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    Catching Up with a Talented Original: Isaac Mizrahi

    By Jan Wahl–

    Ever since I saw the 1995 documentary Unzipped, I’ve been a fan of Isaac Mizrahi. The way this acclaimed designer developed his Fall 1994 collection as a combination of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and the Clark Gable/Loretta Young original romance Call of the Wild was camp and unique. I watch him now on QVC just to hear his references to classic Hollywood fashion—and to enjoy his clothes.

    Isaac Mizrahi is original, witty, and hardworking. He’s now up there with [Bob] Mackie, Halston, and other incredibly talented gay artists. He is also musical, and was scheduled to bring his cabaret show January 15 to the Albert & Janet Schultz Cultural Arts Hall in Palo Alto, but as for so many other events during the pandemic, it has been postponed. Check his website (https://helloisaac.com/) and that for the venue (https://www.paloaltojcc.org/) for updates.

    I recently chatted with Isaac from his home in Manhattan. 

    “The more we get into this COVID thing and strange politics, the more I love the comfort of classic Hollywood movies,” he told me for the San Francisco Bay Times. “I knew I was gay from my first perception of any kind of desire, so Gary Cooper and Robert Taylor were it. Later David Cassidy. I was just boy crazy. I never had a heterosexual feeling. I came out early to everyone but my father; mom said he’d have a heart attack. When he died, I was sad but liberated from a double life.”

    He continued: “I became a star early. At 25, New York Magazine did a cover story on me when I designed my first collection. I mentioned I was gay in that and got some heat for it. Then k.d. lang hit the cover as ‘lesbian chic’ and suddenly I was right with it!”

    “The movie about me, Unzipped, cemented my legacy,” he added. “I agree with you that it was a fun collection that movie showed, especially Loretta Young caught in the avalanche with Gable. She was frostbitten but looked ever so dewy. Unzipped is still talked about. Guess I’ve reached legendary status. It makes me feel old, but also fabulous.”

    I then asked him about the series Halston on Netflix. He said that he was glad I mentioned it.

    “I liked the documentary on him better since the series itself made me so sad,” he said. “Beautifully acted and all, but just heartbreaking.”

    As previously indicated, Isaac is often on QVC, selling clothes of every type as well as accessories. He has fun with the hosts, and brings up movies and stars as they appear unknowing but always amused. I’ve been known to buy his things, especially the bright pima cotton tops and 24/7 pants. 

    I asked how he could go from couture to mass marketing. 

    “I got tired of going clubbing and all that,” he said. “You need to be out there always for couture, knowing the latest and hottest.  I also got tired of people who associate quality and luxury with huge money. Why not dress millions of women and give that to them?” 

    I’m glad you did this, Isaac! It is such fun to watch you, to hear your stories. and learn about fashion from your unique point of view. 

    Speaking of Mizrahi stories, he dishes them at his cabaret show. “I was doing showbiz before anything else, doing female impressions and puppet shows before anyone would listen,” he said.

    At his cabaret shows, he sings his favorites with a cool band … from Sinatra and Fitzgerald to Eilish and Madonna. And from Dolly Parton to Cher, I’m determined to see as many legends as I can, so I hope that his show will be rescheduled, allowing Northern CA audiences to see Isaac in person.

    In other news, my four favorite movies of the season so far are West Side Story, Being the Ricardos, Belfast, and In the Heights. Two great books are Vanderbilt, The Rise and Fall of an American Dynasty by Anderson Cooper and All About Me! My Remarkable Life in Show Business by the delicious Mel Brooks. Happy 2022, everyone!             

    Jan Wahl is a Hollywood historian, film critic on various broadcast outlets, and has her own YouTube channel series, “Jan Wahl Showbiz.” She has two Emmys and many awards for her longtime work on behalf of film buffs and the LGBTQ community. Contact her at www.janwahl.com

    Published on January 13, 2022