From the left: Peppermint, underwear model, and Andrew Christian by Adrian Bayona
If you believe the rumors, gays have been known to care a lot about fashion, but they happen to care even more about what they wear under their fashion. Thanks to that constant craving--and to canny promotion, often carried out in nightclubs--Andrew Christian's underwear brand has grown like a gay fungus, selling a whole lot of product at his L.A. boutique, Nordstrom's, and Universal Gear (in Hell's Kitchen), not to mention online. As the underwear/swimwear/sportswear designer swept into town to do a promo event at the Club XL, I spoke to him about the support he's given guys' crotches--and the way the gays support him back.
Hi, Andrew. You really believe in club events, don't you?
Pretty much every weekend, I'm in a different city doing an event. It's a great way to reach the gay audience. I'm a tangible, actual person--as opposed to a 2(x)ist or another company that's just an underwear manufacturer. It's a great way to meet the actual people who are fans or customers. It makes it a personal experience for them.
Among your biggest products are the Flashback/FlashLIFT and Show-It Technology underpants. The first lifts and rounds out the butt while the latter performs a similar feat for the crotch, correct?
Is wearing these things a form of false advertising?
I don't think so because it's not like a pad or something. It's sort of similar to a woman and a pushup bra, enhancing what you already have.
So it's not a shock when you take somebody home and they take it off?
Do you think gay men are more obsessed with underwear than straight men?
Definitely. I would say even more obsessed than women are with lingerie. These boys have a full underwear collection. Their underwear drawers are out of control.
Why do you think that is?
Part of that can be a fetish and a lot of them just like collecting them. Also, if you pick somebody up and you're wearing Hanes, that's kind of a no-go.
Yikes. Is Calvin Klein passe too?
Yeah. It's like you father's underwear.
If your father was gay.
Are there any other brands as cool as yours?
I get asked that a lot. I don't think so. A lot of brands come and go over the years, so I've been the one that's still standing.
I've seen the Andrew Christian calendar and a lot of the guys are quite ripped. Is muscularity essential for your brand?
It's not essential. I use different types of models--muscular guys and some that are more thin. When I'm looking for a model, they have to be great looking, be in shape, and have a good body, but they have to also have personality and they have to connect with people to represent the brand.
Did you really grow up poor in Fresno?
I did. Section 8 and all that.
What's Section 8? I'm upper middle class.
Low income housing---government assisted. I ate government cheese.
Did you learn to be ingenious?
The high school I went to was quite affluent and I didn't have the kind of money to wear all the designer clothes they were wearing, so I had to be a little inventive on how to look cool on a budget.
Now that you're grown up and successful, do you like the gay life in L.A.?
I do. It's a very easy place to live.
If you drive.
If you drive. I love coming to New York, though.
Do you have a boyfriend or husband?
I do not right now.
Why are you single?
Too much temptation, being around hot guys all the time. Maybe it might be time settle down.
Would you ever settle down with a model?
I don't think so. I see myself with a regular guy. I don't want to feel bad about myself. A guy with terrific body and then there's me next to him!
You mean you don't think you're a 10?
I don't know. Gay life in L.A. is so youth driven and body conscious. I think maybe I'm a straight 10, but not a gay 10.
So that's a 3. Kidding. Thanks, Andrew. See you soon.
THE DEATH OF GAY WEEKLY PARTIES IN NYC
It's a good thing Andrew Christian has been doing underwear events at various clubs, because in New York City, the art of the gay weekly event has dried up like so much overheated Boy Butter. It wasn't that long ago that party host Susanne Bartsch threw literally four events a week, but now she's down to just one, and it's only during the summer. (Bartsch has been focusing on other projects, like her FIT museum exhibit.) Promoter Brandon Voss had a string of weekly events in recent years (most recently Zoo, which changed venues almost every week), but for the moment, he's concentrating only on very successful one-offs and a drag brunch party. Prettyugly was a hottie-filled soiree every Saturday at the Diamond Horseshoe, but the building's been sold, so the party's kaput. Viva was a wildly popular circuit-style Saturday night at Stage 48 for three years, but nightlife veteran John Blair and his fellow promoters changed the name to JB Saturdays, then closed it up "due to circumstances beyond our control". (Rumors range from improprieties to the club simply wanting the event out). XL still has some weekly events, but the place has been disgraced by controversy and some of their parties are just in the lounge. And last year, the long-running Westgay bash for scruffy LGBTs went the way of Mamma Mia! and finally shuttered (though the same promoter does a somewhat more intimate Jane Hotel bash every week). Some of these events ran into bad luck, others were the result of the promoters' change of direction, and yet others faced the difficulty of keeping dance club parties alive in the age of Grindr. It all adds up to the end of an era, one when you knew exactly where you'd be every night of the week and why. But while we wait with manicured fingers crossed for the gay weeklies to come back, the bars around town still happen to be having some. So just go to Hardware Bar on Monday, Therapy on Tuesday, and Industry on Wednesday, etc., and prepare for something a little more up in your face, I guess!
THE BISHOP AND THE SHOWGIRL
Fortunately, cabaret isn't dying--not with people like Dorothy Bishop hitting the boards. Dorothy is a classically trained singer/actress known for her Sarah Palin parodies and her stint on America's Got Talent. Last week, she brought a whirlwind of wit to the Metropolitan Room with her Dozen Divas Show, a wonderfully schizophrenic exercise cowritten and directed by James Jordan. Backed by a rack of clothes and also some wigs positioned on the piano, Bishop did quick changes as she went from Joan Rivers to Shirley Bassey to Steve Nicks, all the way to Liza and Cher. Blessed with a voice capable of opera, Broadway, and pop, she creates funny but appreciative portraits of the women we love. As Kristin Chenoweth (for whom Bishop put her head atop a tiny replica of a body), she turned "Defying Gravity" into an ode to nasal singing. As Renee Fleming, she tried jazz, adding strange but compelling operatic flourishes to "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." As Barbra Streisand, she duetted with herself (on video, as Judy Garland), continuing to preen and croon as the onscreen Judy kept loudly colliding into things. Also on video, she sang "Living For Muff" as Madonna and deftly rhymed "Madge" with "At 72, I'll still be flashing my vadge." And to counter Lady Gaga singing Sound of Music tunes on the last Oscars, Dorothy appeared as Julie Andrews, singing an awkwardly proper version of "Telephone," complete with verses from "Chim Chim Cheree." Dorothy Bishop is the best drag queen in town who's not a drag queen. Surrender to Dorothy! And to bring us back to the underwear theme of this particular column, she confessed to the audience that she'd felt weird through the whole show because her corset had broken. Who cares? Her energy level--and hair--stayed high throughout.