“Minimalism Is A Bummer”: Jonathan Adler, Simon Doonan and The Seduction Of A Cynic

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Undeterred by winds Wednesday night that brought down nature and structure, a big crowd gathered at Jonathan Adler’s Melrose store to see Jackie Terrell’s new paintings, and hang out with one of the design world’s wittiest couples, Adler and Simon Doonan. I went, bringing hubby Bennett Stein (usual question when I ask if he wants to accompany me to a design event: “Will there be hors d’oeuvres?”) and our seven-year old daughter. Writing in his alter ego of Good4Nothing Connoisseur, he had this to report:

Got to the party site last night and my sardonic, inner, underfed crank thought, great, another twee little interior design scene party, ‘Yay, how substantial is this about to be?’ But as I looked closer I began to be pulled in, against my will, by the colors of zodiac coasters, and biomorphic vases, transporting me back to ancient Babylon and Darwin’s Beagle. Then I spot a cashmere, freakin’ hot water bottle with a soothing orange peace sign on it. I thought, jeepers, why am I drooling? I’m being swept away in here to a nesty, cozy headspace. That’s preposterous, I’m normally a darkly disapproving, rocker type.

Then I see my daughter totally settling in amongst the regal yet comfy ottomans and coffee tables, huggable sofas, all white and clay red and serene green, and soul brown and spirit blue pillows – how are all these delightfully cartoonized versions of classic luxurious items getting past my defenses? Jeez, they’re trying to embrace me, love me? Absurd. Nothing wins me over that quickly. How dare you Jonathan Adler, be such a sly rascal with color and shape and texture!

My certified, curmudgeonly self from the island of Manhattan was sabotaged. I started to float up above my own body, thoroughly altered, entranced, as if in some sultan’s tent in the desert. (The Santa Ana winds were whipping wicked hard just out the door of JA’s Melrose Ave shop of wonderment, shutting down LAX, igniting fires all over the southland. . .)

. . . AND BOOM – The store is plunged into utter night-time darkness. All power cut. Everyone in the joint goes OOOOHH! I stumble over bodies to get to my daughter. I’m suddenly in an action movie. I am Liam Neeson. Then the lights go back on, and one is bathed anew is swaths and ebbs of reassuring colors and patterns. The first item that stones me (in my palette-cleansed state) is an enchanting set of ochre and amber-colored dominos. I have to touch them, I want to eat them. A waiter offers me a goat cheese ball wrapped in prosciutto; I say. ‘Oy, I’m eatin’ dominos here, do you mind?.”

Manifesto.” As a former Commie, then Commie basher, I go all gooey at the prospect of a manifesto. They speak to the truth of a mindset, and maybe smell like Molotov. Better yet, a manifesto heps you to where a person’s head is at, and the head of the tribe bossed around by that head. As Vince Vaughn says in every single one of his flicks, where a person’s head is at is all that matters.

Adler’s Manifesto states, “We Believe: Minimalism is a bummer.” Wow, that sticks a thumb in the eye of the severe, Bauhausian, midcentury modern, ‘make sure your home looks like no one lives there’ aesthetic. I start to feel like I’m in love. Then further down it says, “Colors can’t clash.” Oh, my god, that’s the same ethic of all my New York, Boston, Paris, London writers, mentors and rock ‘n’ roll gods. Catch an old photo of Jimi Hendrix in his London apartment, dig on all the crushed together pop art and Moroccan tapestries disharmonizing sensually together. But can Adler really be as cool as my rock gods? Seriously, aren’t you supposed to be more slick in a tortured, arty, authoritarian way?

Another tenet from the manifesto reads, “Handcrafted tchotchkies are life enhancing.” Well, as a person known to embody beatnik values, that is blasphemy, heresy. Prepare the stakes, stoke the embers – Is Adler a practicing witch? Clearly he is, as I am under a spell and am shape-shifting into a hibernating bear as I speak.

Then there’s the ever wise and bemused Simon Doonan, Adler’s partner in crime, strutting in all his peacockified warmth and 1930s Monaco Grand Prix snazzocity. I wonder if he’s related to Peter O’Toole, as old world cheek and romanticism radiate from him. Turns out he’s a got a new tome coming out that may change a lot of lives. It’s called “Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.” Thereupon, I immediately carve out a place in my mind to be somehow gay. Okay so I’m not, per se, attracted to men as love objects, but there’s got to be a way for me to be gay (so I can be unfat, see?)

That this party, and all the swank guests here tonight, made me forget my cynical self and be a happy chappy for a fleeting hour, means I’m at least an honored guest of gay. That is, if I feel joy. So happy equals gay in a 1940s way. So, mission accomplished, color me gay. Just then the LIGHTS GO OUT AGAIN. A second BLACK OUT, I kid you not.

The gale force Santa Anas are giving a live demonstration of what tempestuous fun it is be gay. And I think, Wow tomorrow is December 1st, the Christmas month. Oh, what fun it is to ride on a one horse open GAY! Alas, and I was infused with the Christmas Spirit. Thanks, Simon, Jonathan, and my wife and daughter. Merry Xmas, Clarence, fellow citizens.

Note: You can hear Jonathan and Simon at their bubbly best on this recent DnA holiday show. Simon Doonan is also a guest on this DnA.