NOSTALGIA BY ANDREA LEE, MARZO 2004
One afternoon back in the late eighties, when I lived in Milan, I got a cali from my friend B, She was, she said, at Gio Moretti, the then-legendary clothing store on Via della Spiga, with our friend M. “Come on over and watch the firn,” she said. “M.’s got a new bracelet, and she’s buying Lacroix!” So I slapped on some lipstick and dashed from my apartment behind La Scala over to the shop, where 1 found M. in a sea of black silk ruffles, flashing a diamond bracelet that sparkled like the northern lights. M. was the fiancée of the heir to a Milanese fortune, who hadn’t found time to marry her but was as steadfastly unfaithful as he might have been to a wife, and brought her new pieces of jewelry every time he returned from a “solo” vacation. B. and I shrieked over the bracelet like bridesmaids, and then watched M. buy a season’s worth of designer clothes. What makes ibis stick in my memory is not the opulence of the trappings but the sheer casual neighborliness of it ali—the fact that I ran over there the way a child might have run to the candy store down the block. That was the way life was in those days.
And when, around the same time, I saw a certain Helmut Newton photography in Vogue, I felt a thrill of recognition. Against a background that looks like Monte Carlo, two girls pose in black evening dresses, one on her knees, clasping the other girl’s hands and admiring a set of diamond bracelets in a posture that is simultaneously religious. romantic, and—given the creamy balcony of cleavage jutting above her head—erode.
We toned our bodies at the Club Conti and the legendary aesthetic salon San Celso; we went to the vein doctor and monopolized Gossipy Nadia, queen of lymph-drainage massage. The girls don’t look like models but like I semi- High-class tarts, or even shopgirls who have lucked into a good thing. The setting is foreign, but somehow they look American to me. The picture conjures up the exotic yet gemutlich atmosphere of the harem, which for me was the soul of the late eighties. It has everything that interested my girlfrìends and me in those days: laughter, foreign places, money, and sex.
It was a peculiar dme for me and for Milan. The city was poised at the high point of an inimitably European concoction of flashy new wealth and age-old competition that made New York excesses seem innocent. Enormous bribes changed hands. Shadowy fortunes were amassed as unemployment skyrocketed, billions in public funds flowed into private Swiss accounts under the system of institutionalized thuggery that was Italian socialism under Bettino Craxi, and Milan nightlife was one big party. I was recently divorced and had a group of female friends who were more or less in similar circumstances. Among others there was B., who worked in advertising. M., a businesswoman, and Z„ another journalist. All of us were American, well educated, pretty…