I have this fantasy. In my fantasy, I sit behind a heavy wooden desk in a dark room with the shades drawn. Outside the room people are having a good time, maybe enjoying themselves at a wedding. In my room, all is quiet. Mean-looking men come into my room, but I do not talk to them. Instead, I hand them a slip of paper with someone's name on it. The men who get the paper say nothing. They know what to do.
The names I have handed over from time to time include the garbageman who throws my cans into my neighbor's backyard, Joe Namath, George Allen, Sammy Davis Jr., Mike Wolfe, Douglas Moore, Geraldo Rivera, Howard Cosell, Mark Spitz, Miss Lillian and all show business personalities who use the Johnny Carson show to tell me that Frank Sinatra is misunderstood. You get the idea.
But don't get the wrong idea. My Godfather fantasy stops short of outright violence. I don't wish ill of these people. I don't want anyone's legs broken or anyone taken for a ride. I believe in moderation. I just want these people to go away, disappear - leave me alone. Yesterday, I added someone new to the list.
The news came on the radio. There were more reports about the cold wave and something about Andy Young and what he was doing in Africa. There were some more items I can't remember and then the announcer reported on a men's fashion show just held in Paris. He said that Pierre Cardin had introduced a jacket designed to be worn over nothing but a hairy chest. I closed my eyes. I was in that dark room again and I was writing out a name on a slip of paper. Ciao, Pierre.
I had to move fast, you see, because lately men have been losing their heads where fashion is concerned - forgetting who they are and why. Despite the Army, gang fights, the responsibility to deal with headwaiters and getting out of bed in the middle of the night to cheek for a burglar, it paid to be a man. I don't want to sound like a male chauvinist pig, but if there was a difference between men and women it was simply that men were not slaves to a handful of wigged-out Parisians who determine what fashion is.
For years, I have been mystified by what comes over women when it comes to fashion. It seemed to me that an order came down from heaven and all of a sudden all women were dressing the same way. It made no matter what they looked like, whether the fashion was flattering on them or not, all women adopted it. Laterly, for instance, the universal outfits for women across the nation is something called the pantssuit - a style that makes many women look like plumbers in drag. Equally terrible are those platform shoes that make women walk like the draft horses in the Budweiser beer commercials.
So I reveled in being a man. I reveled in being a member of a sex that took orders when it came to fashion from no one - a sex that had more than its share of color-blindness, that thought black was the perfect color for socks, white for shirts and brown or gray for suits. Things were simple and although my tastes are a bit more daring than that, I knew that I could always retreat to bad taste without being criticized by my fellow men. In fact, I knew that most of them would never notice.
But all that has changed. The reason I fear Pierre Cardin and his ilk is that I know that in the end they will prevail. He and his colleagues always do. Styles and I never thought would catch on have caught on. I submit for example something called the body shirt, which is worn by men who should simply know better. I submit, also the trend toward the wearing of men's jewelry and I offer Sammy Davis Jr. as an example of wretched excess in this department.
The thing about these styles is that they tend to dominate the stores. The men's shop I frequent for instance, suddenly started to stock almost nothing but what are called continental-cut shirts. They are perfect for men who have never had a square meal in their life or who spend the day playing tennis. I have bought some of these shirts even though it has been years since I myself was cut in a continental cut. A little lunch, and the pressure against the buttons can be measured in G forces.
Somewhat the same thing holds for sports jackets. The saleman at my store tells me that I should not put anything in the pockets. The pockets, he says with authority, are decorative, not made to hold anything. I will ruin the cut of the jacket by using the pocket, he says. He does not tell me what to do with my wallet, my cigarettes, my keys, and my notebook, without which people would not know I'm a reporter. I get the feeling Pierre Cardin does not carry a notebook.
I also have shirts without pockets, designed by some genius who never heard of pens. To make up for that, I have a workshirt bought at Saks, of all places, which has four big pockets on the front, one small one and one pocket on each of the sleeves. I use the small pocket to keep a list of what's in the other pockets.
So when I heard the news on the radio yesterday, I cringed. I knew it would be just a matter of time until guests on the Johnny Carson show starting wearing jackets without shirts. Then golf pros would wear them, then sports announcers on television. My time would come. I knew. So I checked with the fashion editor at the paper and she told me not to worry. Cardin, she said, was losing his influence, his styles were getting too outlandish. I don't think she knows my fellow man. I'm taking no chances.
The contract's out anyway.