Friday, October 13, 2006

28th Most Beautiful Lady in the World!

'Semicelebrated Hustler' Tops Semicelebrated 'Chef'

While wandering the empty rooms of Withering Depths, our manse on the Snarkshire Moors, and letting the breeze tiptoe, Tiny Tim-like, through our Spanish-grandee tresses, we heard, over the summer, that Mrs. Billy Joel, la Signora Katie Lee Joel, would not be returning to host the second season of Bravo TV's "Top Chef."

We were aghast.

As even the most inveterate haunter of Applebee's knows, a good hostess in the front of the house can go a long way toward making or breaking the dining experience. It was true that Mrs. Joel didn’t exactly start the fire, but what would “Top Chef” do without her?

Who could replicate her vacuous, bovine stare; the placid, near-immobile expression that bordered on expressionlessness, except for those brief flashes of lucidity when she revealed that she knew how out of her depth she was, a veal calf on its way to meet Joël Robuchon but paralyzed by Valium and inertia? (We theorized that the tranquillizers had been slipped into her lip gloss; how else to explain that obscenely lustrous mouth that would have sent both Andrea Dworkin and Billy Joel into paroxysms, albeit of a different sort?). Who else could so rock the combination of chandelier earrings and Payless-worthy footwear?

But then we heard the glad tidings. Mrs. Billy Joel had been replaced by Mrs. Salman Rushdie. In other words, Bravo had, in the parlance of Candace Bushnell, traded up. A 3 series had been exchanged for a 7 series.

It made perfect sense as a template. Successful, older, pudgy, unattractive man weds comely, ambitious younger woman—a tale as old as tarte Tatin.

We made our way to the library at Withering Depths, upholstered in morocco and peau de soie, to do our research. One had, of course, heard of model-actress-tv hostess-cookbook author-arm candy Mrs. Rushdie, née Padma Lakshmi. One remembered the New York Times article written by Guy Trebay in ink made of equal parts vitriol and grudging admiration, the one that referred to Padma as a “semicelebrated hustler,” the one that began by relating a conversation overheard at a fashion show:

"Can you believe that's Salman Rushdie's wife?" said Person 1, a man, referring to Padma Lakshmi, who was, at that particular moment, posing agreeably for a paparazzi mob.

"Look at her," said Person 2, a woman seated beside him. "It's like she's on display."

"She's like, 'Shine on me, shine on me,' " added Person 1.

"Very smart," said Person 2.

"She?" said Person 1.

"He," said Person 2, definitively.

Most intriguing, n’est-ce pas? We went on Padma’s official website, and there, in the section devoted to updates for the faithful and tidings for the acolytes, we found this:

“6/3/05 - Padma is the 28th most beautiful lady in the world! That is, according to England-based Harpers and Queen. Check out the July issue now.”
How we loved the locution, that touchingly colonial "lady." Oh, and the exclamation point!

And then we found out that in 2001, she played Sylk, the shampoo-monikered diva rival to Mariah Carey in the not-since-“Showgirls” cinematic masterpiece “Glitter.” On a failli mourir.

Our pulses aflutter, we were scarcely prepared for the clincher. Padma was the author of an award-winning cookbook entitled—are you ready for this?—“Easy Exotic.”

Easy? Exotic? Edward Saïd be damned, those are exactly the qualities we look for in a mate. Curse you, Andy Cohen. Once again, you and Bravo have read our minds. We can’t wait for October 18.

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