Mildred De Cuir was a good sport at the Anaheim Hilton & Towers on Saturday. A heroine. (A saint, somebody said.)
It all started when Mr. Blackwell--author of the scathing "Worst Dressed List"--directed a query at 500 women gathered for a fashion show to benefit the Speech and Language Development Center in Buena Park.
"Is there anyone here having a birthday?" he asked.
De Cuir waved her hand with gusto.
"Come up here, dear," said Blackwell, flaunting a strand of faux pearls he had lifted from a model's swan neck.
De Cuir, 59, wended her way through the luncheon tables set with towering pink roses, then climbed the stairs to where Blackwell held court on a ramp beneath a glaring spotlight.
Then he did it--launched into the bitchy kind of tirade that has made him famous. He insulted De Cuir's generous figure. Chastised her cinched-in dress. Stared her down in front of hundreds of sisters who didn't know whether to giggle or weep.
Sweetly, he hung the pearls around her neck, then sent her backstage with a multicolored Blackwell dress, saying: "Put that on. And if you can't get into it, shoot yourself."
While she was gone, Blackwell smiled and whispered into the microphone: "Now, ladies. When Mildred returns, give her a standing ovation."
They did. De Cuir loved it. They loved it.
"They love me to be outrageous," said Blackwell, backstage before the show, "because they want to be outrageous and don't have the nerve.
"I'm the guy people love to hate. But when they hate me, they're really applauding me. Because I wrote the script."
In a blithe moment, Blackwell did something he rarely does--rattled off a best-dressed list. "Catherine Deneuve, for one, because she wears what looks wonderful on her . Diana Ross. Shirley MacLaine. Perhaps Nancy Reagan for best groomed, but she'll never set a fashion trend."
And men? "Well, I really don't follow that," Blackwell said. "But, I do like the way Rambo (Sly Stallone) dresses for evening--the fact that he has the wonderful audacity to wear a diamond brooch.
"I wear a diamond brooch and get called names for it."
And the worst dressed, ever? "Mary Todd Lincoln. She was a wreck. She said she made her own clothes on the back steps of the White House, and I say: 'I thought so.' "
"You haven't changed one bit," declared Blackwell, huge brown eyes scanning the grinning audience. He performed for the Speech and Language Development Center two years ago. "You're identically the same. You were ugly then, and you're still ugly!"
Gold is back, Blackwell announced, as three leggy models took the stage in gowns that looked as if they were touched by Midas on a budget.
And he kept the banter-they-love-to-hate coming: "Here's the perfect dress for women with a perfect figure--which doesn't include many of you."
"Here's a dress that covers every possible mistake you have!"
"I put Lisa Bonet on my worst-dressed list because she looks like Dracula's idea of a good time!"
"Diane Keaton looks like a bag lady who just won the lottery!"
And, finally: "Now, here's a dress for the mother of the bride," Blackwell said, watching a model parade in an illusion gown of flesh-tone chiffon sparkling with strategically placed bugle beads.
"And here's a dress for the bride," he said, the same kind of see-through gown glittering down the ramp on a slinking mannequin.
A fitting finale.
" 'Naked Illusion,' that's what I might call the book I'm writing about my life," Blackwell had said backstage. "It means, well, we all stand naked in spite of the opulence--the gorgeous clothing, the jewelry."
Net proceeds from the $35-per-person event were estimated at $10,000. Aleen Agranowitz is director of the Speech and Language Development Center, a nonprofit school and therapy facility.