Simon Doonan is a man of many talents. Window dresser. Set designer. Author. Newspaper columnist. Television personality. Fashion MC. Creative Director-turned-Creative Ambassador-at-Large at Barneys New York. Husband (to potter Jonathan Adler) and father (to Norwich terrier, Liberace).
Simon actually kicked off Random Questions For when I first introduced the column back in 2007, so it felt fitting to bring things full circle to celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Fashion Informer and the publication of Simon's sixth book, Gay Men Don't Get Fat. (Shhh, let's not mention André Leon Talley. Or Alber Elbaz. Or Nathan Lane.)
Gay Men Don't Get Fat is, in actuality, not a diet book so much as a collection of feisty, funny vignettes in which Dr. Doonan prescribes advice about food, grooming, fashion, etcetera as filtered through a hilarious gay v. straight prism (that is to say, a totally freaking fabulous prism). He expounds on the difference between Tommy Bahama and Liberty prints (yes, Virginia, there is a difference), explains why prissy is "the foundation of civilization" and what distinguishes "gay" food from "straight" food (hint: one is baked, steamed and served with dressing on the side, the other is fried, smothered in chili/cheese/ranch dressing and served in a scooped out bread bowl with a side of chips). And, in an effort to bridge the UK/USA divide, he devotes an entire chapter to The Most Important Word in the History of Style ("naff") and another entitled Jamie Oliver is a Lesbian.
"I wanted to write a book that shared my nuggets and nuances of gay wisdom with the world," Simon told TFI. "And I wanted to make people chuckle. It's primarily a humor book." Having just finished it, all I can say is it's a bona fun read aimed at omis and polones (and omi-polones) that covers everything from batts and bods to kaffies and slap that will, hopefully, earn its creator mega metzas. (And no, I did not suffer a stroke just before writing that sentence but adopted some of the words Doonan shares in the book's Palare—aka, gay language—Dictionary.)
I nabbed a few minutes with the fantabulosa (see above) bon vivant just before he took off on a whirlwind book tour to dish on caftans, paddleboarding and the late, great Divine.
What bauble would you have purchased from the Elizabeth Taylor auction if money were no object?
No baubles. Just caftans, and more caftans.
What's your idea of a perfect winter's day?
Skipping about through the snow in Central Park having an Ali McGraw moment.
What's the last great movie you saw, and what made it so great?
Female Trouble by John Waters. It's an epic tale of liquid eyeliner. I miss Divine.
Favorite street in the world?
I love 14th street in NYC. It's messy and fabulous and chaotic. The epitome of NYC.
What's your favorite smell?
Sables by Annick Goutal.
What was your nickname when you were a kid, and what's your nickname now?
Gerbil then. Shorty now.
What's the most you've ever spent on a purchase, other than a house or car?
I bought a black Martin Margiela sheepskin coat for three grand. Ouch!
Tell me about your best friend.
My best friend is also my husband. Jonathan Adler…hello! He's a ceramics genius and a great person.
What item of clothing/jewelry means the most to you, and why is it so special?
My silver Gucci wedding ring, which I never take off.
How do you pass the time when traveling?
Reading weird out of print books by forgotten authors, like Beryl Bainbridge and Patrick Hamilton.
What one question would you ask God (assuming s/he exists) if given the chance?
How can we make lasting peace in the world? And, why do you always wear white?
What's your favorite gay food—and what's your favorite straight food?
Gay: I love a nice beet salad. Straight: A hearty slab of oily salmon always hits the spot.
What never fails to make you cry?
Paris Is Burning. It's a sad and beautiful documentary.
When are you happiest?
When I am paddleboarding with my husband and dog in the summer.
Simon Doonan will be visiting Barneys New York flagship stores throughout January to promote Gay Men Don't Get Fat. Meet him in Dallas on January 12th, in Scottsdale on January 14th, in Beverly Hills on January 20th, in San Francisco on January 21st and in Seattle on January 27th. Call your local Barneys for deets.
photo of Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler at San Francisco City Hall courtesy of Thor Swift.