Word From The Weiss
I am about to become what you might call a model citizen.
Or should I say “citizen model?”
A number of years ago – a rather sizable number by now, I must admit – I had the
dubious honor of covering fashion for the Sunday magazine of a rather sizable newspaper. And for one of the many annual spring or fall fashion issues that I produced, I came
up with the brilliant (or maybe not
so brilliant) idea of using regular people
on which to display the latest fashions available at local stores, and to announce this fact on the
cover by referring to these people as “Model Citizens.”
This, no surprise, prompted more than one reader to fire off a letter to the editor. “Model citizens,” they pointed out, are
not individuals who may be attractive and wealthy enough to be selected by upscale
boutiques to pose in their trendy clothing. They are people who are kind and generous enough to donate their time and energy
to feed the poor, aid the less fortunate, or otherwise engage in Tikkun Olam, the Jewish quest to repair the world (although I cannot say that any
of these irate letters actually mentioned “Tikkun Olam”).
Of course they were absolutely
right. In retrospect, I wish I had possessed the good sense to have turned the phrase around – no, not “Tikkun Olam,” but “model citizens” – and have called the people whom the magazine photographed “citizen models” instead.
now it is my turn to be a model citizen – citizen model, that is –
myself. I will be in a fashion show tomorrow night strutting down the
runway at my favorite store.
The name of this store is Kimberly Boutique because it is a boutique owned by a woman named Kimberly.
(Yes, she is a nice Jewish woman, if you really must know.)
In return, I will receive a few discount coupons to purchase some of the clothes
I will wear, plus the invaluable gift of
feeling, for just a few days, like I am a
tell you right now that I was not chosen for this illustrious honor by dint of my model-thin physique, because I don’t have one. Neither was it for
my youth or beauty.
chose me, I would wager, because I am a regular customer there – not as regular as some local women may be,
but a little too regular nonetheless, if you ask my husband. I am so regular, in fact, that even my husband has long been on a first-name basis with Kimberly.
He feels so familiar with
her, in fact, that, knowing I was going to
appear in this fashion show, he had
the chutzpah to wander into her store last week while he was downtown doing an errand and ask to see what I would
be wearing in the show.
As nervy as that might have been (and “nervy” doesn’t begin
to cover it, if you ask me), he then had the unrivaled audacity to tell her that one of the dresses she had chosen for me to model was not
a good choice because it was “too matronly.”
“You did WHAT?” I shrieked when he returned home and proudly told me about it. “Are
you KIDDING? Are you out of your MIND?”
Kimberly Boutique, I hastened to add as I
continued to chastise him, was the
most fashionable boutique in our entire town because of Kimberly’s keen sense of style. Plus, Kimberly was a member of the fashion industry. He was not. He was just a newspaper reporter and
a nice Jewish dad.
What the heck did he know about women’s fashion?
“I know what I think looks good on you,” he replied, without even a hint of remorse. “And
I know that this particular dress would not look good on you. It was too matronly.”
I told him that he’d had no right to go into her shop to begin with. How dare he insinuate himself into my business, even if it was just the modeling business? Speaking of which, I considered myself lucky to have been
chosen for this privilege, considering that I possessed neither the figure nor features to serve as a model citizen.
Or should I say citizen model?
Then I made sure to apologize profusely when I visited
Kimberly and her fabulous boutique the next day to try on all of the clothes that she had selected for me to wear.
Having been through this routine
before – twice, in fact – I already knew the drill. I arrived with a suitcase full of shoes (because Kimberly’s citizen models wear
their own in the show) as well as a wide assortment
of bras and undergarments. This included various versions of Spanx (the modern answer
to what my mother's generation called girdles), because I may be a citizen model, but I am no fashion model. As I reminded Kimberly every time she insisted I slip on something that looked like it had been painted on my body, I am no Kate Moss or Twiggy. I am a pretty
non-negotiable size 12… otherwise
known as a 14).
But she continued to fill my dressing room with fab garments until we’d found something for every part of the show, from
the black and white segment to the grand finale. And after an hour or two, Kimberly had selected four full outfits for me to wear.
I cannot wait to hit the runway tomorrow night, after they have done my
hair and makeup (which will do nothing for my real-person, size 12 to 14 physique, but will at least help make me look and feel a tad more camera-ready).
I will be sporting a shirred short white skirt and black-and-white gingham shirt; a floral bomber jacket with fitted
jeans; a colorfully patterned silk top by Trina Turk with navy cropped pants; and a slinky dress
by one of my all-time favorite designers, Nicole Miller.
I will not, however, be wearing the green floral dress that Kimberly
showed my husband.
It didn’t hit me right.
wouldn’t zip, even with Spanx.
And yes, it was a bit too matronly.
A Word From The Weiss
Happy almost Passover, people!
While you are still busy searching for your great grandmother's matzo ball recipe and trying to eradicate every last trace of chametz (leavened
bread products) from your household, I have already taken the full plunge into the spirit – and spirits – of Passover.
That is to say, by the end of last week, in the course
of only 24 hours, I had already celebrated my Jewish heritage at a seder and sipped my way through four cups of wine at a single sitting. OK, so only the first of these occasions
actually involved 10 plagues and the breaking
of the middle matzo. And the second, I
might as well confess right now, featured a healthy dose of non-kosher food items, otherwise known as trayf. Maybe even an unhealthy dose of trayf. No matter. Both of these
events were well worth attending and then telling you all about.
First thing first.
You might well surmise
that if you have been to one seder, you've been to them all. I mean, no doubt you know the drill, from the seder plate and matzo ball soup to the singing of
"Dayenu." Which can typically be summed up like almost any Jewish holiday:
They tried to kill us. We
survived! Let's eat! And I don’t just mean eat a little nosh. I’m talking about a five-course meal.
This particular seder, however, was a seder of
a slightly different color. Or gender. Mostly because it almost exclusively involved what is commonly called the fairer
This was not the first Women's Seder to be hosted by my local Jewish Community Center at a nearby synagogue. On the
contrary, it was sequel No. 2. But unlike
the typical case with most movie franchises, this event appears to be improving with age.
Picture 350 festively dressed women of all ages seated at tables inside a happily packed
banquet hall singing together, reciting prayers, schmoozing, kosher boozing, and otherwise reveling in their shared sense of community, Jewishness, and
gave this particular communal event extra verve and added zest was the entertainment provided by the featured guest, a young Brooklyn-based, Jewish singer-songwriter named Michelle Citrin, who proved herself to be a sassy musical firecracker.
And this so-called Jewish rock star didn’t even perform her famous song
from 2008, “Twenty Things You Can Do With Matzah,” which poses the important musical question, “Passover’s
over and wouldn’t it be neat if you could use all the matzah that you didn’t eat?”
And, of course, as with most questions posed during Passover, this song – the hilarious video of which
can be viewed on YouTube --then proceeds to offer many more answers than questions. Such as, “You can make a matzah pick and play the guitar. Or you can make a matzah license plate for your car.”
All I can say is that after
a week that was a little challenging for me -- Jewish-wise and in every other way -- it felt no less than genuinely euphoric
to find myself dancing around the perimeter of the room, shaking my booty as well as a colorful
plastic timbrel, along with a few hundred of my Jewish sisters to the familiar strains of "Miriam's Song."
“And the women dancing
with their timbrels
Followed Miriam as she sang her song
Sing a song to the One whom we’ve exalted
Miriam and the women danced and danced the whole night long.”
OK, so this particular gathering of women
only danced till about 9 – 9:30, tops.
There were moments when
I felt so uplifted that my feet barely touched the ground. Never mind that
I only downed two small goblets of wine, neither of them Manischewitz. It
was one of those nights that remind me
(as if I ever need reminding)
why I love to be a Jew.
The second event, the very next afternoon, was also a celebration of sisterhood. And actually was a five-course meal. A five-course
meal with wine pairings, no less, one for each of the Five Books of Moses. Although
there was no mention of the Five
It all began when
I woke up early last month to an
invitation from an upscale local restaurant called Max’s Oyster Bar (pardon the mention of trayf). No big surprise there. I’m on their mailing list and often receive such invitations. This particular invite, though, was to a luncheon
featuring GIFFT wines, the label
owned by Kathie Lee Gifford.
And not just the wines of Kathie Lee
Gifford, but also Kathie Lee Gifford herself.
Normally, as a longtime devotee of the fourth hour of Today on NBC, hosted by Ms. Gifford,
I wake up not to such invitations, but rather to watch Ms. Gifford herself. So I didn’t hesitate for even two seconds
before making a reservation for two for the lunch.
And it was a good thing
I did, because within an hour the event had sold out.
I then proceeded to send another email to my good friend and frequent partner in crime and nice Jewish
excursions, Pat, inviting her to join me.
It was Pat, after all,
who had accompanied me on another such outing four years ago, to attend an earlier
luncheon with Kathie Lee and her own sidekick, Hoda Kotb.
Never mind that Pat is not a devotee of
morning television (or even evening television, for that matter), and
until that day had been totally unfamiliar with Kathie Lee, Hoda and all four hours of Today. I had been telling her for years that we were Kathie Lee and Hoda – that is, I was more or less the Hoda to her Kathie Lee – and so I felt that it was high time that, in the inimitable words
of Seinfeld, worlds collide.
We drove to New York City. Our worlds collided. I still have the photo – and the blog – to
But Pat wrote back now to thank me for my latest offer
yet regretfully decline. She would be
away with her husband that week.
So I quickly recruited my daughter Allegra to go with me instead.
Maybe that was just as well. For, as eager
as I was to see Kathie Lee again “up
close and personal,” as they say, I had another motivation for attending
I hate to use the phrase “ulterior motive.” “Ulterior” always sounds a little unsavory. As though you have something sneaky
up your sleeve.
In this case, there was nothing the least bit sneaky. But I would have something up my sleeve. Or, more likely tucked into my tote bag or purse. No, make that two things.
My daughter, Allegra Levy, a rising young jazz singer, has just released her second CD, Cities
Between Us. The fourth hour of Today often
features new singers, and as a daily devotee
of the show I have long dreamed that my daughter might be one of them.
Kathie Lee was bringing her Giffts. Why not give her my own gift, a copy of the CD? And surely, it would be even better to have Allegra
present when I gave her this present.
And as long as I was giving her that present, why not give her my new book too?
Ya never know.
With luck, Allegra would
be on spring break that very week
from the school at which she works. But as luck would have it – or real life would have it – home is not exactly where most 27-year-olds necessarily want to spend spring break.
Also, as it turned out, Allegra scheduled a rehearsal in NYC for her upcoming CD release show on the same afternoon I would
be dining in Connecticut with Kathie Lee.
So a few days before the luncheon, I invited
my friend Sally to join me instead.
Never mind that Sally was not a devotee of morning television either, and until that moment had also been unfamiliar with Kathie Lee, Hoda, and all four hours of Today.
And never mind that Sally had a doctor’s appointment late that morning and feared she might arrive extremely
late. Sally enjoys wine. Not to mention trayf. I told her to come whenever
Hoda would not be at this luncheon because she adopted a baby
a few weeks ago and is on maternity leave. But I wanted to make sure to get my
photo snapped with Kathie Lee once again. With that in mind, I wanted to wear something similar in color to what Kathie Lee would be wearing. Maybe that sounds deranged – it’s not as if we were bridesmaids. It’s just that Kathie
Lee and Hoda almost always wear the
same color scheme on the show. (Does the wardrobe consultant
plan it, or do they confer each day when they wake up, which, given their perfect coiffures at 10, must be by 4 a.m.?)
With this in mind, I decided to wait to pick my own outfit until after I saw what Kathie Lee wore on the show that morning.
Speaking of which, if she was going to appear
on the show that morning, how the heck would she possibly arrive anywhere close to on time for the luncheon at 1 p.m.? The show ends at 11, and
NYC is a good 2½-hour drive away. Even without traffic.
With that in mind, I told Sally not to worry if her doctor’s appointment ran late. She would probably still beat Kathie Lee.
When I tuned into Today that morning, Kathie Lee was wearing a beige dress.
I’d been hoping to wear black – it’s stylish, not to mention slimming, as we all well know – but far be it from me to wear black when
she was in beige. So I slipped on the blush-colored sequined top and slacks I’d worn
to my son’s rehearsal dinner last summer.
Never mind that it was
a little sparkly. Not to mention NOT slimming. It was festive. And noticeable. Even at a crowded, sold-out luncheon, you just
couldn’t miss me in that.
After tucking a copy of both my new book, The Adulterer’s Daughter, and Allegra’s CD
into my purse, I had another inspiration. Why not also give Kathie Lee a copy of the blog post I’d written about our earlier meeting,
the luncheon I attended in New
It took me awhile to locate this in the archives of my blog, though, then even longer to figure out how to print it. No matter.
It was pouring out. Kathie Lee would be lucky to make it to the lunch by 2.
So imagine my surprise when I arrived at Max’s at a fashionably late 1:05 to find the luncheon already in progress and Kathie Lee halfway through
her welcoming speech.
And to see that
she was dressed in a jumpsuit in a very slimming shade of black.
How had she gotten there so fast and even found the time to change? Had she flown in by helicopter,
or on a private jet? When I was ushered to the only pair of empty seats left in the room, at a table of eight in the front window, I soon learned. As she had
just divulged to the crowd, that morning’s
show had been taped the day before.
Talk about having something sneaky up your sleeve!
As I took my seat, a waitress approached to serve me the first wine of the day. I’d been
too busy watching Today and
getting dressed to eat breakfast. So at 1 p.m., with four wines to taste, I was already well on my way to getting sloshed.
For those of you who may also not be familiar with Kathie
Lee, allow me to explain. She is famous for many things. Along with her long career on morning TV – the past nine years
on Today with Hoda were preceded by 15 years hosting with Regis Philbin – she has enjoyed fame as a singer,
songwriter, and actress. Many might just know her from the years of commercials she did for Carnival Cruise Lines, beginning
in 1984. Plus, she was married to NFL football star Frank Gifford, who passed away last year.
But thanks to the frequent ribbing and snide references seen on late-night talk shows and Saturday Night Live, she may be
best-known now for drinking wine, not because of what she drinks, or
how much she
drinks, but because of when she drinks it: On the fourth hour of Today, every weekday, starting at 10 a.m.
So choosing to market her own wines was a matter of doing what comes naturally.
As she had evidently explained just moments before I arrived, she had gotten
into the wine biz when a man came up to her a few years ago and asked out of the blue why she hadn’t done it yet. This led to a collaboration with Scheid Family
Wines of Monterey, CA. They currently produce
four different vintages for her, all of which have achieved high ratings from Wine
Enthusiast. One of them, a pinot grigio, was now being served with our first course, a seared
tuna tapenade crostini atop frisée, olives, egg, and pickled veggies.
Sally, alas, was still nowhere in sight. No matter. I made sure she was served both the tuna and wine anyway. Then I got acquainted with two
of my other table mates.
Leslie and Steve, a cute and affable
couple, were there because Steve had received the email and instantly signed up Leslie, a dedicated Kathie Lee devotee, as
What a man! Make that prince. My own husband happens to
be a longtime fan of the beauty makeovers done on the show every Thursday. In fact, he has taped them for years, watches them the minute he gets home, and often calls from the office to inquire, “How
were the makeovers today?”
And yet when I’d asked him to accompany me to the lunch, after learning that Allegra had
decided to renege, he had answered with a fairly abrupt and decisive “No.”
By the time Sally finally
arrived, just in time for the second course – and the second wine, an absolutely
delicious Chardonnay – Leslie
and Steve were my new best friends. And so, even before Sally could dig into the chowder-stuffed
cherrystone clams with scallops and leeks, they happily snapped our photo, and we readily returned the favor.
Lee was also busy posing for pics and selfies with her many guests, circulating slowly around the room as she greeted each and every one. Before every course was served, though, she would take a break to deliver
a few introductory remarks.
“You really are a medicated bunch of people!” she quipped as we were being served
the third wine, a blush-toned rosé. Can’t
say that she was wrong. I also can’t say that I hesitated to dive into
the accompanying dish, a Stonington Royal Red Shrimp Salad embellished with white beans, chorizo, and a kale salsa verde. Never mind that it was double trayf. It was also doubly delicious.
Then, just before the
main course, without warning, Kathie Lee suddenly approached. Leslie had encountered her on the way back from the ladies’, and having heard that she'd
brought her boyfriend to this mostly ladies' lunch, Kathie Lee had come over to meet Prince Steve.
But first she wanted to know how all of us were enjoying ourselves.
And her “stuff,” as she often calls it on the show, so as not to sound like she is overtly advertising it.
She began to tell us how proud she was that her 2015 Chardonnay had
snagged a gold medal in this year’s San Francisco
Chronicle Wine Competition. At this,
I found myself summoning up my nerve
(or was it just liquid courage?) to speak up.
“I don’t know
from gold medals,” I responded, lifting my glass to toast her. “I just know
what I like, and I love this!”
well. I truly did. But the instant those words flew out of my mouth, like a flock
of wild, squawking birds, I regretted them and wanted to put them back into the cage.
Because instead of reveling in the compliment, Kathie Lee gritted her teeth and
perceptibly grimaced. She began defending herself, noting that this medal was real, and a true coup. I don’t know quite what she said, though – I was too busy wishing
I could eat my words instead of course No. 4, an herb-grilled Colorado lamb chop served with mint pea potato puree, honey-roasted
baby carrots, and a red wine rosemary orange jus.
What the heck had I been thinking? Was I crazy?
Why couldn't I have echoed one of her favorite expressions, "Of course
you did!" and simply said,
"Of course you did! It's delicious!"
And now that I had insulted
her, how was I possibly going to try to slip her my stuff?
While I contemplated all of this, Kathie Lee managed to recover her warm smile, as well as her joie de vivre. Within
seconds, she found herself perched upon Steve’slap.
Steve didn’t seem to mind one bit. At 63, Kathie Lee has unquestionably still got it. And
I am not talking about her “stuff.”
Then, as abruptly as she’d arrived,
the vivacious TV star popped up again. With 143 guests to greet, and only one course left to serve, she had to keep making her rounds. “I’ve got to go,” she
Oh, no! Was this really happening?
I had taken my friend Pat with me to that luncheon in NYC in large part because she has much more chutzpah than I do. I knew she would make sure that I met my idols.
Sally is one of the sweetest, loveliest, and best friends anyone could ever hope to have. But she doesn’t know from chutzpah. (And not only because
she is not a fellow Jew.)
So I knew in this case that even if I had offended Kathie Lee, I was on my own
here. And I summoned the nerve to cry out again as she began to slink off, wine in hand.
“Kathie Lee, can I get a photo with you? For my blog?”
Kathie Lee is nothing if not gracious. “Of course,”
she said, “but it has to be fast.”
So I bounded up with the
CD and the book in hand. I left the printed copy of my blog behind. Seriously, how much hazzerei did I actually have the chutzpah to hand her?
After she had slipped an arm over my shoulder and posed genially, I blurted
out the nature of my mission before she could walk away.
“I met you at a
luncheon in New York four years ago when you produced your musical Scandalous,” I began. “At the time, I
told you that my daughter, who’s a young jazz singer, was about to record
her first CD. Well, she recently released her second CD, and I want to give you a copy.”
that was enough already. But if she
could serve five courses, and four wines, couldn’t I offer two?
“I also want to give you a copy
of my new book, which was just published,” I quickly added.
“How wonderful for you!” she exclaimed.
“Yes and no,”
I replied. “It’s a memoir
about how, when I was growing up,
my father kept a mistress for 15 years while still married to my mother.”
Again her face noticeably fell. But all she said was, “Thanks,
but I can’t really carry all of these things around the room with me.”
“No, of course you can’t,” I said, not skipping a beat. “Is there someone I can give
them to for you?”
At this, she indicated the attractive
young woman who had been trailing her around the room. I promptly proffered my booty to her.
As the pair made their way to the next table, and then a third, I noticed that this woman still
had both my book and Allegra’s CD tucked safely under her arm.
As to what happened to my offerings next, I cannot say. Because by the time
we'd been served the final course, a lemony meringue-topped mini-cupcake, sans wine, Kathie Lee had already departed.
In her wake, however, she had left
everyone present a special present – a signed bottle of one of her wines, which, in case you are wondering, all retail
for under $15.
As pleasantly surprised as I was to receive this unexpected
bonus, I was a teeny bit disappointed, only because I tend to be a dedicated – and sometimes medicated
-- Chardonnay drinker, and the bottle that
I was handed turned out to be the pinot grigio. Believe me, though, I was not about to complain. Neither
was anyone else at my table. For as Leslie wryly pointed out, “I don’t want to
look a GIFFT horse in the mouth.”
And although a whole week has gone by since that
day, without a call, email, or word
from Kathie Lee or anyone else at the fourth hour of Today, I don’t want to look a five-course lunch
-- with wine pairings, no less -- in the mouth, either.
Maybe Allegra’s CD and my book got inadvertently left behind at the restaurant. Or maybe, as gracious, kind, and down-to-earth a person
as Kathie Lee may be, as the recipient of too many gifts herself she later had
no choice but to toss them in the trash.
Or maybe, just maybe,
she listened to the CD on the way back, or
in the privacy of her own home. Or has my book on her nightstand. And one of these days, the chutzpah I summoned will pay off.
Now, that would make for a truly happy Passover. Is it possible?
Ya never know.