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JOEL STEIN

And you can tell everybody: I own Elton's clothes

April 18, 2006|JOEL STEIN

I HAVEN'T GONE shopping for a piece of non-underwear clothing in nearly two years. If it weren't for gifts from my parents, I'd still be wearing clothes from the 1980s. This is why when men get old, they wear Members Only jackets.

Men have no use for shopping. A guy's instinctive reaction to any piece of clothing isn't to wonder if it will make him look good, but whether he can get his last name stitched in big letters on the back

So when I heard that Elton John was having a five-day garage sale last week in a store at New York's Rockefeller Center to raise money for his AIDS foundation, I said, "Hey, I'm having breakfast in Rockefeller Center with my friend Lauren anyway." This is about as excited about shopping as a guy can get.

The first thing I noticed is that John has more clothes than the rest of the Earth's men put together. He was clearing 10,000 items out of his closet, and he had already had four sales in the last 10 years: three in London and one in Atlanta.

Though half of the shoppers were women, men were stripping down to their underwear right in the middle of the store, sometimes to try on pants and sometimes just to get in the spirit of an Elton John event.

Elton, I discovered from the first rack I saw, shops differently than most men do. Whereas a typical guy would see a floral print suit and say, "No!" Sir John sees such a suit and says, "Can you make that in nine different colors?"

He is also the Noah of clothing. One rack had coats made from calf, mink, rabbit, coyote, squirrel, pony, lamb, goat and Finnish beaver. The $2,500 floor-length coat made exclusively of squirrel seemed like a particularly good idea to Lauren, who said, "Everything should be made of squirrel."

As if all this weren't exciting enough, a saleswoman suddenly announced the addition of a $1,500 sequined, green-and-red jacket with racing flags on the back. I realized that John dresses just like my grandmother at a show in her Fort Lauderdale condo clubhouse.

Along with endless numbers of Versace suits for just $200, there was a rack of underwear on sale for $50, some of it orange, some of it mesh and some of it both. There were also two huge circular racks of sweatpants and sweat jackets, or what I like to call "the clothes Elton John actually wore."

Sadly, there were no glasses, hats or feather boas. Another charity, I was told, got to auction those. This meant that if I were to go home with a little piece of Elton, I would have to do some real clothes shopping.

Unfortunately for me as a shopper, and more unfortunately for the singer as a person, he has a pretty big waist. However, John's partner, David Furnish, has a 32-inch waist and wears a size 40 jacket. If you've ever put your hands against John Wayne's prints at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, you can begin to imagine the excitement of knowing you are the exact size of the man Elton John has sex with.

Having no idea what to buy, I approached the dandiest guy in the store. Patrick McDonald was not only happy to help but happy to inform me that his nickname in the fashion press is "the Dandy." McDonald also told me that he'd heard about the sale through performance artists Brandywine and Brenda A. Go-Go at a party for transsexual Amanda Lepore's doll launch. I was starting to remember why I moved out of New York.

That's when I knew it was time to leave. Plus, I had already heard "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" twice.

Upon the Dandy's recommendation, I bought a Piombo jacket, two Richard James shirts and a pair of Marc Jacobs pants, all for $225. If not for carry-on suitcase limitations, I would have gotten my entire lifetime of shopping out of the way.

The reason this sale was so huge -- it raised more than $700,000 -- was that straight men need an excuse to feel OK about shopping. Men have done the objectifying for so long that women have learned to completely focus on themselves, leaving no one to sexualize us straight guys. The only escape clause is to become a rock guitarist, and that seems like a huge economic risk just to wear leather pants.

But with Elton as our intermediary, we can take an interest in how we look without preening. Open a few Elton's Closets at stadiums and arenas, and we'll have an AIDS vaccine in no time.

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