You give me fever

Watching Reese, Lizzie and the fashion statement bandit. Is it hot in here or is it just me?

Published July 16, 2001 7:41PM (EDT)

It was in a feverish haze, induced by a nasty case of the summer flu, that we guiltily watched the MTV special "Reese Witherspoon's Diary" last week. Or perhaps the fever was induced by the outfits she was wearing? The show, which followed Witherspoon around during her press tour for the film "Legally Blonde," featured the weary looking actress all got-up in a never-ending wardrobe of bright pink sundresses, matching stilettos, girlish gold-and-pink accessories and fluorescent pink lipstick, natch. The movie, in which Witherspoon plays a Beverly Hills airhead who muscles her way into Harvard Law School and proves that blonds aren't dumb, promises to delight audiences with the most egregious clothing seen on screen since "Clueless." Does this mean pink will be the new black?

But what really caught our eye was not Witherspoon's endless array of bubble-licious frocks, but her husband's new haircut. Yes, Ryan Phillippe is now sporting a mohawk -- a small, modest, blond mohawk, but a mohawk just the same. It was inevitable, of course, that the mohawk would make a comeback. After all, we've now been inflicted with a year's worth of mullet haircuts, and once that hideous hairstyle has become boring, what's even uglier? Only the mohawk, the shaved-and-spiked topknot once sported by committed punks, now sported by supermodels in the pages of Vogue.

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Now this is a criminal we can love: In Minnesota, police are searching for a female bank robber who has been dubbed the "fashion statement bandit." Rather than donning a ski mask, this elusive robber wears a tasteful -- and seasonally correct -- black, wide-brimmed straw hat. According to news reports, she has also been observed wearing a "white collarless blouse, maroon trouser suit, dark-coloured high heels and an olive crocheted purse"; as well as a "light green matching shirt and trousers and a peach and tan handbag."

Clearly, the bank tellers whom she held up were fashionistas: What other kind of teller would have noticed that handbag? Regardless, the robberies should send a message to the fashion designers of the world: When fashion victims have to hold up banks in order to pay for their Prada handbags, it's clear that clothes are too damn expensive.

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On the other end of the spectrum, it is with great glee that the press has covered the case of Lizzie Grubman, the famed fashionista P.R. diva (and former New York magazine cover model), and her legal woes. Grubman -- the bottle-blond daughter of entertainment lawyer Allen Grubman and publicist for New York hotspots like Moomba and the Kit Kat Klub, as well as dubious celebrities like "Madonna's friend" Ingrid Casares and Puff Daddy/P. Diddy -- is discovering the uglier side of publicity after she allegedly rammed a crowd outside a Southampton nightclub with her daddy's Mercedes SUV, leaving 16 injured. According to news reports, two bouncers had asked Grubman to move her car from the fire lane. After reportedly screaming that the bouncers were "white trash," she gunned her car and backed into the crowd at top speed.

A record producer whose leg was shattered is now suing Grubman for $30 million, and claims that she intentionally and recklessly drove into the crowd. Grubman is blaming it on the SUV: She says that she didn't know how to drive the car, since it was only a week old. (Lizzie, honey, a quick lesson: "Reverse" means go backward, "Drive" means go forward.)

Of course, one shouldn't feel glee when reading about the legal woes or shattered bones of others. Then again, enmity between journalists and publicists -- particularly fashion publicists who, according to that New York magazine profile, possess rolodexes of "10,000 VIPs, color-coded under categories like Model, Celebrity, Fashion, Junior, Older Social, Editor-in-Chief, and Clubbers" (note the lack of "Beat Reporters" and "Assistant Editors") -- is as old as time itself.

It's the publicists, after all, who carefully control access to the celebrities that every publication wants to cover; and who decide, in turn, which journalists are cool and important enough to receive their clients' largesse and invitations to hot parties (the answer: not you, unless you happen to be a top editor at Vogue or Vanity Fair). For those snubbed ink-stained, Gap-wearing wretches, it's time for revenge.

Perhaps Grubman can sell a few pairs of her Manolo Blahniks to cover the legal bill. And a few years in jail might not be the most terrible fate: Stripes, we hear, are making a comeback.

By Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

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