There were lots of surprises Thursday night at the Neiman-Marcus fashion circus at Tracks, the New York-style club here. The clothes were a surprise -- a terrific, colorful mix of wrapped and tied, long and short. The audience was a surprise -- the men in their easy shirts and trousers looked far more comfortable than the women.
And the master/mistress of ceremonies, Dana Terrell, female impersonator of Tina Turner, was also a surprise, and a crowd pleaser -- so much so that one of the men in the crowd came up to nuzzle him/her. Others gave money.
The models were the biggest surprise, especially to the other retailers in the audience. The competition admired the oversized shirts, colorful prints, wrapped heads, colored wigs and green lipstick. But they were stunned to learn the models were not being paid.
"It's a benefit -- that's why we worked for free -- and besides, Neiman's is the only store to give models a discount," said one model, who asked not to be quoted.
According to Harold Nelson, the store's manager, Neiman's gave $1,000 to Second Genesis. The flyer announcing the show did not mention, and 10 guests asked at random had no idea, that it was a benefit.
The going modeling rate here is $70 per show, $20 per fitting, $30 an hour for rehearsals; models have asked for an increase..
"I'm fuming," said Paul Pensabene, Saks Fifth Avenue's fashion director. "Unless there is some proof of payment to models, each one of those girls owes each store in town a free show." Added Pensabene, "I don't ask models not to be paid because it is a benefit. They are professionals and I think they should be paid like professionals."
Woodies vice president Eileen Abato agreed. "The models acted very unprofessionally. Does this mean models are going to donate their time to all benefits? It would be nice and would help my fashion show budget a lot. But I'm not counting on it."
As for store discounts, "Can you take a clothing discount to the grocery store?"