriage this summer. In February, Fitzgerald and Marquez, both 47, will release their book, “Everyone Wants to Be Me or Do Me: Tom & Lorenzo’s Fabulous & Opinionated Guide to Celebrity Life & Style.”
When a ladystar does well on the red carpet, they give her a “Werq!” in the spirit of Ru Paul. But when she experiences missteps, they generally don’t excoriate her for it. They tell her to fire her stylists. Or they tell her, “Girl, that’s not your dress” (GTNYD for short).
Lena Dunham, creator of HBO’s “Girls,” was the subject of a GTNYD post when she wore an ill-fitting Prada gown to the 2013 Emmys.
“This makes us weep,” TLo said. “Because that fabric is absolutely stunning, and does, in fact, look amazing with Lena’s coloring.”
But, and there was a huge but: “This OBVIOUSLY is not her dress. The shape is absolutely horrible. We were going to add, ‘for her,’ at the end of that last sentence, but we think it’s a pretty bad shape for anyone.”
Their criticism isn’t limited to women. TomandLorenzo.com is one of the few sites that doles its hilariously tetchy commentary on male and female stars alike. A regular reader knows a picture of Johnny Depp in leather fringe and denim is going to elicit the words “elderly gay wind chime.”
It may seem silly to obsess about these things, but Fitzgerald and Marquez have pulled back the curtain on the theatrics and strategies of the red carpet, and there’s nothing simple about it. It’s an event that’s just as highly orchestrated as a wedding, all for the sake of selling you something.
“When you feature a red-carpet post, you’re promoting the designer who gave them the clothes, the stylist who styled them — even if you don’t name the person — the shoes, the bag, everything. The red carpet is the phoniest thing in the world, and there is so much money on the line,” Fitzgerald said. “The minute that stiletto hits the red carpet and she pivots out of her limo seat and stands up, it’s all about promoting her, promoting her movie, promoting her dress, promoting her shoes, promoting her jewelry. So much is on the line.”
“Everything is calculated,” Marquez added.
“Right! This is why we’re so damn critical,” Fitzgerald said. “I would never criticize a person in the real world the way I critique someone wearing $75,000 worth of stuff to promote a $200 million project.”