He ended up in Milan (“the Metropolis of exquisite footwear!”, as he informs me).
Sometimes he phones me up and speaks to me in Italian. He knows my weakness for soft-spoken Italian words, so he indulges me. I have no idea what the hell he is talking about - he could be reading from a pizza place menu for all I know - but it still works fine for me, as I instantly find myself being transported in piazzas with waterfalls and majestic Gothic Cathedrals with stone angels, having my hands being kissed by tall dark men in white linen suits...
My friend Demis was the one who was really responsible for my interest in Princess Diana. And he was also responsible for my taking up the truly nasty and addictive habit of reading gossip magazines with religious fervor. You have to realize that I was not into such cheap pop culture by-products. I mean I was a Proust and Krishnamurti kind of girl back then. Reading Hello! magazine was not my thing. Up until I met him. And then I was doomed. Nothing could save me from the addiction. Like all things forbidden, or in this case previously contemptible, it just kind of crept up on me. I would be locked with him inside his hair salon after work, and we would secretly indulge our selves in chocolates, coffee drinking, and of course Hello! and OK! reading.
These are the kind of magazines that thrive on exhibiting beautiful twenty year old girls who are married with TV celebrities and aging Rock stars, posing in their huge mansions, wearing a different outfit in every room: The velvet blouse in the dinning room. The silk pyjamas in the bedroom. The English country riding-boots-included-look in the stables. A casual jeans look and a red apron with a catchy chef related slogan in the rustic kitchen - with the necessary pots hanging from the ceiling - pretending to be preparing a salad, getting creative with basil leaves. A more daring pose in the jacuzzi. The cliché with the champagne glasses and the candles and the long-stemmed roses so that the readers will get it, that she is living their private soap opera fantasy to the full. And in the interview when they are understandably praised about the beauty of their wonderful homes, they always say things like: “I have decorated this place all on my own you know!!” and expecting us to be really impressed. According to Demis, what they are really saying is: “I was given five millions by my aging and deeply grateful husband as a reward for fucking him, and I spent the last two years shopping, you know”.
We would read these articles to each other loudly and laugh our hearts out. We hated them. But we kept searching for them in every issue too of course. Hungry for more designer kitchens and art deco lamps and strapless gowns and fairy tale mansions. For even more displays of “pre-nuptial agreement marriages” among men in their fifties and women in their twenties that looked like angels with a tan.
We used to make fun of how those magazines would refer to various celebrities trying to squeeze into a single sentence as much personal information as they could possibly can about their private lives, always with special emphasis on their age and marital status. You know how they say things like: “The twice married, recently divorced, mother of three, ex drug addict, thirty-six year old, East Ender's and now to be part of a major Hollywood movie actress - insert name - as she enters her newly redecorated 6 bedrooms apartment with her dog, a rescue pekingese”. And Demis would refer to his neighbors in the same manner. Say things like: “My unmarried, unloved and unlikely to be ever, overweight and with serious fashion disorders, dogface, homo phobic, ex accountant, and perpetual bore, who thinks he is a stock broker but is merely a clueless assistant, with no life to speak of whatsoever, who hasn’t dated since February 1982, forty-three year old who really looks like a fifty-three year old next door neighbor, told me not to park in front of his house this morning”.
We become best friends and we certainly lived up to the appropriate sitcom cliché that wants the-woman-and-a-gay-man-bond, being one like no other. We were the ultimate weird couple. And we loved it. Each time we met, - if he have approved of my clothes that is - he would hug me squeezing me tight. And I would push him aside abruptly saying every time: “Hey, what do you think you are doing? What if some tall and dark army officer or a drop dead gorgeous footballer happens to be passing by, and misunderstands?” “My thoughts exactly!” he would say back and push me even further away. And we laughed every time. We would discuss aimless, silly, totally stupid and worthless stuff like giving arguments on whether or not Lady D’s low-cut red Valentino two-piece suit and ribboned hat was a wise choice for a certain occasion, or whether she should rather go with a “tamer” pale blue Bruce Oldfield? We cried shamelessly together while watching corny ‘30s films with Gary Cooper and all kinds of other sentimental crap that I would be too embarrassed to reveal. I mean take out the sex part, this guy was as perfect as you can get...
We would spend endless Saturday afternoons together bonded by our secret fascination with that elegant princess, as well as our shared interest, and at times common and primordial enemy: men! “Ppph! Men! Who needs them darling?”, he would shout in contempt, after the second piece of chocolate cake.
“Morons the whole bunch of them!” ,he would add as if he was excluding himself from this dreadful category.
“Don’t try to figure out men honey. I mean look at Price Charles!!”
This in fact was his favorite motto, and he would repeat it whenever either of us was in some kind of relationship crisis. And the whole “Prince Charles” argument actually seemed to soothe him, to comfort him, to make some kind of logic that would put his mind at ease. It kind of gave the message that it wasn’t really his fault that relationships didn’t work out. It was just a kind of relationship disorder that men had. (Other men that is). He would look at a picture of Diana’s, think of her loving nature, her good looks, her youth and then think of Charles and his cheating. And everything would suddenly make sense to him, like he finally had a revelation about the way men think: “THIS IS IT! Men just don’t make sense! ”, he would conclude triumphantly each time. He would take my hands, look deep into my eyes and shout to me with the same sort of enthusiasm that Newton had when that blessed apple bruised his head: “Forget it honey. Men are nuts!!” and we would both laugh and forget whatever it was that made us cry over them. Oh, I simply adored him!
Anyway the day that Princess Diana died, he called me early in the morning and I couldn’t make out what the hell he was talking about. All I got was “died” , “accident” and “gorgeous” in between sobs. I thought that maybe his mother had died. But then again that “gorgeous” bit didn’t make much sense... May be some ex lover or something? So I run to him, getting myself ready to provide some major comforting.
“They killed her! I know it! I can feel it in my guts”, were his first words. And then he told me the whole story. We both couldn’t believe it. We sat there at his living room and cried for her. We mourned her as if she was someone close. An old friend, a relative, someone we loved. We hugged and cried on each others shoulders the whole day through, leafing through old Hello! magazines searching for the best outfit she ever wore, the most outrageous hat, the most dazzling off-the-shoulder gown, the silliest Vercacce jacket with the stupidest cut, her kindest embrace to underprivileged kids, her most gorgeous smile. We singled out our favorite photos: That famous balcony kiss. Stretching out that swan-like neck to meet the mouth of her prince who remained completely immobile, waiting for her (a fact that we now both found as very telling of what was to come). The fairy tale wedding gown. That dazzling beaded white evening dress with the raised collar. The pictures from that last vacation, the blurry paparazzi photos on that ship. The happiness that was maybe finally approaching. The one with Mother Teresa. A tall cosmopolitan princess in a white suit and a tiny ascetic nun in a white sari, holding hands. Such a surreal image! Unlikely sisters sharing a natural empathy for those in need. Her sad eyes at that famous interview in which she bared her soul. The sorrow that lay beneath the glittering surface.
She seemed always to be driven by feeling. Consumed by feelings. How can you honestly not be moved by that? There is something about a human being that dares to stand naked and defenseless in front of you. There is a special kind of humanity in the one who is courageous enough to be revealed, exposed. To be out there. To live literally out loud. This is what she was all about. She stood there openly vulnerable in front of the world. She hugged and kissed people she only met once. Like she meant it! (That’s no small feat for a Brit, let alone a member of aristocrasy…) She talked of her disastrous love affairs publicly. Of her pain for the fairy tale that has gone bad. Of her distress, her frustration, her loneliness. Of her self-mutilation, her eating disorders, her weaknesses. And that’s enormously more brave than doing the stiff upper lip thing, or putting up a happy public face. It takes a special kind of guts! She needed people. So she reached out for them. She exposed her self to them. She knew that if you really love, you have to. She reached out in desperation. She cried for help. She begged for a little bit of love. Yes, just like a woman. (And she “broke just like a little girl” too, didn’t she?) Betrayed, lost, vulnerable, desperate. Hungry for love. Giving it all, every time she had the illusion that she had finally discovered it.
OK, her wardrobe did cost more than the entire revenue of five third world countries, I agree, and she did spent more time vacating than anyone we know. But then again so did many others in similar positions who never bothered to return anything back to the public, (and really mean it!), right? She was a true misfit in a system that sustain itself through its very rigidity. An exile from a cosmos where feelings were thought to be a lethal poison. An original outcast dressed in designer outfits! The talking oxymoron: A pretty princess who was unloved and unhappy. A princess who cried in public! Who would have thought it? Caught in the middle of a system that both rejected her and was threatened by her. (Now is it any wonder that she was adored by both women and gay men, so much?)
Demis and I spent that gloomy Saturday when lady D was buried, together. We watched the whole “funeral TV show” with tears. He was even more devastated than I was. At a point, he suddenly said to me while pressing balls of Kleenex in his eyes: “Let me do your hair, honey!” I was confused. It didn’t make sense. I mean we were in the middle of a TV royal funeral extravaganza there, you know? Crying our hearts out for the princesses we loved and everything. “Just let me cut it hon. Let me give you my Diana cut” he pleaded. There was something in those enormous teary eyes, in that whispering despair that made me crack. So I just sat there on his chair. And he took his scissors and began to heal his pain. I kept watching the locks of my long hair falling all around me at the floor and my heart sunk a little. Twenty minutes later (right about when Elton John was finishing his song), he turned my head towards him and his face just beamed. “You look divine!”, he whispered! I was intrigued let me tell you. So I run to the nearest mirror all hopeful and excited. Oh, it was a disaster!! An accident of nature! A regular catastrophe! Cause you see I don’t have lady D’s straight blond hair. Nor do I have her blue eyes and royal cheekbones and whatever it was that made that hair look great on her. But I made his day! He actually felt better by this little ritual, would you believe! It was his tribute to her highness. Unfortunately my hair had to be sacrificed for it. Ah well, what are friends for, right?
It took me six months to overcome the first shock and start getting used to my new hair. By that time my friend Demis left Cyprus. “It’s too stuffy inside this closet, honey” he decided. He left in search for a closet-less place and ended up in Milan (“the Metropolis of exquisite footwear!”, as he informs me), where he now has this pretty successful hair dressing salon. Sometimes he phones me up and speaks to me in Italian. He knows my weakness for soft-spoken Italian words, so he indulges me. I have no idea what the hell he is talking about - he could be reading from a pizza place menu for all I know - but it still works fine for me, as I instantly find myself being transported in piazzas with waterfalls and majestic Gothic Cathedrals with stone angels, having my hands being kissed by tall dark men in white linen suits...
He has never forgotten my act of chivalry on that funeral day. And he promises me that next Christmas when he will be back in Cyprus, he will make sure to give me his latest discovery: the “Diana-21st-century-Cut” , his “How-Lady-Diana-Would-Cut-Her-Hair-If-She-Was-Not-Tragically-Killed-But-Was-Now-Vacating-Somewhere-In-Marocco-with-Doddi” look. He tells me that it is a huge success in Milan. Apparently Italian girls just love it! “And a few boys too”, he adds with mischief.
He assures me that it would do wonders for me. So, I’m thinking about it....
(I wrote this article for a newspaper, back in 1999)
"How I saved A Friend Using A Lady D Haircut" Art & Words Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved. Any unauthorized use - copying, publishing, printing, reselling, etc - will lead to legal implications