MIRACLE BRA ON 34th STREET: In preparation for the biggest
shopping weekend of the year, we searched high and low to find
the grossest display of extravagance to lambaste. Fortunately
for us, it came right to our mailbox, from some mailing list to
which our name was sold without our consent: The Victoria's
Secret Christmas Catalog.
There on page three was a "fantasy gift" so fantastic, we couldn't believe it was true: "Harry Winston creates The Victoria's Secret Diamond Dream Bra," a little gem of a gift for the missus that'll only set you back $3 million. That's right, $3,000,000. Count the zeroes. We did, about three times before calling the toll-free number to ask just what in the hell they were thinking...and more importantly, how many did they have in stock?
A British woman politely thanked us for calling the Fantasy Gift Infoline, apologizing that "all our representatives are currently busy assisting other customers." Yeah, right. After all, it's 10:30 p.m. on a Monday--prime shopping hours. Her refined, recorded voice asked that we leave a daytime phone number so someone could return our call as soon as possible. This, presumably, should sort out the riffraff.
Undaunted, we called the other toll-free number. This time, we were greeted by the familiar, eastern U.S. I-hate-my-job-in-telemarketing salesgirl.
"Do you have Fantasy Gift No. 2 in stock?"
She's perplexed. We repeat our question. "You want information on that item?" she asks.
"Very much," we answer. She will have to transfer us. Many rings later, Robert answers. We repeat our request. He will have to transfer us to the right department. We wait, in department-store elevator music limbo, for several minutes before another man answers. He promises to connect us to the proper person. The phone rings six times, and then it's Robert again.
"Robert!" we exclaim. He immediately sends us back to music limbo, without even saying hello, while he "searches for someone in inventory"...and no doubt wonders how long it will take before we simply hang up. We feel slighted.
After several more rings, another man answers: "Security."
Instinctively, we're afraid. Until we remember all we've done in this particular instance is phone a 1-800 number.
"Security? We're holding for inventory," we say sweetly. "Is there something I can help you with?" the stern man asks.
"What kind of security is this?" Is there such a thing as mail-order shoplifting? Is there a law against impersonating an obscenely wealthy person?
After three more transfers and 25 minutes of elevator music that'd drive jolly ol' St. Nick himself postal, we reach Felicia, who says she wants to help us. We ask. She says the computer doesn't have that kind of information. "Do you have any information at all?" we ask.
"Why is that?"
"This might be an item you have to be measured for."
It's a non sequitur, but sensible. "Do you think anyone will order this bra, Felicia?" we ask.
"I really can't say, ma'am."
Apparently, that's classified information. Whatever. The boobs who came up with this idea of "every woman's fantasy" are certifiable, in our book. If there's any hope for humanity, we have to believe that $3 million in chump change could be employed in some cause more, uh, "uplifting" than even Tyra Banks' cleavage can aspire to.
HIGH 'N' HAPPY: Every year we look forward to the afternoon Tucson Citizen's clunkily sincere effort to reach the generally rich, white residents of the Santa Catalina foothills. Folks who, as a rule, read only the morning newspaper. The vehicle is a magazine-like publication entitled Foothills Today, and this year's cover features a photo of Bambi amid prickly pear cactus--suggesting, perhaps, that the deer and the horny toads will roam forever here, and nevermind that the foothills region is a rapidly urbanizing stretch of once-beautiful desert now under permanent siege.
It's an Ozzie And Harriette kind of publication, containing very little in the way of controversy or reports of strife. By our count, this year's issue is sporting, in its ads and editorial photos, roughly 350 white faces and a mere 20 minority faces, one of which belongs to basketball bazillionaire Michael Jordan. Not a word, of course, about the Mexicans being run off their ranch lands hereabouts after the 1853 Gadsden Purchase--we white folk like our history bits, like our Chicken McNuggets, deep-fried to a golden crisp and free of icky, ice-cold, raw spots.
Perverts that we are, we find ourselves looking forward to receiving Foothills Today because, however unintentionally, it speaks volumes about our culture's increasingly shabby myths and values.
This year's kick-off article, for example, details the Yankee shrewdness of developer John Murphey, who bought up 7,000 Santa Catalina foothills acres in 1928, and employed Swiss architecht Josias T. Jossler to create what can in all fairness only be described as ersatz Mexican haciendas designed to pull in the big-money winter residents.
To the Citizen's credit, the initial article goes on to discuss the foothills' explosive growth and the tract homes and apartments that flooded into the region after 1978, when Murphey's original deed restrictions expired. But the conclusion, unfortunately, is more or less: Tsk, tsk. What's an attractive, on-the-go community supposed to do?
Well, perhaps we can assuage what little guilt we might feel by perusing Foothills Today's colorful ads. Then again, perhaps not--a high proportion of these ads are touting real-estate firms. Here are glorified the spiritual and commercial inheritors of that shrewd New Englander Murphey, the wise old purveyor of genuine American-made, Mexican-style Swiss cheese.
Murphey's well-coiffed, smiling business decendants--nearly all of them white and cheerfully prosperous-looking--today peddle an even more ersatz version of Murphey's original upper-middle class, Disneyesque domestic fantasy. More ersatz because the dream has been conflated by staggering population growth and a booming economy, so that instead of bricks and mortar and heavy clay tiles, today's foothills' homes and apartments are spun, cotton candy-like, of wood-frame stucco and lightweight colored-cement roofing materials, all spray-painted to suggest, however vaguely, a previous era of architectural integrity. Oddly, even the foothills' increasingly numerous corner drugstores and strip malls are taking on this badly done cultural cammoflague.
Yes, badly done. If one eyeballs the redoubtable mission San Xavier del Bac on one hand, and an authentic hacienda in--God forbid--Mexico on the other, and then glances at today's foothills architecture, he can't help but be struck by the utter crapola of what we've somehow bamboozled ourselves into thinking we've accomplished here.
And Foothills Today is a device to maintain our egocentric trance-like state: "Luxury homes hot in Foothills," says one headline; "Neighborhood associations help maintain quality of life," says another. How about "High-tech homes can be earth-friendly, too," or "Trek to Saddlebrooke worth the drive"?
All of this, in essence, is nothing more than the terrible, flat drone of the mesmerist. He's telling us life is good here, we are good, and real, and every day gets better and better. The dream is alive! Growth continues, our pleasant lives here do have meaning. They do, they do, they do....
And so what if perhaps our grandchildren one day will live crowded together in their tiny cardboard and stucco boxes, in what's left of the paved-over, strip-mauled foothills of tomorrow? They'll still be happy, won't they? We're confident some out-of-town publisher will be there to kill trees and keep the dream alive.
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