Five minutes with fashion fixture (and cabaret queen) Michele Lamy
Los Angeles has never really been known for its interesting nightlife, but for a few years starting in the mid-1990s there was one restaurant-club-cabaret, partly located in a parking lot, that was the ultimate in Euro-Hollywood cool: Les Deux Cafes. The owner was Frenchwoman Michele Lamy, who, with her tattooed fingers and gold-plated teeth, presided over the scene like some groovy goth queen. In 2003, after Lamy and her partner, designer Rick Owens, relocated to Paris, the party fizzled out quickly (though Les Deux was later revived by Dolce Group). In recent years the gregarious Lamy—who still serves as Owens’ muse and collaborator and also backs rising fashion star Gareth Pugh—has satisfied her hostesses’ instinct by throwing dinner parties at the couple’s huge, minimalist townhouse-atelier, located in Paris’ bourgeois 7th arrondissement. But tomorrow night she’s bringing a taste of the old Les Deux to Paris with a private dinner and cabaret for 250, at a restaurant near an Air France bus station. We’ll have exclusive pictures of the party on Monday; in the meantime, a few words with Lamy.
You haven’t hosted a party like this in years. Why now?
This is kind of an accident, but I like to organize accidents. Bobby Woods, the music producer who used to play at Les Deux every Thursday, is coming in to perform with seven members of his band.
And you’re going to sing a couple of songs with lyrics from Langston Hughes poems. When did you first sing in public?
The whole thing was started a long time ago by my friend Helene Hazera [a transsexual French journalist and activist]. In the Seventies Helene used to live in my house in Montparnasse when she was getting her first hormone shots. We used to do striptease together. And after I moved to L.A. I was organizing a party, and she told me I should sing because I had a voice exactly like Marianne Oswald.
So that was the original inspiration for Les Deux?
Yes—Helene came to L.A. and she was the emcee at the party, wearing one of the first Rick Owens dresses. Then she came on stage dressed in only a girdle and tights, carrying a whip. And she started singing “My Bruises are My Emeralds,” while whipping herself so much that she bled! And I sang “King Kong Blues.” It was fabulous.
Did you ever consider opening a club in Paris?
No. That was a different time and a different place. If I did it again it would probably not be here. Maybe on one of those islands north of Venice. But I don’t know, I have too many other things to do.
You’ve led a nomadic life with all kinds of careers. Not everyone realizes that as a young woman in France you worked as a defense attorney, and that you were also a student of philosopher Gilles Deleuze.
I’ve always been interested in philosophy, but I don’t’ think there are any philosophers anymore. Now it’s artists. It’s a visual thing – you see art and you feel it but you don’t necessarily need to read Spinoza and Deleuze to understand it.
Which young artists are you into right now?
I’m totally into L.A. artists. I’m in love with Sterling Ruby and Elliot Hundley. I was at Basel this year with my daughter Scarlett, who is also an artist, and when we saw a new Elliot Hundley piece at Shaun Regen’s booth, we both screamed.
Did you buy it?
It was already sold. So I bought another piece of his that wasn’t yet finished, after seeing a photo of it on Shaun’s computer. So I still haven’t seen it, but I’m sure I will like it. It’s a wall piece with collage, candles coming out, a lot of colors. Very much the opposite of the Rick Owens world.
Lamy and Owens
You and Rick share a very similar, very particular aesthetic. What happens when you disagree on matters of taste?
What’s a recent example?
The Elliot Hundley is an example. Rick said, “How can you buy a work of art without seeing it?” Those disagreements happen rarely, but when they happen, they’re strong. This time he decided to give me the benefit of the doubt (laughs).
What are you wearing today?
This is an old Rick Owens cardigan, with some cashmere things he was doing when he worked with Revillon. And my tights are Margiela. My fur socks are Rick also, but they don’t have hard soles, so I wear them with black Crocs.
And is that an elastic stocking that you’re wearing as a hat?
I had an operation on my leg this year. When you are the hospital they give you these tight stockings to wear. And you see, they are perfect on the head!