Artbreaker Chip Kidd isn’t the only design star who can fill Joe’s Pub. At one of his two recent shows at the cozy Manhattan venue, multi-talented fashion designer and “masstige” pioneer Isaac Mizrahi and his trusty band, The Ben Waltzer Quintet, charmed the crowd with a mix of cabaret classics, anecdotes, and gifts. Shod in silvery Belgian Shoes and fueled by a light beer summoned from the bar (only two points on Weight Watchers, he pointed out), Mizrahi kicked off his set with Marlene Dietrich‘s 1931 hit “Johnny, Wenn Du Geburtstag Hast,” made all the more impressive by his confession that he neither speaks nor understands German. “I could be saying anything. I wouldn’t know,” he cautioned the sell-out crowd, which included model Veronica Webb, his boyfriend Arnold, the debonair Korey Provencher, and other dedicated Mizrahi fans and friends.
Between songs, we learned that Artforum publisher Knight Landesman is handy with a tarot card deck (“Under those colorful clothes lurks the heart of a gypsywoman,” said Mizrahi), and that in a past life, Mizrahi and his adorable dog, Harry, were a couple of nuns in 18th-century Spain. Appropos of the Betty Comden and Adolph Green-penned “Dance Only with Me,” Mizrahi told of once finding himself seated next to Comden at a dinner party, where she praised him and his work. “I wanted to say, ‘Are you sure you’re talking about me? You might have me confused with Issey Miyake.’” She assured him she had the right designer, but when, months later, Mizrahi spied Comden and Green entering a restaurant where he was dining and went to greet her, she mistook him for the maitre d’.
Later, the crowd swooned for Mizrahi’s peppy rendition of “I Left My Hat in Haiti,” but really got excited when he brought out his “props,” a bag of things that people had sent him and that he proceeded to re-gift. These were oddities of the type found in the dusty clearance bin of a Michael’s store: a pink polka-dotted bathrobe, a Halloween-themed fleece vest, a knicknack that advised its owner to “DREAM” in white capital letters. One lucky someone went home with a sugar-glazed ham wrapped in red foil. Bestowed upon us? Votive candles infused with the aromas of assorted varieties of Mrs. Fields‘ cookies and Cinnabons. “I pity your apartment,” Mizrahi told us. Before launching into an encore (Cole Porter‘s “What Is This Thing Called Love?”), he reminded the Sunday night crowd of the late hour. “If we get home in time, we can watch Mad Men,” he said. “The rebroadcast starts at 11.”
Want more Mizrahi? Check out his just-published style book, his web series, dispatches from his design studio, and our personal favorite, his video blog (come for the lighting advice, stay for the cobb salad reports and cautionary tales of yerba mate tea). And we hear that come June, he’s back for more shows at Joe’s Pub. Wear your new Mizrahi-designed Liz Claiborne separates, and we’ll see you there!