An almost botched Gotham City Test Drive with House of Style's Rebecca Romijn is saved by The New York Bureau, better known as Tad Floridis and Tobias Perse, who prove that nice guys can finish first, as long as they're not riding in a cab.
The New York Bureau had come to the photo studio for a pre-taxi-cab test drive conversation with House of Style's Rebecca Romijn. On time and equipped with a surfeit of reporters' supplies - mini-disc recorder, extra batteries, notebooks, back-up notebooks, mechanical pencils - we boarded the elevator, followed by two women struggling with a twin pair of overstuffed duffels. As the elevator lurched to the fifth floor, one of the women eyed the pencil behind Tad's ear. "You the writers?"
"Yes," we responded.
"There's a problem," she said. "No one told me until this morning there would be taxi cabs involved. You can't take Rebecca in cabs."
"Uh, no cabs?" Tobias said.
"These clothes," she said, shifting her weight so that one end of the bag nosed against Tobias' chest, "these clothes are not for cabs."
The elevator stopped on our floor.
"Uh, I think we'll need to call Bikini," Tad said as the group entered the photographer's studio.
The woman dropped her bag. "I am Bikini."
Calls were made, decisions rendered; The Bureau began racing through its two page list of neatly-typed speaking points and questions, changing the word "cab" to "Town Car."
Rebecca strides into the studio. She is serene and confident, her publicist trailing close behind, considerably shorter in stature and wider of berth. She introduces herself to a procession of people, kissing the ones she knows. The Bureau gets a handshake:
"Rebecca," she says. "Tad, Tobias," we say in turn.
"Wow," she replies after a moment, "two writers." Her tone has an unreadable edge, and it's difficult to tell if she means, "What, one of you couldn't handle this?" or if, in fact, she's just surprised by this tag-team style of reportage. Her publicist derails the exchange, asking what she wants for lunch.
"What do they have?" she asks.
"I don't know, it's a deli," he says.
"A tongue sandwich," she says in return.
He writes it down.
"Lewis," she says drolly, "I'm just kidding."
"I know," he says.
She settles on turkey on a bun and begins answering increasingly aberrant questions about her life even before her publicist could manage to scribble down "One (1) tongue sandwich" in his sandwich & other sundry expenses log.
Tobias: So, how did you land the job at MTV?
Rebecca Romijn: Basically, I came in for an interview. It was the first real job interview I ever had where someone was judging me on something other than the way my legs look. Later I did this screen test, and I was a little shaky. But I called afterward and said, "I will be good at this job, and I really want it."
Tad: That's the problem. Too frequently people don't articulate these words: "I... Want... This... Job." It increases your chance of getting it by some 70%.
Tad: Maybe 60%?
Tobias: Of course.
Tobias: So, is there any way you want to change the show, put your own impramateur on the House of Style?
Rebecca: I really want to give it more personality, try to add a little humor. Fashion takes itself so seriously.
Tobias: We actually have a serious fashion question for you: We've kind of had this running controversy that maybe you, as a professional could settle: pleats versus plain front?
Rebecca: Pleats versus flat front? Hmm, well, pleats are fine, they're coming back.
Tad: Okay, let's face it, I have some flat front pants.
Tobias: But occasionally I have a pair of khakis and, I'm sorry, they may have a pleat, two, maybe three, but what am I going to do?
Tad: So thank you, Rebecca. You heard it, Tobias: pleats.
Rebecca: Oh, pleats on the front of your pants? Men's pants?
Tobias: On one pair, he has rows folding over rows, like curtains.
Rebecca: Oh, I thought you meant pleated skirts for women. Oh, no, no, flat fronts.
Tad: You don't like a guy in pleats at all?
Rebecca: I personally prefer flat fronts.
Tobias: Would you fire somebody who worked with you if they wore pleats?
Tad: Have you ever been fired?
Rebecca: Uh, yes. I worked in this gourmet poultry shop in Berkeley where I grew up. You know, organic chicken, free-range. Everyday I used to grab a few sausages and drop them in the bottom of the rotisserie to soak them in oil then eat them for lunch. And they found out and that was it.
Tad: Hold on, hold on. What you're telling us is that you were fired for stealing sausage?
Tobias: For shoplifting.
Tad: Sausage shoplifting? Clearly you don't eat sausage anymore.
Rebecca: I don't mind chicken sausage.
The stylist was on her mobile phone again. This time, as with all other times, it was Los Angeles. Negotiations had stalled. So now it looked like we were going to go with the chauffeured Town Car motif for the shot.
Battles such as these, battles for navigating the fashion-avant-garde's ship, are won and lost in the trenches. The New York Bureau, as advocates of a freewheeling egalitarianism as represented by the taxi cab ride (accessible by all), had just been impaled in the gut. The stylist began preparing a haute-brand chauffeur's outfit for Rebecca to wear. We continued our questioning.
Tobias: What have you been doing for MTV?
Rebecca: My first thing was a House of Style piece with Tyra Banks, who's one of my best friends in the business. I'm doing more and more now. They just had me at the Super Bowl, interviewing people at half-time. I also just did some reporting from the Victoria's Secret show here in New York - I was also in the show.
Tobias: Wow. Double duty. Was that difficult?
Rebecca: No. I interviewed people at the fitting. Fought, like everybody else, to get a Stephanie Seymour interview. There were 15 crews around and suddenly I was feeling like, "I gotta get this interview."
Tad: I know the feeling.
Rebecca: Excuse me?
Tad: Oh, sorry, uh, nothing, go ahead.
Rebecca: Luckily, we're friends and it wasn't a problem.
Tad: Has it been hard to acclimate to the broadcasting element?
Rebecca: No, it's not hard to get in front of the camera, but live TV is hard. It freaks me out a little bit sometimes.
Tobias: Do you have those moments where you freeze, like Tad does - look at him, like a deer in the headlights - and sometimes even I do?
Rebecca: Yeah, I noticed you guys stiffened up a little bit... so to speak.
Tobias: Whoah! Hey...
Tad: Okay, we're out of here.
Tobias: Let's blow.
Tad: We don't have to put up with that sh*t? No way! We're professionals.
Rebecca: That's not what I meant.
The Bureau took a snack break, slaughtering the platters of cheese and cracker snacks lying around. Tad discovered a half empty bag of Ruffles and helps himself to the balance, periodically asking Rebecca: "Do you like potato chips?"(The answer each time: "Sure.") Tobias took notes: the studio was a 3000 square foot top-drawer sprawl. And judging by this energetically supportive staff, this was a pretty high-rent gig.
A wave of pride fell over The Bureau: we had arrived. No more indie actresses, kid directors, local athletes, we were belonged with the grade-A celebrities now. To that end, Tad boldly began pusing his own agenda. The Greek Agenda. Research had revealed Rebecca was engaged to be married to Greek-American Hollywood actor, John Stamos, widely acknowledged heir to the Telly Savalas mantle.
Tad: Is it acceptable to ask you a few questions about your personal life, namely John Stamos?
Tad: How long have you been going out?
Rebecca: About two and a half years. We met at a party, he was friends with my roommate...
Tad: Nice technique.
Rebecca: ...and he got my number. And we started hanging out.
Tad: Were you a big fan of Full House?
Rebecca: I didn't know him while he was on the show, but I remember staying home on Friday nights and watching it. When I had nothing else to do. I remember thinking "He's fine!" I also thought I was a total loser for having nothing else to do but watch Full House on Friday night.
Tad: Is he into being Greek?
Rebecca: Oh yeah, His real name is Stamopoulos. His grandfather came over from Greece and started a tomato farm in Mexico. Then they moved to California where he opened three hamburger joints.
Tobias: I love hamburgers.
Rebecca: His family is really tight.
Tad had intended on finding out if Rebecca had a pre-disposition toward Greek men, but, given that the whole interview and shoot were hanging on a thread, he didn't pursue that tact. Instead, the conversation naturally turned toward car sickness.
Tad: Seeing as we're about to embark on a cab...er...Town Car ride do you ever find yourself getting car sick?
Tad: I see.
Rebecca<: yeah="" more="" often="" then="" you="" think.="" my="" sister="" used="" to="" get="" car="" sick="" all="" the="" time.=""> Tad: I get car sick, sometimes violently, just pulling out of a parking spot.
Tobias:... waves of nausea...
Tad: Whoops! Looks like we're ready to go!
The crew rises in increments, a model of the diffusion theorist's wave. First, the publicist, followed closely by the hair person, make-up person, the stylist and her assistant, the photographer and his two assistants, and finally The New York Bureau. We are shepherded en masse to three waiting vehicles. 1) A pearl white Town Car, burgundy leather interior. 2) A slightly rusting silver Town Car. 3) A burnt magneta 1996 Ford Club Wagon with a Triton V-8, helmed by one of the photographer's assistants.
We watched as the photographer and Rebecca slipped into their Town Car, then obediently boarded the Club Wagon.
"How's the test drive going?" the photo assistant at the wheel cracked. "Bet the ride's smooth in that Town Car."
"Nice van," Tad replied.
"It's not mine," he said. "It's a rental."
"You know what that means," The Bureau told him giddily: "65 in first gear, it's part of the social contract: rental cars must be destroyed."
"Hey can we drive?" Tobias asked.
"Uh, it's only insured for one driver: me."
Ahead of us drive Rebecca and the photographer, it's dark red interior flooded with strobes of light from the flash.
"Uh I don't know," the assistant replies, trying to keep his eye on the road as a New York City MTA bus threatens to side swipe him.
We keep following Rebecca Romijn, town daughter of Holland's chicken production capital, toward the fabled Meat Packing District deep in the West Village. We see a stiletto-heeled foot kick itself up near the rear window of the Town Car, the photographer flashes away, temporarily blinding his assistant who trails in a mini-bus, some ten yards behind. "I can't see!" the assistant screams. "How many mile does this van have on it?" the Bureau asks efficiently.
The van turns right on West 11th Street. The publicist asks Tobias if he's a sports fan. Tad interrupts, "Tobias loves professional football. I mean, lives for it."
"Rebecca and I were just in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl," the publicist tells us. Tobias makes a gurgling noise.
We stopped for a shooting session on the West Side Highway, a blistering cold wind whiping off of the Hudson. Anton, the Ukrainian driver, told The Bureau, as Rebecca preened, open-shirted in the driver side doorwell, that the shoot was "nice" if a bit "weird."
Several gentlemen in automobiles stopped in the middle of the highway to yell inexplicable comments out their passenger windows.
The Bureau huddles beside the van with the publicist. "Is there anything dark or disgraceful you could tell us. Strictly off the record of course."
Publicist: No. Not at all. She's really nice. And I'm not just telling you that as her publicist.
Tobias: Steal cutlery from restaurants?
After 15 minutes of the emergency lane shoot, the photographer and Rebecca disappear into the Town Car for the final leg of the day: Times Square. We find our seats in the van, which quickly lags behind the Town Car, and with it the subject of our story. Finally, we see the back of their car parked in the center of Times Square. Hundreds of cars and people move by Rebecca, who is now arching her torso, and leaning backwards over the Town Car's trunk. Some people honk short staccato rhythms while others pound out wanting wails. Still others roll down their windows to hoot odd words of lascivious encouragement. "Do it baby!" says a man in a Hyundai. "Owowowowow," bleats a dreadlocked group from their car. An older man on foot stops at the periphery of the scene. He stares intently: "She is beautiful."
And standing at this guerrilla photo shoot in the jugular of Times Square, the Bureau can do little but agree, and add, "And cool."
Original article: Bikini Magazine April 1998