Audrey was thinner

The author of "Confessions of a Window Dresser" explains his preference.

Published October 6, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Simon Doonan is the creative talent behind the avant-garde, sometimes bizarre window displays at Barneys New York. His work has been described as "terrific street theater" by David Bowie, and received adulation from people such as Bette Midler, John Waters and Joan Rivers. His book, "Confessions of a Window
Dresser," which chronicles the fashion trends and pop
culture of the last two decades, is soon to be made into
a motion picture by New Line Cinema and Mad Guy
films, Madonna's production company. (It's rumored
that Rupert Everett may star.) Doonan, who writes a
column about celebrity style in Talk magazine,
recently spoke to Salon People about his appreciation of the
Audrey style.

If you could be either Audrey Hepburn or Katharine Hepburn, who would you be?

Audrey. She was thinner.

Why not Katharine?

I think Katharine Hepburn's style was totally unique, but ultimately, that persona, that calla lily persona, became a bit irritating. Whereas Audrey was just always very inginue -- and she had more of a skip in her walk.

Which Audrey movie is your favorite?

I guess "Funny Face." Actually, none of her movies are that great. I think stills of Audrey are really magical. Film stills are better than the movies themselves.

That's kind of true of most of the old movies, I think.

Yeah, all that pain to wade through. And there's nothing more painful than that fucking Mrs. Higgins movie. What's that? Where she gets the make-over and she's all common. Eliza Doolittle.

"My Fair Lady."

That's agony!

Is it?

Yeah. Her blathering on in that stupid cockney voice and then going all posh. Audrey's much better in film stills, because she is exceptional and her style is very extreme. The dykey, severe hair and those huge tar covered eyebrows. It was a pretty great look. And the same with Katharine Hepburn, because I think the one thing they have in common is neither of them have that much irony, you know. Bette Davis slogged away with the same old style, but she was always a pleasure to watch because everything was just dripping with irony. And these other two, they kind of found their niche and flogged it to death a little bit.

I was talking to Sandy Schreier, author of "Hollywood Dressed and Undressed," and she pointed out that Audrey Hepburn was kind of like a princess.

I don't think of her that way. I saw her once in public and she was having a scotch and a cigarette, and she saw people looking at her, and she stubbed out the cigarette and the scotch and put it away. I also think of her as being extremely malnourished. She was malnourished as a child. You know, the Red Cross came and pulled her out of Holland. That was her whole thing. That's why she got involved in UNICEF.

There's some controversy about if she had an eating disorder. Do you think she did later in life?

I'm sure she had an eating disorder. Everybody has an eating disorder if they're in the performing arts, you know. If they're not bulimic they're overeating. If they're not Chris Farley they're bulimic. It's a rough profession for eating disorders. But so what?

I'm sorry?

People say things like that as if it's some terrible indictment. "Oh, she had an eating disorder." So what? She had a good life and she did a lot of incredible things and she was smart enough to bail on the career and focus on the philanthropic stuff. She has a pretty flawless image.

I think that's kind of the interesting aspect of her, it shows a kind of darker side. She wasn't perfect.

Yeah, absolutely. I think the best thing about her was -- well, there's two things. One is her look, which was very unique and completely chic and really great. And the other is the fact that she was obviously very kind and she really did give a shit.

Are there any young actresses who you think equal her?

I think now as all these models like Carolyn Murphy and Michelle Hicks are going into movies, you're going to see some girls with that kind of poise in movies. But whether they'll make good movies or not, who knows. Carolyn Murphy is incredibly poised and very ladylike. She has an innate grace.

That's kind of the princess element of Audrey I was talking about. Knowing how to stand. How to be composed.

Like Gong Li. Gong Li has that. The Chinese actress.

I don't know who she is.

Oh, she's the biggest actress in China. She's in "Farewell, My Concubine" and "The Red Lantern." She's made a lot of movies. She has that innate poise and grace which Audrey Hepburn had. But there's something sickening about people cooing on about Audrey Hepburn. Her adulation almost eclipses what's really great about her. The originality of her look.

By Damion Matthews

Damion Matthews is the book editor at Look Online

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