African Queens and ‘New Republic’ Dreams

The death of David Bowie—why is it that Stephen Glover always gets it right about our overreaction and hysteria when a pop star goes the way of all of us?—twigged something that happened long ago, with Iman, his still-beautiful widow. It was exactly thirty years ago, on a rainy and cold night in New York. But first, a brief background to the story.

In the winter of 1985 the mother of my children had taken them to Paris, to her mother’s, as a warning to me that my constant womanizing would no longer be tolerated. At the same time, an English friend of mine in London had run off with yet another friend, a male, thus making it obvious that I was about to lose both a wife and a mistress. Even more catastrophically, an Englishwoman in New York was dropping hints about having a child, about as welcome at that point in my life as some North Africans are in Cologne nowadays.

Needing to be alone to think, I went for dinner at Mortimer’s, now defunct, a chic watering hole three blocks from my house on the Upper East Side. I had a couple bottles of wine and had started to relax when André Leon Talley, a very tall and talented African-American who works for Vogue—known to us as the African Queen—came into the place accompanied by a beautiful and almost-as-tall black lady. The place was jammed so I waved them over and they sat down to dinner with lonely old me. Her name was Iman, and she had recently arrived, having been discovered in deepest Africa by my good buddy Peter Beard, the photographer.

To call it a convivial dinner would be an understatement. I was in my cups and my guests were laughing at my predicament until I invited them over to my house for a drink. André had to work early and begged off. Iman agreed to one drink. We walked over to my house and then, to my horror, I realized I had not taken my keys with me. Worse, I had told the live-in help to take the night off as I had not planned to go out. The terror mounted after I failed to break the door down by kicking it hard on the lock. Iman was beginning to get scared as I became more and more desperate. I found a crowbar nearby and began to chop away at the damn door when she suddenly ran off and jumped into a passing taxi. Just then the f—-ing door gave in. There I was with a door I could not shut, crime being still very high in the Bagel, and Iman having fled the scene. On top of all my other problems. Poor little Greek boy never had it so bad.

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