Dear Shaded Viewers,
I met BillyBoy* in NYC in the 80’s when he lent my friend Stephen di Pietri a few pieces from his Elsa Schiaparelli collection for the FIT exhibition: Fashion and Surrealism. Stephen was in Paris at the time and asked me to receive BillyBoy* for him. BillyBoy* is well, unforgettable. Along with his flamboyant appearance there has always been a veil of mystery about his upbringing and where his name came from. © Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli will nourish you with information both about his upbringing as a wealthy orphan with a glamorous but complicated background. As a child he had two mentors: Bugs Bunny and Elsa Schiaparelli. Bugs Bunny taught him how to behave in society and how to navigate through life being both witty, coy and smart. He discovered Elsa Schiaparelli while shopping in the Paris flea market at the age of 14. Through his first purchase of a strange Schiaparelli art he learned the meanings of love and art.
His fascination with Schiaparelli continued over the next 40 years and with each treasure that he purchased he learned more about his guardian angel Schiaparelli and the garments she made and the life that she led. © Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli was inspired by Schiaparelli’s own memoir, Shocking Life and is destined to fascinate anyone that loves fashion and flamboyant storytelling.
An excerpt from an early chapter:
“I was born in Austria to two unmarried, underage, yet wealthy parents from different religions. I was put up for adoption practically as I was coming out of my mother. There was a mysterious story about my birth that involved a twin brother, a death, an inheritance, and a number of other things that have been completely impossible to know the truth about or get the facts straight, which would haunt me my entire life. So, the first excruciating years of my existence were spent in an orphanage and with a variety of foster families in Austria and then the USA. Before the process of adoption was finalized I had a beautiful Egyptian lady who was my caretaker and supervised which foster homes I’d be briefly staying at. When a couple finally expressed a serious desire to adopt me, I was allowed to live with them in the United States in a trial period not unlike one a car dealer offers a potential customer wishing to buy a car. This short trial period allowed them to make sure, I suppose, that they really wanted to adopt me. In 1964, at age four, the long legal wait to be adopted was over. I was now part of a big family of first generation Russian immigrants living in America.
All I can say about that time, which I sadly can still remember, is that it was spirit breaking, mostly terrifying, and left me with a memory of extreme hopelessness. I still have nightmares about it. The people who’d become my eventual adoptive parents were extremely careful and loving to me though, and as chance would have it, accepted me as their son. My mother always told me they were the only couple who had shown serious interest in me and that I seemed very dejected and melancholic even at that young age. I believe I was a difficult child to adopt due to a host of ailments that ranged from flat feet to a number of unpleasant congenital illnesses. My mental state was considered fragile and I suffered from panic attacks and eating disorders. My real family’s refined pedigree and perception of my underage parents as children who committed a mortal sin would surely have thought these issues to be perfect justifications and alibis to get rid of me illico presto in any case. Besides, what “normal” couple would want a child with such a background and such troubles? It was always difficult for me to understand why my adopted family actually chose me. I was, even by age four, a mess.”
© Frocking Life: Searching for Elsa Schiaparelli by Billyboy*, Rizzoli ExLibris, 2016
FROCKING LIFE: SEARCHING FOR ELSA SCHIAPARELLI
Edited by and with an introduction by Jean Pierre Lestrade
Foreword by Jean L. Druesedow
Rizzoli ExLibris / an imprint of Rizzoli New York
PUB DATE: December 2016