Just Shut Up and Look Beautiful!


By Maria Bustillos

At Rancho Mirage in Palm Springs, Carol Channing and Justin Vivian Bond strike a pose.

Photography by JUCO

The aptly named Rancho Mirage is like a dreamscape, both profoundly natural and profoundly unnatural. It’s sometimes called the City of Presidents because so many of them have visited, golfed, and retired there. It’s in the desert near Palm Springs, a landscape stark and hypnotic, with violent contrasts of heat and color and light — chockablock with gorgeous ’60s houses, exquisite xeriscapes, and fabulous retirees.

Broadway and Hollywood legend Carol Channing lives here. At 92, she has grown a little frail — she has some trouble walking, and her eyesight is weak — but she is still a bewitching, arrestingly vivid personality. The very air around her seemed to sizzle as she and performance artist Justin Vivian Bond were photographed recently beside the pool of her friend Sylvia’s lovely ranch-style house. She cracked wise, hammed it up, and gracefully accepted compliments on her snappy blue trouser suit, which featured a bejeweled, embroidered snake winding up one leg. The shoot took place in honor of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: An Intimate Evening With Carol Channing and Justin Vivian Bond, a special event taking place on January 20 at the Town Hall in New York City.

Beautiful, tattooed kids ran around fussing over hair and clothes on an immaculate patio beside a turquoise pool of mid-century magnificence; Channing and Bond reclined on chaises lounges with contrasting bolsters upholstered in a rich brocade. There were palm trees everywhere. The scene was the embodiment of Baudelaire’s phrase: luxe, calme et voluptĂ©.