Aimee is the famous international love reporter who has appeared in the Reader calendar’s fabulous “Search for Nightlife” column interviewing lovers at Chicago hideaways like the AA Meat Market. As she is an expert on love, I wanted to ask her opinions of the year’s romantic trends. She travels so often, she is impossible to reach! For months I left messages everywhere!–at her condominium in Hong Kong, at her suite at the Cipriani in Venice, at her equestrian Edwardian waterfront in the Hamptons. In a stroke of good fortune I walked into the Club Lucky Supper Club and Cocktail Lounge on Wabansia Street last Monday night and there she was at her private table, head to toe in YSL eating artichoke hearts with a sloe-eyed man in a gray Borsalino. She looked up, her heart-shaped pupils staring hard, and said, “The capellini has put me in a good mood. Come tomorrow for lunch and I’ll tell you everything.”
When I arrived at her two-story in-town apartment on East Lake Shore Drive with the pink tulle draping the French windows, I was struck by Aimee’s beauty in the afternoon light, her flawless skin and a figure that makes Julia Roberts look roly-poly. We dined on a light lunch of oysters, hearts of palm, a tea-smoked kosher Cornish hen which Aimee swore had never known love, matzo brei, and madeleines served on her heart-shaped pink marble dining table. While we ate a tenor came in and sang, as is the custom at Aimee’s house to stir her remembrances. He sang, if I remember correctly: “Que sera sera,” “Plus fort que nous,” “Le ciel est ferme,” and Rage of Paris’s “All Night Long, Yes.”
Then Aimee led me into the drawing room, sat down on a pink silk love seat, and we began. Standing behind Aimee were two young men in red swimming trunks who shook maracas throughout the interview. They follow Aimee wherever she goes. (Note: Aimee is so accustomed to speaking French that I had to remind her to use English. Some of the following is translated.)
TS: Your Chrome Hearts biker jacket is smashing.
Aimee: Merci beaucoup! I couldn’t decide if I should wear it with my Gaultier skating skirt or my Lagerfeld kilt but then I just threw on this puffy Scaasi evening dress. I’ve been trying on clothes all day, my legs are chapped. As always, I am wearing the earrings of Madame De . . . and my new Manolo Blahnik gold kid pumps.
TS: What’s your favorite holiday?
Aimee: Valentine’s Day! What a dumb question!
TS: I hear you work very hard on your love research. I see on your coffee table you have Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis and David Niven’s The Moon’s a Balloon.
Aimee: I’m also reading Plato’s Symposium, which I couldn’t put down. I was up until four trying to decide whether spiritual love is superior to carnal love, thus the circles under my eyes. I just finished a monograph titled “Stolen Moments.” I’ll be attending the Medieval Sexuality workshop at the American Historical Association conference in Chicago in late December, and if time allows I’ll drop in on the one on “Latino Homosexualities in Historical Perspective.”
TS: You are everywhere, Aimee!
Aimee: C’est vrai, but not as many places as my sister Adieu, who travels extensively. My other sister, Ennui, never goes anywere because she has a new husband every year. We’re triplets. We used to sing together but we had to go our separate ways, especially Adieu.
TS: Now to the matter at hand.
Aimee: Yes, you wanted to ask me about the Dead Sea Scrolls.
TS: No, I wanted to discuss love trends in l99l.
Aimee: Of course! I get so many requests for interviews on so many subjects. Well, love trends–obviously flirting in the desert stands out in my mind what with all the men and women who fought side by side in the gulf war. There’s nothing like romance in the sand. Did you ever see Marlene Dietrich in The Garden of Allah pounding through the drifts on a camel carrying a train case and wearing chiffon? Plus romance in wartime is always so heightened. Peter Arnett said he was more worried about his relationship with his CNN intern than about a bomb falling on him. I remember my days in the French resistance–all that rushing for one another in trench coats while the planes were flying overhead and it was raining and we were nervous about being discovered in our hiding places with only red wine and Camembert for nourishment. At one point I had to disguise myself as a milkmaid . . .
TS: Do you think men have been more charming this year?
Aimee: Indubitablement! I get flowers, pearls, velvet gowns, love notes all day long. Sing, my houseman, barely has time to open the gifts. Then there are the elegant restaurants, the lifelong pledges. It’s the same for all the women I talk to. Of course we do have two exceptions this year. Mr. Tyson has reached his nadir trying to despoil an entire beauty pageant. And that Clarence Thomas, with all his delusions about being a big pirate. But those are the only two exceptions. All other men are more charming than ever and they would never act like those two, ever. Ask any woman.
TS: Do you think men are more charming because of Robert Bly and the men’s movement ?
Aimee: If the answer is oui, I would have to put my head in my heart-shaped oven and say au revoir. I could not bear to think of my cher amis Gerard Depardieu and Mickey Rourke wearing jungle shorts and beating small drums as they run through the woods hungering intensely for their fathers.
TS: I heard you quoted saying that men are getting younger.
Aimee: Yes, the women I talk to tell me it happens as they get more old. Since I am not very good at math, it is hard to explain. I am good at poetry. Let me recite Thomas Lodge’s “Love in my bosom like a bee…”
TS: Are more women finding fulfillment in love?
Aimee: Yes. Especially women who are in their 40s. Also Madame Bovary, Anna Karenina, and Eleanor Mondale. Eleanor’s on Murph in the Morning. After her divorce from her first husband Keith Van Horne and then her second divorce in progress from a tall disc jockey who has blue eyes, she flew off to England with the owner of Jimo’s to go to a party at the home of a Rolling Stone only a few days after flirting with a man making a Spanish Budweiser commercial at Tania’s on Milwaukee Avenue and being hand-fed tiramisu by a rock star at Centro where Eleanor got in a pique for five minutes because they were out of Cristall and we had to have Perrier-Jouet instead. Then she lost a rhinestone from her Christian Dior earring. I haven’t talked to her in a while so I don’t know if things are still as stable.
TS: You hear a lot of happy love stories.
Aimee: Just the other day I was interviewing a young woman at the Avalon who shared with me this moment. She was with her new boyfriend Jeb, who does small fix-it jobs. They were in his trailer sharing a box of Moon Pies and listening to Guns ‘N Roses. They were sitting on the green shag nylon carpet and she was holding the silver balloon he had bought her that afternoon and he was wearing a yellow polyester shirt and he had his arm hanging down around her neck resting his body on her shoulder. He had just eaten swordfish. She looked up and knew it would never get better than this.
TS: It sounds awful.
Aimee: Alors, you never get the whole ballpark. And for me, who is used to staying at the Georges V, it did sound primitive. But you know, love is complicated. Dating has its ups and downs. Just the other night at Shelter I documented a woman’s story–here is what she said, verbatim [Aimee opened her Hermes notebook]. This is a sad one:
“I was with this reporter friend who was interviewing a woman in a fancy home. The woman had collected a lot of stray dogs and I was petting the dogs and all of a sudden I looked at one–he was kind of scampy with a know-it-all look on his face–and I saw he was holding my diaphragm in his mouth. The dog had pulled the diaphragm out of my purse where it was wrapped in Kleenex. I was mortified the woman would see, so I discreetly wrestled the diaphragm out of the dog’s mouth, which made the dog whimper, and then I had to throw the diaphragm out because it had tooth marks on it. The next week I was going out with a guy I really really liked but I didn’t have time to get a new diaphragm–we had both had AIDS tests by the way–so I bought a box of Today’s contraceptive sponges which I heard were effective. Well the date wasn’t so great because when I asked him to go to a dinner party the next weekend he said he never plans ahead. In spite of my better judgment, I let him spend the night and there we were and he said can I ask you something, did you put something in there because my you-know-what is burning. I screamed–the SPONGE, so I called the emergency toll-free phone number on the package and talked to some public relations person who was on a remote phone probably at some Pizza Hut who said not to worry because it’s just the enormous amount of spermicide.”
[Sadly, Aimee shut her Hermes notebook and took a deep breath before continuing.] This woman at Shelter began sobbing, saying she was never going to make love again and that she didn’t want to live and I told her please don’t say that and end up thinking like Ch’u Yuan in the fourth century BC who said, “I know that death cannot be refused; May I love life no longer.” I got her a drink and she was conversing passionately with a man in a motorcycle jacket an hour later. She has a short attention span.
TS: What do you think about men who have put off having children and now are having them with younger women?
Aimee: The subject gives me a violent headache. Let’s move on.
TS: If a person can’t find love, what should they do?
Aimee: Have as much cocaine, Quaaludes, cigarettes, and pizza as they can get their hands on. Even if they do find love, they should still stock up on the other things.
TS: Aimee, you surprise me!
Aimee: Of course I don’t take those things. I’m so happy and content that a little warm tap water now and then with my friends before dinner is all I require. My friends are so amusing and interesting that the water really isn’t necessary. In fact, I just like to sit here on my love seat and listen to them talk about how their garage door got stuck.
TS: You sound depressed for a love reporter. You should be dreamy and dopey after writing down all those love stories.
Aimee: How would you like to play with my collection of oracle bones? I adore games of destiny and chance. Sing, bring us the oracle bones and we will throw them into the fire.
[Sing is Aimee’s houseboy. He walked in wearing a purple silk turban with a yellow stone and he looked coincidentally like the houseman in Elephant Walk.]
Sing: Madame, you left the oracle bones in your villa in Rome.
Aimee: But of course. [She looked at her Cartier watch.] I have an appointment. I can give you three more minutes then my landlord is coming over and I won’t have time to talk to you. He will be here for hours. Then my masseuse, cuticle remover, elbow smoother, periodontist, vocal coach, tap teacher, radiologist, antique dealer, and cable TV repairman are all coming over and I won’t have time to talk to you then either. I may never have time to talk to you for the rest of my life.
TS: You remind me of the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.
Aimee: You remind me of the overweight cat in the tree!
TS: Would you care to comment on allegations that this international love reporting business is something you dreamed up to keep yourself busy now that your children are grown and that you are really Amy Berkowitz from Highland Park who used to be married to a trader named Sheldon and you owned a sock boutique on Halsted called Twiddle Your Toes?
Aimee: The higher up you get in life, the more they try to drag you down. Sing, show Miss Schlesinger to the elevator.
As Sing led me out, he whispered: “You’re right about her past. In fact I went to Highland Park High with Amy. I wanted to be a dancer but I was too tall so I tried my hand at pasteup but I trembled and then I worked for Versace and now I work for her.” Sing’s eyes rolled. “Real name is Robby Singer. Call me sometime.”
But as I stepped into the elevator, Sing grabbed my arm. “Only kidding. Aimee’s for real–London, Amsterdam, the whole schmear. Her father was an arms dealer and her mother died when she was an infant so she had to be raised on a tea plantation in Ceylon. A lonely child, so sad, but a doe befriended her and when she was older she became a dancer in Brussels, escaped to Chicago, showed a flair for taking notes, and the rest is history. Keep in mind, her hormones are variable. She’s more sensitive than the rest of us.”
As Sing shut the door of the apartment, I heard a small anguished cry. Then the phone rang. I heard Aimee say, “Oh Pee Wee, hiiiiii.”
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Tom Bachtell.